(2018-01-18) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Opening Remarks

Bismillah IrRehman NirRahim Assalaam Alaikum

Before coming here to the weekly press briefing, I have just summoned the Indian Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. J.P. Singh and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Working Boundary on 18th January 2018, in Sialkot Sector, resulting in the shahadat of two innocent civilian ladies (45 years old Ms. Perveen Bibi w/o Muhammad Aslam and 20 years old Ms. Ayesha d/o Abdul Rasheed) while injuring 5 others, including 3 women. The Indian forces along the Working Boundary started indiscriminate and unprovoked firing with heavy mortars and automatic weapons since last night on the civilian populated villages in Sialkot. Despite calls for restraint, India continues to indulge in ceasefire violations. In 2018, the Indian forces have carried out more than 100 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in just 18 days, resulting in the shahadat of 3 innocent civilians, while injuring 10 others. This unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing from the year 2017 when the Indian forces committed more than 1900 ceasefire violations. I have urged that the Indian side should permit UNMOGIP to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

Now let me give a brief round-up of the activities on the foreign policy front:

The Indian occupation forces during violent, armed and illegal operations and fake encounters martyred six Kashmiri youth including a 50-year-old Mohammad Ayoub Mirin Shopian and Baramulla areas. Hurriyet leaders and activists including Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Massrat Alam Bhat, Nayeem Ahmad Khan and others continue to remain under illegal house arrest and detention, which is highly condemnable. Senior APHC leader, Shabbir Ahmed Shah’s wife, Dr Bilquees Shah, has submitted an application before the court that her husband is suffering from various ailments and has been on regular medicine for the past six years. She also said that Shabbir Shah is being slow poisoned in Tihar Jail New Delhi.

Indian Deputy High Commissioner was summoned to the Foreign Office over the ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces on 15 January 2018, in which four Pakistani soldiers’ embraced shahadat while 5 others received injuries and on 11 January 2018, 65 years old lady (Hussain bibi w/o Haji Farzand, resident of Peer Khana village) was martyred. Despite calls for restraint, India continues to indulge in ceasefire violations. In 2018, the Indian forces have carried out more than 100 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in just 15 days. This unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing from the year 2017 when the Indian forces committed more than 1900 ceasefire violations. The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation. Indian side urged that they should permit UNMOGIP to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Alice Wells visited Pakistan. The visit was part of regular engagement between the two countries on bilateral and regional cooperation. She called on the Foreign Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Secretary underscored that the relationship with the United States needed to move forward under an environment of mutual trust and respect. US delegation was apprised about recent counter-terrorism actions taken by Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies that contributed to visible improvement in the security situation of Pakistan. In the context of the regional situation, the Foreign Secretary expressed concerns on the continued use of Afghan soil by elements hostile to Pakistan’s stability. The Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue its efforts for promoting peace and stability in the region.

The Foreign Secretary drew the attention of the US delegation to the recent irresponsible statement by the Indian Army Chief and the pattern of escalation by India on the LoC and the working boundary and condemned Indian mortar attacks on Pakistani posts resulting in the martyrdom of Pakistani soldiers. She asked the US side to advise restraint to India and stop its escalation tactics. Noting the importance of the longstanding bilateral relationship, Ambassador Wells acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating terrorism and conveyed the US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of stabilizing Afghanistan. She said that Pakistan’s support was critical to the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan. To this end, Ambassador Wells underlined the need for strengthening intelligence cooperation between the two sides to improve coordination in counter-terrorism efforts.

On the invitation of Foreign Minister, Mr. Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the Deputy Chairman of Cabinet of Ministers/Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, Mr. Rashid Meredov visited Islamabad on 15-16 January 2018. The Turkmen Foreign Minister was accompanied by a high-level delegation. The Ministers led their respective sides to the inaugural session of Pakistan-Turkmenistan Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC). Both Ministers expressed satisfaction on the current level of bilateral relationship between the two countries. Both acknowledged importance of early implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline Project.

Pakistan welcomes the recent talks held between the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK). Pakistan hopes that this new phase of talks between the two sides would help to ease tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the goodwill generated by the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics would lead to lasting peace, prosperity, stability, reconciliation and cooperation in the region.

Now, I will briefly highlight the activities carried out by our Missions in the Middle East to assist the Pakistani community, provide consular access and facilitate Pakistani labourers in times of difficulty.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi received today Dr.Majed Abdullah Al-Qasabi, Minister of Commerce and Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Dr.Al Qasabi is visiting Pakistan as a head of a 35-member Saudi delegation to participate in the 11th Session of Pak-Saudi Joint Ministerial Commission.

The Prime Minister welcomed the holding of 11th Session of Pak-Saudi Joint Ministerial Commission, which is expected to enhance and strengthen bilateral economic relations. The substantive decisions taken during the meeting of the Pak-Saudi JMC were also discussed with the Prime Minister. These include establishment of a Working Group for export of Halal food from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia; Saudi investment in the construction of the South-North Gas Pipeline, accelerated negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty and exchange of parliamentary delegations.

In the context of export of Pakistani manpower to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi side agreed to set up a training institute in Pakistan to help meet its human resource requirements. A delegation from the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development would also be received in Saudi Arabia early next week. Also the Executive Director of NAVTTC has been invited to visit Saudi Arabia. The Saudi side also agreed to visa relaxation and reduction in visa fees for Pakistanis.

The Prime Minister underscored that relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were not only important for the Government of Pakistan but the people of Pakistan have a special affection for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia abd Khadim-e-al-Harmain Al-Sharifain. Dr. Al-Qasabi also emphasized the importance attached by Saudi Arabia to the special relationship with Pakistan.

Now the Floor is open for Questions


In the recent weeks, we have witnessed India’s unprecedented belligerence on the LoC and the Working Boundary, resulting in the Shahadat of many army personnel and civilians. It seems that both countries are verging on a full scale war. What efforts are underway to check this trend? Second, reportedly, four sitting Judges of the Supreme Court of India have recently criticized the Government for handpicking cases for dispensation of justice and warned that democracy within India is under serious threat. Please analyze this comment in the light of the growing Indian extremist mindset and repression of saner voices in India! (Asghar Ali Mubarak – Daily Mail Islambad)

Supplementary Questions

We have repeatedly protested to India as well as the International Community on India’s increasing belligerence on LoC, and now the recent vitriolic statement by Indian Army Chief is no less threatening. What choices or options does Pakistan have now, to take up with the International Community, as both the countries are nuclear states, and this escalation may lead to some eventuality that cannot be redressed later? (Syed Mohsin Raza – Asas Group of Publications)


Regarding the first question, the situation on the Line of Control and Working Boundary is deteriorating with each passing day. Heavy weapons, including Mortars, are frequently being used by the Indian forces on the Pakistani side of the LoC and the Working Boundary, resulting in large number of civilian and military casualties and damage to properties. This is in clear violation of the 2003 Ceasefire Arrangement.

During the first 2 weeks of 2018, the Indian forces carried out more than 100 ceasefire violations, resulting in the shahadat of 4 Pakistani soldiers and three elderly civilian ladies, while injuring around 17 others. This is a continuation of the unprecedented trend of CFVs in 2017 when Indian forces carried out more than 1970 ceasefire violations, resulting in the shahadat of 54 innocent Pakistani civilians and injuries to more than 200 others. This includes women, children and elderly people.

India has deliberately escalated tensions at the LoC and the Working Boundary in order to try to divert the attention of the international community from the grave situation in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where the Indian occupation forces have unleashed a reign of terror committing brutalities against the innocent and defenseless people.

We have shared our concerns on the issue with the International community, including the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council. We have also engaged UNMOGIP as they have the mandate to monitor the LoC and WB, in line with the UN Security Council Resolutions; however, regrettably, India is not cooperating with UNMOGIP. We have continuously conveyed our condemnation to the Indian side on ceasefire violations and call upon the international community to play its role.

On Indian Army Chief’s recent statement, such irresponsible and provocative statements by the Indian Army Chief are regrettable and reflect the jingoistic mindset of India, which can further exacerbate the already vitiated environment.

Indian falsified claims and belligerent statements are motivated by an exaggerated view of its own capacities and hegemonic designs. India’s mistaken belief and irresponsible rhetoric are fraught with unforeseen dangers in an already volatile strategic environment.

Pakistan has no desire to escalate the situation and has reacted with maximum restraint. However, the Indian confrontational attitude is a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation. Pakistan is fully capable of giving a befitting response to any misadventure.

On the question of Indian Supreme Court judges, as a matter of policy, we do not comment on the internal situation of sovereign countries.


Reportedly, a meeting was recently held in Istanbul among various factions of Afghan Taliban and Afghan Government, in cooperation with the Turkish Government. Can you confirm? Did Pakistan play its role in facilitating this meeting?

Second, senior Taliban political representatives from Qatar office are reported to have arrived in Pakistan, when the US Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Amb Alice Wells was also in Islamabad. Is it a coincidence or can we foresee any talks for political settlement of Afghan problem in the near future? (Shabbir Waghra – PTV World)


I cannot comment on the media reports as no side has confirmed this officially.

On your second question, I do not have any input on this.


My question pertains to Israeli Prime Minister’s recent visit to India, during which multibillion dollar agreements on counter-terrorism, security and defence have been signed. What is Pakistan reaction on this development? Do these deals pose any direct threat to Pakistan in your view? (Mateen Haider – Bol TV)

Supplementary Question

Reportedly, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in a recent visit to India said that his country is ready to sign multibillion dollar defense agreements with India to help it play a greater role in South Asia. How do you see this development? How would it impact the strategic balance in the region? (Amjad Ali – PTV News)


As a matter of policy, I shall not comment on bilateral relations of other countries. However, the belligerent Indian posture and huge arms buildup pose a serious threat to the peace and tranquility of the region.


I have a couple of questions. First, there are news that Dr. Al Zawahiri announced a new branch of the Al – Qaida called Qaedat Al Jihad in Sub Continent (Al – Qiada in Indian Sub Continent) (AQIS) and appointed an Indian national Asim Umar as its Ameer. What are your comments on this development?

Second, according to an Indian media, a group of anti-Pakistan elements have launched a ‘Free Karachi’ campaign in the US. Ironically, the pictures of the cabs are taken near only one building. There is a significant increase in such anti-Pakistan campaigns in the recent past in the name of freedom of speech. What steps is Pakistan taking to counter these moves?

Lastly, our Defence Minister has recently stated that Pakistan has suspended intelligence sharing and military cooperation with the US. On the contrary, US Embassy in Islamabad clarified that no such communication has been notified to them. Please clarify! (Shaukat Paracha – Aaj TV)


On your first question, as you are well aware that terrorism is a universal menace. Pakistan’s contributions in combating terrorism are unmatched and universally acknowledged. We have paid in blood and treasure to counter this menace. The resounding success of operation Zarb-e-Azab has successfully neutralized most AQ operative in Pakistan, while the rest have escaped and sought refuge in Afghanistan.

The reach of AQIS and designation of the Indian national as its Ameer are worrying developments, as they indicate an extension of the AQ network in India and the likelihood of increased Indian recruitment. Growing extremism and intolerance in Indian society unfortunately provides fertile breeding ground and safe havens for such and other extremist organizations to gain a foothold and expand. The growth of extremist organizations in India proves that terrorism has no religion or faith.

On your second question, we have taken a serious note of this smearing campaign in different US cities by Pakistan’s detractors. The Foreign Secretary forcefully raised this issue with Ambassador Wells, who assured us that the US fully respects Pakistan’s territorial integrity. Our Embassy in Washington has been instructed to follow up this matter with the US authorities to prevent the recurrence of such activities.

On your last question, to the best of my knowledge, cooperation in all areas continues with the US.


Indian External Affairs Ministry confirmed the meeting of Pakistan’s NSA with his Indian counterpart in Bangkok and said that the issue of cross-border terrorism was raised during the meeting. Has Pakistan raised the issues of Indian atrocities in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and unprovoked ceasefire violations across LoC? Please share the details of the meeting? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Kashmir Post)


You may contact the office of the National Security Advisor for details.


Last night, Iran border security guards deputed on the Pakistan-Iran border fired more than eight mortal shells into Pakistan. Although there was no casualty or injuries reported, it has been observed that miscreants along the border start their operations during the times the two countries enjoy cordial relations. In your view, are such operations conducted with a purpose in mind? What mechanisms are in place between Pakistan and Iran to control cross border firing incidents and control movement of miscreants, which is a source of concern for both sides? (Yasir Baloch – Daily Rahbar)


First of all, Pakistan and Iran are two brotherly countries who have always enjoyed cordial relations. There is some smuggling on the Pak-Iran border, but on this particular instance, as you said that it happened last night, I will check and revert.


Reportedly, US President Donald Trump has given a 120 day deadline to the world powers to fix the ”terrible flaws” in the agreement between Iran and P5 countries. On the other hand, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hailed the European support for the deal, claiming that the US has tried to undermine a nuclear deal between his country and major world powers. What is Pakistan’s stance on the issue?

Second, after the recent visit of Ambassador Alice Wells, US Embassy issued a Press Release that stated that US once again demanded Pakistan to take decisive action against the Haqqani Network. I want to ask, what was the purpose and outcome of the visit, and did both sides reach any agreement? (Saad Umer – Rose TV)


The purpose of the recent visit of Amb. Alice Wells was to find common ground between both sides, for which continuous communication is essential, which you are aware is ongoing. You are well aware of the US position. Pakistan’s position is also very clear and consistent. We want an early repatriation of Afghan refugees with dignity, check on the flourishing narcotics and drug trade in Afghanistan that is a major source of funding for terrorist elements, strengthening border fencing mechanisms and curb the use of Afghan soil by regional countries and terrorist organizations to launch deadly attacks on Pakistan.


Is there any Pakistani reaction on the recent UNSC visit to Kabul, led by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley?

Second, is there any regular Pakistan-Russia consultation mechanism on Afghanistan, since Russian Foreign Minister recently gave a statement about presence of Daesh and other terrorist safe havens along the border with Afghanistan? (Kausar Lodhi – Prime News)


On your first question, Russia, along with many other regional countries, have expressed repeated concerns on the presence and rise of Daesh and other terrorist groups along Pakistan-Afghanistan border, as well as with those of Central Asia, which is extremely worrying. We have repeatedly taken up the matter with all concerned to curb this development.

We await the outcome of the visit to comment on it.


Can you please tell us details of the outcome of Speaker National Assembly and Chairman Senate’s recent visit to Iran?

Second, during Ms. Alice Wells’ recent visit to Pakistan, was there any talk of withdrawal of the US decision to suspend Pakistan’s military aid? (Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)


With the US, there were no demands, but negotiations, which are ongoing and outside public domain.

The recent visit to Iran of Chairman Senate and Speaker National Assembly was very good and fruitful. It was reflective of our brotherly and friendly ties with Iran.


The Afghan Defence Ministry has alleged that regional spy agencies have ordered Daesh to claim responsibility for attacks in Afghanistan and claimed that Daesh is active in Afghanistan. We all know that Afghan Government has failed to maintain law and order situation even in Kabul, much less in the rest of the country and now it is putting the blame on others. Your comments please!

Second, in a recent interview, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has admitted that without US support, the Afghan security forces would not last 6 months! How does it reflect on the ability of Afghan security agencies to fight terrorism and establish the writ of the State across Afghanistan? Your comments please! (Essa Naqvi – Dunya TV)

Supplementary Questions

AFP in its report has stated that 20 or more IS cells are operating in Kabul under the very eyes of Afghan and US forces. This vindicates Pakistan’s long stated claim that terrorist elements are operating from within Afghanistan and are a major source of attacks on Pakistan. Your comments please! (Rashida Sial – Ab Takk)

Pakistani engineers and professionals are being abducted in Afghanistan. Have we taken up the matter with the Afghan Government? What response have we received? (Anwar Abbas – Waqt News)


This is a very important question. We have repeatedly raised the matter of safety and security of Pakistani professionals working in Afghanistan with the Afghan Government. We urge them to give full protection to our nationals, who are facing numerous problems.

On Mr. Essa’s first question, Pakistan believes that terrorism is a common enemy. We have undertaken successful military actions to root this enemy out from our territory. As reported by SIGAR, more than 43% of Afghan territory is either out of Kabul’s control or contested. Such vast tracts of ungoverned and contested spaces have been instrumental in providing safe heavens to the terrorist groups, including Daesh and also attracted international terrorists to relocate to Afghanistan. Daesh is concentrated along Afghan borders with Pakistan, Iran, China and CARs. It, along-with TTP and JuA, has been involved in cross border attacks on our military post as well as terrorist attacks in our cities. Instead of looking for lame excuses, Pakistan has taken the challenge head on. We believe this is how terrorism can be defeated.

On your second question, I won’t comment on the statement of President Ghani. He has a far better understanding and knowledge about the capacity of Afghan security forces. The assessment of the former Commander in Chief of the Afghan forces however, raises serious questions on the efficacy of training and spending of enormous resources on an entity which after such a heavy investment in terms of time and capital can’t rise to the task for which it was created.

On your supplementary question, the admission of presence of over twenty terrorist groups in Afghanistan came from the highest public office holder in Afghanistan. The vast tracts of ungoverned and contested spaces have been instrumental in attracting international terrorist groups like Daesh to shift to Afghanistan. India has developed a nexus with some of these groups and used them to orchestrate terrorist attacks in Pakistan. We have been saying this all along that the locus of instability lies in Afghanistan and should be tackled there. Unfortunately, Afghanistan, instead of fighting these terrorist groups, has been externalizing the blame for terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan stands ready to cooperate with Afghanistan to fight these terrorist groups. We are prepared to cooperate with Afghanistan in the fields of security and counter-terrorism.


Reportedly, Chinese nationals are being arrested in Karachi in connection with their involvement in skimming incidents. With this in view, FIA is reported to have devised a plan to restrict entry of Chinese nationals into Pakistan. Can you confirm? What are the details of such a plan?

Also, how many Chinese have been issued visas and in which categories? (Tariq Mahmood – SAMAA TV)


Let me check whether any visa information can be in the public domain, if so, will get back to you.

On your first question, we have seen media reports on the apprehension of Chinese nationals allegedly involved in such incidents in Karachi. Pakistan and China have close bilateral relations and both countries have facilitative visa regimes in place for each other’s nationals. We do not intend to restrict the entry of Chinese nationals into Pakistan on the basis of a few unsavory incidents. Further details regarding the apprehension of the Chinese nationals may be ascertained from the concerned law enforcement agencies.


After coming to Pakistan, Ambassador Alice Wells is now visiting India. Is there any hope that she will raise the issue of Indian ceasefire violations on LoC and the WB, as well as other issues, including RAW’s involvement in perpetrating terrorism in Pakistan from Afghan soil, with the Indian side?

Second, a Czech lady Mrs. Teresa was recently arrested in Lahore. Just now, Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a one-liner statement on the issue, stating that they are in touch with the Pakistani authorities regarding the matter, and have been granted consular access. Can you confirm this statement? (Faisal Raza Khan – 92 News)


On your second question, I am not aware of this, will ascertain details and get back to you.

On your first question, Foreign Policy is not based on hopes, but on situation on the ground and matters of fact. We have raised all these issues with the US. Let us wait and see.

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