Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 20th March 2014
[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Joint Statement of the Bahraini King’s visit to Pakistan (can be accessed on Ministry’s Website)
Last week there was a question about Guantanamo Bay. We have, at the moment, five detainees at Guantanamo. In August 2006, a two member Pakistani delegation from the Ministry of Interior visited US Naval facility at Guantanamo Bay. They reported that there were six Pakistani nationals out of the164 detainees at the Bay. The negotiations continued. In 2011, our Mission in Washington requested the US State Department to grant consular access to the five Pakistani citizens detained. One out of the six had been released. The names of the five detainees are as follows:
i. Saifullah Piracha
ii. Majid Khan
iii. Ghulam Ahmed Rabbani
iv. Muhammad Ahmed Rabbani
v. Ammar Ali Balochi
The floor is now open for Questions
According to a report published in New York Times the former Army Chief and the DG ISI knew about Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan. Would you comment on that?
You must have seen the statement by DG ISPR. He has already rejected the report as baseless and ridiculous. He said that this is nothing new and all these speculations have already been proven wrong. You would have noticed that the former Air Chief has also rebutted this story. I may add here that there are many inconsistencies in the article. The author herself talks about suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge.
The mystery of the missing Malaysian plane stands almost resolved. But even until three or four hours earlier, Pakistan’s position was somewhat defensive and apologetic. What is Pakistan’s reaction now on all the accusations that have been leveled against it?
First, I don’t think the matter is settled as yet. Some debris in the South of Indian Ocean has been spotted through satellite. Efforts are under way to confirm whether it’s an aircraft and if it’s the same one. They have spotted two separate pieces of debris.
Secondly, No, we were never on the defensive. The allegations were so absurd. Those who make these allegations undermine their own credibility. Anyone who said that a Boeing 777 could land in North or South Waziristan, I mean …….. . There are only four or five airports in Pakistan where 777 can land. I don’t think at any stage the governments of Malaysia or China even hinted at such a possibility. So, this was in the realm of imagination and very wild imagination.
All along we have said that our sympathies are with the countries whose nationals were on board and more particularly with the families because they have gone through a lot of agony in the last thirteen days. We would have liked to see the aircraft recovered safely but as the time elapses, the chances of that are little. We offered our help in response to the request made by Malaysia to the international community to share any information or any blip on the radars where the aircraft could be spotted. They called a number of leaders as well to ask for help in investigating and tracing the whereabouts of the missing aircraft. Our data was available but our radars did not see anything and rightly so because the aircraft it seems, did not come in this direction.
This morning the Bahraini Foreign Minister held a press conference and when he was asked about the engagements and defense cooperation, he refused to get into that. He said it was military to military. Given that there was so much speculation in Pakistan in the last few weeks on the nature of our military engagement with Saudi Arabia and now Bahrain, don’t you think it is time the Government of Pakistan becomes more transparent simply to pacify whatever is appearing in the media, in the Parliament and other fora?
Well, here at the Foreign Office we have shared all the information with you .We have clarified giving details that there was no change in our foreign policy vis-a-vis our neighbors and with Muslim countries. We also clarified our arms export policy. I don’t know what else Foreign Office should do to make people understand that this is how it is and how it has been. We have had very close ties with Iran and with the Gulf. There have been questions about intra-GCC issues. We have said that we don’t take sides, this is their internal matter. Similarly, if there are issues between two Muslim countries or more, again we try to play a constructive role. Pakistan has always been a force for unifying the Muslim world and not a divisive force.
There were some reports that Prime Minister would soon be visiting Iran. Is that visit on the cards? Do we have any updated information regarding the PM’s visit to Hague and any meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Summit?
Yes, the Prime Minister’s visit to Iran is on the cards. We hope that it would be in the first half of 2014. Exact dates have not been worked out.
On the Hague, yes, the Prime Minster is most likely to attend the Nuclear Summit. We have participated in all the previous summits. We have very actively and constructively participated in the negotiations, drafting of the communiqués and outcome of these summits. As a responsible nuclear state, we take our responsibility of nuclear security very seriously as it has been agreed in the summit process that nuclear security is primarily a national responsibility. About the meetings on the sidelines, because the summit has so many engagements and events, there is not much time. We have not requested any bilateral meeting. But there is always a possibility because when leaders are gathered in a place they have time to chat to each other. In case we receive any request or some meetings are arranged, we will let you know.
Foreign Minister of Bahrain did talk about their estranged relations with Iran and he publically stated that they discussed this issue with Pakistan. What has been the response from Pakistan on an issue which is between two sovereign and independent countries, especially when Bahrain took up this issue with Pakistan?
I think he gave you the response also. He did say that and it was their prerogative to raise an issue but they also said that they understood Pakistan’s position
In fact the Foreign Minister of Bahrain elaborated, as you rightly pointed out, that they could explain their position to Pakistan. But my question is our response. There must have been certain response from Pakistan or did we keep silent?
Secondly, a Mishrano Jirga from Afghanistan instead of asking occupational forces of United States to leave their country rather asked the United States to suspend supply of weapons to Pakistan on the grounds of terrorist issues. What is the response of Pakistan?
First, we don’t interfere in the bilateral relations of other countries but if any issue is raised, our effort is always to bring countries together. We always emphasize that all problems need to be resolved through dialogue and peaceful means.
As regards your second question, yes, I have something on this.
We express our deep dismay and disappointment over the unfounded allegations leveled at Pakistan in the statement of Afghanistan’s Mishrano Jirga of 19 March 2014. The world knows how seriously Pakistan has suffered from the scourge of terrorism and extremism over the past three decades, emanating primarily from the conflict and instability beyond our borders. Over 40,000 of our nationals, including members of security forces, have rendered the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against terrorism. Any attempt to depict Pakistan as other than a victim of terrorism is a travesty that we completely reject. It is disconcerting that such injurious statements be made at a time when sincere efforts are underway to turn a new page in the bilateral relationship with Afghanistan. We hope that our efforts for constructive engagements would be duly reciprocated.
The power sale agreement between Pakistan and India is likely to be finalized soon and tomorrow a final decision on granting NDMA to India might also be taken. How does Foreign Office look at these developments? Do you think deeper bilateral trade relations help improve the relationship between the two countries and help on the larger scale of issues affecting both the countries like Kashmir?
First, the forward movement in trade between Pakistan and India is taking place after due consultations among all stakeholders. We have certain concerns and those concerns need to be addressed in the context of non-tariff barriers and phytosanitary standards and their implementation. When we say NDMA, it is non-discriminatory arrangement for trade in which both sides equally benefit. Opportunities are provided, or not hindered by either side to the business community of the other side. In order to make this process of trade durable and for our bilateral relationship to move forward on sound footing, we need to comprehensively address all the issues between our countries. As you mentioned, that includes particularly Jammu & Kashmir and other issues such as Siachin, Sir Creek and Water issues. You might have seen the Prime Minister’s statement today at M.M Alam air base where he said that Pakistan does not want an arms race but at the same time we would be mindful of our defense needs.
Secondly, his message to the countries of this region was that we need to compete with each other in alleviating the poverty of our people not in arms race. So that is the message.
Ever since the current government took office we have seen bilateral visits between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and now between Pakistan and Bahrain. The issues of Iran and Syria are regularly taken up and are made part of the joint statements. Do Saudi Arabia and Bahrain look up to Pakistan as a savior or do they ask for any kind of help? And what is normally Pakistan’s response on that? Have they ever asked Pakistan for a mediator’s role?
I have already responded to your response. Your first question should have been addressed to the Bahraini side at the press conference. I have made our position very clearly that we do not interfere in bilateral disputes or differences. Our effort, as part of OIC and Muslim Ummah, is to help reduce issues and tensions if we can in any way. We do not interfere and we do not take sides.
For your last question, they have not asked Pakistan for mediation.
When the Bahraini Foreign Minister was asked today about Akhwan- ul- Muslimeen which has been declared as terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, he reflected his country’s alliance with Saudi Arabia. How does Pakistan look towards Akhwan- ul-Muslimeen keeping in view Mr. Morsi’s visit to Pakistan?
Bahrain’s position on Muslim Brotherhood is their position. I won’t like to comment on that or on Saudi Arabia’s position. We have our own independent relationship with Egypt and with other countries. We deal with countries.
What is Pakistan’s position on the issue of Crimea? Do we recognize Crimea’s integration into Russia?
Well, our position is that we support efforts at dialogue and peaceful resolution of all issues.