Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 21 December 2017
(2017-12-21) Opening Remarks
Bismillah IrRehman NirRahim Assalaam Alaikum Ladies & Gentlemen!
First, let me give a brief roundup of the activities on the foreign policy front:
The Foreign Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif strongly condemned the continuing barbarism of the Indian occupation forces to suppress the legitimate Kashmiri struggle for the realization of the right to self determination by inhuman tactics including torture, arbitrary arrests, and extra-judicial killings. India again violated the right of the Kashmiris for assembly and protest by arresting leaders and workers to prevent them from joining the 'Anantnag Chalo' rally on 15 December 2017.
Another abhorrent element of Indian strategy has been to implicate the Kashmiri leaders in false cases and harass them by their arrest and incarceration and by summoning them to the courts time and again. The latest example is the issuance of notice to senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani for appearing before a local court in a 15 years old case that speaks volumes about this high-handedness.
The Amnesty International declared Mr. Shabbir Shah as a prisoner of conscience in 1994 in recognition of his years' long non-violent political struggle for the resolution of long-pending Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He is the founder and President of Jammu & Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (JKDFP). The Government of India appears unmoved despite repeated requests to shift Mr. Shah to a high risk ward in order to ensure his safety and security. He suffers from various ailments including diabetes. His health has severely deteriorated and authorities are deliberately playing with his life by not providing him access to medical facilities.
Mr. Shabbir Shah's unfortunate reality is similar to many incarcerated leaders and other political activists languishing in various jails in and outside the occupied territories. Now at 63, he has spent much of his life (30 years) in Indian jails for his political belief. We urge the international community to take immediate notice of the political vendetta Mr. Shabbir Shah faces and urge to release Mr. Shah on humanitarian grounds.
This week also, Indian atrocities on innocent and defenceless Kashmiris continued unabated, resulting in Shahadat of four people including 22 year old Asif Iqbal, Tanveer Ahmad Bhat, and 24 year old Ruby Jan in Kupwara and Shopian Districts. The house arrest and illegal detention of Hurriyat leadership continues, which is highly condemnable and against basic human rights and international law.
Pakistan condemns the missile attack on Saudi Arabia on 19 December 2017. The attack was successfully intercepted by the Saudi led Coalition, before it could cause any damage. This was the third missile attack targeted at the Kingdom from Yemen in less than two months.
The increasing frequency and ferocity of the missile attacks, targeted at innocent civilians by Houthi rebels, pose a threat to regional peace and security and is therefore, highly condemnable. Pakistan strongly believes that a political solution to the ongoing Yemen crisis is the only way to ensure regional peace and stability. Pakistan stands firmly with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in confronting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan reaffirms unequivocal support for the Kingdom and reiterates that in case of any violation of its territorial integrity or any threat to Haramain Sharifain, Pakistan will stand shoulder to shoulder with the government and people of Saudi Arabia.
The 3rd Round of Pakistan-Japan Counter Terrorism Consultations was held in Islamabad on 19 December 2017. The two sides held in-depth discussions on various aspects of the threat posed by international terrorism and reiterated their resolve to jointly combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Pakistan hosted the 28th Regional Planning Council (RPC) Meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Member States at Islamabad from 11-14 December 2017. The Secretary General of ECO, Mr. Halil Ibrahim Akca headed the delegation of the ECO Secretariat. Pakistan, being the current Chairman of ECO extends full support to the ECO projects and initiatives. Pakistan has always played an active role to ensure regional integration and interdependence amongst the member states. We support ECO's initiatives and have always encouraged enhancement of the current steady progress.
Pakistan rejects the unfounded accusations in US National Security Strategy 2017 released on 18 December that belie facts on ground and trivialize Pakistan's efforts for fighting terrorism and our unmatched sacrifices to promote peace and stability in the region. Pakistan has long been at the forefront in the fight against regional and global terrorism. It is because of Pakistan's cooperation with the international community, acknowledged and appreciated by the US leadership, that the Al-Qaeda core was decimated from the region.
In a troubled neighbourhood, Pakistan continues to suffer at the hands of state sponsored terrorism, funded and abetted by our neighbours through proxies. These proxies, consisting of individuals, organizations and intelligence agencies, are working against Pakistan at the behest of regional adversaries. The self-proclaimed guarantors of peace and phony regional powers are pursuing this nefarious game of expansionism to the detriment of regional and global peace. Destabilizing policies and actions by some countries to maintain their hegemony in pursuit of absolute power are responsible for instability in several parts of the world, including ours.
Pakistan has decided to release and repatriate 291 Indian fishermen in two phases on 29 December 2017 and 08 January 2018 via Wagah Border as a goodwill gesture on humanitarian grounds. Earlier, Pakistan had also released 68 Indian fishermen on 27 October 2017. Pakistan has always maintained that humanitarian issues should be facilitated and not politicized.
The Afghan soil, despite substantial US presence, is being constantly used by elements hostile to Pakistan's stability. Pakistan's efforts and sincere proposals for effective border management to prevent cross border movement of militants and return of Afghan refugees are yet to make any headway. On the other hand, a malicious campaign is under-way to undo Pakistan's achievements in the war against terrorism.
Now, some information about Pakistan's reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The Government of Pakistan has established three tertiary care hospitals in Afghanistan at Jalalabad, Kabul and Nangarhar. To ensure optimal utilization and sustainability of these facilities, the very important component of "Training of Health Professionals" was incorporated in the project. 69 Afghan Health Professionals, including doctors, nurses and Para-medics have so far been trained in Pakistan. These 69 Afghan professionals were enrolled in the first phase and training initiated on 17 January 2017. 59 professionals successfully completed their 3-month intensive training and left for Afghanistan on 16 April 2017. Presently, 10 Afghan Health Professionals are being trained for one year under long term training program and their training will be completed by January 2018.
Some misinformation is being spread about an incident in Hangu where an altercation took place between some shopkeepers, including local Sikhs, and a local official on price checking. The official concerned was immediately suspended and a formal inquiry ordered. The incident is many days old. The senior members of the local administration remain in touch with the Sikh community in Hangu, which has lived there in peace and harmony for over a century. Pakistan remains fully committed to the freedom of religion and protection of rights of all minorities. Sikhs are proud Pakistani citizens and are represented in all walks of life.
A fake notice was picked up by the Pakistani media saying that the UAE has temporarily suspended the issuance of visit visas for Pakistanis. The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs of UAE has dispelled these rumors. The GDRFA official has stated that the "visitors from Pakistan are welcome to enter Dubai after obtaining a visa and the situation is normal."
Now the Floor is open for Questions
In its latest report, Pentagon has termed India as Afghanistan's most reliable regional partner and the largest contributor of development assistance in the region. How do you see India's increasing role in Afghanistan? (Shabbir Waghra - PTV World News)
Just recently, US has unveiled its national security strategy. In the framework of South Asia, they have once again framed Pakistan, China and Russia. In Pakistan's context, the US continues to repeat its "do more" mantra and has called Pakistan an epicenter of terrorism and the one exporting terrorism to other countries. The US has also said that all future aid is conditional to Pakistan's performance in eliminating terrorist hideouts. Surprisingly, the strategy does not talk about terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan. How do you see this? Is it not a direct threat to Pakistan's security, and also to CPEC, as the US has talked at length about the expansion of China in the region? (Faisal Raza Khan - 92 News)
For the sake of clarity, can you provide an update on CPEC-related projects so far? Also, how it will benefit Pakistan in long term?
Secondly, reportedly, the Government is considering the proposal to replace Chinese Yuan for trade between China and Pakistan, following the conclusion of the Long Term Plan. Please confirm and share the details of the proposal! (Asghar Ali Mubarak - Daily Mail Islamabad)
On Mr. Shabbir's question, we, at multiple occasions and fora have highlighted India's nefarious designs in Afghanistan. India under the garb of development assistance is colluding with the terrorist groups like TTP, JuA and is perpetrating acts of terrorism inside Pakistan. RAW has developed its nexus with Afghan based terrorist groups including TTP, JUA & ETIM and is using these proxies to foment unrest in the neighboring countries of Afghanistan. We urge Afghan Government not to let its soil be used against its neighbours. You may also see our statement in reaction to National Security Strategy issued on 19 December 2017.
On questions regarding CPEC, CPEC projects are progressing well. Pakistan and China interact regularly through several established mechanisms including review meetings etc. to monitor the progress of the projects. The completion of these projects would benefit Pakistan by fulfilling its energy needs, up-gradation of infrastructure and introduction of modern technology. These projects will help Pakistan's economy to move forward on sustainable grounds. (The updated project details are given on CPEC Secretariat website hosted by Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform. As per information provided by Ministry of Planning the details are updated regularly after monthly review meetings).
Long Term Plan for CPEC was finalized during the 7th JCC meeting held in Islamabad on 21st November, 2017. It provides the conceptual framework for CPEC. It is a national Plan approved by both the Chinese and Pakistan governments. The Plan envisions to fully harness the demographic and natural endowment of Pakistan by enhancing its industrial capacity through creation of new industrial clusters, while balancing the regional socio economic development, enhancing people's wellbeing, and promoting domestic peace and stability.
The major areas of cooperation include connectivity, energy, trade and industrial parks, agricultural development and poverty alleviation, tourism, people's livelihood and exchange programs and financial cooperation.
CPEC is to be completed in three phases; by 2020, the first phase will be completed and it aims to address major bottlenecks to Pakistan's economy and social development. The mid-term will be completed by 2025, and strives to achieve all goals of vision 2025. It will take final shape by 2030 and aims to accomplish endogenous mechanism for sustainable economic growth and envisions accomplishing regional connectivity.
The Plan will provide macro guidance for implementation of CPEC in the next phase and would be adjusted based on the real situation as well as the consensus between the two parties during its implementation in future. Furthermore, new routs/nodes/aspects may be considered for inclusion in future by mutual agreement of both sides.
Regarding your question on the proposal to use Chinese Yaun, as per details of Financial Cooperation in "The Long Term Plan, one of the areas of focus is to strengthen cooperation in financial regulation. The two countries aim to promote monetary cooperation between the central banks, implement existing bilateral currency swap arrangements, research to expand the amount of currency swap and explore to enrich the use and scope of bilateral currency swap; assign the foreign currency to domestic banks through credit-based bids to support the financing for projects along the CPEC; for third-party currency; strengthen the cooperation (RMB and Rupees) to reduce the demand financial regulatory agencies of the two countries. The two sides will actively use bilateral currencies for the settlement of bilateral trade and investment under the relevant arrangements. The two countries will encourage clearing and settlement of the financial institutions from both sides through Cross-Border Inter-Bank Payment System (CIPS), promote the free flow of capital in an orderly manner, and enhance the facilitation in cross-border transfer of legitimate funds. Details will be worked out through mutual consultations.
Reportedly, President Erdogan has expressed hope of opening Turkish Embassy to Palestine in East Jerusalem. Would Pakistan also take suit and make such an announcement?
Secondly, a resolution was recently tabled in UN Security Council regarding Jerusalem which was rejected by the US. US President has made a threatening statement that all countries which give their strong reaction to this issue will face reduced or no military aid from the US. What are your comments on this? (Mateen Haider - Bol News)
Jerusalem has a special status called "Corpus Separatum" (separate body) under the UN General Assembly's Partition Plan for Palestine (Resolution 181, dated November 1947). There are a number of UNSC resolutions recognizing the special legal and political status of Jerusalem, in particular Resolution 476 and 478, piloted by Pakistan as Chair of OIC.
Pakistan views the decision of US Administration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Pakistan firmly believes that the establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine, on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital is the only lasting solution of the Middle East crisis. In this regard, Pakistan fully endorses the OIC position reflected in the final Communique of Extraordinary Islamic Summit in Istanbul on 13 December 2017.
According to the schedule released, Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev's wife and mother are coming to Pakistan. What are the modalities of their meeting? How long will they stay in Pakistan? Is any meeting scheduled between them and the Pakistani authorities? Is any media interaction with them in the pipeline? (Syed Mohsin Raza - Asas Group of Publications)
With reference to the meeting on 25 December, where will the wife and mother meet Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev and for how long? (Rashida Sial - Abb Tak)
There are reports that this will be the last meeting of Commander Jhadev with his family, as he will be hanged soon. Is there any decision taken on that? (Naveed Saddique - Dawn News)
On the one hand, Pakistani patients have to send requests duly signed by the Foreign Minister, to India for having themselves treated in Indian hospitals. On the other hand, we are accepting Indian demands on humanitarian grounds. For a person who has acceded to all the criminal and terrorist activity undertaken within Pakistan, why are we offering such a humanitarian gesture? (Farooq Aqdas - Jang Group)
Will the family of Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev come via Wahga border, and their visas is valid for how many cities of Pakistan? (Mona Khan - Geo News)
As you are aware Pakistan decided to permit the meeting of the wife of Commander Jadhav with him purely on humanitarian grounds. The Indian side subsequently also requested that the mother may accompany the wife. Pakistan has accepted the Indian request. Pakistan has issued visas to both the ladies. The meeting will be held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We await further details from India in this regard. Pakistan is ready to permit media interaction with the wife and mother of Commander Jadhav. We await Indian decision in this regard.
Regarding your question on the possible immediate execution of Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev and this being his last meeting with his family, let me assure you that the Commander is under no threat of immediate execution and his mercy petitions are still pending. The mother and wife of Commander Jhadev are being provided with a meeting with him in the light of Islamic traditions and based on purely humanitarian grounds.
How does Pakistan see India's recent inclusion into the Wassenaar Arrangement as its 42nd member? What is the significance of Indian membership, and whether it would enhance India's prospects of becoming a member of NSG also? Please give a detailed response in the light of its impact on Pakistan's and regional security and stability.
What are the reasons for Pakistan not applying for the Wassenaar Arrangement membership?
What can you tell us about the outcome document of the HoA-IP, issued on 1st December 2017? (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj News)
On your first question, each multilateral export control regime has its own criteria for membership. Membership of one does not necessarily qualify a state for the membership of the others.
Pakistan is of the view that the existing multilateral export control regimes should be more inclusive. Participation of all states, with capacities and export capabilities relevant to the scope of the different export control regimes, will further the non-proliferation objectives of such regimes.
As for the NSG, there is an ongoing debate within the Group regarding the criteria which should apply to non-NPT applicants. Pakistan feels that its credentials with regard to the NSG are second to none. All our civilian nuclear facilities are under IAEA safeguards without exception which places us in a much better position to meet the requirements of separation of facilities and implement other non-proliferation related commitments which are under discussion in the NSG.
Pakistan has consistently maintained that the objectives of global and regional security and stability can be better achieved through responsible arms supply policies by the major exporters, many of which happen to be members of Wassenaar Arrangement. There is a need to take into account the imperative for avoiding destabilizing arms build ups and regional asymmetries while deciding on major arms supply agreements.
As to your second question, Pakistan implements strict controls in respect of conventional arms exports. Our controls are at par with the controls being exercised by the Wassenaar Arrangement, if not more restrictive. We are maintaining regular engagement with all the multilateral export control regimes including the Wassenaar Arrangement. Currently we are in the process of inter-agency review of our export control procedures and legislative and regulatory instruments which will enable us to decide about our future approach towards the Arrangement.
On your third question, ever since a list of selected proscribed groups made it to the outcome document (Amritsar Declaration) of HoA-IP Ministerial Conference in December 2016, India celebrated it as a huge diplomatic success over Pakistan and started misusing the list for political point scoring against Pakistan. Pakistan had with positive intent agreed to the list to be a part of the Amritsar Declaration. However, the subsequent Indian behavior, trying to use the listing of these groups to malign Pakistan forced Pakistan to suggest a comprehensive list - of all terrorist groups irrespective of their ideology, religion and geography etc. In the recently held HoA-IP Conference in Baku on 1st December 2017, Pakistan emphasized the principle that selective listing should be avoided and all terrorist groups should be condemned. Due to Pakistan's effective and successful diplomacy, the HoA-IP member countries agreed to drop the selected list from the Baku Declaration and referred the matter to the Working group on Counter-Terrorism to come up with a comprehensive list of all terrorist groups in the Heart of Asia Region.
First, Saudi Arabia has said that the missiles fired by Houthi Yemenis have origins in Iran. Does Pakistan agree to this?
Second, UN General Assembly will soon vote on the issue of Jerusalem. Will Pakistan vote against it? (Fida Hussain - Radio News Network)
Does Pakistan consider Houthis in Yemen as rebels or terrorists? What is your official position on this? Secondly, with an impending humanitarian crisis looming large on Yemen, are we going to pressurize the coalition to remove the blockade and provide them with aid and other things? (Anwar Abbas - Waqt News)
If Pakistan decides to vote against US on Jerusalem, will there be any repercussions of this decision on Kashmir, as Indian atrocities may increase on defenceless Kashmiris? (Shahzad Mirza - Royal News)
Our press release regarding missile attack on Saudi Arabia is comprehensive and explains everything.
On Mr. Shahzad Mirza's question, freedom has no price and our vote on UNGA will be consistent with our position.
Historically, foreign policy of Pakistan and its monetary system is being exterminated by US. Recently, dollar has been raised artificially. Pakistan is reported to sign contract in Chinese currency. Don't you think that every country has a right to do what is in the best interest of its people, so why are we being threatened by US policies? What Pakistan can do to counter all this and live in a peaceful world? (Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)
US Defence Secretary and Secretary of State have visited Pakistan recently and our Foreign Minister has also visited Washington. Efforts are underway to find a common ground between both sides.
Reportedly, Washington not only knew about evacuation plans of ISIS in Syria, but it also allowed around 4000 ISIS militants to leave with their families from besieged cities to safer places. How do you comment on this report? Please comment in the light of US sincerity in fighting with ISIS and the ever increasing presence of ISIS in Afghanistan? (Saad Umar - Roze News)
I won't comment on media reports on ISIS evacuation from Syria and intentions of other countries.
However, regarding increasing presence of Deash in Afghanistan, you must be aware, that Pakistan has repeatedly raised its concerns publically as well as officially with the Afghan government and the US. We have highlighted the issue of vast ungoverned and contested areas inside Afghanistan, which are being exploited by these terrorist elements to establish their sanctuaries. We have shared our grave concern with Afghanistan about Daesh's sanctuaries in Afghan provinces of Paktika, Nimroz, Nangarhar and Badakhshan that border Pakistan. We urge Afghanistan and Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to take steps to eradicate Deash's safe heavens in Afghanistan.
Reportedly, a Chinese engineer has gone missing in Kahuta. Does Foreign Office have any update on that?
A Chinese working on a CPEC project has met with an accident some months back and is being treated in a hospital in Islamabad. Has there been any kind of humanitarian assistance for him to leave Pakistan, or for repatriation to his country? (Fakhar-u-Rahman - Such TV)
I will check and revert to you.
According to report released by The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW), Pakistan is facing water terrorism from India as part of a concerted plan to destabilize Pakistan. Can you update us on the talks with India on water issues, with particular reference to the contentious hydropower projects? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal - Daily Kashmir Post)
This pertains to the M/o Water & Power and may be directed to them. The Indian designs have made the dispute resolution mechanism of the Indus Waters Treaty dysfunctional. This is a very damaging step as the treaty continued to function even during wars between Pakistan and India. The international community needs to take immediate notice of Indian intransigence and stubbornness and its reluctance to uphold the international obligations that its earlier governments have undertaken.
We have given permission to Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev's family to visit Pakistan. Does Pakistan expect the same friendly gesture from India, particularly when they have martyred four Kashmiris this week alone?
Secondly, don't you think that the tune of National Security Strategy recently unveiled by US Administration is friendly and amicable? Does this reflect on an improved state of relationship between both sides? (Shahid Maitla - ARY News)
We have already issued comprehensive statements in this regard.
Reportedly, the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina has detained around 97 Pakistani immigrants this year who were crossing illegally into other countries through it. Do you verify this report? What steps is Foreign Office taking to sensitize other relevant Ministries and the general public about the need to stem these illegal crossings from happening?
Secondly, the GSP Plus review is going to take place soon. It has been reported that some European Union Parliamentarians have written letters to the Heads of European Union, not to grant another year of GSP Plus status to Pakistan. What are the facts on ground? (Essa Naqvi - Dunya News)
Illegal immigrants, securing a better life, converge upon Europe from all across the world. These illegal immigrants traverse through territories of various Eastern European countries in order to reach developed Western Europe. On their way, they may fall prey to the criminal gangs or are arrested by border control authorities. Such illegal immigrants also include Pakistanis. Those who are apprehended by the Bosnian authorities are placed in detention centers. Their information is shared with the concerned Embassy only either when the detained person requests or they are to be repatriated to their native countries. Most of them apply for asylum in Bosnia. The information of asylum seekers is also not shared with the Embassy.
According to our Embassy in Sarajevo, there are currently only 05 Pakistanis detained in Bosnia. They will be repatriated after completion of necessary process of identification. Our Embassy in Sarajevo is in constant touch with the Bosnian authorities and is providing all possible assistance to the detainees.
Media can play a very effective role by educating our public on the hazards of illegal border crossings, so that this practice is brought to a minimum. Such incidents are not only devastating for the families of the victims, but are also a sense of embarrassment for the country.
Pakistan's GSP Plus Status became effective on 01 Jan 2014. The concession was granted on the basis of a criteria set out by the EU for the scheme. This scheme is for the mutual benefit of Pakistan and the EU and will continue till 2023. Pakistan is meeting all the requirements and is firmly committed to the implementation of its GSP Plus obligations. There is no danger to the continuation of the scheme.
EU is among Pakistan's largest trading and investment partners. Two-way trade in 2016 reached Euros 11.6 billion, with Pakistan's exports amounting to Euros 6.3 billion and imports Euros 5.3 billion. The GSP Plus Scheme has been an engine of growth in Pakistan-EU trade relations and has resulted in enhancing exports of both sides (Pakistan's exports to the EU have increased by almost 38 percent since the initiation of the scheme in 2014, while EU exports to Pakistan have also grown by 38 percent).
Pakistan sees GSP Plus Scheme as a constructive engagement for the betterment of its economy and promoting its economic agenda. The scheme also has a positive synergy with the Government's own social agenda.
There are reports that US wants coordinated action against Afghan Taliban and other terrorists, and want to bring them to the negotiating table. Has US conveyed this to Pakistan?
Secondly, can you give your reaction once again on US President's threat to stop aid in case countries decide to vote against the Jerusalem issue? (Rabia Pir - VOA Deewa Radio)
I have already given detailed responses on both issues.
Recently, Srinagar High Court has upheld the decision of Indian occupied Kashmir as disputed territory. On the one hand, the Indian courts are upholding this decision, and on the other hand, Indian Government calls Kashmir its integral part. In this scenario, why is Pakistan not pursuing this legal aspect? (Faisal Raza Khan - 92 News)
The fate of Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir is not subservient to Indian courts or its Government, but to the unimplemented UN Security Council Resolutions on the dispute, that remain active on the UNSC agenda, wherein the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people is envisaged. We hope and expect that this will happen soon.