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Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 28 September 2017

(2017-09-28) [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

Pakistan's delegation, headed by the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary, concluded early this week after attending the 72nd UNGA and other activities. The FM, who had more prescheduled official engagements on the sidelines of the UNGA, had stayed back. He is scheduled to return tonight. The visit was a success, and the key objectives set out for the visit of the Prime Minister were achieved, by and large. The Prime Minister's address to the UNGA, meetings and other activities of the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary on the sidelines afforded opportunity to present Pakistan's perspective on the prevailing security situation in the region, opportunities and challenges in the wake of the evolving regional scenario, developments and achievements of Pakistan on the economic and security fronts. The opportunity was also availed to forcefully highlight the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, grave human rights violations in IoK at the hands of Indian occupation forces and Indian involvement in terrorism, terror financing, subversive activities and use of Afghan soil to launch terrorist attacks with the help of TTP, JuA and other terrorist outfits based in Afghanistan. The sideline meetings were also instrumental in dispelling impressions created with regard to Pakistan-US relations and Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, bridging gaps, and reaffirmation of similarity of views on the situation in this region and how to tackle the challenges. UK's Prime Minister in her address to the UNGA made it a point to recognize and mention Pakistan's sufferings due to terrorism.

Human rights situation in Indian occupied Kashmir is constantly deteriorating. India is using every inhuman measure to suppress the indigenous movement for self-determination there. During the last five days, 7 more innocent Kashmiris have been martyred and scores have been injured. 700 have been booked under the lawless law PSA since July 2016. Illegal detention of Kashmiri Leaders in inhuman and life threatening conditions continue in violation of all the relevant International Conventions on Human Rights and Humanitarian Laws. The Prime Minister also submitted a comprehensive dossier on HR Violations in IoK to the UN Secretary General during his visit to 72nd UNGA Session. India continues with unprovoked ceasefire violations at LOC and WB, targetting civilians, deliberately. In 2017 to date, Indian forces have committed 873 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the Shahadats of more than 40 innocent civilians and injuries to 148. Pakistan not only forcefully took up the issue of Kashmir and human rights violations at the UNGA but also at the 36th Session of Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is continuing.

China and Russia are conducting separate Joint Defence Exercises with Pakistan.

Now the Floor is open for Questions

Question

Reportedly, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan has said that his country will soon join China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). What is Pakistan's position on joining of CPEC by friendly countries? (Shabbir Waghra - PTV World News)

Answer

CPEC is a flagship project of One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) and is envisaged to bring prosperity for the region and beyond. The project also envisages participation of third countries. However, CPEC is currently in its initial phase and is, therefore, being executed as a bilateral undertaking between Pakistan and China. It is heartening to see growing interest of many countries in joining it. The modalities in this regard are being worked out by Pakistan and China.

Question

A recent Report of Federation of American Scientists alleges that Pakistan's nuclear assets suffer risk of falling into terrorist hands, and has once again doubted Pakistan's ability to safeguard its nuclear arsenal. What is Pakistan's viewpoint? (Tariq Mahmood - SAMAA TV)

Answer

Pakistan's Command and Control system as well as its nuclear security regime remain robust and are at par with the international standards. There has never been a single nuclear security incident in the country. Pakistan also works closely with the international community and the IAEA in the areas of nuclear safety and security. In fact, Pakistan is providing nuclear security training to regional countries at its Centre of Excellence for nuclear security.

Question

You have said in your opening remarks that Pakistan forcefully put forth its stance during the 72nd UNGA Session. However, there has been criticism that the Right of Reply in response to Indian EAM's speech should have been given by the Foreign Minister.

Secondly, regarding display of incorrect photograph by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, should we attribute it to our Mission's lack of preparation?

Third, what is the update on the presence Daesh in Pakistan, as the media has reported flags of ISIS/Daesh hoisted in Islamabad? (Abid Khursheed - ATV)

Answer

With regard to your third question, there is no organized presence of Daesh in Pakistan. Media reports do not warrant any response.

Regarding the question on why Foreign Minister was not present during the Right of Reply at UNGA, this is a procedural matter at UN, wherein Rights of Reply are a business dealt with by the office of the Permanent Representative and his/her team.

Regarding your question on the photograph, let me cite what appeared in the international print media and in the reports of Human Rights organizations with reference to Indian use of pellet guns in Indian occupied Kashmir:

Amnesty International published an exclusive 112-page report entitled "Losing sight in Kashmir: The impact of pellet-firing shot guns" containing pictures of pellet-guns victims with their emotions recorded.

In its edition of 8 Nov, 2016, daily The Guardian said "There is no recorded instance of a modern democracy systematically and willfully shooting at people to blind them".

With reference to the use of pellet guns by Indian occupation forces on peaceful Kashmiri protesters in IoK, the New York Times published an article entitled "An Epidemic of Dead Eyes in Kashmir as India Uses Pellet Guns on protesters". While citing heart-rending scenes of pellet guns victims, as young as 8 years old, the daily, in its article, concluded that "2016 will almost certainly be remembered as the year of dead eyes".

India cannot hide the crimes against humanity its occupation forces in IoK are committing. India cannot deny around 80 Kashmiris completely blinded deliberately by its forces. India cannot deny blinding of over 200 innocent Kashmiris in one eye. India cannot deny injuring thousands of Kashmiris using pellet guns. India cannot deny murdering of around 170 Kashmiris since 8 July 2016. India cannot deny deliberately killing innocent civilians while committing unprovoked ceasefire violations in AJ&K and in the vicinity of Working Boundary. India cannot deny thousands of forced disappearances.

If India denies any of the mentioned crimes, then it should not be afraid of allowing fact finding missions demanded by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OIC Contact Group on Kashmir, IPHRC, some of the Western countries' Parliamentarians and Kashmiris in IoK and AJ&K. According to an investigative report of the daily "Greater Kashmir" of IoK, the victims of pellet guns are also losing their memory.

Use of pellet guns by Indian occupation forces against the Kashmiris in IoK including children, young girls and women is an indisputable fact.

Question

India reported LoC infiltration by Pakistan at a time when Gen. Mattis is on visit then Indian propaganda against Pakistan is nothing new. How do you see this Indian move?

Secondly, during U.S. Defence Secretary's visit to India US sought expansion in Indian role in Afghanistan including in military venture? What is Pakistan's position on Indian role in Afghanistan? How would you react to any Indian involvement on ground in Afghanistan? (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj News)

Answer

You are referring to Chattisingpura killing of 37 innocent Sikhs by Indian forces in March 2000, which they blamed on some non-state state actors allegedly from Pakistan. It was later revealed that Indian state actors had carried out the killing at a time when President Bill Clinton was on a visit to India. Lately, a video has also emerged of a mid-ranking Indian army officer admitting that Indian army had carried out the massacre of Sikhs in 2000. Indian design was to malign Pakistan, instigate Sikhs against Kashmiris and Pakistan and project the Kashmir indigenous self-determination movement as terrorism. President Clinton had then reflected on the Indian cruel and inhuman act in his introduction of Madeleine Albright's book 'The Mighty & the Almighty.' Indian history is replete with such heinous crimes and false-flag operations.

On your second question, India over the years has played the role of spoiler in Afghanistan. Under the garb of development assistance India has used Afghan soil to carry out subversive activities inside Pakistan. RAW of India has developed a clandestine nexus with terrorist groups based in Afghanistan, like TTP, JuA, ETIM etc. These groups are being used to foment unrest and orchestrate terrorist attacks in Pakistan and other regional countries. We have evidence to this effect, which was shared with the US, the Secretary General of the UN and also with the Afghan authorities.

Indian sponsored terrorist groups in Afghanistan and their directed terrorist activities inside Pakistan remain no secret. You must have seen the Hindustan Times story few days back where it was argued that despite pressure from the US, India won't sever its ties with the TTP, JuA and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan, which the RAW uses to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

Question

An Indian analyst, Prof. Bharat Karnad, Hindustan Times has admitted that Indian spy agency RAW uses Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) against Pakistan. Has this not further confirmed Pakistan's stance of Indian involvement in terrorist and subversive activities inside Pakistan? (Asghar Ali Mubarak - Daily Mail Islamabad)

Answer

We have repeatedly raised the Indian interference and subversive activities in Pakistan. The arrest and conviction of Commander Jhadev is the most recent case in point. We have also shared dossiers on Indian involvement with the UNSG and the international community. India needs to behave as a responsible member of the international community and refrain from actions which violate international law and inter-state norms. One point that Professor Bharat Karnad underscored was that India would never severe its relations with TTP not only because TTP is getting financial support from India but also that TTP is facilitating Indian terrorist agency RAW's connectivity to other terrorist outfits based in Afghanistan.

Question

Reportedly, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said the cross-LoC surgical strikes of last year were a message to Pakistan, and hinted at more such strikes if necessary. Pakistan has exposed Indian false claims of surgical strikes. How do you see this renewed propaganda of surgical strike? (Amjad Ali - PTV News)

Answer

We have seen India hyping up propaganda of surgical strikes, an absurd claim and a proven lie, which Indian Army propagated last year on 29th September. You may recall that the then DG (ISPR) Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa had taken international media to the areas mentioned by India (for surgical strikes), to prove that there was no truth in the Indian claims. Noteworthy to mention is that international media reports supported the Pakistani rebuttal after visiting those areas and meeting the people there.

Such irresponsible statements reflect the Indian hegemonic designs and are fraught with incalculable dangers in an already volatile strategic environment.

PM Abbasi during his address to the UNGA forcefully asserted that there should be no doubt that Pakistan is firmly resolved to defend itself against any act of aggression aimed at its people and Pakistan's territorial integrity. We expect the international community to take note of such irresponsible statements which vitiate the atmosphere and threaten regional peace and tranquility.

Question

Reportedly, Pakistan and Thailand have agreed to sign Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by October 15, 2017. Can you confirm the development? What benefits will it bring to Pakistan in terms of diversifying its export market?

Secondly, reportedly, Malaysia Govt. has included Pakistan in the list of priority countries to receive visitors. Please confirm! (Saima Shabbir - Bol News)

Answer

Pakistan and Thailand are working to finalize the FTA. It's in the final stages of negotiations. I would recommend you to get in touch with Ministry of Commerce, being the focal Ministry, for more details regarding benefits to Pakistan.

On your second question, the Malaysian Government officially launched e-VISA for seven countries including Pakistan on 15 August 2017. This facility has primarily been introduced to encourage tourism to Malaysia and reduce the procedural delays in obtaining Malaysian visa. In addition, I also wish to mention that Indonesia has also included Pakistan in the list of favorable countries. Pakistan is among the countries whose nationals are allowed visa-on-arrival, which the Government of Qatar recently announced.

Question

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has said that assisting United States in Afghanistan in the past was a mistake. What will be your future strategy in Afghanistan? (Rabia Pir - VOA)

Answer

You must be referring to Foreign Minister's recent interview at the Asia Society in New York. As a matter of policy, we do not comment on the statements made by our leadership. We have talked much about Pakistan's principled position on Afghanistan. You are, in essence, referring to the Afghan situation. We want to see peace and stability in Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan is in the interest of not only Pakistan but entire region.

Question

Afghan ambassador during his call on the PM and recent meeting with the COAS gave messages of cooperation whereas Afghan Consul General in Peshawar was critical of Pakistan. How do you see this dichotomy? (Essa Naqvi - Dunya News)

Supplementary Questions

Including the APS mastermind, how many terrorists wanted by Pakistan that are currently in Afghanistan? Can we have an exact number?

Secondly, is it true that we asked for an exchange of Kulbhushan Jhadev with the APS mastermind? (Anwar Abbas - Waqt News)

Reportedly, Afghan Government has requested Pakistan to hand over Mullah Baradar, currently in Pakistani custody, to Afghanistan in exchange of certain wanted criminals in Pakistan? Can you confirm?

Trilateral cooperation dialogue of Pakistan-China-Afghanistan was held yesterday, please share details of projects Pakistan is going to launch in Afghanistan? (Naveed Akbar - Daily Dunya)

Answer

With regard to Mr. Essa Naqvi's question, we attach great importance to our relations with Afghanistan. We want to work with Afghanistan in all fields including political, economic, trade and transit, security, border management and others for the progress and prosperity of the two countries and the region, at large. To underline our commitment to our relations with Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary undertook her maiden visit -after assuming the office- to Kabul. Also, on the sidelines of the UNGA, the Foreign Minister met his Afghan counterpart and Afghan National Security Adviser and the Foreign Secretary held talks with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister. The meeting (requested by the Afghan side) between the Prime Minister and the President of Afghanistan could not be held though, due to scheduling issues. These indicate the sentiments on both sides; both Pakistan and Afghanistan are willing to constructively engage with each other. We need to move forward and work towards bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan that has been in turmoil for the last four decades.

Mr. Anwar Abbas and Mr. Naveed Akbar, please refer your questions to the relevant quarters.

With reference to Mr. Naveed's question on projects in Afghanistan, they are currently being discussed. The overall emphasis of these projects is on generating economic activity and enhancing economic cooperation.

Question

Reportedly, around 5 Lac Pakistanis have been deported in last five years from different countries and majority was from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. What are the reasons for their deportation? What steps Government of Pakistan has taken to prevent such cases? (Saad Umar - Roze News)

Answer

Your question relating to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not based on facts. The facts are that Saudi Arabia is home to the largest number of Pakistanis (Approx. 2.6 million) which is 28% of our total expatriate community. Total remittances from the Pakistani community have registered a tremendous increase. In fact the Government of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly announced amnesty programs to help Pakistani nationals to change their sponsorship or leave the Kingdom by legalizing their stay so that they could return to KSA on valid visas, if they so desire. Such Pakistani nationals are facilitated by our Missions in KSA. Saudi Arabia has therefore made all efforts to help Pakistani nationals in Saudi Arabia keeping in view our close brotherly relations. Earlier, I had given a comprehensive statement on how the Government in Saudi Arabia came forward to help Pakistani workers laid off by private companies during their period of bankruptcy a few months ago. You may refer to my earlier statement for further details.

Question

My question is regarding the recent abduction of Turkish citizen from Lahore. According to media reports, those Turkish citizens were on the list of UNHCR as asylum seekers. Do you confirm this report? Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister during his visit to Pakistan had also showed concerns on the presence of officials of Pak-Turk schools? (Tariq Sial - Morning Mail)

Supplementary Question

It has been reported that the former teachers of Pak-Turk schools seeking asylum in Pakistan were not issued visas. Should this matter not be treated as a humanitarian issue in Pakistan? (Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Answer

You are referring to media reports regarding abduction and the plight of Turkish officials. We do not comment on media reports but in the context of Pak-Turk schools, I recall that the former Adviser had given a comprehensive statement on Pakistan's policy regarding the matter.

Question

How do you see the revival of QCG with the participation of the US, as our NSA gave a statement that the US Ambassador to Pakistan has conveyed to the State Department about US willingness to revive the QCG process?

Secondly, on the sidelines of UNGA, Pakistan had a fruitful meeting with the Turkish President in which both sides agreed on tripartite forum on Afghanistan. Chief of Army Staff is also going to visit Afghanistan soon. Moreover, there are many other initiatives already ongoing for Afghanistan. How do you see all these developments in the context of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan? (Faisal Raza Khan - 92 News)

Answer

You have already mentioned in your question about a number of initiatives taking place in the world for peace and stability in Afghanistan. This reinforces the concern of regional and international actors in the context of bringing lasting peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan believes that all such initiatives must be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. Pakistan has fully supported all initiatives aimed at bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan, whenever requested.

On QCG, the US is already part of it. There are three facilitators, namely Pakistan, China and the US along with Afghanistan in the QCG process, with all three facilitators assisting in bringing warring factions within Afghanistan to the negotiating table. NSA's statement regarding US' willingness to revive the QCG process is in public domain. Let me add that QCG is a forum that is focused on bringing political reconciliation in Afghanistan. QCG had in the past been effective because it held regular meetings, and there was a momentum for roadmap. We are also part of tripartite mechanism with China along with Afghanistan, other than the tripartite arrangement with Turkey that you just mentioned. Then there is Heart of Asia, Kabul Process and the Brussels and Moscow meetings. All these initiatives are aimed at bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Question

What is Pakistan's stance on the current US-North Korea tension?

Secondly, what is the exact number of Pakistanis held in Indian jails? (Rashida Sial - Abb Tak)

Answer

As far as the tension between North Korea and US is concerned, Pakistan wants to see peace in the region. Our position on missile tests carried out by North Korea is already in the public domain. Please refer to our press releases issued in this regard for further details.

To your second question regarding number of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, their number is 372.

Question

In the aftermath of Trump's Afghanistan & South Asia policy, we are hearing from Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif saying that Pakistan needs to put its house in order, whereas the Army Chief has announced that it is now the world's turn to "do more". There is confusion in the public regarding Pakistan's foreign policy direction. Please comment! (Auon Shirazi - Such TV)

Answer

First of all we do not comment on the statements made by our leadership. If you are referring to Pakistan's efforts in the context of counter-terrorism, we have already stated many times the successes Pakistan made in its fight against terrorism. Pakistan is fully resolved to eradicate terrorism completely. We have carried out many successful CT-operations, which the International community has acknowledged and lauded. US Parliamentarians and Western countries' senior Commanders have visited to those places where our Armed Forces carried out CT operations. They have acknowledged Pakistan's successes, efforts, sacrifices and losses in fighting the terrorists.

Question

Earlier on, we saw Foreign Minister's bilateral visit to US postponed, as was also US Acting Assistant Secretary of State's visit to Pakistan. Any update on when these visits will take place?

Secondly, can you please give us the exact amount Pakistan has received from the US since 9/11 pertaining CSF and civilian assistance? (Ali Hussain - Business Recorder)

Answer

Regarding your second question, I will have to check the figures from concerned office(s).

On your first question, as I have said in my opening remarks, the meetings that took place with the US leadership on the sidelines of UNGA Session, helped in allaying misperception about the relations and bridging gaps. What emerged from these interactions was the desire on both sides to engage with each other. Given this backdrop, you should be expecting visits in the near future from both sides.