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Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 02 February 2018

(2018-02-02) [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, Ladies & Gentlemen!

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

A Pakistani peacekeeper, Naik Naeem Raza embraced shahadat as part of the UN Peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace. We also pray for the speedy recovery of one injured Pakistani soldier. Pakistan continues to contribute towards global peace and stability. Pakistan is a permanent contributor to global peace under UN flag. To date, 156 brave Pakistanis, including 23 officers have sacrificed their lives for global peace and stability under the UN auspices. As of today, over 6000 Pakistani officers and men are performing their duties, as part of UN peacekeeping assignments.

The Foreign Minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif visited the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad to convey condolences over the recent terrorist attacks in Kabul resulting in the loss of precious human lives and infrastructure. He was received by the Afghan Ambassador, Mr. Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal. The Foreign Minister signed the condolence book and offered Fateha for those who have lost their lives. He also expressed sincere wishes for the early recovery of the injured. Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan strongly condemns terrorism in all forms and manifestations. He also said that both Afghanistan and Pakistan were victims of terrorism and that there was a need for close cooperation between the two countries to fight this common threat. The Foreign Minister added that it was encouraging that a high-level Afghan delegation, which visited Islamabad yesterday, had productive talks with the Pakistan side and it was agreed to work together to strengthen mutual trust and bilateral engagement. The Afghan Ambassador Mr. Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal thanked the Foreign Minister for the condolences. Agreeing with the Foreign Minister about the need for strengthening bilateral engagement, he said that the cooperation should be focused on upholding our mutual commitment for not letting the use of our respective soils against each other.

The President of the Republic of Indonesia, His Excellency Joko Widodo, alongwith his wife Mrs. Iriana Widodo, paid a state visit to Pakistan on 26-27 January 2018, and addressed the Joint Session of the Parliament. The Prime Minister and President Widodo held in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations and a wide range of international and regional issues of shared interest. Both sides recognized that Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process is a must for the stability and development in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister briefed President Widodo on Pakistan's efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister briefed President Widodo on the steps taken by Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues with India, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He highlighted the grave human rights situation in IOK.

The President and Prime Minister asked for the personal intervention of President Widodo to give humanitarian consideration to the case of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali, a gravely ill Pakistani held in Indonesia. After their talks, Prime Minister and President Joko Widodo attended the signing ceremony of Agreements/MoUs between the two countries.

Pakistan affirms solidarity with the people & Government of Afghanistan in fighting the menace of terrorism. We feel the pain of our Afghan brothers & sisters. On its part, Pakistan has contributed immensely as a frontline state in countering terrorism & violent extremism over last two decades. We deploy the largest CT troops in the world (202,000). Effective border management remains one of our prime objectives in preventing cross-border terrorism. Pakistan has 975 border posts to man Pak-Afghan border; Afghanistan has 218. We are keen to assist the Afghan Government in this regard. On the southern side, a stretch of 648 km has no checkpost on the Afghan side. CT operations within Pakistan have cleared 46,378 km of land & eliminated 17,614 terrorists, ensuring that our soil is not used against any other territory; we expect the same from our neighbors. Ongoing CT Operation Raddul-Fassad has eliminated terrorist elements from Pakistan especially TTA & the Haqqani Network (HN). Actions against HN include rooting out of terrorist camps in Waziristan, blocking medical assistance to terrorists & breaking their financing & training camps.

Pakistan continues to share intelligence with more than 70 countries. Pakistan continues to push any suspected TTA & HN elements to prevent them from using our soil for any terrorist activity in Afghanistan. In this context, 27 individuals suspected of belonging to TTA & HN have been handed over to Afghanistan in November 2017. Pakistan has sacrificed 75,000 civilians & 6000 soldiers to the scourge of terrorism (we have one of the highest officer-to-soldier casualty rates globally) and suffered economic losses worth USD 123bn. Large swathes of ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan are leaving a vacuum for safe havens & terrorist sanctuaries to flourish and launch attacks on Pakistan. Incidence of cross-border terrorist attacks from Afghanistan has increased since 2016, and peaked to 417 in 2017. Another example of Pakistan's sincere CT efforts is Paigham-e-Pakistan - the official decree (Fatwa) that completely prohibits terrorism & declares it contrary to the teachings of Islam and termed it as ''Fassad-fil-Arz''. Only the state can declare Jihad. 1829 highly qualified Pakistan Ulema have unanimously issued this Fatwa, calling terrorism & suicide bombing as ''Haram''. The fatwa outlaws the use of force by individuals or groups to take up arms against state for imposition of Sharia. The Fatwa also prohibits Pakistani citizens from violating territorial boundaries in the name of helping other armed groups & struggles outside Pakistan, offering intellectual & practical training & recruitment of terrorists. Tensions & escalation by India at the Eastern border adversely impact our Counter-terrorism efforts.

Yasin Malik in his open letter to Ms. Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister of India reminded her of Indian hypocrisy and stated that while Ms. Swaraj repeatedly mentions alleged mistreatment of Indian spy Commander Kulbushan Jadhav, India is itself guilty of rendering ill-treatment to the Muslims of Kashmir detained in Indian jails. Yasin Malik referred to his own ordeal and torture he was subjected to in the Indian jails. Several Kashmiri freedom fighters have been hanged without access to due process and denied a final meeting with their family members. Many have been deprived of proper burial by the Indian authorities. Disappearances, mistreatment in jails continue. Several Kashmiris have been arrested and detained simply for their political beliefs. An unaccountable number of prisoners are languishing in Indian jails for years and their persecution continues indefinitely. Peaceful protestors are routinely arrested and beaten ruthlessly in police stations, while the Indian Police Officers use abusive language against them and their family members.Human dignity and pride is tempered with callously in Indian jails of which Yasin Malik and his family themselves have been victims.

Pakistan strongly condemns the brutal and indiscriminate use of force by Indian forces that resulted in the martyrdom of three innocent civilians, namely Ahmad Bhat (20 year old), Suhail Ahmad (18 year old) and Rayees Ahmad Ghani, and injuries to several others in the Ganowpora village of Shopian district in IoK on 27 January 2018. Countering peaceful, unarmed protesters with lethal weapons and direct bullets is another manifestation of the state-terrorism being perpetrated by India against Kashmiris on a daily basis. It is clear that the Kashmiri youth are being systematically targeted in order to break the will of the people. But these cowardly tactics would not succeed. The valiant people of Kashmir have proved, time and again, that no amount of incarcerations and torture could dissuade them from pursuing their legitimate and inalienable right to self-determination.?

Pakistan expresses its complete solidarity with the people of Jammu & Kashmir. We urge the international community to take cognizance of the gross and systematic violations of human rights taking place in IoK and use its influence with India to bring an end to the shameful culture of impunity that has been fostered there for several decades. The world community must also play its rightful role in facilitating a just and lasting solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

The Government of Pakistan has agreed to extend the agreement of the Rail link between Munabao (India)- Khokhrapar (Pakistan) for another three (03) years from 1st February, 2018 to 31st January, 2021. The Agreement was signed in 2006. The rail link facilitates people-people to contacts which Pakistan believes are essential for improving relations between both the countries.

The second round of Pakistan-Portugal Bilateral Consultations was held in Islamabad on 30 January 2018. The two sides discussed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, including in the spheres of politics, economy, energy, agriculture, culture, education, consular cooperation, parliamentary exchanges and people-to-people contacts. The two sides agreed to hold the third round of Bilateral Consultations in Lisbon at mutually convenient dates in 2019.

Pakistan hosted the 3rd Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Attorneys/Prosecutors General Conference at Islamabad 30-31 January 2018. Mr. Raza Rabbani, the Chairman Senate of Pakistan was the Chief Guest at the inaugural session. The Secretary General of ECO, Mr. Halil Ibrahim Akca led the delegation of the ECO Secretariat. Pakistan, being a founding member and the current Chairman of ECO extends full support to ECO projects and initiatives.

The Special Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Ms. Tasnim Aslam met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Igor Morgulov in Moscow on 31 January 2018. The focus of discussions was on Afghanistan. Both sides expressed satisfaction at the positive trajectory of bilateral relations and reiterated their resolve to further deepen cooperation between Pakistan and Russia in the fields of Trade, Energy, Defence, Education and other fields of mutual interest.

The Russian side appreciated Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism and expressed willingness to further strengthen cooperation and support Pakistan's efforts to fight terrorism.

The inaugural round of Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) between Pakistan and Kyrgyz Republic was held in Bishkek on 24 January 2018. The Pakistan delegation was headed by the Special Secretary (ME, ECO & CARs), Mr. Aitzaz Ahmed, while the Kyrgyz Republic delegation was led by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nurlan Asiyinovich Abdrahmanov. The two sides reviewed their bilateral relations and examined the prospects of cooperation in areas of trade and economy, investment, culture, education, science & technology, defence, parliamentary exchanges, humanitarian issues and people-to-people contacts.

Now the Floor is open for Questions

Question

Reportedly, the Afghan government has accused Pakistan of providing support to the militants who carried out the terrorist attacks in Kabul last week and reportedly stated that it was carried out by the Taliban and the Haqqani network. How will you respond to this? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal)

Supplementary Questions

What special message of Afghan President did NDS Chief and Afghan Interior Minister bring? What is the outcome of their visit? Can we expect some improvement in the ties after the visit or do you think the blame game will continue? (Rashida Sial - Abb Tak)

Yesterday, during a press conference, NDS Chief Masoom Stanekzai said that they have shared undeniable evidence with Islamabad that includes a list of people who were involved in the attacks in Kabul. He further said that if Pakistan does not take action against those terrorists, Afghans will take international action. Can you elaborate on the list shared and how does Pakistan see this statement? (Anas Malick - Republic TV)

In the recent past, Foreign Office has handed over a list of 27 suspects of Haqqani Network and Taliban to Afghanistan. Why does Pakistan not highlight this gesture at the highest level? (Asghar Ali Mubarak - Daily Mail Islamabad)

Reportedly, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan said that the 27 people handed over to Afghanistan are common prisoners. Your comments please! (Salman Rao - TNN)

The Pakistan Embassy in Kabul has issued a statement that Pakistan cannot give any timeframe to reply to the evidence received from Afghanistan. Can you please elaborate on it? (Iftikhar Geelani - Wall Street Journal)

The Afghan Government blamed that terrorists who are involved in the Kabul attack had been trained in Chamman (Balochistan), whereas Pakistan is saying that it has eliminated all the terrorists from its soil. Your comments please! (Joris Fioriti - AFP)

Answer

We reject any allegations of support to the Haqqani network or the Taliban and of them to using our soil. Pakistan has been taking action against all terrorist groups in its territory. It is our commitment to eradicate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

All international reports, including those from the United States, have indicated that vast swathes of territory in Afghanistan is being used by a number of terrorist groups like Deash, TTP, JuA as sanctuary. Blaming Pakistan for security lapses inside Afghanistan is unfair, especially when such large spaces and support to these elements is available within the country.

The Afghan representatives have shared information with us during the recent visit. We will look into it and revert soon. Let me reiterate that there are no sanctuaries or any organized presence of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.

I will add here that during the recent visit of the incoming Afghan delegation, both sides agreed to strengthen bilateral engagement and Counter-Terrorism cooperation. You are aware that the first meeting of bilateral working groups, on Pakistan's proposal, is being held in Kabul on 3 February 2018. The Foreign Secretary will lead the Pakistan delegation.

Question

Firstly, during the State of the Union Address, President Trump only referred to an open ended US military action in Afghanistan and did not mention "reconciliation" for achieving Afghan stability. Your comments please!

Secondly, the President Trump has called on the Congress to pass a law that US assistance will only go to the friends of America. Earlier this month, the US has already suspended assistance for Pakistan. Does this mean that US does not consider Pakistan as a friend anymore? (Mateen Haider - Bol TV)

Answer ?

We believe that the true enemy of Afghan people is the endless cycle of violence. This conclusion is informed by our four decades' experience of facing blow back of instability in Afghanistan. That is why we have consistently highlighted that there is no military path to peace in Afghanistan.

The goal of peace and stability in Afghanistan can be best achieved through an Afghan led and Afghan owned reconciliation process. It is time for international community to remember the plight of millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, who have been displaced from their homes due to decades of violence. They must return to their homes honorably. More violence in Afghanistan will only delay their dream of uniting with their loved ones.

Regarding the assistance, Pakistan wishes to have a strong relationship with the United States based on mutual respect and underpinned by bonds of friendship between our two peoples. Pakistan's foreign policy reflects the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and serves Pakistan's national interests.

We look forward to developing mutually beneficial economic partnerships with all countries, including the United States and do not consider assistance a yardstick for measuring our longstanding relationship.

Question

Reportedly, US has imposed sanctions on six men linked to Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network, and barred them from accessing the U.S. financial system. Can you share more details on this please?

Also reportedly, US State Department Spokesperson urged Pakistan to lift a ban on US-funded Radio Mashaal. She added that the US reservations had been forwarded to Islamabad in this regard. Have we received anything officially on the matter? What is your reaction to US State Department's statement?

Lastly, Why does US administration continue to blame Pakistan for lack of action against certain militants, when intelligence sharing continues and Pakistan keeps on saying that it will act on any actionable intelligence. Is there no intelligence sharing from US side or it is not actionable at all? (Shoukat Paracha - Aaj TV)

Answer?

Last question first. This is precisely why we say that some elements in the US administration are trying to scapegoat Pakistan for the failures in Afghanistan. Our position is clear that Pakistan will take action against any terrorist found on its soil, if actionable intelligence is provided.

Regarding, the US treasury department listing, the US Department of Treasury has recently designated six alleged Taliban/ HN individuals under an Executive Order 13224 which bars the US nationals from providing any financial or material support to these individuals. This is an administrative step taken by the US government and is applicable upon the US subjects. It is not a UN sanctions measure. Since those so designated are not Pakistani nationals, we have no comments to offer.

Regarding Radio Mashaal, the decision to close the office of Mashaal Radio was taken by the Interior Ministry after it was found that the office of Mashaal Radio was being run without the mandatory licensing required under the applicable laws. Mashaal Radio website/broadcast remains functional. The US side has also been duly apprised of this decision.

Question

Reportedly, the EU has linked the renewal of Pakistan's GSP Plus status with the release of Asia Bibi, who is facing a death sentence. What is your response in this regard? (Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Answer

Pakistan and the European Union have been partners in peace, stability and economic development for decades. Pakistan had been granted GSP Plus status by the EU after meeting basic criteria for the scheme, like 9 other countries. Eligibility criteria for grant of GSP Plus status and its continuation includes adherence to and fulfilling obligations to the treaty bodies of the 27 international conventions in the field of environment and climate change, labour rights, human rights, narcotics and corruption.

Question

Reportedly, the head of Afghan High Peace Council has said that interference of some countries, particularly Pakistan, is impeding the peace efforts in Afghanistan. Why this allegation, when we are continuously saying that Pakistan is playing an active role for the political settlement in Afghanistan? (Saad Omer - Roze TV)

Answer

In our view, it is up to Afghanistan to achieve a political settlement among various Afghan groups. Pakistan has continued to express support to efforts for an intra-Afghan dialogue. In this regard, we welcome the peace deal with Hizb-e-Islami and believe that it can serve as a model for future peace talks.

Question

Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has recently unveiled the Gwadar Economic Free Zone. Please share more details of the project, and how it would add towards the development of Gwadar in particular and the people of Balochistan in general? (Tariq Mahmood - Samma TV)

Answer

Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated the Gwadar Economic Free Zone on 29 January 2018. A number of industrial units will be setup in the Economic Zone that would generate economic and employment opportunities for the local population. A number of projects have been started in Gwadar. Gwadar Eastbay Expressway and New Gwadar International Airport projects are planned to commence work soon. Efforts are in place to provide basic infrastructure for Gwadar port and city. Provision of water and electricity to Gwadar is being carried out. Gwadar hospital is being upgraded to 150 beds. A Vocational Training institute will also be constructed by the Chinese side. An industrial park is being built, that has been declared a Free Trade Zone. The focus will be on the development of oil refining, ship building and repairs, chemicals, nonferrous metals, logistics, port, services and transportation.

These projects would enhance the economic prospects of Gwadar and Balochistan by creating more job opportunities. Once fully developed and operational, Gwadar Port will become an international transit hub, which will greatly benefit Pakistan and more specifically, the people of Balochistan.

Question

Firstly, in Europe especially in London ''Free Kashmir'' campaign has been launched against India's continued human right violations in IoK and its repeated denial of the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people. Similarly, a rally has also been organized in Brussels for solidarity with Kashmiri people. In your view, how productive are such demonstrations for the cause of Kashmiris?

Secondly, in London outside of Indian High Commission a lot of members of various Indian organizations gathered on India's Republic Day to highlight the cases of mob lynching, discrimination, violence, and Indian state's crimes against its own people by the Modi government. What are your comments? (Asghar Mubarak - Daily)

Answer

Regarding first question, the Jammu & Kashmir dispute is an internationally recognized dispute pending resolution due to Indian belligerence. The Kashmiris continue to struggle and pay in blood and treasure against intensified Indian atrocities and violation of their basic human rights by Indian occupation forces. However, the champions of human rights need to go beyond paying lip-service to the Human Rights Charter and urge India to stop the bloodshed in IoK. The international community also needs to fulfill its promise to the Kashmiris and ensure that India expedites resolution of the J&K dispute in line with the UNSC resolutions.

On your second question, rapidly escalating extremism and violence in Indian society is a reality. Indian maltreatment of its minorities is also well established. Saner voices inside India continue to speak out about this. We have consistently raised our concerns on this issue. It is time for Indian tall claims of being a democracy to materialize into reality, most of all for its own betterment than anything else.

Question

You mentioned in the opening remarks that Pakistan lost $123 billion in war against Terrorism. Has this amount been lost in internal war against terrorism, or in Pakistan's cooperation with US led war against terrorism in Afghanistan? Will Pakistan claim this amount from the US? (ShehzadMirza - Royal News)

Answer

This amount is the overall loss to our economy.

Question

Reportedly, Pakistan has forwarded some proposals to Afghanistan for seeking normalization of ties and building sustainable future cooperation between the two countries. Can you share some details of the proposed plan? (Amjad Ali - PTV)

Answer?

Our proposal is for formulation of five working groups for ensuring comprehensive engagement in the areas of counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing, military, economy, trade and transit interaction, refugees' repatriation and connectivity. The first meeting of the working groups is in Kabul tomorrow, 03 February 2018, and Foreign Secretary will lead the delegation.

Question

Firstly, are there certain proposals between India and Pakistan being discussed regarding repatriation of prisoners and mentally retarded people as well as the revival of the Judicial Committee?

Secondly, Pakistan's Ambassador in Greece has written a letter, asking Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior to take immediate steps to curb illegal immigration and human trafficking, as security forces have apprehended 26 illegal Pakistanis in the month of December 2017 alone. What are your comments? (Naveed Siddiqui - Dawn News)

Answer

On your second question first, we have been raising the issue of illegal immigration and human trafficking again and again. We should take it up as an issue of national importance. I would urge you, the media, to enlighten the uneducated people, who are beguiled into the false prospects of a prosperous life elsewhere, by certain vested elements in exchange for large sums of money. These people must follow proper and legal ways of seeking immigration and employment. Having served in Europe, I have seen the difficulties our people go through. I take it up as a personal campaign to educate and inform everyone about the pitfalls of these temptations and request our media to also play its part.

On the first question, they have avoided all contact. We want traction on all issues with India. Pakistan remains open for dialogue with India. However, the mindset and general approach of the current Indian government needs to change. This is especially reflected through the unprovoked, continued, ceasefire violations on the LoC and the Working Boundary. Pakistan recently repatriated 291 Indian fishermen on humanitarian ground. Unfortunately, 50 Pakistani prisoners, including children, who have completed their sentence, still await repatriation by India.

Question

As a follow up to the US travel advisory for Pakistan, did the Foreign Office take up this issue with the relevant US authorities? If so, what was their response? Have they agreed to reassess the travel advisory in the light of improved security situation in the country? (Shabbir Waghra - PTV News)

Answer?

We have raised our concerns on the new global travel advisory introduced by the State Department. The matter was discussed both in Islamabad and Washington. We have been told that the officials will periodically review the situation of each country to make necessary adjustments in the advisory status. We intend to remain engaged with the US on this important issue.

Question

Any plans to link Gawadar with Chabhahar Port? (Riaz Hasan - Channel 5)

Answer

The two ports are complementary.

Question

In your opening remarks, you have mentioned that the Government of Pakistan agreed to extend the agreement of the Rail link between Munabao-Khokhrapar for another three (03) years. I would like to link this with the Kargil-Ladakh road, which is also aimed at people to people contacts. People from both sides have been denied access to meet their loved ones for the past 44 years. When will this issue be resolved and will Pakistan take up this matter with India? (Fida Hussain - Radio News Network)

Answer

You have asked this question in the past also. My reply remains the same that we are ready to raise this issue whenever dialogue begins with India.

Question

Reportedly, 46 Pakistani nationals including 7 women are languishing in Sri Lankan jails since 2012 or before. One of the relatives of the prisoners has accused the Government for not facilitating Pakistani prisoners under the Exchange of Prisoner Agreement between the two countries. Can you clarify your position, and the efforts undertaken by our Mission in this regard so far? (Khalid Mahmood - Express)

Answer

A total of 91 Pakistani prisoners are detained in various Sri Lankan prisons. 47 of these prisoners have been convicted, whereas 44 are under trial. The convicted Pakistani prisoners can be transferred to Pakistan under the Transfer of Offenders Agreement with Sri Lanka. However, Ministry of Interior has stopped processing all cases of Transfer of Offenders since March, 2015 due to reported malpractices in the prevalent process. The Ministry of Interior is evolving a transparent framework and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which are in the final stages of completion. Once the SOPs are in place, the Government will start processing the cases for Transfer of Offenders to Pakistan.

Our High Commission in Colombo is in regular contact with the Sri Lankan authorities. The High Commission regularly visits the Pakistanis detained in Sri Lankan jails for consular access and provides basic necessities requested by them. The High Commission also provides legal assistance to the detainees who cannot afford it.?

Question

Recently, a Chinese engineer went missing from Kahuta. Reportedly, the Chinese Ambassador also visited the site and was briefed by thelaw enforcement agencies. Any update on the missing Chinese engineer! (Anwar Abbas - Waqt News)

Answer

I will check and get back to you.

Question

Just 10 days ago India launched 104 satellites into space. Out of these, 21 are for intelligence gathering and defence purposes. Pakistan does not have any satellite in space. How do you see this development?

Secondly, there are reports that the Foreign Secretary was in China on a visit. What sort of visit was it? Did any discussions take place regarding the situation in Afghanistan particularly the US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia? (Faisal Raza Khan - 92 News)

Answer

I am not aware of the Foreign Secretary' s visit to China.

On your first question, I will get back to you.

You had raised another question in the press briefing last week regarding MTCR and Indian NSG membership to which I would like to respond now. As a state with advanced capabilities, Pakistan maintains constant engagement with all the multilateral export control regimes including the NSG, MTCR, Australia Group and the Wassennar Arrangement. Pakistan has expressed interest in gaining membership of these regimes in order to contribute to the global non-proliferation objectives on an equal footing. However, the timing and order of submitting formal applications for membership is determined by several considerations. We have been holding discussions with our interlocutors from these export control regimes on these issues.

Even though these export control regimes have the common overarching objective of promoting the goal of non-proliferation, they have their distinct areas of focus and membership of one group does not automatically qualify a country for membership of another. As far as the NSG is concerned, deliberations on different political, legal and technical issues posed by the membership of non-NPT states continue without emergence of any consensus.

We believe that adherence to non-discriminatory and criteria-based approaches will further the non-proliferation objectives of these regimes and enhance their credibility and effectiveness.

Question

Pakistan handed over 27 terrorist to Afghanistan. However, Afghan government, rather than appreciating Pakistan's positive gesture, is continuously bashing Pakistan in the media claiming that these are not terrorists but rather minor criminals that have been handed over. Will the Pakistani delegation visiting Afghanistan tomorrow take up this issue with Afghan authorities? (Aon Shirazi - Such TV)

Answer

As I told you earlier, our delegation is visiting for the first meeting of the five working groups. Certainly, if this issue is raised, it will be responded accordingly. However, the handing over of 27 suspects to the Afghan authorities indicates that Pakistan's sincerity that cooperation and collaboration in underway. So far, we haven't received any formal response from the Afghan side regarding this matter.

Question

Can you give an exact number of Afghan refugees currently residing in Pakistan and what steps have been taken so far for their repatriation? Second, once these Afghan refugees go back to Afghanistan, how would you ensure that they do not return? Is there any visit of senior US officials regarding the issue of Afghan refugees in the pipeline? (Khawaja Nayyar- Kashmir Post)

Answer

As you know, we have extended the stay of Afghan refugees for another two months. It is estimated that Pakistan is currently hosting around 2.7 million Afghans. This includes 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees while the remaining are unregistered Afghans. Our Refugees policy is focused on sustainable and voluntary repatriation of Afghan Refugees to their homeland, with dignity. Based on this policy, the Ministry of SAFRON being the lead Ministry is engaged with all stakeholders and government of Afghanistan for voluntary repatriation. However, in view of continuing instability in Afghanistan, many times the refugees who return to Afghanistan are forced to come back to Pakistan. Collective efforts of the international community and the donors for creating incentives and pull factors in the shape of low cost housing and livelihood programs are critical to ensure reintegration of returnees into Afghan economy.

Question

Earlier, the US administration has also provided a list of suspected terrorists to Pakistan. What is the update? (Rashida Sial - Abb Tak)

Answer

The engagements on both sides continue and we are working towards finding common ground.

Question

So many people have been killed by our neighboring country at the Line of Control. Has the UNMOGIP been helpful in this regard? (Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Answer

We have continuously raised the issue of ceasefire violations with UNMOGIP. It is one of the oldest peacekeeping operations for maintaining peace and tranquility and monitoring Ceasefire violations along LoC and Working Boundary in line with the UNSC mandate. Pakistan allows the UNMOGIP to operate freely. Regrettably, the Indian side has restricted its operations to Srinagar and Delhi. We believe that operation of the UNMOGIP is essential for peace and tranquility in the region.