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Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 25 May 2018

(2018-05-25) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Opening Remarks

First our sincere, heartfelt condolences to the family of Ms. Sabika Sheikh, the 17 years old Pakistani student, who tragically lost her life in the Santa Fe shootout. We are sad to also share the tragic news of the untimely death of a young Pakistani student, Mr. Talha Zaidi, studying at the Melbourne Polytechnic Institute Preston, who died in a car accident last week. Our High Commission in Australia is expediting the medical and legal formalities, so that the body can be repatriated to Pakistan at the earliest. May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace and give courage and sabr to his family to bear the loss.

Ladies & Gentlemen

Now, a brief roundup of the activities on the foreign policy front:

The 7th Extraordinary OIC Summit on Palestine was held in Istanbul, Turkey on 18th May 2018 to discuss the grave situation in the aftermath of the blatant human rights violations by the occupying forces in the state of Palestine. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi led the Pakistan delegation to the Summit. The Prime Minister conveyed deep appreciation to President Erdogan for convening a timely and important summit on the question of Palestine. Pakistan, alongwith the OIC countries strongly condemned the massacre and maiming of innocent Palestinians in April 2018 by Israeli forces. Prime Minister reaffirmed Pakistan's complete solidarity with the Palestinian people in the face of unbridled tyranny. In this regard 19 May 2018 was announced as Palestine Solidarity Day in Pakistan.

The Prime Minister extended sincere and heartfelt condolences to President Mehmood Abbas and the Palestinian people on the martyrdom of many innocent Palestinian and expressed sympathies and wishes for speedy recovery to those injured during the peaceful protests. We pointed out that as in Palestine; we witness the flouting of UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir in a similar manner, by the Indian occupation forces.

Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir continues to bleed. In just the past week alone, the Indian occupation forces killed four people in Handwara area of Kupwara district. Indian occupation forces opened indiscriminate firing on defenseless Kashmiris when villagers refused to participate in a forced 'Iftaar party' of the occupation forces in Shopian district, injuring several innocent civilians including four young girls - 14-years old 8th class student Aqsa Jan, 15-years-old Shobi Jan, 17-years old Shakira Akhtar and 15-years old Shaafi Jan. Forcing people, at gun point, to participate in so-called Iftaars by Indian occupation forces makes it a travesty of human rights.

On the occasion of the martyrdom anniversaries of prominent leaders, namely Molvi Muhammad Farooq and Khawaja Abdul Ghani Lone, as well as the martyrs of Hawal massacre, Indian authorities imposed a curfew and detained the Hurriyat leaders to prevent them from leading marches towards Eidgah in Srinagar. Despite the draconian measures, the world's largest military concentration in any disputed territory has failed to suppress the Kashmiri people in their legitimate struggle for the realization of the right to self-determination. We urge the international community to play its role in calling India to account for its crimes against the innocent people of Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

The Acting Foreign Secretary summoned the Indian High Commissioner and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary on 18th May 2018, in Pukhlian, Chaprar, Harpal, Charwah and Shakargarh Sectors, resulting in the shahadat of 4 innocent members of the family of Mr. Noor Hussain (including his wife, two (2) daughters and a son) in Village Khanoor, and injuries to 10 others. The Indian forces along the Line of Control and the Working boundary continue to target civilians with heavy weapons. In 2018, the Indian forces have already carried out more than 1050 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the shahadat of 28 innocent civilians, while injuring 117 others.

Pakistan is pursuing the matter of release of 54 Pakistani prisoners from Indian jails, who remain incarcerated despite completing their sentence. We also await New Delhi's response to Pakistan's humanitarian proposal for exchange of prisoners above 60 years and children below the age of 18, shared with the Indian side on 7 March 2018. On its part, Pakistan has made positive gestures on the humanitarian track vis-a-vis India, as reflected in the release of civilian prisoners and fishermen. Pakistan's positive response and addition of further humanitarian proposals to the Indian gesture, for exchange of prisoners, our facilitation of visits of pilgrims to religious shrines, despite India's denial of visas for Pakistani zaireen, Pakistan's good-faith humanitarian gesture of allowing Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav's family to visit him etc. are cases in point. We expect our friendly gestures to be reciprocated.

Mr. Ashtar Ausaf Ali, the Attorney General of Pakistan led the delegation to the World Bank, for a two days meeting, to discuss the issues related to Kishenganga (KHEP) and Ratle (RHEP) Hydroelectric projects under the Indus Waters Treaty. Detailed discussions were held with the CEO of the Bank, Ms. KristalinaGeorgivaand and her legal and technical teams, who had been directed by the President of the World Bank (who was not in the country), to address the concerns of Pakistan.

The Attorney General regretted Indian attempts to make the Indus Waters Treaty dysfunctional and the inauguration of the KHEP by India, in flagrant disregard of the commitments of the Government of India to the World Bank and in utter violation of the Treaty. He emphasized that the waters of the Indus and its tributaries were the lifeline of more than 200 million people of Pakistan. It was not just an issue of water, but a definite human rights issue. The Indian attempts to disempower the IWT, had gravely damaged the environment. The agriculture of the country, which is its backbone, is also being adversely affected. The delegation, that he was leading to the Bank, had been instructed directly by the Prime Minister of Pakistan to effectively highlight the very serious implications of Indian intransigence and its disregard for international law, especially the Indus Waters Treaty, for the people and government of Pakistan.

The Attorney General reminded the Bank of its obligations and emphasized the need to abide by its commitments. The delegation stressed the need to revisit the design and impact of KHEP. He also urged the US government to actively support the Bank in resolving the KHEP and RHEP within the ambit of the Treaty.

Ms. Georgieva assured the Attorney General and the Government of Pakistan that the Bank would make utmost efforts to resolve the KHEP and RHEP, within the parameters of the Indus Waters Treaty. Pakistan is gravely concerned at the inauguration of the Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project (KHEP). Pakistan believes that the inauguration of the project without the resolution of the dispute is a violation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). Despite several rounds of bilateral negotiations as well as mediation under the auspices of the World Bank, India continued with the construction of the project. This intransigence by India has made the Treaty dysfunctional. Pakistan urged the Bank to raise this violation of the IWT with India and bring an end to the impasse. Pakistan reiterated that as the custodian of the Treaty, the World Bank should urge India to address Pakistan's reservations on Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project (KHEP).

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Pakistan is hosting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) Legal Experts meeting from 23-25 May 2018 in Islamabad, which concludes today. This is the first ever SCO meeting being held in Pakistan since becoming member of SCO in June 2017. The Government of Pakistan is pleased to welcome delegations from SCO member states to Islamabad. Legal Experts from the eight member states, namely China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, as well as representatives of the SCO-RATS Executive Committee are participating in the meeting. They are discussing ways and means to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation between SCO member states. Pakistan supports SCO's efforts for regional cooperation in fighting terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime and is ready to share our experience in tackling the menace of terrorism through the SCO-RATS. The FS will lead the Pakistan delegation in the SCO Contact Group meeting on Afghanistan, the trilateral Strategic Dialogue and the Trilateral Practical Cooperation Delegation in Beijing next week.

On 18 May 2018 Pakistan and Serbia marked the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries. The two sides established diplomatic relations in 1948, when Pakistan was still in its nascent years.

On a happier note, we congratulate Dr Abdul Hameed, Pakistani scientist of DrPanjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), Karachi University, on receiving the excellence award for presenting outstanding science research at the 91st annual meeting of the Japan Endocrine Society, Japan. His achievements demonstrate our vibrant culture.

A team of Pakistani students who won the 2nd prize in the Network Group and 3rd prize in Enterprise Cloud Communication, in the Huawei ICT Competition 2018 Global Final held in Shenzhen, China have also made us immensely proud.

Now the Floor is open for Questions

Question

Surprisingly, you did not mention anything about the new book in town called ''Spy Chronicles'' in your opening remarks. During the course of the book, former ISI chief AsadDurrani admitted that Prime Minister Gilani at that time was fully onboard regarding the US Navy Seals operation against Osama Bin Ladin in Abbottabad and that a special deal was struck between the US and Pakistani Government in this regard. What are your comments on that?

Second, many conflicting reports about the alleged failing health of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman are circulating in the news lately. Is it possible for Pakistan to invite him for an official visit, so as to dispel such news completely? (Syed Mohsin Raza - Asas Group of Publications)

Answer

Regarding your second question, we do not comment on the internal matters of sovereign countries.

On your first question, I have yet to see and read the book, after which I might be able to respond to your queries.

Question

First, Foreign Secretary has written letters to Ministry of Interior and Finance for concrete statistics on Hafiz Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Filah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), so that Pakistan can make preparations in advance for the upcoming FATF meeting. Do you confirm this?

Second, India started Kishenganga Hydropower Project (KHEP) back in 2009. Do you think that Pakistan has pursued its policy on water disputes in a delayed manner? Chairman Senate has recently asked for a report from the Foreign Office in this context. Do you consider it a setback to our foreign policy initiatives that we have been unable to pursue the matter proactively? (Rashida Sial - AbbTak)

Supplementary Questions

What other options does Pakistan have, if the World Bank refuses to help us out this time around? (Tariq Mahmood - Hum News)

Do you think we have lost our case in the World Bank - need your reply in affirmative or negative please! (Naveed Siddiqui - Dawn News)

Isn't it high time that we negotiate a new Treaty with the Indians? (Tahir Rathore - Channel 24)

Regarding the press statement released by the World Bank in this context, they have categorically stated that Pakistan's stance on KHEP and Ratle Hydropower Project (RHEP) was 'insufficient'. In your view, have we already lost this battle on Indus Waters Treaty since the World Bank has refused to play its constructive role in the dispute? Why didn't we raise the matter of KHEP earlier, and why only now when it has been inaugurated? (Faisal Raza Khan - 92 News)

Why does Pakistan undertake such forceful efforts once Indian dams are built, and not when they were at their early stages of development? (Khawaja NayyarIqbal - Daily Kashmir Post)

In your view, can this water dispute between India and Pakistan escalate into a full-scale war? (Anwar Abbas - Waqt News)

As far as I remember, when Baglihar Dam was being constructed, even then Pakistan had raised Kishenganga with the World Bank, since the latter was a big stakeholder in this issue.Back then was there any concrete decision made, only after which India went ahead with the construction? (Asghar Mubarak Ali - Diplomatic News)

Answer

On Ms. Rashida's first question, I am not aware of any such correspondence.

On KHEP, this is not the first time that Pakistan has expressed its serious concerns, and forcefully raised the matter at all relevant forums. We have pursued this matter effectively for the past many years. Our position on India's blatant violation of Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) is unchanged and consistent. The position of the World Bank is also known to all. We believe that such disputes must be resolved through IWT, as have been in the past, and that the Arbitration mechanism must be empowered to take impartial decisions.

Mr. Anwar Abbas is right; water disputes with India carry the potential to escalate into full-scale conflict between both sides. Pakistan is an agro-based economy in dire need of water. The government has recently released a comprehensive water policy to tackle the acute shortages of water in the country. Pakistan is doing whatever is necessary to raise the alarm bells and share our concerns with all concerned.

As Ministry of Water is the line Ministry for IWT, you may consult them for technical details. As far as the Foreign Office is concerned, our support and position on all aspects of IWT remains consistent and forthcoming.

Question

Reportedly, India has successfully conducted its first life-extension test of BrahMos, the supersonic cruise missile. This trial can enable BrahMos to remain in service for 15 years. Moreover, India is also working on incorporating Artificial Intelligence technology to its advanced weaponry. In your view, how will it impact the already volatile regional situation and arms race?

Second, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told lawmakers that the US is seriously concerned about the ''bad treatment'' meted out to US diplomats in Pakistan. How do you comment on this? Also, he has hinted that the annual assistance to Pakistan will be sharply cut. In your view, have the differences between both countries widened? (Saad Umer - Roze News)

US Embassy Spokesperson, in a statement recently, has said that US diplomats and citizens are being harassed in Pakistan, and are not able to perform their official duties. What are your comments on this? (Shabbir - Online News Agency)

Answer

On your first question, Pakistan wants to have a peaceful neigbourhood where all countries can focus on meeting the socio-economic needs of their people, rather than squandering their resources on a futile arms race and acquiring destabilizing weapon systems and technologies.

While Pakistan will not be oblivious to the imperative of safeguarding its national security, we remain a strong proponent of mutually agreed measures for restraint and confidence building. Towards this objective, Pakistan has put forward several proposals which remain on the table.

On your second question, the Foreign Office has not received any specific complaints from the US side after establishment of the mechanism to resolve the issue, on treatment of the US diplomats in Pakistan. Diplomats hailing from all countries enjoy diplomatic privileges alike and are provided every possible support as per international laws and norms as well as reciprocity.

Moreover, the US had suspended the security related assistance to Pakistan earlier this year, including the CSF (coalition support fund) reimbursements. We believe, and the fact has been frequently acknowledged by the US officials also, that the security related assistance served the mutual interest of stability in the region. Pakistan's counter-terrorism operations in FATA and clearing of this territory from all sorts of terrorist networks is a testimony that the US assistance for capacity building of Pakistan's law enforcement and security agencies has helped in achieving the shared objective of stability and peace in the region. The US assistance on the civilian economic side continues with both sides engaged in undertaking collaborative projects and programs.

Question

Is it standard protocol that Pakistani forces along the LoC and WB cannot fire beyond a certain point deep into Indian state camps etc?

Second, what is the update on Commander Kulbushan Jhadev's case in ICJ? (Zahid Malik - Daily Metro)

Supplementary Questions

Following the recent escalation on LoC and the WB, was any contact established between DGMOs? (Anas Malick - Republic TV)

Chairman Senate has recently asked for details on the number of Shahadats on WB and LoC. Have you shared any details in this regard? How many Shahadats have taken place so far? (Asghar Ali Mubarak - Diplomatic News)

Yesterday we visited the WB'sCharwa Sector. On 20 May, a brigadier-level meeting was held between both sides, but the escalation and firing on border from BSF has not stopped and it continuedtill 23 May. Can you elaborate on the role of UNMOGIP in this situation, as we are facilitating the military observer group but they are not working as per their mandate? (Tahir Rathore - Channel 24)

National Assembly's Human Rights Committee has recommended that the Indian indiscriminate firing on LoC and the WB, causing shahadats to scores of civilians, should be effectively raised in the UNHRC in Geneva. Has Foreign Office raised the matter with them so far?

Answer

All resolutions of the National Assembly and Senate will be implemented in letter and spirit.

On details pertaining to LoC and the WB, please consult ISPR. Regarding raising the matter up at UNHRC, Pakistan has effectively raised the issue at all relevant international, as well as during our bilateral meetings with all concerned stakeholders.

According to the data shared by ISPR with us, in this year alone, we have incurred 28 Shahadats of innocent civilians and injuries to 117, as well as over 1050 ceasefire violations from the Indian side.

Regarding UNMOGIP, we have repeatedly stressed the need for UNMOGIP to enjoy unfettered access, to enable them to fulfill their mandate in true spirit. UNMOGIP enjoys complete freedom in Pakistan, but it has access to only Srinagar and Delhi in India. However, UNMOGIP is the only viable mechanism to monitor, document and report on ceasefire violations of the LoC and the WB. India must realize this fact to enable a way forward.

Regarding Mr. Anas Malick's questions, the contact between DGMOs of both sides is regular and there is a mechanism in place.

We will submit the counter-reply regarding Commander KulbushanJhadev to the ICJ in July this year.

Question

Recently,officials of Utharkhand arrested an Indian citizen on charges of leaking secret information to ISI and claimed that he was also on the payroll of ISI. He is alleged to have remained in Islamabad from June 2015 to September 2017 as Military Attache of Indian High Commission. What is your message tothe officials of Indian External Ministry, whomust give basic ethical training to their officials so that they refrain from such false allegations?(Aon Sherazi - Sach News)

An Indian ex-envoy named Madhuri Gupta is sentenced to 3 years in jail on charges of spying against India. Has Indian External Ministry contacted Foreign office in this regard?(Aon Sherazi- Sach News& Tariq Mahmood - Hum TV)

Answer

I have no comments to offer.

Question

What is the outcome of the recent FATF meeting, led by DG CT of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held in Bangkok on 22-23 May 2018? (Naveed Akbar - Dunya Newspaper)

Supplementary Questions

Pakistan is going to face FATF deliberations very soon. Now that the interim government will be in place from next month, and there will be no functional government as such, has Pakistan requested FATF to postpone the convening of this meeting to its next session in November this year? Till then, the elected government will also be in its place.(Faisal Raza Khan - 92 News)

How do you see FATF's reported refusal to remove Pakistan's name from FATF's grey list in a meeting held with Pakistani officials in Bangkok yesterday. It is also reported that the Pakistani side has submitted a 27-pager document to the FATF. Can you please elaborate on the contents of this document? (Anas Malick - Republic TV)

Answer

The deliberations and discussions under FATF are confidential. The subject is dealt with Ministry of Finance, which is the line Ministry with respect to FATF. DG (CT) of MOFA is not leading the Pakistani delegation.

Interim government is equally functional and equipped to deal with all issues. There will be no change in Pakistan's negotiations and implementation of the Action Plan.We are a responsible state.

Question

What will be the future of Iran Pakistan gas pipeline, and sister complimentarity between Gwadar and Chahbahar following US sanctions on Iran? (Sheraz Asghar - IRNA)

Answer

Please consult Ministry of Petroleum for details.

Question

Reportedly, five workers, working for the TAPI pipeline project have been killed in southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan. The attacks are reported to have been carried out by the Taliban. What are your comments on this?(Amjad Ali - PTV News)

Answer

Pakistan believes that TAPI (Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India) pipeline is a hallmark project for addressing the energy needs of the region. Pakistan attaches great value to this project. The Prime Minister attended the inauguration ceremony of the Pipeline's entry into Afghanistan.

As per the agreement, each country is responsible for the security of the portion of the pipeline passing through its territory. Afghanistan has assured the member countries to provide full security to the project. We are confident that the Afghan Government will take necessary steps to ensure the security of this project.

Question

Gen (R) Asad Durrani, in the book Spy Chronicles, has said that Pakistan did not tackle the case of KulbushanJhadev properly, and that he will be handed over to India. Your comments please!(Fida Hussain - Radio News Network)

Answer

This will never happen.

Question

This book has shown a desire on the part of India to extend a friendly hand towards Pakistan. How will Pakistan respond to this gesture?(Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal - Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer

Pakistan has already extended a friendly hand towards India. It is now India's turn to be forthcoming.

Question

Last week, a Muslim man was beaten to death and another was attacked by Hinducow vigilantes in Madhya Pradesh, India for allegedly slaughtering a cow. How do you see the rise of exponential Hindu extremism in Indian society and the government, threatening the life and property of Muslims and other minorities in India?(Asghar Mubarak Ali - Diplomatic News)

Answer

Maltreatment of minorities in India and rising extremism evident by the horrific incident you refer to. Unfortunately, it appears to have become a norm in India, bringing to the forefront the sad reality behind the myth of Indian democracy. Criticism by credible international organizations including Amnesty International about Indian maltreatment of minorities in India continues in 2017/18. They have called upon India to ensure that there is no impunity for those responsible for public lynchings and other hate crimes against Muslims in India. The increasing demonization of Indian religious minorities, especially Indian Muslims, by hard-line Hindu groups, pro-government media and more worryingly state officials is a daily reality. This should serve as a wakeup call for India, if it is to prevent its rapid slide into fascism.

Question

Yesterday, US President Donald Trump has called off upcoming talks with North Korean leader. Earlier on, he scrapped the Iran-US nuclear deal, and is also pressurizing Pakistan on various fronts. Are we also lobbying effectively to have our own areas of influence?(Zahid Malik - Daily Metro Watch)

Answer

We have talked in detail about our policy in this regard.