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Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 23rd January 2014

(2014-01-23)

 [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
 Opening Remarks
Last evening the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Spain Mr. Gonzalo De Benetino telephoned the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Mr. Sartaj Aziz to condole the death of six Levies soldiers and to thank the Government of Pakistan for saving a Spanish citizen who was crossing from Iran into Pakistan and there was an attempt to kidnap him. Six soldiers laid their lives in order to avert the kidnapping and 10 others were injured.
 
Last time, there was a question about the exact number of Pakistanis executed in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, two Pakistanis have been executed on the charge of drug trafficking. In 2013, one person was executed. There are four others about whom we do not have any confirmation. The practice is that the Saudi government does not inform in advance the Missions of the governments concerned about their nationals who are being executed on drug trafficking charges. That is why we find out only after the execution has taken place when the Saudi authorities send us the information.
 
Now the floor is open for Questions
 
Question
The US has linked the aid for Pakistan to the release of Dr. Shakeel Afridi on which the Foreign Office has already issued a statement. The nation wants to know categorically if Pakistan would hand over Shakeel Afridi to the US or not?
 
Answer
Firstly the entire allocation for Pakistan is not linked to Dr. Shakeel Afridi’s detention. 33 million dollars allocation has been linked. We have already made our position clear on that in the form of a statement. There is no possibility of Dr. Shakeel Afridi’s release at the US request. The matter is sub-judice. If the courts exonerate him that would be a different matter but you know that he has been convicted and the review process is taking place.
 
Question
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner was summoned and was handed over a demarche on the suspension of Muzzafarabad- Sri Nagar and Poonch-Rawalakot bus service. When is the Bus Service expected to be resumed?
 
Secondly, AJK authorities have arrested 27 truck drivers after the arrest of one Pakistani by the Indian authorities. Are there any negotiations going on and when is the release of these truck drivers expected?
 
  Answer
The Pakistani and Indian authorities are in contact and we are trying to resolve this matter. The drivers from IOK have not been arrested. They have only been stopped on this side. 49 Trucks from AJK have been detained on the other side. We are very keen that trade between Pakistan and India and intra Kashmir trade across LoC takes place smoothly. We also summoned the Indian Counsellor to the Ministry just before our Deputy High Commissioner was called into their MEA essentially in an effort to resolve the deadlock.
 
Question
I wanted to clarify whether a demarche was handed over to any official of the Indian High Commission yesterday?
 
Answer
That was done day before yesterday. Yesterday, the Indian High Commissioner met the Foreign Secretary and among other things, this was also discussed. Both sides are of the view that we should resolve this issue at the earliest.
 
Question
I would like to ask if the issue of Dr. Shakeel Afridi would be brought up during the Strategic Dialogue between Pakistan and the US which is coming up at the end of this month.
 
Secondly, the PCB has said that it will take the final word from the Foreign Office before making a decision on Pakistan Cricket Team’s participation in the Cricket series due to take place in Bangladesh?
 
Answer
The meeting due to take place next week is essentially a review of the Strategic Dialogue process that was resumed and after which a number of Working Groups met. This issue could be taken up in the context of the linkage that has been made between allocation of 33 million dollars with Dr. Shakeel Afridi’s detention.
 
As for your second question, we are watching the situation in Bangladesh. The T-20 World Cup does not start before the end of the February and probably a decision regarding the security situation would be made closer to the dates of the event.
 
Question
The Indian Counsellor was called day before yesterday. Was it a Note Verbale or a Demarche that was issued?
 
Secondly, Cabinet in Pakistan has approved a MoU for buying of electricity between the two countries. Would this issue come up under discussion when the Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma visits Pakistan?
 
Answer
We don’t have exact dates of the visit by the Indian Commerce Minister. A number of issues relating to commerce, trade and creating an environment in which trade can flow from both sides on equal footings will be under discussion.
On Note Verbale, it depends upon the issue. We did raise concerns about the detention of a driver along with whom 48 others  were also stopped on the other side. We did raise our concerns, so that is a demarche.
 
Question
After the visit of Saudi Foreign Minister and Deputy Defence Minister, is there any possibility of signing a Comprehensive Security Agreement between the two countries during the upcoming visit of the Saudi Interior Minister to Pakistan?
 
Answer
You would recall that when HRH Prince Faisal visited Pakistan, it was mentioned in the joint press conference that a number of high level visits from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan are in the pipeline, they are under discussion.  Similarly, there are many other agreements which are under process.
 
Question
 Did anybody represent Pakistan in Davos, Switzerland; it was an important international event?
 
Answer
Our Permanent Representative attended some of the events.
 
Thank you
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