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Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 8th May 2014

(2014-05-08)

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
 
Opening Remarks
 
I have two statements to make:
 
i.                   Emergency Relief Assistance to Afghanistan
As a gesture of solidarity with the Afghan people, Pakistan has sent emergency relief assistance for the affectees of the landslide in Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan. Pursuant to the Prime Minister’s instructions, emergency relief supplies carried by two C-130 Flights have already been delivered to the Afghan authorities on 6 and 7th May, 2014. The 3rd Flight is due to take place shortly. The relief assistance includes tents, blankets, medicines, kitchen sets and essential food items. The relief effort is being closely coordinated through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of Pakistan.
 
ii.                 Pakistan Condemns Terrorist Attacks in China  
 
Pakistan is grieved to learn about the recent terrorist incidents in Urumqi and at Guangzhou railway station in which three people were kill and more than 80 people were injured. Pakistan strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Our profound and heartfelt condolences are to the families who lost their dear ones in these incidents of terrorism. We stand shoulder to shoulder with China in its fight against terrorism and militancy.
 
Now the floor is open for Questions
 
Question
In response to Pakistan’s Army Chief’s statement that Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein, Indian Minister Mr. Chidambaram has said that India has the capability to cut off this jugular vein. Your reaction to this statement?
 
Secondly, a large number of Pakistanis wishing to visit Ajmer Sharif have been denied visas by the Indian authorities. What steps is the Foreign Office taking?
 
Answer
Your second question first, we have already protested against this violation of the 1974 bilateral agreement on visits to religious places. The Indian Deputy High Commissioner was called in by Director General (South Asia). We pointed out that a pattern is emerging whereby our pilgrims are being denied the facility to go and attend Urs celebrations in prominent holy places that are covered by the 1974 agreement between Pakistan and India. We facilitate all Indian pilgrims coming to Pakistan and we expect full implementation of the agreement by India as well. We were told that due to the elections, the local administration in Rajhastan was having difficulties in making arrangements for the pilgrims. However, our High Commission learnt through local administration and local politicians in Rajhastan that there was no such problem and they were prepared to receive the pilgrims. We find it very unfortunate and we hope that India will abide by its commitments under bilateral agreements.
 
Now your first question, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of our nation declared Kashmir as the jugular vein of Pakistan. Kashmir is a disputed area. It is a recognized and the oldest dispute on the UN Security Council agenda. There are 20 Council resolutions on this dispute. Statements by Indian officials and politicians cannot do away with that fact.
 
Question
An FBI agent was recently arrested in Karachi. The State Department has also confirmed that he was an FBI official. Can you tell us if he was a diplomat and has immunity? Are the diplomats allowed to carry weapons?
 
Supplementary question one: Have the US authorities contacted the Pakistani authorities for his release? What is the latest update: is he still detained or has been released?
 
Supplementary question two: Can you name the countries with which Pakistan entered into agreements allowing their agencies to operate in Pakistan?
 
Supplementary question three: What type of visa did the FBI man have? Was it already expired?
 
Answer
An FBI official was arrested at Karachi airport. The matter is under investigation. The Karachi Police officials have already given some preliminary details. The person has been remanded to judicial custody. Further investigations are ongoing. He was not a diplomat and therefore, had no immunity. He is here on a short term visit visa and his visa is valid. Since the investigations are still continuing, I would not venture into speculations.
 
The US authorities are in contact with us both in Washington and in Islamabad. Consular access was requested and it was granted. That’s where the matter stands at the moment.
 
He was not here under any agreement. He came for temporary duty at the Embassy.
 
On the question of whether diplomats are allowed to carry weapons, I would have to check with the Protocol Division, but I don’t think that Diplomats are supposed to carry weapons.
 
Question
The US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is due to arrive in Islamabad. Can you share details?
 
Answer
Yes, the Deputy Secretary of State is arriving tonight. His meetings are being worked out. Obviously, there will be meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some calls have been requested with the leadership which is being processed. It is a scheduled visit and part of the periodic bilateral consultations that take place between Pakistan and the US.
 
Question
According to Indian media reports, Ajmal Kasab’s school teacher from Farid Kot ,district Okara, Mr. Muddasir has submitted his statement in the court saying that Ajmal Kasab is alive .He said that Ajmal could not come to court because of security reasons and if asked, he could produce Ajmal in the court. If he is to be believed, who was that man apprehended by the Indian authorities and hanged? What will be Pakistan’s next course of action?
 
Answer
First, this is not a question that you should bring to the Foreign Office. If there are court proceedings and some new information has been submitted, it will obviously be investigated. If the court desires, the Ministry of Interior will look into it. Until that is done, it will all amount to speculation and I would not want to go into the realm of speculation.
 
Question
The Prime Minister is now finally undertaking a visit to Iran. Will the only agenda be economic cooperation and trade enhancement or pertinent security questions like the future of Afghanistan will also come under discussion?
 
Secondly, what are the outcomes of the Iranian Interior Minister’s visit to the Pakistan?
 
Thirdly, will the issue of the abducted Iranian guards be taken up during the visit of the Prime Minister?
 
Answer
The Interior Minister’s visit was scheduled. You would recall that from this forum we have been sharing with you that a number of visits would precede the Prime Minister’s visit. Bilateral consultations at the Foreign Secretary level were held. Adviser Sartaj Aziz also went to Iran and met the Iranian leadership. The Iranian Interior Minister, during his visit to Pakistan, delivered the formal letter of invitation and held wide- ranging talks at the Ministry of Interior with his counterpart. He called on the Prime Minister and also met the Adviser Sartaj Aziz. All aspects of our relationship came under discussion including the issue of terrorism which we both confront. It was discussed how we can increase our cooperation.
 
As regards the issue of guards, you know that most of them have been released and they were not in Pakistan and I do not delve on that issue. We are looking forward to the visit of the Prime Minister and his meetings with the Iranian leadership. We hope that this would be very constructive and would open up more avenues of cooperation between our two countries. There would be discussions on specific proposals regarding economic cooperation and regional issues that are of interest to both Pakistan and Iran. The visit is very important from our point of view and we believe it is equally important from the point of view of Iran.
 
Question
In the year 2012, Defence Secretary level talks were held between Pakistan and India on the Siachin issue. Last year as well Additional Secretary level talks were held. When is the next round of talks on Siachin dispute expected?
 
Secondly, would the IP Gas Pipeline project be discussed during Prime Minister’s visit to Iran in the context of regional issues?
 
Answer
Gas pipeline at the moment is not a regional issue. This is a project between Pakistan and Iran. The project would be discussed. Unlike the perceptions that are sometimes generated, the Pipeline project has not been scrapped. It is very much on the table.
 
As for your first question, you know that the Composite Dialogue process is stalled. India is going through the process of elections and we will see how things work out after that.
 
Question
Madam, you just said that the Composite Dialogue process is stalled. Is this process the only option that Pakistan wants to pursue? What if the new government in India does not want it?
 
Answer
As the Prime Minister said at the recently held Envoys Conference, we have a number of outstanding disputes with India, which need resolution - Kashmir being one of them and the most important. We want to have peace in this region. Peace for development, once again quoting from the Prime Minister’s address at the Envoys Conference. We need to overcome the problems that exist between Pakistan and India. Resolution of disputes and durable peace is in favor of every one. It is something that people of this region need for economic development and prosperity. It is in that context that we need to resume the dialogue process and focus on finding solutions to outstanding disputes. People of Kashmir have long suffered. The resumption of dialogue is therefore, not a favor done by one country to the other. It is crucial for both.
 
Question
As I recall, it was only after the Abbotabad incident that Ambassadors and High Commissioners from important capitals were called back for foreign policy consultations. This time around, envoys from the Middle Eastern countries have been called. Is the Envoys Conference a usual practice or is it based on an unusual situation or issue which calls for immediate consultations?
 
Answer
Envoys Conference is a regular feature. All Foreign Offices do that. It can have many formats. It can be issue based where you call Envoys from specific countries to give inputs on a particular issue. Then, we also have regional conferences. This was not the first regional conference. We have had regional conference of Ambassadors in the past. Sometimes, when the leadership is traveling abroad, they may hold regional conferences. For example, an Envoys Conference was held in Brussels. Mostly, the Envoys conferences are held in Pakistan because it gives the additional advantage of getting inputs from different Ministries and Institutions. Both the formats are equally applicable and are in vogue. This time the focus was the Middle East. This was one of the series of the conferences that we intend to hold.
 
Question
Yesterday, the Ukrainian Ambassador in a statement has sought Pakistan’s support against the alleged Russian aggression in their country. What is Pakistan’s stance?
 
Answer
Firstly, diplomats eschew giving comments about a third country in the host country.
 
Secondly, we would like to see a peaceful resolution. There have been talks in Geneva and also many contacts between the leaders of the Russian Federation and the US. Some understandings were also reached. We would like to see that process continue so that the issue can be contained.
 
Question
You just said that the Composite Dialogue is stalled and Pakistan is looking forward to how the situation shapes up after the Indian elections .You also said that Pakistan wants to resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir but I am just curious to find out if any proposal is under consideration to move away from the format of Composite Dialogue process, which deals with the bucket of issues between Pakistan and India and take up the matters issue by issue and one by one and go for the resolution rather than the Composite Dialogue. Will Pakistan be willing to do that?
 
Answer
We have not received any such proposal. We have a format that is in place for some time. India is going through the election process when the new government comes in we will take the issue from there.
 
Question
Yesterday, there was a conference on non-proliferation in Islamabad, Peter Lovoy who is recently retired from the US Service said that there are concerns in Washington that Pakistan could return to the use of non-state actors and that the AQ khan network could revive. Today also, Mark FitzPatrick from ISS said that Saudi Arabia is likely to seek nuclear weapons/ technology from Pakistan. Mr. FitzPatrick also said that there are chances that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal may reach the non-state actors. There are global terrorists who are based in Pakistan. Will you like to comment on these things?
 
Answer
 I understand some wild allegations were raised. Some speakers talked about issues of concern. At least they had the intellectual honesty to admit that these allegations were just their apprehensions and they did not have any basis and evidence to level them. It could have been out of habit or just the usual run of the mill propaganda against Pakistan. I also understand that the allegations were adequately rebutted. Concerns have been expressed about other countries and situations as well. Recently, a couple of books have come out about the state of nuclear security and safety in the US. Along with technologies that can have devastating effects on human beings comes the responsibility to have robust security and safety measures. Pakistan is one of the prime examples of this. The Director General of IAEA visited Pakistan recently and he was very categorical in his praise for Pakistan’s measures. Pakistan’s safety and security measures were greatly appreciated at the Hague Summit on Nuclear Security. The US leaders and officials have been effusive in their praise of the measures that Pakistan has taken. So making allegations in seminars without any evidence is not something that should be given undue importance.
 
Question
I would like to have your take on Pak-Russian ties in the context of recent media reports that India has requested Moscow to supply small arms to the Afghan forces. What is Pakistan’s position?
Answer
Pakistan- Russia relations have been on upward trajectory. In the last five years, there have been a number of contacts and visits. On many international issues, we find that we are voting on the same side. We have deep interest in expanding economic ties with Russia and attract Russian investment. There are likely to be numerous visits including some specific working groups. We hope that it will pave the way for ministerial meetings. We also find that our desire to expand relations is reciprocated by Russia and we hope to main that positive trajectory.
 
Question
Travel restrictions have been imposed on Pakistan because of the polio cases. What is your take on this?
 
Answer
First of all these are not restrictions. These are recommendations. They are called IHR regulations. This issue has been under discussion between Pakistan and WHO since 2012. Our Ministers for Health and Focal Person have been attending WHO meetings quite regularly and discussing this matter. We have been pointing out to the WHO the difficulties we face which include the security situation in certain pockets, the threat of terrorism, attacks on polio workers, also excessive focus on one type of vaccination i.e. polio while children require a cluster of nine vaccines .This created some doubts about the agenda of vaccination among people. On top of that, a fake campaign of vaccination was conducted in Pakistan in which some INGOs were also used. I am referring to Dr.Shakeel Afridi’s case. This further reinforced the negative perception about the agenda behind the polio eradication campaign. We have been trying to overcome that. The religious scholars have been involved to educate and enlighten the population. We have been discussing these issues with WHO. The discussion has been going on for a long time. WHO Committee in its emergency meeting has put an alert on some countries to take strong measures. The Minister for National Health has told you yesterday that interim measures for administering polio drops to travelers are also being taken. So, our federal and provincial authorities have the immediate work to do and then we have the larger and more fundamental objective of total eradication of polio virus from Pakistan. How the government would do it is something that the Ministry of National Health would be able to tell you in more detail.
 
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