Record of Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 03 January 2019

Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,

Assalaam-o-Alaikum,

Opening Remarks

I would like to extend my warmest wishes to all of you for the New Year. May this year be of prosperity for our country and for all of us.

On the Foreign Policy front, let me update you that on the invitation of the President of Republic of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Imran Khan is proceeding on a two days visit, starting today. This will be Prime Minister’s first official visit to Turkey. The Prime Minister is accompanied by a high-level delegation including Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Planning and Adviser to the Prime Minister. During the visit, the Prime Minister will meet the President of Turkey and discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral relations between the two countries. The Prime Minister will also address a business forum, and hold several meetings with Turkish businessmen and potential investors during his stay at Ankara. On the sidelines, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi will also meet his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Let me also update you that I summoned the Indian Acting Deputy High Commissioner and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control on 31st December 2018 in Athmuqam, Shahkot Sector which resulted in the shahadat of an innocent woman Asia Bibi w/o Muhammad Haroon, while 7 civilians including two women and three children sustained splinter injuries. The Indian forces along the Line of Control and the Working boundary are continuously targeting civilian populated areas with heavy weapons. In 2018, the Indian forces have carried out more than 2350 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the shahadat of 36 innocent civilians, while injuring 142 others. This unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing from the year 2017 when the Indian forces committed 2200 ceasefire violations. The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws. The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security. This may lead to a strategic miscalculation. I urged the Indian side to respect the 2003 Ceasefire arrangement; investigate this and other incidents of ceasefire violations; instruct the Indian forces to respect the ceasefire, in letter and spirit and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary. I also emphasized that the Indian side should permit UNMOGIP to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

Now some updates from Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where Indian atrocities against innocent Kashmiris have intensified.

Indian occupation forces, during the so-called search and cordon operations martyred eight (8) Kashmiris including Ishfaq Ahmad Wani, Muzammil Ahmad Dar, Waseem AkramWani, Muzammil Nazir Bhat, Haris, Arif Ahmad Dar in Pulwama and Kupwara districts of the Indian occupied territory.

We urge the international community, especially the champions of human rights, to urge India to immediately halt the human rights atrocities in IOK.

In order to build regional synergy for achieving wider regional development, the Foreign Minister visited Doha, Qatar on 30 December 2018. The Foreign Minister called on the Qatari leadership and held fruitful discussions on bilateral and regional interests of mutual interest. Both sides expressed satisfaction on the upwards trajectory of bilateral relations symbolized by exchange of recent high-level visits.

Foreign Minister Qureshi highlighted the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to strengthen relations with most important regional countries and neighbours of Pakistan, including Qatar. Both sides agreed that such synergy was necessary to overcome common hurdles and devise a consensus-based approach to achieve wider regional development and progress. As part of high-level engagements in this spirit, Prime Minister Imran Khan is now due to visit Doha on mutually agreed dates in January 2019.

Foreign Minister briefed the Qatari leadership on recent developments concerning peace in Afghanistan. He underlined the foresightedness of H.H Amir of Qatar in providing an early foundation for peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. He added that close and regular coordination between Pakistan and Qatar in this regard would assist the ongoing efforts to achieve a broader regional understanding for long term stability in Afghanistan and the region.

The Foreign Minister assured the Qatari leadership of Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthen bilateral political, economic and defence relations. He expressed satisfaction for opening of Qatar Visa Centers in Pakistan adding that it would fast track recruitment process for import of 100,000 Pakistani workers by Qatar. He offered services of professional Pakistani workforce for 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Pakistan, in accordance with an Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities of 1998 and Consular Access Agreement of 2008, has shared the list of nuclear installations and facilities in Pakistan and a list of 537 Indian prisoners (54 civil + 483 fishermen) to a representative of the Indian High Commission at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 01 January 2019. Similar lists were also shared by India with our High Commission in New Delhi simultaneously.

I thank you!

Now the floor is open for questions.

Question

I would like to ask my earlier question regarding corruption cases in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that have been referred to NAB. What is the progress on these cases?

Secondly, an Indian newspaper, the Times of India has carried a report of Pakistan voting in favour of an ICJ Judgment, which ostensibly is the main stay of India’s pleading before the ICJ in Commander Kulbushan Jadhav case. What are your comments on this development? (Mr. Mateen Haider – G-News)

Answer

The replies to the questions that you asked are as follows

In Bulgaria, there was a report of embezzlement. A special fact-finding officer was sent to investigate the issue. The Accountant concerend has accepted responsibility for the embezzlement. On his return, his case has been referred to NAB. The Auditor General has just completed the special audit of the Mission. Necessary action is being taken based on the observations raised by the Audit.

Regarding our High Commissioner in South Africa, the case is subjudice. His travel to Pakistan is in line with relevant rules.

Regarding the query about the case in Portugal, misinformation was circulated about Ambassador Leena Moazzam. An inquiry was undertaken which exonerated her, after which she was sent to Belarus by the previous government.

Regarding the case of our Ambassador in Rome, an enquiry has been undertaken by the Ministry of Commerce and MOFA and its report has been shared with the Ombudsperson.

Regarding our Deputy Head of Mission in Singapore, he has been recalled and action is being taken in this regard.

On your second question, it is based on a leak which is very sad because the case is subjudice. It is definitely a misrepresentation of facts and a deliberate leak. However, we stand by principles and will not comment on the matter as it remains subjudice.

Question

President Trump has commented that he is looking forward to meeting the Pakistan leadership and wishes to have a “great relationship” with Pakistan. What are your comments on this? Secondly, are there any plans for a meeting between our PM and President Trump in the near future? (Khalid Mehmood-Express News)

Supplementary Questions

As President Trump has expressed his desire to engage with the Pakistan leadership, is there any meeting expected between our Prime Minister and President Trump in the near future? (Naveed Siddiqui-Dawn News)

President Trump in his comments has expressed his desire to have “a great relationship” with Pakistan. However, he has also reiterated that Pakistan is hosting the enemy. Without commenting further on it he said that this was the reason that Pakistan’s aid of $ 1.3 billion was stopped by the US administration. What are your comments? (Mr. Muhammad Jaleel – VoA)

Has Pakistan replied to a letter, addressed to our Prime Minister, from President Trump? (Bashir Chaudhry-24 News)

Answer

President Trump’s remarks are indeed a departure from his tweet of 1 January 2018. We look forward to positive engagement with the US at the leadership level.

On the question regarding the reply to the letter from President Trump, I will check and get back to you.

Question

My question relates to the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. Reportedly, the second round of these negotiations is due to take place in Saudi Arabia. Will Pakistan directly or indirectly be the part of this second round? What is the progress on these negotiations? (Mr. Naveed Akbar – Aaj TV)

Supplementary Questions

Pakistan has always made positive efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Recently, we saw a trilateral dialogue involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and China that was held in Kabul. However, reportedly the Afghan Taliban have refused to enter into direct negotiations with the Afghan government. My question is that in this scenario will Pakistan continue its efforts for a negotiated settlement to the Afghan crisis? (Mr. Ali Asghar Mubarak – Daily Mail Islamabad)

Recently an official of the Afghan High Peace Council has commented that if Taliban are not ready for direct talks with the Afghan government, it will not participate in the second round of negotiations that will take place in Saudi Arabia. What are your comments? (Mr. Muhammad Jaleel – VoA)

Answer

I cannot comment on media reports and speculations.

With regard to the second part of your question, in pursuance of current government’s policy of outreach to the neighborhood and the region, Foreign Minister Qureshi undertook visits to Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia from 24-26 December 2018 and Qatar on 30 December 2018. The Foreign Minister held consultations with the leadership of these countries on strengthening bilateral relations and expanding mutually beneficial economic and development cooperation. He also exchanged views on the regional political situation as well as recent developments in the Afghan peace process and ways to bring synergy in the regional processes to strengthen consensus on pursuing political settlement in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also briefed his interlocutors about Pakistan’s efforts to facilitate direct talks between the US and the Taliban. He underlined the importance of support of the relevant regional countries for success and sustainability of the Afghan peace process. He emphasized close and regular coordination among Afghanistan’s neighbors and the relevant regional countries to assist the ongoing efforts to achieve a broader regional understanding for long-term stability in Afghanistan and the region. They agreed that such synergy is necessary to overcome common hurdles and to devise consensus-based approach for wider regional peace, development and progress.

Pakistan will continue its outreach to regional countries and important international partners for mutually beneficial cooperation and to advance the peace and reconciliation process.

Question

What will be Pakistan’s response if the US decides to pull its troops out of Afghanistan completely or partially? How do you see this impacting the overall security and stability situation inside Afghanistan and its repercussions for the ongoing peace process? (Mr. Shaukat Mehmood Paracha – AAP News)

Answer

Pakistan, being the immediate neighbor of Afghanistan, is interested that any development in Afghanistan leads to peace and stability of the region. Currently, efforts are underway towards a political settlement in Afghanistan. Hence, the withdrawal of US troops should be part of a peace process with a view to ensure that there is no power vacuum in Afghanistan. It is Pakistan’s genuine desire that peace returns to Afghanistan allowing the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and beginning of an era of prosperity and normalcy in the region.

Question

On the reported killing of the mastermind of Chinese Consulate attack in Karachi, the Police Chief in Kandhar, who happens to be the brother of ex-Police Chief, General Razziq, has claimed that the alleged suicide bomber was trained and guided by the ISI. What are your comments on that? (Haider Sherazi-G News)

Supplementary Question

Is there any confirmation of the reported killing of the mastermind of Karachi Chinese Consulate Attack in Afghanistan? Has the government of Afghanistan officially approached Pakistan with confirmation or otherwise of the killing? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer

We have seen media reports, however, we haven’t heard anything from the Afghan Government. We expect that the Afghan government undertakes a comprehensive investigation to find-out and clarify how a terrorist commander from a banned terrorist outfit was residing in an Afghan city and who were providing him refuge in Afghanistan. It is important that Afghanistan does not let any country, terrorist group or individual to use its territory against Pakistan.

Question

The German Ambassador in Pakistan Mr. Martin Kobler is moving freely not only in Islamabad but all over the country without adhering to a proper protocol. He tweets on various domestic issues as well, which is not in line with the diplomatic practices. Your comments please! (Mr. Shamim-Online News Agency)

Answer

All accredited diplomats can freely move in Pakistan, as our diplomats do abroad, in accordance with the Vienna Convention. Mr. Martin Kobler, Ambassador of Republic of Germany to Pakistan whenever, he travels in the country, seeks prior permission as per laid down SOPs.

Question

Sir, why is Israel on the list of countries to which Pakistan allows conditional access. Can we say that this is a foreign policy shift or is it a case of oversight? (Mr. Ali Hussain – Business Recorder)

Answer

Pakistan does not recognize Israel. You question pertains to Ministry of Interior.

Question

With regards to the negotiations that are being held for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and for which our Foreign Minister has recently undertaken visits to the regional countries, are you in a position to comment on any timeframe that has been set for conclusion of these negotiations (Mr. Mazhar Iqbal-Public TV)

Answer

I am not in a position to comment on this.

Question

Last year we saw a press release from Pakistan, in response to Indian proposal on the judicial commission and the release of prisoners. My question is there any update on this judicial commission and a team of doctors that was to visit India.

Secondly, Sheikh Hasina Wajid’s Awami league has claimed a landslide victory in recently held elections in Bangladesh. Pakistan-Bangladesh relations have been strained during her previous government. Do you see any improvement in Pakistan-Bangladesh ties, especially when international observers and western countries have questioned the legitimacy of the election process in Bangladesh? (Mr. Anas Mallick – Wion TV)

Answer

On your first question, the relationship with India is a difficult and complicated one. We are slowly moving forward. With regards to your question, as soon as there will a development, we will apprise you immediately.

On your second question, we want Pakistan-Bangladesh relations to move forward in line with the 1974 tripartite agreement. We welcome the newly elected government in Bangladesh and hope and expect that it would help take the bilateral relationship away from the irritants that it has faced in the recent times.

Question

Mr. Bahram Ghasemi, during a news conference, has said that on 31stDecember, 2018 a delegation of Afghan Taliban visited Tehran for the second round of peace talks. Is the Taliban-Iran dialogue part of the overall synergy for Afghan peace and reconciliation that Pakistan is aiming to build or these are parallel talks being held by Iran in addition to the ongoing peace efforts? (Sheeraz Asghar-IRNA)

Answer

You are aware that on the request of the US and the Afghan government Pakistan is facilitating peace talks between the United States and the Taliban. Pakistan has always maintained that Afghanistan’s neighbors and important regional countries should be on board and play a role for Afghan peace process. In our view, regional consensus on Afghan peace process is important for success and sustainability of the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.

We have seen reports about the Iran-Taliban talks. In recent months, we have seen engagement of Taliban with various countries and their participation in international conferences.

Question

As you have mentioned, last year, after President Trump’s tweet, Pakistan US relations became strained. Subsequently, Pakistan’s assistance was also stopped by the US and a series of tweets were again made and responded to by our Prime Minister. As a result of effective diplomacy, the US now seems to be ready to engage with Pakistan, as is depicted from President Trump’s statement of yesterday. My question is why such diplomatic engagements are not working when it comes to India? Secondly, we have claimed that our forces have shot down two spy drones from India, something which India has denied. What are your comments on this development? (Zahid Farooq Malick-Daily Metro Watch)

Supplementary Question

My first question relates to the drones that have been shot down. I would request your comments on it. Secondly, PM Modi in his recent interview has again boasted of the alleged Surgical Strikes. What do you have to say about it? My last question is related to a retired army colonel, allegedly kidnapped by India from Nepal. What is the update on the matter? (Sardar Amir-Royal News)

Answer

On your first question, indeed having a dialogue is a positive development. However, if India shies from dialogue we cannot do much. It takes two to tango. Our position on the matter is clear. I have repeatedly referred to Prime Minster of Pakistan’s letter, which he wrote to the Indian Prime Minister, on 14 September 2018. The letter lays down, clearly and without any ambiguity, our policy. Obviously we would like to discuss the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, first and foremost, in addition to all other matters. We, unlike India do not shy away from having a dialogue for resolution of all outstanding issues between the two countries.

With regards to your question on surgical strike. There was no such event. It is a figment of Indian imagination. The Indian media is itself doubting the claims of their government. I have already commented on this previously.

However, our desire for peace must not be misconstrued as our weakness.

Regarding your question on drones we strongly condemn these violations. As you have seen, our forces remain vigilant and have responded effectively to these threats. Any misadventure by India would be responded in a befitting manner.

On your question regarding abduction of a retired Colonel from Nepal, we are pursuing the matter.

Question

You have repeatedly mentioned that Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Jammu & Kashmir. Although many residents of the region, including myself, disagree with this, however, I would like to draw your attention to a statement given by Lord Nazir, commenting that in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani law is not applicable. In the same vein, if Pakistani law is not applicable in AJ&K, it must not be applicable in Gilgit-Baltistan also. But we see that whenever the people of Gilgit-Baltistan raise their voices, calling for merger of Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan or for their fundamental rights, they dealt with under Pakistani law. How do you justify this dichotomy in implementation of laws in AJ&K and Gilgit-Baltistan? Secondly, Pakistan has had significant influence on Taliban in the past. Has that influence reduced or it remains the same? (Mr. Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)

Answer

On your second question I have nothing more to add to what I have already said.

With regards to your first question, you seem to be a bit confused. What I have been repeatedly saying is the legal position. Gilgit-Baltistan was a part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. If there is any legal argument against this position, you are welcome to share the same. This can also be corroborated from the UN Security Council Resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan is a free country. It is not India. Every citizen has the right to freedom of expression. We do not stop anyone from expressing their views and beliefs. I have not seen the statement of Lord Nazir that you are referring. The resolution of the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir is to be made through a UN administered plebiscite, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions. It is India which is reneging from the promises of plebiscite, made by its forefathers. Pakistan remains committed to its original position as enshrined in the UN Security Council Resolutions.

Question

Reportedly the PM will be visiting Turkey next week. The Supreme Court, meanwhile has asked the government to declare Pak- Turk International Cag Education Foundation of Mr. Fateullah Golan as a terrorist organization. Has this been done under the Turkish pressure? Will the process to proscribe the organization as terrorist be completed before the PM visit to Turkey? (Mr. Majid Jarral – News One)

Answer

The decision of the Supreme Court shall be implemented.

Question

Reportedly, 23 Indian passports were misplaced by the High Commission for Pakistan, New Delhi. What are your comments on this? (Mr. Tariq Mehmood – Hum News)

Answer

We have seen the reports claiming that 23 Indian passports were misplaced by the High Commission for Pakistan, New Delhi. The matter has been looked into. The High Commission handled several thousand passports while processing visas on the eve of 549thbirth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak. In the event more than 3800 visas were issued and passports duly returned. There is no evidence that the allegedly missing 23 passports were received by the Mission. As such, reports in this regard are baseless and speculative.

Question

Reportedly, Pakistan has remained involved in arbitration to end the war in Yemen. Are you in a position to comment as to what has been Pakistan’s role in this matter till now (Mr. Mazhar Iqbal-Public TV)

Answer

I am not in a position to comment.

Question

It is being reported that President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Representative, Umar Daudzai will be visiting Islamabad. Can you share the dates of his visit? What will be the agenda for his visit? Is it part of the dialogue process for the Afghan peace and reconciliation? (Rabia Pir-VOA/Deewa Radio)

Answer

I have seen the media reports. I do not have any confirmation of this. I will check and revert.

Question

A news item published in the Daily Dawn has brought to light violations of building codes of the CDA committed by various embassies. According to the CDA, these diplomatic Missions have occupied their respective buildings, within the diplomatic enclave, without obtaining necessary completion certificates from the CDA. Can you brief us as to what steps has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs taken, asking these Missions to comply with relevant local laws? (Khalid Mehmood-Express News)

Answer

CDA has not brought any such violation in the knowledge of this Ministry As per procedure, all the “construction plans” are shared by the respective Missions with this Ministry. In turn the “building plans” are sent to CDA, which is the approving and controlling authority for construction inside of the Diplomatic Enclave. This applies on all the Missions (44 moved inside and those follow in the future) located inside the Diplomatic Enclave.

Question

My question pertains to reports of Pakistanis stranded in Egypt. Yesterday, a letter was sent to the Foreign Secretary by the Human Rights Commission on this issue. Can you confirm these reports? (Ms. Rashida Sial – Aab Tak TV)

Answer

I have spoken to our Ambassador in Cairo. Our Mission is making all efforts for the early repatriation of these Pakistani nationals, who are currently on a ship, just off the shore, at the Safaga port. The Mission is providing food and other related logistical assistance to the stranded individuals. All efforts are afoot for their early return to Pakistan.

Question

New York Times has reported that Pakistan has secretly sent 1000 army troops to Yemen. Will you confirm or deny this report? (Mr. Mateen Haider – G-News)

Answer

I completely reject this baseless report.

Question

Yesterday the Foreign Ministry of China has acknowledged that financial assistance is being extended to Pakistan. What are the details please? (Naveed Siddiqui-Dawn News)

Answer

Pakistan-China relations are strategic and cooperative partnership which is marked by understanding, mutual trust and goodwill. The two countries have wide-ranging engagements in diverse spheres of bilateral ties. Recent years have seen a further strengthening of bilateral economic cooperation as CPEC has accentuated the economic engagement between Pakistan and China. It has been the priority of Pakistan’s Government to further deepen economic ties between the two friendly countries.

During Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China in November, 2018, the leadership of both countries discussed bilateral relations and agreed to enhance economic relations in new areas of cooperation. Similarly, during the 8th meeting of JCC of CPEC held in Beijing on 20 December,2018, both sides reviewed the current status of economic and trade engagement and agreed to enhance economic ties as envisaged by the leadership. Institutions and relevant departments of both the countries are actively engaged in this regard.

Question

Pakistan and India have exchanged a list of prisoners recently. Can you comment as to how many prisoners on both sides have completed their sentence? Further when can we expect release of those prisoners who have completed their sentence? (Syed Asif Ali – Din News)

Answer

We regularly update the numbers of these prisoners. As per the data available from the lists exchanged with India on 1st January, 537 (54 civil + 483 fishermen) Indian prisoners are in Pakistan jails. We will update soon, with complete information.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Government of Pakistan