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Ministry of Interior alerts ministries of a possible terror attack

Islamabad, March 06, 2014 (PPI-OT): There are no opening remarks. The floor is open for Questions

Question
Yesterday, the Ministry of Interior alerted a number of ministries including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of a possible terror attack. What security measures have been adopted by the Foreign Office to beef up the security and what is the possible threat? Has the security plan of the Foreign Office been reviewed?

Secondly, there are reports that diplomatic community in Islamabad is also under threat. Is there any report of a specific threat to any diplomatic mission in Islamabad?

Answer
After the attack in F-8, obviously more precautionary measures are being taken. We have not received information of any specific threat to the diplomatic community neither have we received any special requests from them for enhanced security. We have taken all necessary measures in any case.

As regards the first question, I am not aware of any specific threat. It could be part of the precautionary measures so that we are not lax in our security. At the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we continuously review the security measures and update them wherever required.

Question
There were reports that some 150 Kashmiri students were expelled by Indian Universities because they were celebrating Pakistan Cricket Team’s victory against India. Do you think this issue can be raised with India at the Diplomatic level?

Answer
First, congratulations to all of you. We witnessed wonderful cricket. We know that Kashmiris celebrated Pakistan’s victory as they always do. Even in Indian media there were reports that the celebrations continued the whole night.

There were reports that some 67 Kashmiri students were expelled. I do not have corroborated information but if these Kashmiri students wish to come and pursue their studies in Pakistan, our hearts and our academic institutions are open to them.

Question
Has there been any progress on the Pak-Saudi defence cooperation following Prince Salman’s visit? We understand there were a lot of speculations about possibility of joint production of JF-17.

Secondly, the visit of the Chinese Defence Minister to Pakistan during the last week! It was followed by unconfirmed reports of hardware purchases by Pakistan from China probably, fighter plans and submarines. Can you elaborate?

Answer
With Saudi Arabia, we have long standing defence cooperation. That revolves around providing training to the Saudi Armed Forces. A number of officers from the Saudi Armed Forces, as from other countries, both western and Muslim, come here and train with our officers.

Apart from that, our officers are also deputed to Saudi Arabia to provide training. This is where our cooperation is at the moment. There have been continuous discussions for some time on the possibility of joint production of some armament. Nothing has yet been finalized. When the Crown Prince visited Pakistan, this was discussed but these discussions are continuing.

JF-17 is not for joint production. You know that we produce JF-17 thunder and Mushshaq training aircraft and obviously we would be interested if they can be sold. But we follow certain guidelines such as countries we sell arms to should not be under sanctions by the United Nations. Then there is the requirement of end users certificates as well. I talked about it in detail during the last briefing.

With China, we have long standing defence cooperation. There is no secret about it. The exchange of visits is also part of that. Pakistan and China are strategic partners. We collaborate in the defence field. Secondly, our defence acquisitions should be seen in the regional context.

While we do not want to indulge in an arms race and spend our meagre resources on buying arms, at the same time we cannot be completely oblivious to what is happening in the region. We have to keep a level of conventional stability. You know that India is now the largest arms buyer in the world. We have no intention of doing that but for maintenance of peace and stability in this region, it is important that we maintain some level of symmetry.

Question
After the withdrawal of Ambassadors of three GCC countries from Qatar, how will Pakistan balance its relations with the two GCC groups since Pakistan maintains good relations with all?

Answer
I do not agree with the presumption that GCC has fallen apart. We have friendly relations with all members of GCC. Withdrawal of Ambassadors by three member countries from a fourth member is their bilateral matter. We would not comment on that. We have good relations with all of them and we would continue to maintain them.

Question
There were reports that Pakistan’s Ambassador to Sweden and the Commercial Attaché in Stockholm have been recalled. Is that true? If yes, why and who will be the next Ambassador?

Answer
Yes, the Ambassador and the Commercial Attaché have been called back. There were some administrative issues for some time which were affecting the Mission’s performance. The Prime Minister sent a team for investigation and for fixing responsibility.

As a result of that investigation, it was decided that both would be recalled. I don’t think the Ambassador has moved as yet. It may take some time at least a week or so. The process for appointment of a new Ambassador would start now but obviously, it takes time.

There would be a recommendation and then we would seek agreement. Ambassadorial assignments are announced only after receiving agreement from the host governments which makes the appointment final.

Question
Some days back there was a barrage of severe criticism in the Senate against the remarks that you reportedly made at the last briefing. Your comments

Answer
I don’t know if you were present at the last briefing. But I am sure you are aware that I said nothing against the parliamentarians. We hold the parliamentarians in very high esteem. They are representatives of the people of Pakistan. We have never ever commented on what parliamentarians say. As public representatives, they have every right to debate any issue or ask any question of the government, of the Foreign Office or any other institution.

Question
Do you have any exact dates for John Kerry’s visit?

Secondly, I have read some reports on the extra-ordinary session of the Joint Working Group on the Cross LoC CBMs. Do you have any further details?

Answer
I am not aware of US Secretary of State’s imminent visit. There was a question put to my counterpart at the State Department, responding to which she said that Secretary Kerry had visited Pakistan in the past and that there was useful exchange of views in the context of the Strategic Dialogue and said that he may visit Pakistan in future which is a possibility but there are no dates.

About the meeting in Delhi that was held on Tuesday, the discussions were constructive. The two sides reviewed the CBMs related to trade and travel across LoC. Our side asked for the release of the detained driver because apart from other issues, if he is detained in IOK then the investigations into the allegation that there were contraband items in the cargo, would be difficult to hold.

It may mean that an innocent person is punished and those who are responsible, if indeed it happened, for this heinous crime would go scot free. Also, the practice has been, in case of intra-Kashmir trade and travel, that all matters that rose in the past were resolved at the local level. India’s action has raised some questions of jurisdiction and jurisprudence. We have left these points with India and they said they would come back to us on that.

Question
You must have seen some reports yesterday wherein the Prime Minister has hinted at RAW’s involvement in the attack on the F-8 Kutchery. If it is correct what will be the follow up? Has the Foreign Office taken it up with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad?

Answer
We have seen reports, attributing a statement to the Prime Minister, that RAW or some other intelligence agencies may be involved in the attack. These reports are not correct. He did not speak to the media and he did not make these comments.

Question
There is a grave tense situation in our little distant neighbourhood Ukraine. The situation appears to be like Syria where the United States was thought to be the aggressor and Russia was the deterrent. Here the situation is vice versa. How does Pakistan perceive this situation?

Answer
The situation in Ukraine is evolving. We have noted that there is at least consensus on one thing that the situation should not be allowed to aggravate. Talks and diplomacy are the only options to resolve it. We do hope that there would be restraint from all sides and it would be resolved peacefully.

Question
In the briefing by your counterpart in the State Department to which you just referred, she said that US and Pakistan share vital, strategic interests with each other. Do you agree with that statement?

Answer
Well, we would like to see peace and stability in Afghanistan. We would like to see terrorism eliminated from this region and on this we are engaged with the US. We understand that we have the same goals here.

Question
There were reports that some third party might jump in to save the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline? Can you share with us if there is that kind of a development?

Answer
At the moment no third party has indicated that it is going to jump in.

Question
The reports from India say that the Kashmiri students who were celebrating Pakistan’s victory have been charged with Sedition. Do you have a reaction to that?

Answer
Sedition charges for cheering a team in a cricket match? It is very unfortunate!

Question
Is it true that Pakistan has asked for Harbiyar Marri and another Baloch separatist from the British government in return for handing over the alleged killers of Dr. Imran Farooq?

Answer
I think these are speculations but since those who allegedly murdered a Pakistani politician in UK are also Pakistani citizens, I don’t know how it makes sense to trade Pakistanis with Pakistanis. If UK has asked for some access, if indeed such a request has been made, the Ministry of Interior is better position to inform you. Separately, the presence of these elements in their countries is raised with the European governments.

Question
What is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stance on Baloch nationalist Mama Qadeer’s recent activities in Islamabad? He has held meetings with the European Union and Western Ambassadors.

Answer
We have seen some reports. I do not have any confirmation. Our European desk is checking with the Ambassadors concerned. We do not have the details as yet.

Question
How would you receive the recalled Ambassador from Sweden? Will there be any disciplinary action against him for his activities in Stockholm?

Secondly, you issued a press release yesterday concerning an incident in Bahrain where a Pakistani also lost his life. According to Bahraini media, Iranian hand is involved in the death of the Pakistani. How would you respond?

Answer
I have no comment on what Bahraini media has said. We know that there was a terrorist attack in Bahrain in which some people died including a Pakistani who was the son of an employee of our Consulate. That’s all I have to say about it.

About the Ambassador, there were not any activities that would require action against him. There was an Administrative issue. Investigations have already been conducted and action has been taken as a result of those investigations.

Question
During the trilateral summit in Turkey, the issue of engaging the Afghan Taliban was also discussed. Has some progress been made on that? Is Pakistan playing a role behind the scene for facilitating talks between the US and Afghan Taliban?

Secondly, any progress regarding the possibility of opening up of Taliban offices in the Middle East?

Answer
The reconciliation process in Afghanistan, as we have said, has to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. We will give whatever assistance Afghanistan requests us for and whatever we can possibly do. Behind the scene, we are not involved.

For the second one, I do not have the capacity to know where Taliban might be opening up their offices because it is not an issue for us to comment on.

Question
There is fear that after the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, a civil war might breakout. That would have a great impact on Pakistan specially the tribal areas. What steps are being taken for securing our western borders? Is there a suggestion under consideration for deploying troops all along the Pak-Afghan border?

Answer
Firstly, it is not clear what will happen beyond 2014 whether there will be a draw down or complete withdrawal. Secondly, elections are going to take place, hopefully peaceful elections. We also hope that there would be national reconciliation efforts which would help stabilize the situation.

We do not want to see and it is our hope as well there will be no civil war in Afghanistan which would have very serious impact on Pakistan. We would not like to indulge in dooms day scenarios but we are also aware of the risk. We are in contact with the Afghan authorities as well for better management of our border.

Our Secretary Interior was in Afghanistan and he had very useful discussions. Subsequent to that visit, a number of other meetings are likely to take place between the two sides to work on initiatives that would ensure that our border is managed and monitored better. As for the troop deployment, we already have troops on the western border.

Question
Just a clarification: There were reports that Pakistani security agencies have carried out an operation in the part of Balochistan adjacent to Iran and as a result, some of the Iranian Security personnel recently abducted in the region were recovered and handed over to the Iranian authorities. Can you confirm that?

Secondly, is the recent visit of Pakistani Army Chief to the UAE linked in any way with the Bahrain crisis?

Answer
The second question first, no it is not linked to any crisis.

As for the kidnapped Iranian guards, we still have not been able to establish if they were actually brought into Pakistani territory. We are in contact with the Iranian authorities. A task force was established after the border committee meeting.

They are exchanging information. Search operations have also been conducted. There was a news report quoting some Iranian military authority that the guards were recovered. We checked with the Iranian Government and the Embassy here and we were told that the report was not accurate.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Spokesman
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tell: 051-9205494
Fax: 051-9204202
Cell: 0336-5644459

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