Islamabad, June 06, 2013 (PPI-OT):[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]
This is the first weekly press briefing after the installation of the newly elected government in Pakistan. The historic democratic transition in the country has been a source of great strength and pride for our people. The deepening of the democratic process in Pakistan will bolster the image and standing of Pakistan in the comity of nations.
Leaders of several important countries continue to send congratulatory messages for the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan has provided guidance on the salient features of our foreign policy and directions for the Foreign Ministry and our Missions abroad. We have just issued a press release on this aspect. We in the Foreign Ministry value the guidance of our leadership in pursuit of our foreign policy objectives.
Since our foreign policy reflects the aspirations of the people of Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry and our Missions abroad will implement in all earnest the guidance provided by the Prime Minister.
I will now like to read the salient elements of the policy guidance provided by the Prime Minister.
After taking oath of the office, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has addressed a message for all Heads of Pakistan Missions abroad. The Prime Minister has stated that the people of Pakistan have pronounced themselves clearly on the future direction that our country should take. They have also been abundantly clear in underscoring their priorities.
The Prime Minister said that the government will be guided by the wisdom of the people, the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the desire to see Pakistan acquire its rightful place in the comity of nations. Pakistan’s size and innate strengths should enable it to have a key role on the global scene. Heads of Missions and Embassies, that are our first line of defence and our primary interface with the outside world, have important roles to play to achieve this objective.
The Prime Minister has also provided an outline of the priorities of the government on Foreign Policy to serve as basic guidelines for our Embassies/Missions abroad. The Prime Minister said that national interests shall drive our foreign policy in all circumstances, and there is an across-the-board consensus on this. He stressed the need to create an external environment in which a democratic and progressive Pakistan will be engaged with the outside world. This will be shaped by Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of peace within and peace without.
The Prime Minister noted that we have a large youthful population whose potential needs to be harnessed for the development of Pakistan. The youth, especially those who voted in the May 11 elections, demand it.
The Prime Minister further noted that the core of internal strength lies in sustained economic growth, resulting in the overall well-being, progress and prosperity of the people of Pakistan. Our Diplomatic Missions have a pivotal role in advancing this central objective of the national agenda.
The Prime Minister directed our Missions Abroad to aggressively pursue economic diplomacy – promotion of Pakistan’s interests in the realms of trade, foreign investment, and economic cooperation.
Effective economic diplomacy would require synergistic relationship between the Diplomatic Missions and the relevant stakeholders in Pakistan including Government Ministries as well as the business community at large. The Economic Ministries/Departments – i.e. Commerce, Finance, EAD and BOI must provide the requisite information and backup support needed by the Missions to undertake practical steps for facilitating traders and current and prospective investors at both ends.
The Prime Minister expressed government’s firm commitment to address the energy crisis facing Pakistan in the shortest possible time. He encouraged the Head of Missions to identify potential bilateral and multilateral partners to help to address the energy crisis and formulate tangible project proposals in the traditional and renewable energy sectors.
Stressing the importance of Science, Technology and education, the Prime Minister directed the Missions Abroad to actively reach out to institutions and the private sector in search of technologies and know-how and develop institutional linkages between our research and educational centers and those abroad.
The Prime Minister noted that the immediate attention of government will be focused on our neighbors. Unless the region is peaceful, our efforts for growth and development will not meet with success.
The Prime Minister stressed the importance of developing regional consensus on supporting a stable government and peace in Afghanistan. He affirmed that a policy of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation will be pursued.
With India, the Prime Minister stressed the need to progressively pursue normalcy in our bilateral relations, while actively seeking solutions for all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.
The Prime Minister expressed the desire to deepen our relations with our friends and brothers in the Middle East, East Asia and elsewhere. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran are friendly countries with which we shall continue to pursue close cooperative relations.
On relations with the US, the Prime Minister noted that the two countries have many areas of common interest. We will build on convergences and wherever there is divergence we will work to try to minimize and remove such divergence.
With China, which has always been a great friend and a significant economic partner, Pakistan will strengthen this valuable and much appreciated strategic relationship.
With Russia, which is an important partner and regional power, we shall continue to enhance ties.
Despite its recent economic troubles, Europe continues to remain an important player on the global scene and is our largest trading partner. We will continue to engage with European countries, both bilaterally with individual countries, as well as multilaterally with the European Union.
On terrorism, the Prime Minister said that the government will develop a comprehensive strategy and a national consensus in consultation will all political parties, security forces, media and the civil society in dealing with this phenomenon. At the same time, it is imperative to address the external dimension of terrorism. This would require plugging the sources of external funding of various extremists groups besides seeking cooperation of regional and global community.
The Prime Minister directed that one of the main task of our Embassies is to look after the increasingly large number of Pakistanis living abroad who are an asset for Pakistan. He directed the Embassies to provide efficient consular services and protect the interests of Pakistanis abroad.
The Prime Minister directed the Embassies to make concerted efforts to project Pakistan’s positive image abroad, its historical heritage, music, art, culture and cuisine.
The Prime Minister stressed the need to work together for a progressive and developed Pakistan.
Before opening floor for questions, I would like to inform you that Foreign Minister of Federal Republic of Germany H.E. Guido Westerwelle will be visiting Pakistan on 8-9 June. He will be calling on the Prime Minister of Pakistan and hold talks in the Foreign Ministry.
The visit takes place immediately after the election of new Government in Pakistan. It will provide an opportunity to German Foreign Minister to meet the new leadership in Pakistan. We view our relations with Germany, an important partner, on sustained and long term basis. The coming visit will further help in strengthening the bilateral ties between the two countries.
As you are aware, Pakistan has been re-elected as a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racal Discrimination (CERD) in New York. Pakistan’s candidate was Ambassador Anwar Kemal who secured 128 votes in a highly competitive election process. Foreign Office and our Mission to United Nations in New York effectively steered the election campaign.
I would like to open the floor for questions:
In the recent past a Britain national talked about breaking Pakistan. Have you protested with the British government or do you plan any protest in future?
I will get back to you after getting directions on this issue.
Prime Minster has given his vision for peaceful neighborhood. You have seen the protest in front of our Embassy in Kabul and you have also seen the statement by the Indian Home Minister Shinde who has accused ISI for training the Sikh militants to destabilize India. Is this the response that Pakistan is getting from the peaceful neighborhood?
Pakistan rejects the remarks attributed to Indian Home Minister Shinde accusing Pakistan and implicating one of its government agencies for fomenting terror in Indian Punjab. Such a statement is uncalled for and regrettable. We feel that making such statements have the potential of undermining the efforts made by both sides to normalize relation between the two countries.
Pakistan, which is itself a victim of terrorism and has rendered immense sacrifices in its efforts, calls upon the Government of India to share any evidence it may have of any such involvement, before leveling such accusations which are counterproductive and serve no purpose.
Pakistan remains committed to discussing and resolving all outstanding issues with India through a meaningful dialogue.
On your other question, we are deeply concerned at the demonstration held so close to our Embassy in Kabul, which has threatened the security of our diplomats, personnel and the Embassy. Under Vienna Convention, it is our expectation that the host government will provide fool proof security to our diplomats and other personnel, and the Embassy premises, and also take steps to lower the temperature and discourage such phenomenon.
Has the Prime Minister or new leadership shown interest in visiting any country?
Secondly, Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs have noted a number of times that most of the Foreign Missions Abroad were not working properly as far as certain targets were concerned e.g. economic diplomacy and reaching to Overseas Pakistanis. Is Foreign Office going to call certain Ambassadors who have not shown good performance?
Thirdly, what is future of political ambassadors abroad?
As for your first question, I do not have any information at this stage about the program of visits.
On your second question, our Missions abroad play an important role in economic diplomacy, looking after Pakistani community, and representing Pakistan abroad. It is important that Missions abroad play the role expected of them. Pakistani Missions abroad serve to the best of their abilities within the resources available. The Prime Minister’s message to Missions Abroad underscores the importance that the government attaches to the role of our Missions abroad. Achievement of all the goals set for them will be the criteria for judging their performance.
As for your third question, this morning our Ambassadors in UAE, UK and Oman have been asked to relinquish charge. The elected government will take decisions about the remaining Ambassadors.
Are there any reports about Representative of Indian government who came to Pakistan to attend oath taking ceremony of newly elected Prime Minister?
Secondly, what is the status of Pakistani workers in Saudi Arabia?
Thirdly, what is the status of deportation of Pakistani woman Nuzat Jehan, who has been ordered to leave India?
Fourthly, is there any plan of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan?
I do not have any information about participation of any Indian representative in oath taking ceremony.
As for your second question, as you have been informed through our press release our Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah have been making concerted efforts to contact the Saudi authorities and facilitate the affected Pakistanis. As you are further aware, the recent Saudization policy is not specific to Pakistan but is addressed to all foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. Our Ambassador has held meetings in Saudi Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Embassy is attending to approximately 2000 Pakistanis per day; providing guidance to Pakistani workers, registering thousands of illegal workers, and liaising with companies to arrange employment for the Pakistani workers who intend to continue to stay in Saudi Arabia.
We have also engaged legal consultant at deportation centres in the Kingdom to assist Pakistanis who are detained for early completion of pre-departure formalities and to assist workers in the process of regularization of their status.
I would like to reiterate that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes the welfare of Pakistani nationals abroad very seriously. Since the grace period granted by the Saudi government is not over yet, we will continue to make all possible efforts to facilitate our nationals abroad.
As for your third question, High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi has approached the government of India and sought consular access. We are waiting for the Indian response.
As for your fourth question, the visit of Secretary Kerry is on the cards but I am not aware of the dates.
What is your response to Indian Home Minister’s statement against Pakistan that ISI is gaining its momentum in Indian Punjab? They have solid proofs for this. How do you see this?
Secondly, within the vision of newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, he has not mentioned the strategy against drone attacks and IP Pipeline. How do you see these two issues and what is the current Foreign Policy about these?
I have already answered your first question.
As for your second question, on the use of drone strikes, the Government of Pakistan believes that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan has articulated Pakistan’s position on this issue during his speech at the National Assembly of Pakistan. He has clearly called for an end to drones strikes. This matter is receiving highest attention of our leadership.
On IP Pipeline, I will get back to you with the requisite information.
Is there any change that you have observed in the new Foreign Policy as compared to the guidelines provided by the previous government?
You would have observed that our Foreign Policy is based on national interests of Pakistan, and there is across the board consensus on this. Several points of priorities and emphasis have been mentioned in the guidelines on Foreign Policy provided by the Prime Minister, including the need for peaceful neighborhood, economic diplomacy, serving Pakistani community abroad, energy sector, etc. Our foreign policy is a reflection of the aspirations of people of Pakistan. The Prime Minister’s guidance has indicated to us the priority areas.
What is the policy of new Government regarding terrorism as they have mentioned that they will have dialogues with Taliban? Has any country shown its reservations for talks with TTP?
Secondly, will the statements by our leadership stop the drone strikes?
The Prime Minister has affirmed our support for an Afghan led and Afghan owned and Afghan driven peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. We are positively engaged with all Afghan groups in the larger interest of bring peace and stability in the region. No country has shown any reservation regarding the talks between the Government and Taliban.
As for your second question, I have already mentioned that the Prime Minister of Pakistan has articulated Pakistan’s position on this issue. He has clearly called for an end to drones strikes. This matter is receiving highest attention of our leadership.
For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan