Home / Government Institutions / Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 20th February 2014

Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 20th February 2014

Islamabad, February 20, 2014 (PPI-OT):

No Opening Remarks

Question
Yesterday the Commander of the US Central Command was here in Islamabad and he held meetings with top military and defence leadership. It was reported that Pakistan has desired that the withdrawal of NATO and ISAF forces may be delayed by a couple of months due to certain reasons. Why is Pakistan pushing for this?
Is Foreign Office in the loop?

Answer
ISPR has already issued a press release on the meetings. I am not aware of any such discussions in which we have asked the US to delay troops withdrawal.

Question
Peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan High Peace Council have started in Dubai. How many Taliban leaders are there as representatives and how many have used Pakistani passports to go there?

Answer
Talks between Afghan Taliban and Afghan government are Afghanistan’s internal matter. How many are participating, what are their names does not concern us. What concerns us is peace and all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. We support that completely.

Question
On 25th November last year, Iran had fired mortar shells in Turbat area of Baluchistan where a three years old child Zulaikha was killed. On 16th February this year, Iran has again fired in Panjgur area. Is it not tantamount to violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty? How do you respond?

Answer
You know that border commission is meeting today. One session was held yesterday and they are meeting again today. All these matters are being discussed. I may add here that Pakistan-Iran and Afghanistan have a joint border and sometimes some activities happen in this area from all sides. It is in the common interest of all to curb the activities of the criminals, drug traffickers, smugglers, human-smugglers and terrorists. I am not aware of this particular incident but if it happened, it would certainly be discussed today.

Question:
Where is this meeting taking place and who is leading?

Answer
The meeting is taking place on the Pakistani side. The Chief Secretary Baluchistan and Deputy Governor of Sistan are leading their respective sides. Security agencies from both sides are also participating. These meetings are essentially to thrash out such issues on the borders.

Separately, you know that our Chairman Senate was in Iran and he has held meetings with the Iranian leadership. These meetings went very well. Obviously, the issue of abduction of guards was raised. This was also discussed with our ambassador but not acrimoniously instead in the spirit of cooperation.

There was reference to the historical and religious ties between our two countries by the Iranian President. There was also a desire that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should visit Tehran and that the Joint Economic Commission should also meet. There was an understanding that some elements may be trying to create problems between Pakistan and Iran and they should be dealt with in a coordinated manner.

Question
The resonance of Saudi Crown Prince’s visit is still heard very loud. Is it true that Pakistan is sending troops for deployment in Saudi Arabia as suggested by certain media reports?

Answer
I was asked this question yesterday as well. There was a very outlandish suggestion that Pakistan is sending one hundred thousand troops to Saudi Arabia. This is not true. This is factually incorrect. You know that the total size of our armed forces is close to six hundred thousand.

We have eastern border to take care of, then we have a situation on the western border and terrorists attacks as well. Pakistan cannot spare to send troops in such large numbers. Secondly, there is no need. This issue was never discussed. This was never raised.

Question
Secretary Defense recently said that FC personnel killed by Taliban were actually murdered on Afghan territory. Have we contacted the afghan authorities for getting the bodies of the martyrs?

Answer
First of all, it would have been better if you had put this question to Secretary Defense himself. He would have given you all the details. As far as our information is concerned, we are in the process of verifying where exactly the FC people were martyred and where their bodies are. If confirmed that this had happened in Afghanistan, we would definitely contact the Afghan government and take appropriate measures.

Question
A meeting was held in Washington DC between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for an agreement on terms and conditions of power purchase under the KASA 1000 project. What are Pakistan’s expectations from this project? Do you see a potential to improve relations between Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics?

Secondly, we know that Pakistani government has now given a go ahead to the Pakistani Cricket Team’s participation in T-20 World Cup due to be held in Bangladesh. I am curious to find out what is MOFA’s assessment of the law and order situation in Bangladesh. Is it completely satisfactory?

Answer
The latter question first, yes, the Bangladeshi government has assured us of full security and our team, as the defending champions, is proceeding to Bangladesh. The captain of T-20 team, Muhammad Hafeez has said that they are confident and that they would not be distracted by any issues regarding their security.

As for your first question, yes, KASA-1000 is a project that these countries have already approved. There have been some pre-feasibility studies. Probably, it is not a project that would come up immediately because we need to have a stable situation in Afghanistan for the construction of the pipeline. It is one of those projects that we hope would become a reality and it would contribute to meeting our energy requirements.

Question
There are reports that a large number of Pakistanis have been deported from UAE and the process is still continuing specially from Abu Dhabi. Has the Foreign Office raised this issue with the concerned authorities?

Answer
I am sorry I don’t have any specific information about Pakistanis having problems in UAE and being deported. Sometimes two or three people are deported at a time if they do not have legal stay there and it is coordinated with the Embassy. Nothing concerning large number of Pakistanis has come to our notice. But I can check that for you.

Question
There are reports that Foreign Office has sent a letter on 10th February to the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information informing them of a communication sent by our Ambassador in Britain, wherein he has reportedly warned about stepped up media and public activities of Baloch separatist groups and has proposed a media strategy to deal with this. Acting upon his advice, will the government run documentaries as paid content?

Answer
First of all, there is no such letter from our High Commissioner proposing a policy or strategy. We do keep receiving information from our missions abroad about the sponsored activities of few individuals belonging to proscribed organizations against Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

We have an idea about their sources funding and those who are organizing these meetings and seminars. We do raise this issue with host governments where these activities take place, but there is no such proposal to make documentaries as paid or unpaid content for being run on television.

Question
What is the update on cross LoC trade? Has there been normal resumption or are there still difficulties?

Answer
We have not heard of difficulties. How exactly and in what volume it is happening at the moment is obviously up to the authorities of AJK and IOK. As far as Pakistani and Indian governments are concerned, there was an agreement that trade should resume and we look forward to the extraordinary meeting of the Joint Working Group on cross LoC CBM where the remaining issues like the detention of the driver and how to make the system more transparent will be discussed. We look forward to that meeting.

Question
I saw your comments in a media report where you have said that Pakistan wants better relations with India but then we also see reports that Moulana Azhar has addressed a rally saying that they have X number of suicide bombers ready to act. How does the Foreign Office look at this? Is it not contradictory because India would definitely feel that such elements getting public space at this time is quite suspicious?

Answer
I think you have missed one part of the question- that is how Pakistan feels about the very provocative statements made by the Indian Army Chief which are coming quite regularly. We would have a position on that but what an individual who belongs to a proscribed entity says should not concern India so much.

Yes, we have seen media reports that he has addressed a public meeting but probably, this is one time event. He escaped the scrutiny and he did it but I am sure you are aware that his organization is banned in Pakistan and their activities are monitored.

Question
There are also reports that Moulana Azhar is planning to address a University gathering somewhere in Punjab or some other place, I am not sure. If that happens, will the Government take steps to stop him?

Secondly, another person Mast Gul who escaped during the Chirrar Sharif incident in Kashmir and is now part of Taliban has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks in Peshawar. Has India conveyed any concerns regarding these two people who have returned back to public after so many years?

Answer
As for your first question, you have said that you are yourself not completely sure. I would not comment on speculative news items.

For the second one, well, if this guy has claimed responsibility for the Peshawar attacks that means he is a threat to Pakistan and Pakistani people. There are many people from proscribed entities who may have escaped to the area of Afghanistan and Pakistan border to avoid action against them.

They keep moving here and there. Many of these individuals and organizations are proscribed and obviously whenever they are in the range, action will be taken. However, many of these people somehow keep popping up in other countries also, so there is a need for more cooperation in that respect.

Question
There are some media reports that Pakistan has taken a U-turn on the Syrian situation after the visit of Saudi Crown Prince. Is it true?

Answer
There is no change in our position in the sense that since the first Geneva Conference on Syria in June 2012, Syria’s own position has also evolved. This process, which is under the UN auspices, was initially rejected by Syria but later on Syria become a part of that.

There have been two rounds of discussions between the representatives of Syrian government and the opposition. They have been discussing a transitional government. Probably, the sticking point on which the second round broke down was whether President Bashar ul Asad will be in that setup or not. The UN has again appealed yesterday for the resumption of talks.

We would like to see an end to violence in Syria. We do not subscribe to the theory of regime change in any country. Essentially, the people of Syria will talk to each other and work out what kind of setup they will have in future. The language in the Joint Statement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is from Geneva-I Communiqué. This is something, which is accepted by Syria as well. So, there is no need for undue concern.

Question
Do you think the current bitterness between Pakistan and Iran will affect Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project as well?

Secondly, the US is reportedly trying to get its sergeant who had been kidnapped in 2009 released from the Taliban. Is Pakistan also trying for the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

Answer
First, there is no comparison between the US sergeant and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. He was a combatant and she is a civilian. The issue of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is taken up with the US regularly. We have talked to them publically and privately on this matter.

As for Iran, yes, there was a statement from their Interior Minister and there was a response from our side. But you cannot look at the relationship between Pakistan and Iran through the prism of one small issue or some event at the border.

As the Iranian President said, this relationship is much deeper, much broader, it is between two peoples, it has social, religious, cultural and economic aspects. It has many dimensions. We don’t see these incidents can derail our relationship. The pipeline issue is separate. There was a timeline but there were also some other commitments and agreements regarding financing. They have fallen apart therefore; perhaps we need to renegotiate the timeline as well.

Question
I would like to draw your attention to the recent visit of Pakistan’s Interior Secretary to Afghanistan, in that backdrop, is there any proposal on the table relating to fencing of Pak-Afghan border?

Answer
I think that subsequent meetings to further refine and discuss this proposal are yet to take place. Overall, it was a useful meeting in the sense that these ideas were crystallized. There was also some unanimity of views about certain actions to be taken on this border

Question
Any update on the Pakistani student Shahzaib who is under treatment in the United States?

Answer
There is no change in his condition but his visa has been extended.

Question
Has Iran raised any concerns about Pakistan’s siding with Saudi Arabia on the Syrian issue?

Answer
Why would they raise concerns? I mean…why would they?

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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