Record of press briefing by Foreign ministry’s spokesperson held on 27th March 2014

Islamabad, March 27, 2014 (PPI-OT):

Opening Remarks
One information to be shared: there were questions about the Pakistani crew of Morning Glory off the coast of Libya. As we already shared with you, they were released and brought to Tripoli. There were some investigations. Our Embassy has informed that the Libyan authorities have cleared them after investigations and that, they should be coming back to Pakistan today or tomorrow depending on the availability of flights.

The issue here was that Libya had complained that some vessels, registered in the names of various countries, were taking Libyan oil illegally. Apparently, that was the case with regard to this vessel as well.

After investigations, the Libyan authorities concluded that the Pakistani captain and the crew, which included five Pakistani crew members, six Indians, some Sri Lankans and other nationals, were all cleared. They should all be heading back home.

This happened on the 17th of March; on the 19th, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution under which illegal acquisition of Libyan oil has become an international crime. Using this forum, I would like to request Pakistanis who are working on such vessels abroad to be very careful.

They must work only with authentic, well established companies so that they are not caught in a situation like this. We hope this message will go out to all Pakistanis that they would join any merchant ships after due diligence.

Now the floor is open for Questions

Question
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked that Pakistan must be included in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. What are the chances and what would be the benefits if Pakistan is granted membership?

Secondly, for quite some time now we have seen that tensions are rising between Pakistan and Iran. President Rouhani has also reportedly called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the reported killing of one of the Iranian Guards that were abducted last month. Your comments?

Answer
About the NSG, as it has been said repeatedly, we have a long standing engagement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We had meetings in Islamabad as well. We have sought access to nuclear technology to meet our energy requirements and for use in the medical and agricultural fields.

We, on our own, adhere to the guidelines that NSG issues from time to time. You would have seen that during his interventions at the Nuclear Security Summit, the Prime Minister made a very strong pitch for Pakistan’s case to access on non-discriminatory basis.

We have long held this view that selective approach undermines the credibility of all these arrangements. We are interested and we feel that we qualify for inclusion. Not only that we adhere to the criteria but also, at this summit, Pakistan’s credentials as a responsible nuclear state have been acknowledged. There are already voices that are suggesting that it is unrealistic to keep Pakistan outside the NSG. We hope that we will be able to convince the Nuclear Suppliers Group in this regard.

As for your second question, we have kept you informed of all the developments. We shared with you that after the five Iranian Border Guards disappeared 10 or 15 kilometers inside Iranian territory in Sistan-Balochistan province, Iran approached Pakistan to help them in locating where they were taken.

An organization Jaish-ul-Adl, hitherto unknown, claimed responsibility for kidnapping them. We asked the government of Iran to provide us information. Subsequently, Pakistan-Iran Border Commission which was scheduled to be held end of February, met. The two sides decided to establish a committee to look into this matter.

The members of the Commission also went to the site from where the guards were supposedly kidnapped. They looked at the site for clues. Our authorities combed the entire area. It has been done repeatedly, yet there were no signs indicating that the missing guards were brought to Pakistan. This is where the situation is.

We have condemned the killing of the Iranian Guard and we have full sympathy with the families and with the Iranian government. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. We stand ready, as we have done in the past, to help Iran locate them but we have no indication that they are in Pakistani territory.

Question
According to a report in New York Times, CIA director John Brennan has given a statement that Al-Qaida militants are travelling from Pakistan to Syria. Has the government of United States contacted the Pakistani administration in this regard?

Secondly, a top politician in India and most likely the next Prime Minister, Narender Modi has given a statement that Pakistan backed terrorists carried out activities in Kashmir including the one in September 2013 in which several soldiers and civilians were killed. Will Pakistan respond to his statement?

Answer
About the first one, No, the US has not shared this information with us. There have been no contacts and we have no information how Al-Qaida could be travelling from Pakistan to Syria.

About the second one, you know that this is elections season in India and unlike Pakistan where India is not an election issue, in India, Pakistan becomes an election issue unfortunately. As regards the allegation, we condemn terrorism. We are ourselves victims of terrorism which has its roots in the events in our region over the last 30 years.

Question
The Foreign Minister of Iran Mr. Javed Zareef has said that Pakistan has failed to protect its borders and that terrorists freely move and operate in Pakistan. Your comment?

Answer
I have seen the reports and this does not seem to be exactly what he said. He expressed regret and emphasized that there was need for cooperation. He referred to the historical relationship between Pakistan and Iran as well.

Managing any border is the responsibility of both sides and as I said we have a border commission which meets regularly. We not only exchange proposals but also very closely coordinate our efforts on this border.

We have trade on this border; we have Zaireen who travel to Iran and Iraq. We are ready to help in locating these missing guards wherever they are. Our cooperation will continue as we have done in the past. This was also acknowledged by the Iranian leadership and officials. So far, our investigations and search have not given us any clues that those guards were present in Pakistani territory.

Question
While the Iranian side appears to be to some extent aggressive on the issue of the abducted guards and is maligning Pakistan, our response appears apologetic. The entire nation wants to know if the killed guard was found on the Pakistani territory or the Iranian.

Answer
No, the body was not found in our territory. We have repeatedly emphasized that we don’t conduct diplomacy through media. It’s not a very mature approach. In this case, you have to understand that if Iranian people are missing, it’s a sensitive issue for them. It has domestic implications.

The families of the missing guards would want the government to do everything within its power to find them. We have had discussions with the Iranian officials. You know that the President of Iran spoke to the Prime Minister.

The tone of the discussions has been positive and friendly, unlike, the impression in media. We are neither apologetic nor we are expected to be aggressive. As both sides have repeatedly said we have a very strong relationship and we would continue to work together with Iran to further strengthen it.

Question
My question is also related to Iran. Any idea where the other guards might be and what is the motive for this kidnapping, because this thing is becoming extremely mysterious?

Secondly, on the question of trade with India which the PM has clarified, do we take it to be the final position of Pakistan that they would not do it with the present Indian government?

Answer
On the issue of trade, I don’t think that after the Prime Minister’s statement, there is any need for me to say anything.

On the first question on motive: Your guess is as good as mine. I have already said that the body was not found in Pakistan.

Question
After PM Nawaz Sharif’s demand to the US in The Hague to play a mediator’s role in solving the Kashmir issue, India has out rightly rejected any such possibility. Your comment on that?

Answer
Jammu and Kashmir issue is one of the oldest disputes on UN Security Council agenda. The UN has an observer mission here – UNMOGIP. The Under Secretary General of UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations recently visited Pakistan and he also went to the Line of Control (LoC).

So, there is no denying the fact that it is an internationally recognized dispute. Now the choice we have is to move like other regions towards developing good neighbourly relations, forging economic ties, increasing people to people contacts so that people in this region can also benefit from regional trade and economic cooperation and connectivity.

People in region also deserve to reap the benefits of economic cooperation. It is, therefore, important that Pakistan and India resolve this dispute through dialogue. What Prime Minister essentially said in The Hague is that if there is reluctance on Indian side to resolve this issue bilaterally, our common friends can help convince India to come to the negotiating table. It’s not an internal affair of India.

Question
Your reaction to the allegations of NDS on Pakistani institutions’ alleged complicity in the attack on Serena hotel in Kabul?

Answer
We have already responded to that through a statement. There is absolutely no basis for these allegations.

Question
As you know the T-20 Cricket World Cup is taking place and the entire nation is focused on it. How would you respond to the Bangladeshi government’s decision of not allowing Bangladeshi spectators to hold flags or to cheer the Cricket team of Pakistan? Has the Foreign Office protested on this?

Answer
This was not Pakistan specific. Bangladeshi spectators were asked not to carry flags of other countries and that applies to all the countries participating in the tournament.

Secondly, as a participant in this event, we raised with Bangladesh some security issues and they were resolved to our satisfaction. As regards the rights of the spectators, because these events generate revenue both for ICC and the host government, it is in the domain of the ICC. ICC negotiates the framework with the host government. ICC has already taken up this matter.

Question
Has the United States decided to cut the aid given to Pakistan?

Answer
We have seen the reports. The House Foreign Relations Committee has approved this but it is a long process. The House of Representatives has not done it yet. Therefore, it is pre-mature to comment on it.

Question
We see a continuing hiatus on the drone strikes in Pakistan. Have there been any more conversations between Pakistan and US on these?

Answer
There are no drone strikes at the moment. We expect that the US would continue this policy as the drone strikes are counterproductive and there is a growing consensus on that. The European Parliament adopted a resolution and events have been organized on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council Session that is taking place in Geneva.

Ben Emerson presented his report to the Council. There have been hearings in the British, Dutch and the European Parliaments on the question of drone strikes. It is our expectation that in view of this emerging and very strong international consensus, the US will refrain from resuming these strikes.

Question
We say that Kashmir is a disputed territory and that it is recognized as an international issue. How does Pakistan see Hyderabad and Juna Garh which were annexed forcefully?

Answer
We were talking about the Security Council resolutions. There are 20 UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.

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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