Record of Press briefing by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman held on 12th December

Islamabad, December 12, 2013 (PPI-OT):

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Opening Remarks

At the outset, let me announce that now we have a new spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms Tasnim Aslam. She is an accomplished diplomat and has served as spokesperson previously from 2005 to 2007. She has also served as our Ambassador to Italy and Morocco. She is currently working as Additional Secretary (Europe) here at the Ministry

The floor is now open for Questions

Question
Chief Minister Punjab is in India where he has met the Indian Prime Minister. Previously Mr. Imran Khan and Moulana Fazulur Rehman had also been in India. Is this all part of diplomacy or are these individual trips?

Secondly, there was a lot of controversy concerning Chuck Hagel’s visit to Pakistan. I would like to ask if Hagel actually threatened or warned that aid to Pakistan would be stopped as suggested by media reports.

Answer
Chief Minister Punjab’s visit to India is part of our regular contacts with India. You are well aware that the present government wishes to improve relations with India. We hope that the bilateral dialogue process will resume soon and all issues between the two countries will be addressed with a view to promoting better relations between Pakistan and India.

On Chuck Hagel’s visit, we have already stated in clear terms that the reports that he issued any threats are not correct. I am not aware from where those reports appeared in the media. These were misleading reports. The statements issued by Pentagon, the State department and the one by us were all very clear. The visit of US Secretary Defense was part of Pakistan-US contacts to promote bilateral relations and discuss regional situation.

Question
The statement issued by US Embassy after Chuck Hagel’s visit mentioned US concerns on Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. What are your comments? Is there presence of Haqqani Network currently in Waziristan? If so, is it threat to US interests in Afghanistan?

Answer
On your question regarding the Haqqani network, I will refer you to the Ministry of Interior.

Question
We have seen that whenever US officials visit Pakistan there is a repeated reference to Haqqani network. How do you see that?

Secondly, there is a report that Mullah Baradar is seriously ill and when the Afghan High Peace Council had met him he could hardly converse. Can you confirm this?

Answer
In our bilateral contacts with the US, we exchange views on our respective view points. On various issues we agree and there is a shared desire to develop this relationship. Lately, two working groups have met and two more will be meeting soon followed by ministerial level discussions.

The Prime Minister’s recent visit to the US has laid a solid foundation for promoting bilateral ties. On some issues, like drone strikes, there is a difference of opinion. Contacts like the visit of Secretary Chuck Hagel are opportunities to discuss these matters.

As for your second question, I am not too sure from where these reports have emerged. We have already stated that Mullah Baradar is free to meet his family members and any one to advance the reconciliation process. The High Peace Council has met him but I am not aware of the outcome or the proceedings of that meeting. Pakistan remains fully committed to extending its support to advance peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Question
We have recently witnessed Mr. James Dobbins and Chuck Hagel’s visit to Pakistan. Can you please comment on the current status of US-Pakistan relations?

Secondly, there were some reports that the drones will now be operated by the Pentagon and not CIA which is answerable to Congress. Could you verify these? Also what was Chuck Hagel’s response on the issue of drones?

Answer
On the overall state of Pakistan-US relations, I would say that it is on a positive trajectory. As I indicated, the visit of the Prime Minister had laid a solid foundation. The two countries are now engaged at different levels and we hope that mutually beneficial relationship will continue to benefit the people of the two countries.

As for the second part of your question, yes, we did raise the issue of drone strikes with Secretary Chuck Hagel. The Government has taken a clear stance on this issue and has raised it with the US government at every level.

The US has its own views on it, but we believe that our view point is increasingly getting traction including in the international community. We believe that the drone strikes not only violate our sovereignty but are also counterproductive to our common efforts to fight terrorism and therefore such strikes must end.

Question
My question is regarding the Prime Minister’s statement while meeting with Indian High commissioner that NSA’s of the two countries should meet. The DGMO’s meeting that was scheduled to take place as decided by the two Prime Ministers has also not happened. What is the problem?

Answer
Let me start with the latter. Pursuant to the decision of the two Prime Ministers that the ceasefire on the LOC must be respected, the Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries established contact on the 25th and 29th of October and agreed to ensure that ceasefire on the LOC is not violated. Ever since, by and large ceasefire has been respected. There was also a contact between Pakistan Rangers and Indian Border Security Force.

The proposal of contacts at the level of National Security Advisors is part of the desire of the present government to address outstanding issues between the two countries and to find ways to improve relations. We do hope that these positive proposals emanating from Pakistan would be sincerely reciprocated.

Question
The Pakistan –Iran border was so far considered comparatively safe but during the last one month, we have twice heard the news of mortar shelling from across Iran into Pakistan. Does that signify a change in relationship between the two countries?

Answer
Pakistan and Iran enjoy excellent relations. The border between the two countries comprises rugged and difficult terrain. Sometimes there is some cross-border activity. The two countries have instituted mechanisms to deal with these activities and maintain constant contact with each other in all cordiality.

Question
A high level delegation headed by Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has recently visited Iran. There are reports that Iran had backed out of financing the Iran Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project. What is the official update?

Answer
As far as Government of Pakistan is concerned, it remains committed to the Iran Pakistan gas pipeline project given our acute energy crisis. Discussions are continuing on several aspects of the project, including on financing, equipment, etc. It is a work in progress.

Question
India has made it compulsory for Pakistani adults and children travelling to India to get polio vaccination. What is the reaction of Pakistan?

Answer
I do not have full information on this and would also need to consult our Ministry of Health to answer this question.

Question
What is the latest about NATO supplies? There were reports attributed to Mr. Sartaj Aziz that NATO supplies will be restored from next week. Is the foreign Office or the Federal government negotiating with PTI in KPK?

Answer
The issue of discussions between the federal government and any political party are not in my purview. As it is, the NATO supplies were continuing on the southern route. Our position has been that all such issues should be resolved peacefully and through talks.

Question
During the last one month plenty of decisions regarding appointments of Ambassadors were taken but subsequently reversed. What was the reason?

Secondly, who would be the next High Commissioner to India?

Answer
It is the prerogative of the leadership to take decisions on appointment of Ambassadors. I might add that sometimes unconfirmed reports appear in the media even before formal decisions are taken.

Question
What are your views on the credibility of the tribunal instituted to carry out the trial of Quadir Mullah, leader of Jamat i Islami in Bangladesh?

Answer
Bangladesh is a brotherly country. While it is not our policy to interfere in the affairs of other countries, we have noted that different international human rights organizations have expressed their concerns on the way the trials have been conducted.

Question
The Lahore High Court has placed a ban on airing Indian films and cultural programs .Don’t you think it will hurt the mutual ties? Can Foreign Office do something about it?

Answer
Under the mechanism of Composite Dialogue, there is a segment of friendly exchanges. We hope that as soon as the dialogue resumes, all such matters can be discussed and resolved.

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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