Record of Press briefing by Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman on 19th July 2013

Islamabad, July 19, 2013 (PPI-OT):

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

Opening Statement
The Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs will be visiting Afghanistan this Sunday. Further details can be taken up during questions and answers.

The floor is open for questions.

Question

There are media reports regarding an understanding on prisoner exchange between Pakistan and United States. Now there are chances that Afia Siddiqi can return to Pakistan. Is there any validity in these media reports?

Answer
The reported statement is attributed to Ministry of Interior. I will refer you to the Ministry of Interior which deals with this matter.

Question
Earlier it was reported and also told by Mr. Sartaj Aziz that he will be visiting Afghanistan on Saturday. Why there is a change in program? And who else will be accompanying him from the national security institutions?

Secondly, Prime Minister will be visiting Foreign Office this afternoon. What is the purpose of his visit? What is expected from Prime Minister with regards to the Foreign policy?

Answer
The visit of the Advisor to the Prime Minister to Afghanistan has been scheduled for Sunday which is convenient for both sides. A senior official of the Ministry will accompany the Advisor.

As for your second question, the Prime Minister is not visiting the Foreign Office today. Whenever the Prime Minister visits that will be an occasion for him to provide his further guidance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on how to pursue our foreign policy objectives in an effective manner.

Question
Does Pakistan plan to review its policy on drone strikes in near future?

My second question is regarding back channel diplomacy between Pakistan and India. There has been mistrust between both countries. How Pakistan will be able to manage this?

Answer
Our policy on drone strikes is very clear. The present government has taken up this matter in strong and clear terms with the government of the United States. The Prime Minister has articulated our position on this matter in the National Assembly of Pakistan.

This subject is being raised with the US side at appropriate levels. Drone strikes are counter-productive, violate our national sovereignty and international law, and entail human rights and humanitarian implications. There is also a growing debate in international forums on the legality of drone strikes.

As for your second question, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has stated our desire for good neighbourly relations with India. We hope that the two countries would be able to overcome the mistrust that tends to undermine cooperation.

A number of CBMs are in place which need to be implemented. The back channel diplomacy can also contribute to addressing the mistrust. Pakistan also wants the resumption of formal dialogue process with India i.e. Composite Dialogue. All these processes can help improve bilateral relations between the two countries.

Question
As you know back channel diplomacy between Pakistan and India is going on. What are your comments on recent massacre in Kashmir?

Secondly, what are your comments regarding the event in Bangladesh where a Jamat-e-Islami leader has been sentenced?

Answer
On the reports of desecration of the Holy Quran in the Indian occupied Kashmir, this is a matter of grave concern. It has hurt the feelings of Muslims not only in Pakistan but all over the world. We have noted that Indian government has expressed its intention to carry out an investigation. We hope and urge that the investigation is done expeditiously and those responsible for this act are brought to justice.

As for your second question, we have seen the media reports. While we do not interfere in the internal affairs of Bangladesh, we have also noted that concerns are being raised by the human rights organizations and international legal community on this matter.

Question
Yesterday the officials at Pakistani High Commission at New Delhi contacted Indian officials seeking an explanation on the statements made by Indian official on 2001 and 2008 attacks in India. When is Indian response expected and how Pakistan is going to pursue that?

Secondly, there are reports that visit by William Hague was quite fruitful. Were there any agreements signed between both the countries? Can you share some more details with us?

Answer
On a statement attributed to a former Indian official that 2001 Parliament attack and 2008 Mumbai attacks were planned by India, we had asked our High Commission in New Delhi to approach the Indian government and ascertain the veracity of these reports and clarification of the Indian government on this matter. In its preliminary response, the Indian government says that the said Indian former official has denied having made that statement. We are still in the process of getting full information on this matter.

As for your second question, the British Foreign Secretary held in-depth discussions with the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, met the Interior Minister, and paid a call on the Prime Minister. Considerable part of the discussions was focused on bilateral cooperation. We have historical, economic, commercial, cultural, education, and defence ties with the UK. The two sides reviewed the progress made in deepening our bilateral ties. Views were also exchanged on the regional situation.

Question
The Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs will be visiting Afghanistan this weekend. What is the purpose and agenda of his visit?

Secondly, there are reports that Pakistani Taliban fighters are moving to Syria to join the rebels. What discussion the Foreign Office had with your Syrian counterparts? Is this a matter of concern for Pakistan?

Answer
The visit of the Advisor to the PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs to Afghanistan is the first high-level exchange between the two countries after the assumption of office by the present Government.

The leaders of the two countries have already spoken twice to each other. The Prime Minister has extended an invitation to the President of Afghanistan to visit Pakistan. Mr. Sartaj Aziz will be carrying the formal invitation for the visit. The other objective of the visit is to hold substantive preparations for the Summit-level meeting.

We attach high importance to our bilateral relations with Afghanistan, which would be reviewed during the visit. Pakistan and Afghanistan have a multifaceted relationship. There is a considerable bilateral trade that is reaching 2.5 billion US dollars mark. There are substantial people-to-people exchanges. Pakistan is also participating actively in the reconstruction in Afghanistan where a number of projects are in various stages of completion.

The regional situation and issues of peace and stability will also be discussed. Pakistan side will reiterate its strong commitment to support the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Pakistan hopes that the process of reconciliation will catch momentum since this is the best way to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

On your question about Syria, we have seen these media reports. It has been the policy of the Government of Pakistan not to interfere in the internal affairs of other states. Our authorities are looking at the reports and if any elements or instances come to our notice, appropriate action would be taken in the light of our aforesaid policy.

Question
Last night William Hague during his visit revealed that many ministers in Pakistan were asking to know about the possible action of British Government against Altaf Hussain. Has Foreign Office firmly taken up this issue as Altaf Hussain is a British citizen and it affects the millions of Pakistanis?

Answer
I would refer you to the Ministry of Interior for this matter.

Question
Pakistani judicial commission was due in India with regard to Mumbai attacks. What is and status of this judicial commission after the statement of the Indian official?

Answer
We do hope that the planned visit of the Judicial Commission will take place as soon as possible. We believe that cooperation between the two countries is essential for countering terrorism.

Question
Did Mr. Sartaj Aziz ask the question on Altaf Hussain to the British Secretary of State Mr. William Hague during his visit to Foreign Office?

Answer
The meeting in the Foreign Ministry focused on bilateral areas of cooperation between Pakistan and UK. As for this specific question, I would refer you to Ministry of Interior.

Question
The Advisor to the PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz is visiting Afghanistan? What is duration of his visit? Is there expectation of Mr. Sartaj Aziz meeting with the ISAF commanders and US diplomatic official in Kabul? Secondly, is there any chance for his meeting with Mullah Umar and other Taliban officials?

Answer
The visit of the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Mr. Sartaj Aziz to Afghanistan is a daylong visit. The Advisor would be meeting senior Afghan officials and call on the President of Afghanistan. He would not be holding the meetings you are referring to.

Question
My question is regarding track-II diplomacy which is being supported by Foreign Office. Who is being engaged for this purpose? There are reports that there are some ex-officials of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please share details with us.

Secondly, there are reports that Mr. Tariq Azeem is being appointed as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to United Kingdom. He is seen in Foreign Office getting briefings connected with his foreign assignment. Is Foreign Office in the loop regarding this?

Answer
On track-II diplomacy, the Prime Minister has nominated Ambassador Shahryar Khan, who recently visited India, met the Indian leadership, and conveyed the desire of Pakistani leadership for good neighbourly and improved relations with India. There are many other channels, like think tanks and civil society organizations, which too contribute to track II diplomacy. But the designated channel from our side is through Ambassador Shahryar Khan.

As for your second question, it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to appoint Ambassadors. I am not aware of any decisions taken so far.

Question
My question refers to Doha process and Pakistan’s expected role to facilitate that process. The recent visits of US and UK officials have also been focusing on this process. What is our position? Is it seeking of resumption of Doha talks?

Answer
We have supported the Doha process and we will remain supportive of it as part of the larger reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Pakistan believes that all stakeholders in Afghanistan should engage in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. The Government of Pakistan will always remain supportive of the efforts for reconciliation out of our conviction that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan will be an effective way to secure lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the whole region.

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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