Record of Press briefing by Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson held on 20th December

Islamabad, December 20, 2013 (PPI-OT):

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

Opening remarks

In the beginning I would like to tell you something about reports that a bus carrying Pakistani pilgrims was attacked in Iraq and that three Pakistanis died. Our Mission has informed that this has not been confirmed. The Iraqi authorities and our people from the Embassy who went to Samarra have also confirmed that no Pakistani has been killed or injured.

The floor is now open for Questions:

What is Pakistan’s final position on Bangladesh situation? Why is there a contradiction between the statements coming out from the Foreign Office and the resolutions being passed in the Parliament?

Secondly, what are your comments on the reports of Pakistani flags and effigies of our leaders being burnt in Bangladesh?

Pakistan and Bangladesh share a long history which goes back to even before 1947. As Muslims of South Asia, we struggled together for independence from the British rule. Till 1971, we were one nation. What is happening in Bangladesh is essentially its internal matter. By passing a resolution, our Parliament did not mean to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.

Regarding the difference between the position of the Foreign Office and the Parliament, it must be noted that the Parliament is a sovereign body. It is the supreme legislative body. The Parliamentarians represent the sentiments of the people and therefore, have the right to make every statement they deem appropriate.

Certainly the purpose was not to interfere but it reflected our desire to look towards a brighter future in the spirit of 1974 Tripartite Agreement between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh where it was agreed that we would let bygones be bygones and focus on a better future for peace and stability of the region.

I do confirm that our High Commissioner was called to the Bangladeshi Foreign Office and was handed over an aide-memoire. We would not like to get into responding to everything that may have been said in the public demonstrations because we do not want our response to be construed as recriminations.

However, we call upon the brotherly and friendly country of Bangladesh to adopt the spirit of reconciliation and cordiality in keeping with the tripartite agreement of 1974. We wish the people of Bangladesh peace, stability and progress.

Are there still sanctions on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline if yes, what efforts have been made to uplift them?

Secondly, there were reports that Pakistan had suggested the inclusion of civilian diplomats in the talks between the DG MOs of India and Pakistan due to be held on the 24thof December. Can you confirm these? What is the final outcome? Has it been refused?

Starting with the latter, yes it was our desire to include the two Foreign Offices in the DG MOs meeting to make it broader based, but this stand is not acceptable to India. For the time being, this meeting will be between the DG MOs but our proposal is still on the table.

As for Iran, we do not have any sanctions on the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline but we do hope that there is progress in the negotiations between E3+3 and Pakistan. We wish to have more propitious climate to focus on building the pipeline. Obviously funds are a constraint but we are looking at different options.

Adviser to the Prime Minister Mr. Sartaj Aziz recently told the Senate that Pak-US strategic dialogue will resume in February. Do you have any details?

Secondly, how do you see the US-Pakistan relations during 2013?

The Strategic Dialogue resumed when Secretary Kerry visited Pakistan. The working groups on Energy, Defence consultation and Security and Non-Proliferation have already met while the working groups on Finance and Counter-terrorism are going to meet hopefully in the near future. Dates are being worked out. Once the process of the meetings between the five working groups is completed, we would immediately hold meetings at the Ministerial level. I still do not have the exact dates.

As for your second question, there have been a number of forward steps on a lot of issues between US and Pakistan. The Strategic Dialogue which was on hold after the Salala incident is resumed. Working groups are meeting in which a number of substantive projects are under discussion. There have been discussions and consultations at different levels. Yes, there have been some issues also but we seek to resolve them not through the media but through consultations and dialogue.

The DG MOs meeting is taking place three months after the two Prime Ministers agreed on that. Why this sudden development? Was there any back channel diplomacy or whether Chief Minister Punjab’s visit had a role in it?

Secondly, has the new Foreign Secretary been appointed? We see media reports but there has been no official word as yet.

My predecessor had informed in the last press briefing that the DG MOs had been speaking to each other. They have had telephone conversations. It was not back channel diplomacy but there was agreement between the two countries that we need to meet at this level to sort out the issues taking place on the LoC. Keeping that in mind, our Director General Military Operations invited his Indian counterpart and his invitation was accepted.

As for the Foreign Secretary, yes the decision has been taken but the outgoing Foreign Secretary is still here. It will become official when the notification is issued and Mr. Aizaz Chaudhry takes over.

We have been receiving hundreds of calls from Pakistanis who have been held in Jails in Saudi Arabia. Are they being helped by our Missions in Saudia?

I do not have information about the specifics of the jailed Pakistanis but generally Saudi Arabia has very stringent laws on drugs and certain other crimes .Once somebody is caught, the intersession becomes very difficult.

If you are talking about illegal Pakistanis, you know the Saudi government brought changes in their regulations for stay. Under that scheme, our Embassy and our Consulates in Saudi Arabia launched a campaign of awareness and job fairs. As a result of that Eight Hundred Thousand Pakistanis were regularized and their status became legal. We understand that in some far flung areas our message might not have reached and in some cases the community was reluctant to come forward.

These people might have subsequently landed up in jails. We have talked to the Saudi authorities and it is our effort to ensure that a lenient view is taken. If they cannot be adjusted and legalized in Saudi Arabia, they should be sent back to Pakistan with dignity.

What is the policy of Pakistan regarding children of illegal Pakistani immigrants to Saudi Arabia who are not being owned by Pakistan? Countries like India have issued air tickets of their National Carrier to such immigrants so that they could return to their homeland.

This is simply not possible that Pakistan would disown its own citizens or the children of its citizens. I think you are referring to the case of Burmese who were at one stage given Pakistani passports but they subsequently settled in Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Interior may be better placed to respond to this question.

The Prime Minister has said that neighbours can not be changed and the only option for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India is to become friends. I would like to know if Pakistan and India discuss the situation in Afghanistan during their bilateral meetings or is there a trilateral mechanism between the three countries?

Obviously, this has been our position and it has been articulated at every level that for progress, prosperity and stability in the region, we need to strengthen our relationship. With Afghanistan, we already have a very strong relationship and we are looking forward to an improved relationship with India by resolving all outstanding issues.

This would pave the way for regional cooperation and foreign investment in this region which sometimes shies away because of the instability or the potential of instability in the region. The Prime Minister was not talking about any particular trilateral mechanism. He called for better relationship with our neighbours in general.

There has been a report in today’s newspapers that a law has been proposed in the US which apparently has Whitehouse approval. According to this law the US aid to Pakistan will be linked to the restoration of NATO supply lines.

There is also a US National Authorization Bill for defence according to which the US Defence Secretary has to testify that the Pakistan government is helping in counter-terrorism and that the Pakistani military is not involved in killing of minorities. Have the US authorities contacted Pakistan at any level concerning this law?

No, there are a number of internal procedures the US has. As long as they are in the discussion stage we don’t feel the need to comment on them .But certainly we are engaged with the US and we would not like any extraneous conditions particularly when Pakistan has sacrificed so much, both in terms of human lives and material losses. We do not expect to be judged by any one.

Has the Foreign Office demanded the Afghan authorities to hand over Mullah Fazlullah to Pakistan?

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

Earlier, Mr. Sartaj Aziz had said that Mullah Baradar was authorized by Mullah Omar to hold talks with Afghan Government but in a recent statement he has said that Mullah Baradar was not authorized and that no one can pressurize Afghan Taliban.

The Spokesman of the High Peace Council in Afghanistan has contradicted this statement and has said that Pakistan has the ability and clout to convince the Taliban and bring them to discussion table. What are your comments?

Mullah Baradar was released by Pakistan on the request of President Karzai. We have facilitated the meeting between Mullah Baradar and AHPC delegation that visited Pakistan last month. What was discussed, we are not privy to that.

Our policy is to facilitate in whatever way possible the peace and the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. This meeting was also arranged in that context. We are doing whatever is possible to help promote peace in Afghanistan because we think it is in Pakistan’s interest.

As for the statement attributed to Mr. Sartaj Aziz I am certain that he would not have said that because it is not our concern who nominates whom. All we are interested in is the end result which is peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan because it will benefit the people of Pakistan as well.

The Turkish Prime Minister is due to visit Pakistan early next week. What is on the agenda and which accords will be signed between the two countries?

Pakistan and Turkey enjoy extremely close, friendly and cordial relations and they are becoming stronger day by day. We have convergence of views on most international issues. The visit of the Turkish PM is part of regular exchange of High Level visits between the two countries. Number of MoUs will be signed. Details will be shared as soon as they are finalized.

There are speculations that there is an overlap of mandate on certain issues between FO and the Ministry of Interior. Who is the real in-charge of country’s foreign affairs?

Your question is not appropriate for this forum. The two ministries are very clear on their mandates. Yes, there are a few issues where the mandates might overlap. But we do not work at cross purposes, we consult each other.

In the back drop of resolution passed in the UN General Assembly against the drone strikes, if another attack occurs, will Pakistan go to another forum like the Human Rights Council?

UN General Assembly resolutions do not have enforcement mechanism. The only body which can enforce its decisions is the UN Security Council and that also only for decisions adopted under chapter-7. For that, there has to be an agreement between the P-5. This is how the UN system works. This resolution is a big step forward because it reflects the international public opinion and their views on the legitimacy and use of drone strikes.

Some years back this issue was not even discussed in the UN and there was no appetite for this. Now, thanks to the position taken by the Government of Pakistan, political parties and international NGOs, there is a growing understanding that these drone strikes violate the sovereignty of a country and cause collateral damage which includes innocent civilians being killed. There is no justification in international law for that.

The first step a country needs to get its voice heard- to build international public opinion. Our message is now becoming louder and clearer. The next step for us is to table a similar resolution in the Human Rights Council Forum in Geneva and we hope that it will be adopted.

Can we compare the recent resolution in the UN General Assembly to the resolutions on Kashmir?

No, let me correct you, the resolutions on Kashmir were UN Security Council resolutions while this one has been adopted by the UN General Assembly.

What is the latest update on LoC? Is there absolute peace?

Yes. The Line of Control (Loc) is under control.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tell: 051-9205494
Fax: 051-9204202
Cell: 0336-5644459

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