Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesman on 25th July 2013

Islamabad, July 25 2013 (PPI-OT):

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

There are no opening remarks. The floor is open for questions.

Question
Pakistan seems to be an incurable patient of incredible optimism. Right from the drone strikes to the treatment met from New Delhi, we are optimistic about changing situation in Pakistan’s favour. Why Pakistan is offering its services for re-opening of Doha office?

Answer
Yes, indeed, Pakistan is experiencing a sense of optimism. As you would have noted the Prime Minister has advanced a positive agenda for Pakistan’s foreign policy. We are pursuing positive engagement not only with our neighbours but also with key states. It is this positive agenda that is driving the sense of optimism you talked about.

On the second part of your question, it was in the same spirit that Pakistan supported the establishment of the Doha office. We are convinced that an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace and reconciliation process is the most effective way to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan which in turn will contribute to peace in our region.

Question
We do not suspect the intentions of the present government but as regards the visit of Mr. Sartaj Aziz to Kabul, certain analysts have cynical views, even the senior former diplomats have the same conclusions. Whether, the intelligentsia and the commentators were not given proper briefing about the outcome of the visit or there was nothing as an outcome of the visit?

Answer
The visit of the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs was the first high level exchange of visits between the two countries. The meetings were held in cordial atmosphere. The invitation of the Prime Minister to the President of the Afghanistan to visit Pakistan was handed over, which he accepted. Dates are now being worked out. The two governments are presently engaged in preparing for that visit.

Question
There were media reports that President Hamid Karzai has put certain conditions for his visit to Pakistan. What are those conditions and what is the stance of Pakistan on those conditions?

Answer
As I have just indicated in response to the previous question, the two governments are engaged in preparing for the visit and working out mutually convenient dates. I am not aware of the conditions that you are referring to. We have seen some media reports but it is our hope that Pakistan and Afghanistan will work together on an agenda that leads us to lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region. This is the approach that Pakistan will be taking in its interaction with Afghanistan.

Question
Whenever the incidents of terrorism took place in India, they held Pakistan responsible for those. But now it has been proved that Indian agencies were involved. What is the status and update about the deaths of Pakistanis in train blasts in India?

Secondly, what is viewpoint of Pakistan on the recent massacre in Kashmir?

Answer
Our region has been afflicted by the menace of terrorism. It is incumbent upon all countries of our region to cooperate in fighting terrorism. Pakistan believes that instead of levelling allegations, steps should be taken to promote cooperation in counter terrorism. For its part, Pakistan has been ready to engage with India under the Composite Dialogue process to counter terrorism in our region.

A number of meetings were also held under Joint Anti Terrorism Mechanism where issues such as the ones that you are referring to were discussed. We hope that the resumed dialogue process will start soon to enable us to take up these issues.

On the reports of recent killings in the Indian occupied Kashmir, we have expressed our concerns. Likewise the reported desecration of the Holy Quran is a matter of grave concern to us. We understand that Indian government expressed its intentions to carry out an investigation. We hope and urge that the investigation is done expeditiously and those responsible for such acts are brought to justice.

Question
Drone strikes are approved at the highest level in the US. Has US tabled any proposal whereby Pakistan should also be included in the approval of the drone strikes as an alternative to our demand that drone strikes should be stopped?

Answer
Our position on drone strikes is very clear. This government has laid a high priority to expressing our position to the US Government and the world at large that the drone strikes are counter-productive, violate our national sovereignty, violate the international law and endanger the human rights. This position is being conveyed to the US Government at all appropriate levels, and will also be taken up at the forthcoming interaction with the US side.

Question
Regarding Advisor’s visit to Afghanistan, was anything brought up with Afghan authorities to cut and diminish the kind of allegations which were coming from Afghanistan regarding role of Pakistan to bring peace and stability in the region?

Secondly, could you give us the details and final dates of Secretary Kerry’s visit to Pakistan?

Answer
On Afghanistan, we have taken a positive and constructive approach. We believe that close engagement between Pakistan and Afghan Governments could help achieve the objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

We will persevere with our approach. Yes, there have been allegations from the Afghan side, but we exercised utmost restraint and we will continue to do that. We believe that allegations and counter allegations will not help us achieve our shared goal of securing peace and stability in Afghanistan and our region.

As for your second question, the visit of Secretary Kerry is very much on the cards but the dates have not yet been finalized.

Question
Would it be fair to say that the relations of Pakistan with the US are strained?

Answer
Pakistan attaches importance to its relations with the United States. It’s a multi-faceted relationship. Our two countries have been collaborating in a number of areas of mutual benefit. Like in every relationship, there are points of convergence as well as divergence. I will not categorize the relationship in the words that you have used. I believe that Pakistan is engaged with the US on the basis of mutual respect and mutuality of benefit.

Question
US Embassy, short while ago, issued a statement saying that the US administration did not receive any fresh request on Afia Siddiqui from Government of Pakistan. Would you like to update us whether the Government of Pakistan has made any fresh request to the US for the repatriation of Afia Siddiqui from US to Pakistan?

Secondly there are some reports indicating that John Kerry’s visit may be delayed. Would you comment on this?

Thirdly, there are reports that US administration is sending John Kerry with the clear agenda with regards to Shakeel Afridi that US will be taking up the repatriation of Shakeel Afridi with Pakistan. What is your stance on that?

Answer
I have not yet seen the reports that you are referring to. Our Ministry Of Interior which handles this matter would be in a better position to make a comment on that. I would say that Pakistan and the US do not have any bilateral prisoners’ exchange agreement. There are two regional arrangements which if joined could provide a basis for discussion on such issues. This particular aspect is under consideration in the Ministry Of Interior.

As for Secretary Kerry’s visit, the dates are being worked out.

On what the US would like to raise with us during the talks, this question should be posed to the US side.

Question
Pakistan has paid a very high price due to the alleged involvement in Indian Parliament attack and Mumbai carnage. Now, we have the right to access the man who revealed that India herself orchestrated the attacks. Do you think that it would be of prime importance if Pakistan does that thing?

Answer
As I indicated that we have already taken up this matter with the Indian Government through appropriate channels and we have since received their response to the extent that the person in question denied having made that statement. Our authorities are examining the response as well as other aspects related to this matter.

Question
You have just reiterated Pakistan’s position on drone strikes; Pakistan believes that drone strikes are against the sovereignty of the country. As a matter of fact, the US carries out these drone strokes, so it is the US which is against the sovereignty of Pakistan. How Pakistan calls the US a friend of Pakistan?

Secondly, you just talked about the prisoners’ exchange agreement that there have been no agreement between Government of Pakistan and the US for the exchange of prisoners. During the past ten years, Pakistan has handed over a number of people to the US who were demanded by the Government of US. Under what agreement did the Government of Pakistan hand over those people to US?

Answer
Pakistan has articulated its position on drone strikes in clear terms. I do not have to repeat that. We believe that our view has a solid legal basis. We are aware that an international debate is also underway on the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the drone strikes. Pakistani leadership has made it clear that we will continue to project our perspective.

On the question of exchange of prisoners, I would refer you to Ministry Of Interior.

Question
We all know that Mr. Edward Snowden is at Moscow airport. What would be stance or viewpoint of Government of Pakistan if Mr. Snowden approaches for the asylum or plans to travel to some other country using the airspace of Pakistan? Would Pakistan allow that?

Answer
We have not been approached with any such request. Therefore, I am not in a position to answer this question.

Question
In case John Kerry raises the issue of Dr. Shakeel Afridi with Pakistan. Is Pakistan willing to hand over Dr. Shakeel Afridi to the US?

Answer
It is a speculative question. I am not in a position to answer this question.

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