Record of the Press Briefing

Islamabad: Opening Statement

President Asif Ali Zardari and the Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani have strongly condemned the terrorist attack in which Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council and former President of Afghanistan embraced Shahadat.

With Professor Rabbani’s Shahadat, the people of Afghanistan have lost a visionary leader and one of the strongest supporters of peace. Pakistan has lost a friend and a true partner for peace in Afghanistan.

In an expression of solidarity and to share this moment of grief, the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Interior Minister, Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Minister Israrullah Zehri, Senator Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Foreign Secretary, is undertaking a brief visit to Afghanistan today to personally offer condolences to the family of Professor Rabbani, to President Karzai and to the brotherly people and the government of Afghanistan.

The people of Pakistan mourn with their Afghan brothers and sisters on this tragic loss. Such acts of terrorism and violence only reinforce the resolve of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat and eliminate terrorism and to continue to work for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.

Now on floods, to update you on the international relief assistance for floods in southern Pakistan, I would like to quote a few figures. The European Commission has pledged 10 million Euros in relief assistance. China is providing US $ 4.7 million worth of relief goods which shall be arriving by flights between today and Saturday. Iran has offered US $ 80 million.

The Japanese Government has announced US $ 10 million as emergency grant for flood relief. US is sending food assistance, shelter kits and non-food items and medical assistance. These include 8,000 tents, 17,000 shelter kits and food rations for 71,000 families. South Korea is dispatching tents, blankets and water purifiers worth US $ 200,000.

Omzest Group of Companies in Oman has given Rs. 5 million in cash, Norway is providing cash worth US$ 7.4 million through the UN, ICRC and other NGOs, Denmark is channelling US$ 460,000 and US$ 60,000 for goods in kind, France is providing flood relief goods, and Caritas International is providing Rs. 1 million in cash.

The Emergency Relief Cell in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also been designated as the focal point to coordinate international assistance with regard to dengue fever. A team of Sri Lankan doctors is already in Pakistan.

We thank the Sri Lankan Government and the medics for their help which is based on their experience of dealing with the dengue virus. A team of 19 Indonesian medics is expected to arrive in Pakistan to also assist in the efforts to control the spread of the disease.

The Foreign Minister is currently in New York to participate in the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly. In addition to a number of multilateral engagements, she has held important bilateral meetings with several of her counterparts on the sidelines of the UNGA Session.

These include meeting with the US Secretary of State on 18 September which was marked by a constructive spirit and motivated by a mutual desire to forge better understanding.

The Foreign Minister has also met the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Australia, Mauritius and Latvia. Issues of mutual interest were discussed. Foreign Minister Khar drew the world leaders’ attention to the ravages of floods in Pakistan and called upon the world community to assist Pakistan in dealing with the severe calamity and in alleviating the human suffering in its wake.

She has also underlined Pakistan’s central role in fighting terrorism and the untold sacrifices made by the people of Pakistan. Enhancing economic cooperation and greater market access for Pakistani products also received special attention.

Q and A:

Q. 1 If we see the daily newspapers and news channels, it appears that Pakistan is becoming a sub-state of the US. Pakistan has to take a lot of dictation in a number of areas especially in the war against terrorism. Secondly, what is the status of the Haqqani network? Is it within the boundaries of Pakistan or based elsewhere?

Ans.1. With regard to your first question, we have repeatedly said something which the United States also shares. We both seek a relationship based on mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual interest.

The Foreign Minister speaking to the media two days ago has underscored that this relationship is a relationship of choice and based on mutual interest. The relationship is as important for Pakistan as it is for the United States. This has been reiterated by spokespersons of the US Administration also.

To your second question, that is an issue which lies in the intelligence domain. But you may have read press reports of an interview by a certain Haqqani spokesperson recently where he has talked about on where they are situated which is not in Pakistan.

Q.2 Over the last two days, there have been four different interactions between US and Pakistan; the Foreign Minister met the Secretary of State, General Kiyani met Admiral Mike Mullen; General Pasha also met someone in Washington; yesterday Mr. Rehman Malik also met the FBI Director.

Could you please spell out what has been the agenda of these interactions? Secondly, what modalities, if any, have been worked out in Washington over Pakistan launching military action in North Waziristan and elsewhere against Haqqani network and other splinter groups?

Ans.2. The meetings that have taken place at various levels, at the political level between the Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State and also at military and intelligence levels, only go to show that communication links between the two sides remain open and discussions on all issues are taking place in a mature and respectful manner between the two countries.

The Foreign Minister had a very good meeting with the Secretary of State. All issues were discussed in that meeting. These meetings reflect deep engagement at all levels. The New York meeting between the Foreign Minister and the Secretary State was a very good one. The Foreign Minister has said that it was a very constructive meeting and it was not uni-dimensional.

All issues of interest to Pakistan and the United States were discussed including some of the “perceptional” issues relating to the operational plane. It was agreed that on “perceptional” issues, the way forward was deeper engagement. Both countries have expressed the willingness to work together. It was agreed in principal to have a work plan to address each other’s concerns.

Q.3 You talk about respect for each other. But what we hear from Washington is hardly respectful. They keep saying to Pakistan that it is a terrorist state and is involved in terrorist activities. I, as a Pakistani, feel embarrassed. Does the government share this embarrassment?

Ans.3. As I said in my earlier response, the discussions that have taken place between the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister covered all issues. These issues included the “perceptional” issues that relate to the operational plane. It was agreed that in order to deal with all “perceptional” issues, it was important to have continued and deeper engagements.

There was recognition on the part of the Secretary of State of the immense sacrifices made by the people of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.

Q.4. It is alleged that the militants of Haqqani network carry out attacks inside Afghanistan and return to their safe havens in Pakistan. There are US and NATO forces present in Afghanistan. Is it possible for these militants to cover hundreds of kilometers inside Afghanistan without being checked by the Afghan and international forces? Have we pointed this out in our engagements with the United States? Secondly, a Pakistani stall in a London exhibition of defence hardware was closed down for an alleged violation of British laws. What is the truth behind this incident?

Ans.4. At the last press briefing, I had given our response to the statement by US Secretary of Defence, Mr. Leon Panetta. These views were also reflected in discussions between the Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State.

If you recall, we have said that terrorism and militancy are complex issues which require cooperation from all concerned. Pakistan and the US have cooperated in their counter terrorism efforts. Pakistan’s cooperation is premised on respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty. We have raised the issue of sanctuaries and safe havens across the border from where militants have launched attacks on our side of the border.

If I may refer you to the press release that we issued after the meeting of the Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State, we have also pointed out that all issues were discussed including attacks on the Pakistani side of the border in which innocent women and children have been killed and it was the responsibility of both sides to ensure that such attacks do not take place.
On the London exhibition, from what we know it appears that there was a certain misunderstanding on both sides i.e. the organizers of the exhibition and Pakistani side.

Q. 5 Is Pakistan involved in proxy war through Haqqani network, as alleged by Admiral Mike Mullen? The US Ambassador has also said that they have evidence of Pakistan’s involvement with the Haqqani network.

Has this evidence been shared with Pakistan? Secondly, following the meeting of the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister Khar, the US State Department’s officials said in a briefing that the Pakistan Foreign Minister reassured specific actions against the Haqqani network. What are those specific actions?

Ans.5. In the Ministry’s press release issued after the New York meeting, we have referred to the Foreign Minister having said that the onus of responsibility for effectively countering terrorism must be shared by all.

Areas from where attacks are launched on Pakistani men, women and children must be dealt with proactively. Both sides agreed to coordinate their counter terrorism efforts to be able to achieve results. Foreign Minister also emphasized that Pakistan needs to be assisted by the world in fighting terrorism.

To your first question, I would say a categorical NO.

To add one more point, we have always said that given the complexity of issues involved, a “whole of government approach” is required by both Pakistan and the US. We have been trying to do this from our side.

Q. 6. Ambassador Munter has mentioned proofs that the US has of Pakistan collusion with the Haqqani network

Ans.6. I have already commented on comments by Ambassador Munter three days ago.

Q.7 I am referring to all the statements made by important US officials concerning Haqqani networks safe havens in Pakistan and the ISI links with them. They have called for action against the Haqqani network which they say operates from Pakistan. Secondly, the FBI chief visited Pakistan yesterday and met the Interior Minister.

The Interior Minister himself said that Haqqani is the son of the soil, evidence should be shared with us on Haqqani and that Haqqani was an irritant in Pakistan-US relations. How would you comment on this statement by the Interior Minister which says one thing while the Foreign Office and the Foreign Minister say another?

Ans.7. The only point that I would like to make in this regard is that communication links between Pakistan and the US are working at all levels. We have had political discussions. We have intelligence-intelligence discussions. Therefore, all issues including “perceptional” issues are being discussed in these meetings. I need not go further in this regard.

Q.8 Does Pakistan consider Haqqani network its enemy and a direct threat to its interests?

Ans.8. Pakistan has suffered from terrorism and terrorist attacks. We remain deeply concerned about militant activity from across the border into Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan is committed to peace, reconciliation, stability and development in Afghanistan and the region.

Q.9 The US has said repeatedly that Pakistan fails to act against Haqqani network, they will act unilaterally. What are we waiting for? Shall we take the action ourselves or are we waiting for a unilateral action by the US?

Ans. 9. I have answered that question repeatedly.

Q.10 Can we say with certainty that with the death of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the reconciliation process which Pakistan was supporting will not be derailed?

Ans.10. The Shahadat of Burhanuddin Rabbani is obviously a great loss. But we are convinced that the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan are united in their commitment to ensure that there is peace and stability in the region.

The Afghan High Peace Council has a large number of members who represent various groups in Afghanistan and all of them have shown their commitment to reconciliation and peace by being part of the High Peace Council.

Q.11 If the Prime Minister is staying overnight in Afghanistan?

Ans.11. He is returning tonight. The funeral of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, we understand, is tomorrow at which there will be ministerial representation from Pakistan.

Q.12 Recently, the President visited Iran. The Iranian FM also visited Pakistan. With regard to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, has Iran extended the deadline for completion of work in Pakistan?

Ans.12. Pakistan is facing an energy crisis. The people of Pakistan are demanding energy. The Government of Pakistan wants to ensure that Pakistan’s energy requirements are fulfilled. It is in Pakistan’s own interest that all work related to IP Gas pipeline is completed at the earliest.

For more information, contact:
Syed Haider Ali Jafri
Personal Secretary
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 921 0335 and 9056604