Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 23 February 2018 | Pakistan News Digest

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Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 23 February 2018

The Indian Deputy High Commissioner Mr. J.P. Singh was summoned to the Foreign Office and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control on 22 February 2018 in Rawalakot/Satwal Sector resulting in the shahadat of a labourer, working at a civilian crush plant, at Poonch river bank. Despite calls for restraint, India continues to indulge in ceasefire violations. In 2018, the Indian forces have carried out more than 391 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the shahadat of 16 innocent civilians and injuries to 65 others. This unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing from the year 2017 when the Indian forces committed more than 1970 ceasefire violations.

The Indian occupation forces killed eight Kashmiris including 17-year old girl, Saima Wani and 55-year old mentally-challenged Syed Habibullah in Shopian, Budgam, and others in Srinagar and Poonch areas in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

We strongly condemn the recent killing of APHC Executive Council member and Secretary General of Tehreek-e-Wahdat-e Islami, Muhammad Yousuf Nadeem in Badgam. The Indian secret agencies are continuously raising army-backed renegades to carry out civilian killings in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The miseries of the people in IoK have increased day by day as the Indian occupation forces in Srinagar, Pulwama, Shopian, Islamabad, Kulgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipore districts continue to terrorize by illegal house searches, damaging properties and beating the people without any provocation in day and at night.

The Hurriyet leaders and activists including Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Massrat Alam Bhat, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Dr. Qasim Fakhtoo, photo-journalist Kamran Yousuf, students and youth continue to languish in different jails of Indian occupied Kashmir and in India in inhumane conditions, which is highly condemnable.

On the invitation of Presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, the Prime Minister is paying an official visit to Turkmenistan and Afghanistan from 22-23 February 2018, to participate in the ground-breaking (link-up) ceremonies of Turkmenistan- Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, lines of electricity transmission and fibre optics. The first leg of the ceremony will be held in Serhetabat, Turkmenistan. During his stay, the Prime Minister will hold a bilateral meeting with the Turkmen President and also attend an Arts & Culture exhibition showcasing cultural performances and artistic pieces from the four-member countries, including Pakistan, followed by the link-up ceremony where he will make a statement, alongwith the leaders of other member states. The Prime Minister will then proceed to Herat, Afghanistan on the same day to attend the Afghan leg of the ground-breaking ceremony. The Prime Minister will also hold a bilateral meeting with the Afghan President.

The Foreign Minister visited Russia to hold bilateral consultations with the Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Sergey Lavrov. They held in-depth discussions on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, important regional and international issues, the situation in the Middle East and cooperation between the two countries in the UN and SCO. The two Foreign Ministers expressed the desire to further expand bilateral trade and agreed to work together under the framework of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation.

Foreign Minister Lavrov emphasized the significance of cooperation in the field of energy, including realization of the North-South gas pipeline project. The Russian experts are ready to participate in modernization of Pakistan's energy sector. The Foreign Ministers discussed the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and its implications for the region. Both the Foreign Ministers reiterated that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict and a negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan. It was agreed to closely coordinate in all Afghanistan-related processes for a regional solution of the Afghan conflict.

There was also unanimity of views that unchecked proliferation of Da'esh in Afghanistan, particularly along the borders of neighboring countries. It was a threat to peace in the entire region. The Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif underscored that Pakistan was, in principle, opposed to sanctions against any country, including Russia, especially when these were politically motivated. The two Foreign Ministers agreed to continue to consult with each other on a regular basis.

The 9th Session of Pakistan-Tunisia Joint Commission was held in Tunis on 14th February 2018. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan Co-chaired the Joint Commission with his Tunisian counterpart, Mr. Khemaies Jhinaoui. The Joint Commission Meeting enabled a comprehensive review of the entire spectrum of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Tunisia. A detailed discussion was held to strengthen and expand bilateral cooperation, including in the fields of security, counter-terrorism, defence, Justice, economic development, trade and investment, education, science and technology and agriculture. The two sides agreed to hold the 10th Session of the Joint Commission Meeting in Islamabad at mutually convenient dates in 2019.

On 20 January, the European Commission issued its second biennial report on Pakistan. This report, along with reports of other countries, was presented in the international trade committee of the European Parliament and discussed in the working party of European Council. The report acknowledges the positive steps taken by Pakistan to meet its international obligations under the 27 UN conventions covered by the GSP+. The report also identifies areas where more work remains to be done. The EU also realizes that the GSP+ facility has not only benefited Pakistan, but has also contributed to increase in exports from the EU member states to Pakistan. The EU has therefore agreed to continuation of GSP+ facility for Pakistan. This assessment and conclusion is based on our extensive and constructive engagement with the EU during this review period of past two years. We intend to continue work with the EU in future as well.

The 4th round of Pakistan-Spain Annual Bilateral Consultations between the Foreign Secretaries was held in Islamabad on 15 February 2018. The two sides reviewed the current state of bilateral relations, including political, economic, trade, investment and cultural cooperation. The consular matters also came under discussion. The two sides agreed to take concrete measures to strengthen cooperation in all spheres, including trade and investment. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the growth of bilateral trade, which crossed US $ 1 billion mark for the fourth consecutive year. The two sides agreed to hold the next round of Annual Bilateral Consultations in Madrid at mutually convenient dates in 2019.

Pakistan has conveyed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) its intention to subscribe to the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources. The Guidance supplements the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources which, although non-legally binding in nature, is an important component of the global nuclear safety and security regime. The Code of Conduct seeks to help countries ensure that radioactive sources are used in a manner consistent with the highest standards of safety and security. Pakistan has been voluntarily adhering to the Code of Conduct since 2005 and has put in place all the necessary arrangements and systems consistent with the recommendations of the Code. The supplementary Guidance is aimed at enhancing the safety of radioactive sources during transfer from one state to another, in accordance with their respective national legislations and relevant international commitments.

Pakistan's subscription to the Supplementary Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources demonstrates its continued commitment to the latest international standards in the areas of nuclear non-proliferation, safety and security. Pakistan has run a safe and secure peaceful nuclear programme for more than four decades. Over the years, experts from Pakistan have also contributed to the work of the IAEA in the fields of nuclear safety and security.

The news of Aseman Airliner air crash in the city of Semirom on 18th February has been received with deep sorrow in Pakistan. The Government and the people of Pakistan convey their condolences on the loss of precious lives in the tragic air crash. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their bereaved families. May Allah Almighty bless the departed souls.

Now the Floor is open for Questions

Question

Reportedly, Chinese Government is in contact with Baloch separatists for the past couple of years. Did Government of Pakistan play any role in these negotiations? Please share details!

Second, during the recent visit of Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif to Russia, both countries have agreed to establish a commission on military cooperation to counter the Islamic State threat in the region. Can you confirm? Please share more details in this regard! (Rashida Sial - Ab Takk)

Supplementary Questions

The recent Financial Times report regarding Chinese Government's contact with Baloch separatists' claims that officials from MoFA and MoI were also onboard these negotiations. What are you comments on this?

Also, during Foreign Minister's recent visit to Russia, it has been reported that the Russian side made specific demands vis-a-vis terrorism from Pakistan. Can you share details in this regard? (Anas Malick - Republic)

Answer

Regarding your questions on the report by Financial Times, the Chinese Spokesperson has categorically rejected this media report as baseless. Nothing more needs to be said on that.

Regarding Ms. Sial's second question, Pakistan and Russia signed an Agreement on Military and Technical Cooperation in April 2017. The two countries are exploring new opportunities of military and technical collaboration under this Agreement. A Joint Technical and Military Committee is being formed under this framework to support the bilateral efforts of cooperation in counter-terrorism and defense. Currently, the process is under consideration with relevant authorities on both sides.

Question

How does Pakistan weigh Afghan Taliban's recent offer of holding talks with the US, while completely ignoring the Afghan Government? Your comments please! (Mateen Haider - Bol)

Answer

As I have mentioned earlier, the best and most viable solution to the protracted conflict in Afghanistan is through a politically negotiated settlement between the Afghans. This is our principled stance and all parties to the conflict must sincerely pursue a peace process to bring lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Question

What are you comments on Pakistan's inclusion into 'grey list' under FATF?

Second, Indian Army Chief blamed that Pakistan, with support of China, is pushing illegal migrants from Bangladesh into India's northeastern states. What are your comments on this ridiculous allegation of the Indian Army Chief? (Tariq Mahmood - SAMAA TV )

Supplementary Questions

Regarding FATF, Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif recently thanked some friendly countries in a tweet for their help in getting Pakistan a 3-month reprieve. What is the factual position in this regard? (Essa Naqvi - Dunya TV)

What steps will Pakistan take during these three months to ensure that it does not get into a similar situation again? (Rashida Sial - Ab Takk)

Can you share details of how many countries voted in favour, and the countries that voted against US motion in FATF? (Anas Malick - Republic)

Since you mentioned that the motion in FATF against Pakistan has been initiated by the US and other allied countries, what are the prospects of future Pak-US relations after this? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal - Kashmir Post)

If FATF's final response is still awaited, why did our Foreign Minister tweet about it in such a categorical manner? Is there any miscommunication between MoFA/Ministry of Finance and the Foreign Minister? (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj TV)

Should we call Kh Asif's premature tweet his diplomatic inexperience? (Aon Sherazi - Sach TV)

How many countries supported us in FATF? (Amjad Ali-PTV)

Answer

Regarding FATF, on 20 January 2018, the US and UK jointly submitted a letter to the FATF nominating Pakistan for placement in the "Grey List". France and Germany subsequently joined this nomination. The statement coming from the US State Department must be seen in that context.

Pakistan has serious concerns over and objections to the introduction of this new "nomination" procedure which is unprecedented and in clear violation of established rules/practices of FATF. Most of the concerns raised by the US side regarding deficiencies in our CFT/AML regime had already been addressed in 2015 when Pakistan got an exit from the "grey list".

For your brief background, in 2009 FATF identified "strategic deficiencies" in Pakistan's AML/CFT regime. To overcome these deficiencies, Pakistan agreed to implement FAFT's Action Plan. As a consequence, the State Bank of Pakistan introduced a comprehensive set of new rules and guidelines on CFT/AML. Stand alone legislation on Money Laundering was also enacted by the Parliament to deal with AML issues. Moreover, an operationally independent and administrative Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) was established under the AML law with the sole mandate of receiving, analyzing and disseminating Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) and Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs). Investigative powers in relation to AML/CFT have been assigned to the four federal law enforcement agencies, namely: National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), Directorate General (Investigation and Intelligence) of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

In June 2015, after strenuous efforts, the implementation of this Action Plan was completed and Pakistan was de-listed from FATF's grey list. This exit was an acknowledgment of the robustness of Pakistan's CFT/AML regime and well in line with international standards.

So far, the outcome of the ICRG/FATF meeting in Paris is awaited.

Since FATF is dealt with by the Ministry of Finance and its allied departments further questions related to it may be directed to them.

Once things get clearer, we will be able to comment on Pak-US relations in this context.

Regarding Indian Army Chief's recent allegations, we do not comment on media speculations. These are a figment of the Indian Army Chief's imagination. Unfortunately baseless allegations and fabricated accusations without any evidence appear to have become a regrettable trend in India which is being used to creating hysteria against Pakistan. Not only is this irresponsible discrediting the Speaker, but it also vitiates an already tense environment without accruing any benefit. I will just leave it at this as it does not warrant any more comments.

Question

A recent opinion piece in the Hindustan Times has revealed that China wants India to join BRI because its successes on CPEC in Pakistan have been limited. What are your comments on this analysis? (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj TV)

Second, what are you comments on Iran's recent decision to lease out Chahbahar port for 18 months to India? We have been told that Gwadar and Chahbahar are complementary in nature. Do you still think so? (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj TV) (Ali Hussain - Business Recorder)

v Answer

On your second question, we believe that Chahbahar and Gwadar are complementary. We do not comment on bilateral relations and agreements of other countries.

Regarding your first question, CPEC holds a special significance within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as it is the flagship project of this Initiative. CPEC is currently a bilateral undertaking between Pakistan and China. It is also the only project which is currently being implemented in a practical form. Both the speed of implementation and results achieved in CPEC has been recognized.

China has maintained its stance of closely cooperating with Pakistan on CPEC. China has on several occasions reiterated that CPEC, under the auspices of BRI, is a win-win collaborative project for not just China and Pakistan but for all countries.

Question

What is Pakistan's view on the statement of the Ministry of External Affairs India stating that they have not put any restrictions on the visit of the Katas Raj Indian pilgrims' visit to Pakistan? (Asghar Ali Mubarak - Daily Mail)

Supplementary Question

Reportedly Pakistani Zairean have submitted applications for the urs of Khawaja Moinuddin in March 2018. Keeping in view the Indian practice of non issuance of visas to Muslim Zairean for the urs or Nizam Uddin Aulia, will they be able to go? (Khwaja Nayyar Iqbal - Kashmir Post)

Answer

Regarding your first question, visas are issued by our High Commission on the basis of the Note Verbale (NV) issued by MEA to pilgrims. In order to facilitate them, our High Commission allowed the pilgrims to submit their passports without the NoC. Unfortunately, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not issue any NV to the pilgrims, forcing them to withdraw their passports unfortunately.

In response to our persuasion not to cancel the visit, Mr. Partab (President of Jatha Organization) stated that even the issuance of visas to Hindu pilgrims without a NoC from the Indian side would not be helpful. In this regard, he referred to a Sikha Jatha, who could not travel to Pakistan last year (despite visas) due to non-issuance of NoC by the Indian government, forcing them to withdraw their passports. We urge India that the implementation of the 1974 Protocol should not be impeded as this would be contrary to the obligations of both countries under the Protocol and respecting the religious sentiments of and participation of their communities in the religious festivals.

On your second question, yes, you are right that 503 Zairean have applied for visas for the urs in March 2018. This is in line with the 1974 protocol between Pakistan and India on visit to religious shrines, which states that such visits maybe allowed without discrimination or religion or sect. We expect that they will be able to participate in these ceremonies smoothly.

Question

Pakistan is in a vulnerable situation vis-a-vis Iran and Saudi Arabia, due to the alleged tussle between these two countries in the Middle East. Is Pakistan's Foreign Policy in line with the Middle East peace process, or are we going to retaliate? (Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Supplementary Questions

Can you share details of the Pakistani troops being sent to Saudi Arabia, and whether they will be a part of the Islamic Coalition?

Second, Iranian Ambassador said at a conference yesterday that Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline is now frozen. What are you comments on this? (Anwar Abbas - Waqt News)

Why is the Government reluctant in sharing the details of troops deployment in Saudi Arabia with the general public? (Rashida Sial - Ab Takk)

Answer

Regarding your questions on Pakistani troops being sent to Saudi Arabia, our Defence Minister and ISPR have already issued detailed statements.

To the best of my knowledge, the IP Gas Pipeline project is still on. For technical details, please consult the concerned Ministry.

Regarding our Foreign Policy priorities in the Middle East, we continue to exercise a balanced approach, which has been well appreciated by all.

Question

What are your comments on the recent Indian missile test Agni - II, and how will it provoke a dangerous arms race in the region? (M. Zameer Siddique - The News)

Answer

Indian arms buildup has pushed the region into a vicious arms race. Its hegemonic designs are a cause of serious concern, not only for Pakistan, but also for the entire region. The Indian desire to try to become a regional hegemon is casting a dark shadow on South Asia. The Pakistan forces are ready to defend our borders against any threat.

Question

You just mentioned that the US has initiated a motion in FATF, concerning Pakistan's inclusion in the 'grey list'. Earlier, you have also been saying that both Pakistan and the US are making efforts to find the 'common ground' in their bilateral relations. Can you explain what kind of common ground it is, now that the US intentions are quite evident?

Second, Saudi Arabia recently announced that it will vote in favour of sanctions in Iran following Iran's alleged ballistic missile fire (via Yemeni Houthis) on Saudi Arabia. What will be Pakistan's position on it? (Fida Hussain - Radio News Network)

Supplementary Question

Earlier today, White House Deputy Press Secretary said that President Trump is not satisfied with the progress when it comes to Pakistan. What progress are they eyeing for? What is the common ground that you have earlier mentioned about? (Anas Malick - Republic)

Answer

Pakistan and the US are trying to find 'common ground' in their bilateral relations, which is happening outside public glare. So far, we have not failed.

We are against any country-specific sanctions.

Question

In your introductory statement, you have referred to the Foreign Minister as saying that Pakistan is opposed to any unilateral sanctions against a third country, including Russia. Is it in relation or context to the North-South gas pipeline, which the Soviet companies will be building in Pakistan? (Shahid-ur-Rehman - Kyodo News)

Answer

Pakistan is against any unilateral sanctions by individual countries on political grounds. Foreign Minister's statement must be seen in this context.

Question

Reportedly, Indian army has claimed that they have killed an intruder along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch sector on 18 February 2018. How do you comment on the Indian claim of infiltration along the LoC? (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal - Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer

India routinely attempts to justify its ceasefire violations on flimsy pretexts including these. We have consistently emphasized that Indian ceasefire violations at the LoC and the WB are a threat to regional peace and tranquility and can lead to a strategic miscalculation. The unprecedented Indian escalation since 2017 is a continuing trend and has already resulted in the deaths of 15 innocent civilians and injuries to 65 others in 2018 todate.

We always strongly underscore the need for India to permit UNMOGIP to play its role, in line with its mandate under the UNSC. The UNMOGIP is allowed total freedom of movement on the Pakistan side, but has very limited movement on the Indian side. Instead of fabricated, baseless allegations India should allow the UNMOGIP to function so that facts can be ascertained.

Question

An Indian Minister has once again called for a ban on Pakistani artists. What are your comments on this? (Shabbir Waghara - PTV World)

Answer

I have seen the relevant statement. Although, they proclaim that their culture is very strong and over-powering, it is surprising why they are apprehensive and fearful of the Pakistani culture and its artists. This could have been a useful tool in enhancing people to people contacts between the two countries. However, the current Indian Government is on another tangent.

Question

Reportedly, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has pledged to bring back all refugees in Pakistan within next two years. Have we received any official correspondence in this regard?

Second, reportedly, US intelligence agencies have warned Congress that Pakistan will continue to slip out of America's influence and will become a threat to Washington's interests in the South Asian region. How do you see this statement in the context of future Pak-US relations and cooperation in Afghanistan? (Essa Naqvi - Dunya News)

Answer

Pakistan has been hosting millions of Afghan refugees for more than three decades. They have been extended life amenities like health and education at par with the Pakistani citizens. Around 50,000 children of these refugees who graduated from Pakistani educational institutions are now working in Afghanistan in different sectors. Pakistan has always emphasized the dignified and sustainable repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland. We are engaged with the Afghan Government and the international community to build settlements and other livelihood projects for smooth reintegration of returning refugees in Afghanistan and to make this endeavor sustainable. We have seen the media reports about Afghan President's pledge but have not heard anything officially.

On your second question, the US Congress has recently been presented an annual threat assessment by its intelligence community in which these remarks were made. It is surprising that in US we are seeing this report when in reality, it is the US that is drifting away from Pakistan, despite our long time relationship. Several unilateral actions by the US in recent months have impacted the relationship and it is for the US to rebuild the trust. We have categorically conveyed to the US that this relationship can move forward only in an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Government of Pakistan

   

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