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International community should take steps for resolution of Kashmir issue:FO

Nafees Zakaria

Chaudhry Ahsan Premee

Associated Press Service, Islamabad April 14, 2016

Foreign Office spokesman said in opening remarks in weekly press briefing that you are aware of the ongoing event of the week, i.e. 13th OIC Summit in Istanbul. The President is representing Pakistan. The Adviser to the Prime Minister, who is also there, attended the ICFM meeting that preceded the Summit.

The OIC Contact Group on Jammu & Kashmir, comprising Azerbaijan, Niger, Saudi Arabia and Turkey along with Pakistan, also met on the sidelines. The meeting was chaired by the OIC Secretary General’s Special Representative on Jammu & Kashmir, Ambassador Abdullah Alim.

 Secretary General’s Special Representative reiterated the principled position of OIC of continued support to the Kashmiri people in their legitimate struggle for the right to self-determination and underscored that the Contact Group had been constantly conveying the OIC’s concerns to the international community regarding the flagrant human rights violations and abuse of the basic rights of the Kashmiris. He regretted some attempts to equate the Kashmiri struggle with terrorism, and emphasized that the Kashmiris were solely striving to achieve their inalienable right in accordance with relevant UN resolutions. He welcomed the establishment of Standing Mechanism of OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) to monitor human rights situation in IOK, which would present its report to the next session of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers. The Standing Mechanism will maintain close contact with the Kashmir civil society and NGOs working in the field to fulfill its mandated task. The Special Representative would also undertake a visit to Jammu and Kashmir shortly.

 We are deeply concerned at the ongoing action by the Indian Security forces against helpless Kashmiris in Handwara in which 4 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred. We urge the International Community to take note and take steps to resolve Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, which call for the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination through a UN supervised plebiscite.

 Lastly, you may have seen my tweet regarding repatriation of 09 out 45 stranded Pakistanis in Tashekuergan, Kashgar due to inclement weather. Our Embassy in Beijing is extending maximum help.

Foreign Office spokesman said in reference to a travel advisory that today I have a travel advisory also to share with you, which will also be placed on our website.

 Due to ongoing conflict and uncertain security situation that could pose serious risks to foreigners in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Pakistani nationals are advised to refrain from unnecessary travel to these countries.

 According to reports, damage to airport and other transport infrastructures has disrupted travel, thus making it difficult to exit the county in an emergency. Since March 2015, the Pakistan Mission in Yemen is not functioning. Pakistani nationals traveling to Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen may, therefore, keep this travel advisory in mind.

Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that you would have seen my tweet in this regard that Mr. Richard Olson called on the Foreign Secretary.

 The QCG framework is an ongoing process. The Group has already held four meetings. The QCG countries can mutually decide to convene the next meeting of the Group as and when needed. All members of the QCG remain committed to the success of the peace process. During the US SRAP, Amb. Olson’s call on the Foreign Secretary prospects of next QCG meeting and situation in Afghanistan were discussed, among other matters and it was agreed that it should be held at the earliest on mutually convenient date.

 Regarding the second part of your question, it would be disingenuous to question our commitment to Afghan peace. Pakistan has been engaged in sincere and consistent efforts for promoting lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. To this end, we have been making serious efforts to facilitate an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. Pakistan’s whole-hearted participation in QCG and Heart of Asia processes is a manifestation. We believe that a politically negotiated settlement is the best option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan.

 It is in the interest of all groups in Afghanistan to participate in the process as this is the best hope to bring peace in Afghanistan and the entire region.

 Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question you know that we do not comment on unconfirmed media reports. Afghanistan is very much a part of the QCG. All the four countries are committed to ensuring that peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan takes place.

Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that I think both the questions refer to the current status of the peace process. During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Pakistan in December last, it was decided that the two Foreign Secretaries should meet soon.  It is hoped that both sides would work out modalities for the FS level talks. We need to look ahead and not think in terms foreclosing any options. Both sides are in contact with each other. Once the modalities are worked out Secretary level talks would take place.

 Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that there is a difference between comments on day to day ground situation as compared to broader policy and future vision and prospects. At our level here in the Ministry, we do not give a day to day running commentary on official policy.  I think I have already responded to other elements in your question moments ago.

 Regarding your question on JIT, Pakistan has constituted a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for investigating the allegations regarding the attack on Pathankot Airbase in line with our policy of extending cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts. After discussions between the relevant quarters of the two countries on the scope and arrangements, the JIT visited India from 27 March to 1 April 2016. The investigations are underway and the JIT is evaluating the information shared by the Indian side. You may also like to see our Press Release dated 6 April 2016 on this subject after the visit of the JIT to India. It may be appropriate to allow the investigations to take its due course rather than indulge in speculations.

 On the third part of your question, the Indian prisoner, Kirpal Singh died on 11 April 2016 due to heart attack. It is not appropriate to see everything through the prism of suspicion and conspiracy. He was kept in intensive care at the hospital but he could not survive. He was given death sentence and life imprisonment by Anti-Terrorism Court.

 We have communicated this information to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

 We are in contact with the Ministry of Interior and the India High Commission with regard to transportation of dead body to India.

Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that I think I have answered this question last week also. Investigations are still going on regarding Kulbushan Yadav. I also told you last week that some arrests have also been made as a result of interrogation. As investigations continue more aspects related to this may come to light. A very candid press briefing was given by ISPR under the supervision of Information Minister. It is not possible for me to report on day to day progress of the investigation.

 As regards your question on Pakistan’s official request to Iran in connection with RAW’s activities, you are already aware of it as it was made public.

 I wish to invite your attention to the statement made by the Iranian Leadership during the recent visit, an important aspect of which was the Iranian commitment that security of Pakistan is security of Iran and security of Iran is security of Pakistan. Iran has assured that its soil will never be allowed to be used against Pakistan.

 Regarding Afghanistan, this was raised last week also when an Afghan spy was arrested. We have cooperation with Afghanistan on different levels in diverse areas. Afghanistan is our neighbor and you already know about our concern regarding the issue that you referred to. Peace and stability in Afghanistan is vital for Pakistan as well as for the whole region and Pakistan remains committed to that end.

 Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that we are a peace-loving nation. Maintenance of peace and stability in South Asia is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s policy. We are opposed to conventional or nuclear arms race in the region. Pakistan’s conventional military and nuclear capability is solely for self-defense and we are committed to credible minimum deterrence.

 As I had mentioned earlier also, we took note of President Obama’s call on both India and Pakistan to work together with a view to ensuring that their military doctrines do not move in the wrong direction. There is an increased understanding at the international level of Pakistan’s genuine concerns regarding rapidly growing Indian conventional and nuclear capabilities and their offensive force postures and military doctrines such as; Cold Start Doctrine.; Pakistan remains ready to discuss arms control and restraint measures with India. Our proposal for Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) can provide a basis for mutually agreed restraint measures and avoidance of unnecessary arms race in the region. We believe that the limited resources of Pakistan and India should be channelled to meeting the social needs of our people.

 Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that I am not aware of Chinese’s request but I will check whether such a request has been made or not. I understand the idea behind your question is CPEC which traverses Kashghar and Gwadar, it makes sense. I think the relevant institution in this regard is our Planning and Development Division as they are the focal point.

Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that in this regard I will just confine myself to stating that we are actually going to issue a press release in due course.

Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that I think this is their regular feature. They issue a report and this report is not Pakistan specific. You would agree with that. As far as Pakistan is concerned, I believe that we have taken numerous legislative measures to ensure that all segments of the society exercise their due rights. In this regard I would suggest that you should visit the website of the National Assembly where you will find number of legislations which have been adopted over the time. The purpose of these legislations is basically to back the policy initiatives taken by the respective governments to ensure the rights of the citizens of Pakistan.

Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that as regard your first question these are media reports and we do not comment on them. I need not to go in the details of the entire background of what you see today in Afghanistan. I believe that all the audience sitting here is pretty learned. The only thing you must remember and I am reiterating that Pakistan has higher stakes in Afghanistan peace than any other country. Pakistan is determined and serious in ensuring that peace returns to Afghanistan because it is not only in our interest but also the entire region.

 As regards the Amnesty International report, I am yet to see that report and I am not aware of the details. But we have time and again said this thing that Pakistan wishes to see peace in every country. I think that is also going to ensure that the political created in number of countries and unfortunately mostly the Muslim countries that the international community is mindful of what is happening around. I think everybody is doing their bit to ensure that, by and large, peace returns to all regions in the world where ever the turbulence is going on. I think what you need to remember is in the context of Nigeria is the terrorist activities of Boko Haram. That is where, our concern is, we condemn these terrorist activities and I have also issued a statement on the second anniversary marking the kidnapping of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram. You can also find that on BBC and may be on other international media as well.

 Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that your point has been noted, we have already activated our embassy on this to gather details and to check the veracity of this report. If this report is correct then, rest assured, our Embassy will definitely intervene to assist in the situation.

Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that I will have to check details about it, I am not updated on it. But I think by and large what you said about Iran, we have been saying that Iran is our neighbor. We have traditional ties, cordial and friendly relations with Iran. We have cooperation in diverse areas. I am repeating it that recent lifting of sanctions on Iran has opened up new vistas of cooperation and both sides are exploring how we can cash-in this opportunity. I agree with you that Iran has always assured us of its cooperation in all matters. You would also agree with me that Pakistan also values its relations with Iran. We have a very good cooperation between the two countries. We have several mechanisms in place for cooperation in different areas.

Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that your first question first, I think such matters are dealt with by the Ministry of Interior. I hope you understand that if you need some information about that then please check with them.

 As to your second question, there has been interaction at the highest level. I think that you are referring is a goodwill gesture from Pakistani side while there were some provocations at the border from the Indian side. I think I also mentioned this in my opening statement about the third aspect of your question that what is happening in IOK currently.  We expressed our deep concern on what is going on in Handwara.  Let me give you a detailed response in this regard so that you can understand the essence of relationship between the countries regardless of the nature of the relationship, how it works.

 In line with the Prime Minister’s vision of a peaceful and friendly neighborhood, Pakistan is pursuing the policy of good relations with all countries in the region, including India.

 Pakistan also expects that our neighbour would respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity by refraining from any interference or subversive activities. The recent arrest and confessional statement by the RAW’s officer has vindicated Pakistan’s position that Indian state institutions are involved in conducting terrorist activities in Pakistan.

 Pakistan has always highlighted the human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir at the UN and other international forums. A number of civil society organizations and human-rights activists have also been raising the issue of human rights violations pertaining to torture, illegal detentions, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.  We have always condemned these violations and would continue to extend political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people.

 However, Pakistan remains committed to resolving all outstanding issues through a sustainable, uninterrupted and meaningful dialogue with India without any preconditions, in order to address each other’s concerns, and establish lasting peace.

 The issue of unprovoked ceasefire violations are responded appropriately and also taken up strongly with the Indian side. We believe in observance of 2003 LOC ceasefire agreement. The issues related to the international borders, LOC and Working Boundary are addressed in the spirit of rules of engagement on ground. The mechanism of DG MOs’ consultation plays an effective role.

 Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question I will not confine response to this particular incident.  I will respond to you rather in a manner that I have already said to you in the previous briefings that all of us are supposed to be mindful of the local laws wherever we are and we have to respect those laws. Secondly, you have seen that on a number of occasions as there have been number of crises during the past few months that  Pakistan’s Missions abroad have been extending all out support to Pakistanis who are in jails or in detention or suffering for one reason or the other. Latest example is of the Pakistanis who were stranded in China. Once this matter gets in the notice of our Mission then definitely we have Community Welfare Attaché over there and they are going to extend all assistance that may be required.

 Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that I said very elaborately in the last couple of sessions as well pertaining to this issue that a number of things have happened since the announcement of this alliance, initially 34 member coalition which now has of 35 nations. Things take time to evolve, look at European Union, ASEAN and NATO. All these organizations and institutions have developed over the decades and not in days.  So, give it some time.

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