Chaudhry Ahsan Premee
Associated Press Service
March 9, 2017- Islamabad
Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said in opening remarks during the weekly press briefing that the Prime Minister paid a successful visit to the State of Kuwait this week. Both sides were keen in strengthening bilateral relations in diverse fields. Availing of the opportunity, the Prime Minister apprised the hosts about the progress in Pakistan’s economy and potential for investment and trade.
Successful holding of ECO Summit on 26 February to 1st March was a significant milestone in terms of a concrete step towards realization of the ECO region’s potential and connectivity for regional prosperity.
Foreign Office spokesman added Nafees Zakaria said that yesterday, terrorist attack on a hospital in Kabul was a cowardly act, which we have strongly condemned. We pray for the victims and express our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families.
He added that Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir continued to be brutalized by the Indian occupation forces. Since 23 Feb. many innocent Kashmiris have been martyred by the Indian forces, scores have been added to a long list of thousands of pellet guns victims with eye injuries, 156 people were injured after Indian forces used brute force, bullets, pellets and teargas shells on peaceful protesters in Pulwama, Srinagar, Shopian, Islamabad and Sopore areas. During last ten days Indian forces arrested over 79 youth and Hurriyet leaders and activists in unlawful house raids. Their families remain unaware of the whereabouts.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that In all bilateral meetings, on all occasions, the issue of Kashmir is raised by our leadership.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that the 13th ECO Summit held in Islamabad on 1 March 2017 has been very successful. The high-level participation is a manifestation of its success.
The Summit welcomed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a far-reaching initiative that would act as catalyst for the development of the entire region. Summit has underscored collective desire of ECO Members for regional integration. It provided us an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to progress and prosperity of the ECO region, which is also included in the Islamabad Declaration adopted during the Summit. It also allowed us to identify new areas of cooperation while cementing the progress on matters currently under process.
The desire and commitment of the Member states to transform ECO into a vibrant regional economic block was a significant outcome of the Summit. It is also a testament to Pakistan’s commitment to act as a harbinger of positive changes and meaningful development in the region. The leaders / Heads of States and Heads of Governments, participating in the Summit, appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for hosting a successful Summit and making outstanding arrangements in its beautiful capital, Islamabad. I firmly hope that the Summit will work as a catalyst for fostering prosperity in the region through enhanced connectivity and integration. The outcome document, ECO Vision 2025, which provides roadmap of where the ECO member states want ECO to be taken in the next decade, was a significant outcome.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that Afghanistan is a sovereign country and can make its own decisions about attending such meetings. As you have rightly said the ECO Summit provided a great opportunity to Afghanistan to be part of the meaningful deliberations at the ECO Summit for promoting regional connectivity particularly in the fields of energy and infrastructure.
This region has rich mineral and energy resources. Therefore, ECO Summit provided all member states an opportune occasion to materialize the potential of their region.
With regard to your second question, I do not have details. For information on technical or military aspect of the issue, please consult concerned quarters. However, our principled position on such issues is very clear and consistent. We look at the arms race and defence build up by India as adversely affecting peace and stability in the region. You may also like to refer to our previous statements in this regard.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that India’s massive arms-buying spree, making it one of the top arms-importers in the world, is driven by its desire for regional hegemony and global power status. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been compelled to acquire and maintain a deterrent capability to ensure its national security. Pakistan never wanted to engage in any kind of arms race, nuclear or conventional. We have long maintained that the two countries need to engage in a meaningful dialogue for mutual restraint measures and conflict resolution for lasting peace and stability in South Asia. The international community has a role to play in prodding India to positively respond to Pakistan’s proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia.
Several international reports and independent observers have drawn attention to the rapid expansion in India’s capability to produce fissile material for military use which has been made possible by the 2008 NSG waiver granted to India without appropriate non-proliferation safeguards and the subsequent nuclear deals struck with different countries. We expect that as the NSG debates the membership of non-NPT states, it would take stock of the consequences of the 2008 exemption and avoid a repeat of the same mistake.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that on your second question first, we were approached by some media people earlier also regarding this matter. Upon inquiry, we have come to know that certain Pakistanis were arrested in Saudi Arabia for allegedly violating local laws, which included two transgender. After our Mission intervened, most Pakistanis were released. However, one of the two transgender, passed away because of cardiac arrest and not due to torture. Reportedly, his medical history testified that he had heart related problem.
Pakistan has continued to point out the gravity of threat emanating from terrorist groups like TTP and JuA enjoying sanctuaries in Afghanistan. The recent terrorist attacks have once again vindicated our position. As regards the Indian involvement in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, this is a matter of fact as we have undeniable proof. The arrest of Kulbushan Yadav, a serving Indian Naval Officer, who was working for Indian Intelligence Agency, RAW, is a case in point. In this context, we have been constantly highlighting the use of Afghan soil by India against Pakistan.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that regarding question on participation, I have already responded. As regards your query on border closure, Pakistan was forced to close the border because of threat of terrorism from groups such as TTP, JuA and Daesh based in Afghanistan trying to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan. In recent terrorist incidents in Lahore, Charsada, Sehwan Sharif and other parts of Pakistan, which were claimed by those terrorists in Afghanistan, precious lives were lost. We also continue to lose our soldiers as a result of constant attacks by terrorist groups based in Afghanistan. In order to provide some relief to the stranded people on both sides, we opened the border for two days (7th & 8th March). We have earlier said this also that border management is the most important aspect to control cross border movement of terrorists, which is hurting both sides. It is in the interest of both Pakistan and Afghanistan to install effective border management mechanism. Therefore, the decision of the closure of the border is driven by the need to protect our citizens from the imminent terrorist threats from groups based in Afghanistan. We hope the Afghan Government would cooperate in managing the border. On specific details of trade related matters, you may contact Ministry of Commerce & Trade.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that the meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission is a regular meeting under the Indus Waters Treaty. It seems that finally India is realizing the importance of the mechanism under the IWT for resolving water disputes related to the Indus River and its tributaries. Further details may be obtained from the Ministry of Water and Power which is the line Ministry for the subject.
Regarding your second question, this relates to the issue of cross border terrorism in which Pakistan security was severely affected. I have given a comprehensive response already. The decision of the closure of the border was driven by the need to protect our citizens from the imminent terrorist threat from groups based in Afghanistan.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that regarding your first question, ever since those boys were arrested, our Mission remained in touch with Indian Ministry of External Affairs and, of late, on almost daily basis. According to Indian MEA, NIA has completed investigations and not found anything against them. I have just been informed that they will be repatriated tomorrow [Friday 10th March 2017] through Attari/Wagah border.
On your second question, you are aware that we do not comment on unconfirmed media reports from this podium.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that swami Aseemanand made a confession. You know that Samjhauta Express terrorist attack took place in February 2007. If I recall correctly, in December 2010 Swami Aseemanand made a public confession that he was the mastermind of this attack, along with Abhinav Bharat’s head, Colonal Parohit, who was serving army officer. In that terrorist attack, mostly Pakistanis were killed. We were given assurance at the highest political level on numerous occasions that India will share investigations on this attack with us, but we didn’t hear anything from them. What we have noted is that over the last few years they had been exonerating people involved in the Samjhauta Express terrorist attack. What you referred to is Ajmer Sharif bombing in which also Swami Aseemanand was involved and in that case he has now been acquitted. We have been pursuing the case of Samjhauta Express with the Indian government and we hope that they will share the findings/investigations collected so far in the case with us and perpetrators will be brought to justice.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that regarding the first question, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Kuwait was very successful. On his way back the Prime Minister had also talked to the journalists in which he very candidly exchanged views on all aspects, including those of visas. Whenever our leadership goes to other countries, especially Gulf countries, one important aspect of discussions would be the intake of labor from Pakistan. Second important aspect is related to investment and trade. When we talk about visa restrictions or visa regime, we want a visa regime that encourages businesspersons from both sides to travel to each other’s countries, explore the opportunities of investment, and promote trade. It is in this perspective and context that the leadership takes up the issue of visa regime or visa restrictions with these countries.
I will draw your attention to Kuwait’s official news agency report in which they said that there have been no visa restrictions as such. Whatever the visa regime they have, was based on their country’s own considerations.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that the growing Indian conventional and strategic capabilities, particularly its nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean and the testing of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) with a range of more than 5000 km, are a clear indication of its global power ambition. This should be a source of concern for countries in the region and beyond. Pakistan, while remaining committed to the avoidance of any kind of arms race in the region, will continue to take appropriate measures to maintain strategic stability in the region and to ensure its national security.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that as to your first question, I have seen these media reports. We have to get the details before making any comment.
LoC violations are a matter of concern to Pakistan because they heighten tensions in an atmosphere which is already not good. India’s main reason behind these violations, as we have said time and again, is to deflect attention from its atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir. I have seen reports that since 2013 there have been over 1400 unprovoked violations by India. Only in last year there were more than 400 violations from the Indian side.
We condemn their attacks on innocent civilians. We take up the issue of ceasefire violations not only with India but also other countries to apprise them on the situation arising due to the unprovoked ceasefire violations by India.
Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question that Kulbhushan Yadav, a serving Indian Navel officer, who was working for the Indian Intelligence Agency, RAW, was apprehended by our Law enforcement Agencies in March, 2016. He confessed his involvement in subversive and terrorist activities in Pakistan. The matter has already been taken up with India, the response to which is still awaited. The question of consular access may be directed to Ministry of Interior.