Record of Press Briefing held on 16th July 2011

Record of Press Briefing held on 16th July 2011

Islamabad: At the outset, I would like to reiterate Pakistan’s condemnation in the strongest terms of the recent terror attacks in Mumbai. Pakistan and the people of Pakistan, who have suffered terrorism, understand and share the anguish in India caused by the tragic loss of life and property. We hope that the perpetrators will soon be brought to justice. To quote Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, incidents like these only serve to further strengthen our resolve to eliminate this menace.

Pakistan has also condemned the assassination of Mr. Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The President and the Prime Minister have offered condolences to the Afghan President over the telephone. We stand in sympathy by the Afghan people and the family of Mr. Karzai at this tragic loss.

President Asif Ali Zardari is undertaking a one day visit to Tehran today on the invitation of the Iranian leadership. The President will call on the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and hold meetings with H.E. President Ahmadinejad. This is an important visit integral to Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to deepen engagement with a brotherly neighbour. It also aims at widening horizons of multidimensional cooperation and an essential part of our reach-out to regional states for continuous consultations, coordination and cooperation on issues of stability and peace, in a period of uncertainty and turbulence in regional affairs. Pakistan attaches special significance to joining efforts of immediate neighbours, in an endeavour to bring peace to Afghanistan and to reversing the tide of terrorism that has afflicted our region.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, will lead the Pakistan delegation to the 18th Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) to be held in Bali, Indonesia, on 22-23 July 2011. ARF Ministerial is the apex meeting of the ARF Forum which is composed of 27 members including China, the EU, the Russian Federation and United States. ARF which is an important regional forum to deliberate on traditional and non- traditional security concerns in the Asia Pacific region, will provide an opportunity to discuss such vital issues.

The Working Group on Cross-LOC CBMs relating to trade and travel of Kashmiris will meet in New Delhi on 18 July. Director General South Asia, Ms. Zehra Akbari will lead the Pakistan delegation to the meeting. The Pakistan India Ministerial level meeting will be held at New Delhi at the end of this month preceded by a meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries. Dates are being worked out.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is leaving for Ankara today for regular political consultations and for discussions on the regional and global situation.

Questions – Answers Session

Q: National Command Authority held its meeting recently. The statement issued after the meeting said that all attempts to undermine our nuclear and missile capability would be thwarted with full force. My question is that are there any such threats present? If not why was this statement issued?

A: The National Command Authority is the apex forum that deals with all strategic issues. It is headed by the Prime Minister. The meeting of the NCA was a regular meeting. It was the 19th meeting of the NCA. And if you see the statement that was issued by the NCA, it basically said that it reviewed developments in the regional and global security environment and it undertook an appraisal of the international trends and their implication for Pakistan. The statement issued at the conclusion of the meeting reflects that the meeting undertook an overview of strategic issues and underscored complete confidence in the security of its strategic assets.

Q: In your statement you have condemned the recent Mumbai bomb attacks, which of course was an unfortunate event. This time the Indian response stands in stark contrast to what we have seen on the previous occasions. Is this maturity on their part or a realization that the terror threat in India is home grown? My second question is that why the announcement of dates for the Foreign Minister level talks between Pakistan and India are being delayed?

A: Terrorism is a global problem. Like people in other parts of the world, the people of Pakistan and India suffer from terrorism. Both countries agree on the importance of eliminating terrorism. Terrorism and counter-terrorism issues are an important part of our bilateral discussions. Pakistan has categorically condemned the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The people of Pakistan who have suffered terrorism, understand and share the suffering of the victims and their families. Within minutes of the news of the attacks, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned these attacks.

On your second question, there is no delay in the announcement of the Ministerial meeting. We have repeatedly said that the meeting will be held towards the end of the month. It is just a matter of scheduling the dates.

Q: There have been reports about the resumption of US military aid to Pakistan. Has this been officially communicated by the US side?

A: On the US assistance, there are two areas. One is civilian assistance, on which you may have also read press reports that US Deputy Secretary of State Mr. Tom Nides spoke to the Minister of Finance only yesterday confirming that the civilian assistance will continue. With regards to the military assistance, discussions are ongoing. Of course, I would like to reiterate that Pakistan attaches importance to its relations with the United States. So does the US. Ambassador Grossman stated only yesterday that US is committed to positive and forward looking engagement with Pakistan. We have ongoing diplomatic engagements with the US. We believe that strategic convergence exist between the two sides which we are working to convert into a win-win situation for both sides. Course correction, in accordance with the resolution of joint session of the Parliament, is being undertaken wherever required.

Q: As you have mentioned that Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir will be proceeding to Ankara for political consultations, we also see that President Zardari is in Tehran for meeting the Iranian leadership. Is this an attempt by our side to involve the regional countries and develop a regional group for bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan? Secondly, when the recently held Corps Commander meeting noted, a day after the US decided to halt Military aid to Pakistan, that Pakistan Army will continue with its operations utilizing its own resources, three top US generals visited Pakistan and also the ISI chief went to the US. Can we say that irritants between US and Pakistan in their relationship are being sorted out?

A: Foreign Secretary’s visit to Ankara is part of the established mechanism of regular political consultations at the level of Foreign Secretaries of the two countries. Turkey is a very close friend of Pakistan. Foreign Secretary level consultations will cover bilateral matters and discussions on the regional and global situation.

On peace, stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan, there are a number of processes that are underway. These include the meeting of the Core Group of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States that was recently held in Kabul as well as the Working level meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Commission for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Turkey is also hosting a conference in November followed by the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan. Pakistan’s position with regard to all these processes is that we will support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation. Pakistan supports peace, stability and development in Afghanistan.

Your second question, I have already answered earlier. There are ongoing diplomatic engagements between Pakistan and the US. And there are discussions taking place on all issues. Pakistan considers its relations with the United States as very important. As we understand the United States does as well. There are repeated messages from the US on the importance it attaches to its relations with Pakistan.

Q: How would you comment on a report that Pakistan has agreed to a solution in Afghanistan led by the American side? Secondly, there are reports that US is ready to take Pakistan onboard while talking to Taliban. Are these reports correct? Third, how will you comment on the decision by UNSC to take off Taliban from the sanctions list?

A: With regard to any process in Afghanistan on peace and reconciliation, Pakistan believes that it is up to the Afghan people and the Afghan government to take decisions with regard to their own future. What we support and would continue to support is an Afghan-led and Afghan –owned process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The resolution adopted by the UN Security Council dealing with the Taliban as a follow-up to resolution 1267 allows for a process of de-listing. A number of names have been proposed for de-listing. We support the Afghan Government in its efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Q: Recently there have been reports about threats being hurled at the Foreign office, especially Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. There are also reports that a letter was sent to the Foreign Secretary containing threats. Has the authenticity of that letter been established?

A: Al-Qaeda has declared war on Pakistan, the people of Pakistan and the institutions of Pakistan. It has undertaken many attacks against Pakistani institutions.

Q: There is a report by South Asian Strategic Stability Institute mentioning that the US aid disbursed to Pakistan since 2001 amounts to $18 billion, while our side acknowledges to have received only $ 10 billion. Can you please give some figures to clarify the factual position? Secondly, are these threats referred to by my colleague in his question related to Pakistan’s alleged sharing of the lists of Harkat-ul- Mujahideen operatives with India?

A:It is not within my purview to speak on intelligence and security matters. I will refrain from making any comments on your second question.

On the details of assistance, I have not seen the report but I will look into it. In any case, there is some difference of views on this matter. The Finance Ministry would be in a better position to respond to this question.

Q: Given the fact that US supports bilateral Pakistan Afghanistan efforts to secure Pakistan Afghanistan border. What mechanism is being evolved between Pakistan and Afghanistan to address the issues of incursions by militants on Pakistan –Afghan border?

A: There has been a meeting of the Military Border Working Group of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the ISAF in which certain decisions were taken. ISPR has issued a press release on it. Basically it refers to establishment of a hotline between the two militaries as well as holding of flag meetings between local commanders of the military regularly. So mechanisms are in place for dealing with this issue.

Q: Much is being talked about the US-Pakistan relations at this time. We have seen 3 high level US Military officials visiting Pakistan, and General Pasha visiting the US. What are the specific demands that US is making of Pakistan?

A: There are intense diplomatic engagements between the two countries that are ongoing including visits from both sides. And we believe that there is strategic convergence that will lead to a win-win situation on both sides. And to repeat, course correction required by the Joint Session of the Parliament is also being undertaken at the same time.

Q: What is a win situation for Pakistan in this context?

A: With the US, our engagement is at a strategic level that covers a whole range of areas which include counter-terrorism cooperation. We share values of democracy, upholding human dignity which is a fundamental Islamic concept, and human development. There are a number of areas in which both countries are collaborating in which the people of Pakistan are expected to benefit. These include cooperation in water management, agriculture and a number of other substantive areas.

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

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