Islamabad, April 10, 2014 (PPI-OT):
As you are aware, Pakistan has welcomed the holding of the Presidential elections in Afghanistan on 5 April 2014. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has congratulated President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan on this milestone event.
The high voter turn-out was the clearest affirmation of the Afghan people’s resolve to chart their future course through democratic means. This augurs well for the prospects of democracy and peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s consistent support for a free and fair electoral process is based on the belief that it is vital, both for a smooth political transition and for Afghanistan’s future stability. For our part, Pakistan took a range measures to reinforce existing security arrangements to help the efforts for a peaceful conduct of the elections.
These included enhanced vigilance and security along the entire length of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, sealing of the crossing-points, deployment of additional troops, aerial surveillance, and enhanced communication through Border Coordination Centers.
At the request of the Afghan government, the border crossing-points at Torkham and Chaman were kept open to enable the eligible Afghan voters in Pakistan to go to Afghanistan to vote. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the relevant military authorities closely coordinated in this regard.
The Afghan electoral institutions now have the heavy responsibility to ensure successful completion of the next steps in the electoral process. They have been shouldering this responsibility well and we wish them success in their work ahead.
Like always, we remain in strong solidarity with the Afghan people at this historic moment. There is no doubt that a peaceful democratic transition would contribute to the building of a stronger, more unified and prosperous Afghanistan. We would continue to support the Afghan people every step of the way.
Now the floor is open for Questions
A few days back the abducted Iranian Guards were freed. Before they were freed by the Iranian based organization Jaish-e-Adal, there was a barrage of accusations from the Iranian side alleging that some organization in Pakistan was holding them. Has there been any contact between the Pakistani and Iranian side on this matter?
Yes, there have been communications on the kidnapped Iranian guards. Our authorities and security agencies confirmed that they have no indication that these guards were brought to Pakistan and also that there was absolutely no indication that they were released in Pakistan. Pakistan-Iran relations, as I said in the last briefing, are not just about one issue.
We have a multifaceted relationship and cooperation. You must be aware that a fleet of Pakistan Navy is paying a friendly port call. There have been contacts in Islamabad as well as in Tehran regarding the proposed visit of the Prime Minister and discussions on some meetings that will precede that visit. So this relationship needs to be looked at in the broader context.
You just mentioned the friendly port call by Pakistan Navy on Iran; a similar call will be made by Russian Naval Vessels on Pakistan port. This call will be the first one of its kind in the history of Pak –Russia ties. How do you see this development in the context of Pakistan-Russia bilateral relations?
Secondly, yesterday an Afghan official Major General Muhammad Sharif visited Paktia province of Afghanistan and has issued a statement alleging that Pakistani territory has been used by Taliban and Militants from Pakistan side for actions against Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan is the source of sending not only terrorists to the Afghan territory but also weapons. He also said that the ongoing talks between the Pakistani Government and the Taliban are the cause of stepped up activities by the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan. Your comments?
First, I would not like to comment on some Commander’s adverse comments or allegations. Our actions during the elections, and even before that, speak for themselves and are out there for everyone to see. Talks with TTP are Pakistan’s internal matter. There have been indications that Afghan Government itself may be talking to the Taliban. It is not very clear what these accusations are leading to!
Secondly, about Russia. Our relations with the Russian Federation have been on a very positive trajectory. We have deepened our engagement. We have a number of projects in the economic domain. There have been political level contacts as well.
Our Foreign Secretary visited Russia last year which produced very good interactions. A senior Russian Minister has also visited Pakistan in last six months. Earlier, the Pakistan Navy fleet paid a port call. There were some issues regarding claims and counter claims in the trade and economic domain. A high level committee has been constituted to address this issue. Once that is done, we expect to see a great leap in our bilateral relationship.
Some Afghan citizens lost their lives in yesterday’s blast in Islamabad. Has somebody from the Afghan side contacted the Foreign Office or Pakistani authorities to arrange the repatriation of the dead bodies to Afghanistan?
I don’t have any specific information about the identity of those who were killed yesterday in that heinous attack on people who were going about their daily businesses. Islamabad Administration or PIMS Hospital can tell you if all the bodies have been identified and their dear ones have been notified.
Yesterday, the Joint Working Group between Pakistan and United States met in Washington. What specific decisions have been taken?
Secondly, when will the meeting of the last Working Group on Counter-terrorism take place? Why is the delay?
About the Working Group on Finance, I don’t think it has concluded as yet. I would get readout when the deliberations are complete. On the Working Group on Law Enforcement and Counter-terrorism, earlier there were expectations that this group might meet in March-April. We still do not have any dates but it will take place not in too distant future.
You have repeatedly said that Pakistan and Iran enjoy very close ties; however, the statements coming from the other side give another impression. How do you explain that?
Secondly, you said that the Prime Minister wishes to go to Iran but we have seen that there has not been a response from there. Your comments?
The Prime Minister has been invited by the Iranian leadership. The Iranian Government has also reiterated that they are looking forward to this visit. Dates are being worked out. We hope that this visit would take place in the first half of 2014.
The year 2014 is the year of the drawdown of the US forces from Afghanistan and also the Afghan Presidential elections. How do you see Pakistan’s relations with the new Afghan Government expected to be formed as a result of these elections?
We have said from this forum again and again that for us, a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is very vital. Similarly, this relationship is very important for us. We will work with the next Afghan government and we will try to give further impetus to our bilateral relations in all fields.
There are reports from New Delhi suggesting that India wants to have piecemeal talks with Pakistan and does not subscribe to the idea of only sticking to the framework of Composite Dialogue. Your comments please?
We have a framework with India which has an eight point agenda. This process has been disrupted for the last three years. We believe that to have sustainable and durable peace, we need to address all the issues and disputes that stand between Pakistan and India having normal, good neighborly relations and having peace and cooperation in the region. We look forward to the resumption of that process so that people of this region can benefit from economic cooperation and we can focus on our economic development.
If Mr. Modi comes to power in India, do you think he will respond positively to Pakistan?
Well, I am not in the business of reading minds. We deal with countries. It’s for the people of India to elect whoever they deem fit. We will take it from there.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea is due to visit Pakistan. Is there a possibility of a PTA being signed between the two sides?
There are a number of proposals under consideration. I can’t tell you exactly what agreements and MoUs would be signed during the visit but we have already issued the Curtain Raiser on the visit, you may like to have a look at that on Ministry’s website.
Can you give us any details of the forthcoming visit of President of Pakistan to Nigeria?
We will give you our readout when everything is finalized.
What is the position of Pakistan on Article 370 of the Indian Constitution? One of the political parties in India is talking of doing away with this article if it comes to power?
India’s constitution is India’s internal matter. We have a position on Jammu and Kashmir because Pakistan is a recognized and legitimate party to this dispute.
For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan