Bismillah IrRehman NirRahim Assalaam Alaikum
A brief round-up of the activities on the foreign policy front first:
The Indian Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. J.P. Singh was summoned to the Foreign Office over the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control on 23 & 27 February 2018 resulting in the shahadat of two innocent civilians namely Mr. Muhammad Farooq, and 13-year old boy (M.Zain s/o M. Imtiaz) while injuring three others. Despite calls for restraint, India continues to indulge in ceasefire violations. In 2018, the Indian forces have carried out more than 400 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the shahadat of 18 innocent civilians and injuries to 68 others.
In Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Indian brutalities continue. The Indian occupation forces killed two Kashmiri youths including Mr.Mushtaq Ahmad Chopan (26-year old) who was detained in Tral and Hajin areas. Amnesty International in its Annual Report of 2017-18 has highlighted the impunity enjoyed by the Indian forces for human rights abuses in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The report states that in April 2017, eight people were killed by the Indian forces, following the protests, during a by-election for an Indian Parliamentary seat. It also mentions the arrest of Kashmiri photojournalist, Kamran Yousuf and a French film-maker researching a documentary on the Kashmir conflict in the Indian occupied territory. The miseries of the people in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir have increased every passing day. We strongly condemn the inhumane and brutal treatment meted out to innocent and defenseless Kashmiris, both within the occupied land or in detention. We urge the international community to play its role in calling upon India to account for its crimes against humanity in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir.
Subsequent to a joint invitation from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan undertook a 2-day visit to Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, to participate in the link-up ceremonies of the TAPI pipeline and associated projects. The ceremonies were also attended by the President of Afghanistan. In his statement at the inaugural ceremony in Turkmenistan, the Prime Minister reaffirmed TAPI's significance, as not just a gas transit initiative connecting Central Asia with South Asia, but a multi-modal project that would lead to greater regional and economic collaboration. He further emphasized Pakistan's commitment to the early completion of TAPI. An Intergovernmental Agreement on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan electricity transmission line was also signed.
The Prime Minister also visited Herat, Afghanistan where he was received by the Afghan President. During the inaugural ceremony of the Afghan side of the Pipeline project, the Prime Minister reiterated Pakistan's commitment to lasting peace and security in Afghanistan and stressed the potential of Afghanistan in becoming a regional hub of energy connectivity.
During his official visit to the Russian Federation from 19 to 22 February 2018, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif met Chairman Gazprom Mr. Alexey Miller in Saint Petersburg, on Thursday, 22 February. The discussions focused on the implementation of Inter-Governmental Agreements signed between Pakistan and Russia regarding the import of LNG in October 2017 and North-South Gas Pipeline project in October 2015. The Chairman Gazprom expressed keen interest in further strengthening cooperation with Pakistan in the field of Energy. The Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif and Chairman Miller agreed that Gazprom could play a pivotal role in enhancing trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and the Russian Federation.
Ms. Lisa Curtis, Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the NSC of US visited Pakistan on 26 February 2018. She called on the Foreign Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting took place in the context of our regular and continuous engagement with the US.
In yet another evidence of pervading extremism and anti-Pakistan prejudice in India, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers' Association (IMPPA) decided to uphold its ban on Pakistani artists, being caste in Indian media. It is unfortunate that art and cinema which bring people together by acting as cultural bridges are being held hostage to hate and xenophobia. Unfortunately this decision, following several others, including non-issuance of visas to Pakistani Zaireen, refusal to allow participation of Sikhs and Katas raj pilgrims and cancellation of sports matches underscores the growing intolerance and bias prevalent in India exposing it of the sham-ocracy it is increasingly becoming. Politicizing religious and cultural activities is detrimental, most of all to India itself.
A Photo Exhibition to commemorate the Chinese New Year was inaugurated by the Foreign Minister, Khawaja Mohammad Asif and the Ambassador of People's Republic of China H.E Yao Jing on 26 February 2018 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The photo exhibition is a glimpse of the strong Pakistan-China partnership, which celebrates the rich cultural linkages and bonds between Pakistan and China.
Now the Floor is open for Questions
The Indian Army Chief has recently warned Pakistan of a swifter response "sooner rather than later" for the February 10 terror attack on the Sunjawan military camp. Pakistan has denied any involvement in this attack. How do you respond to his statement? (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal - Daily Kashmir Post)
India has a knee jerk tendency of leveling baseless allegations against Pakistan. Belligerent statements by the Indian Army Chief reflect the unfortunate, jingoistic mindset prevailing in India, which can further exacerbate the already vitiated environment.
As a responsible member of the international community, Pakistan refrains from such aggressive statements but our armed forces are fully capable of giving a befitting response in case of any misadventure.
Reportedly, Pakistan's name would be put on the grey list of FATF from June 2018 despite the fact that its final statement did not mention Pakistan. Can you confirm this?
Second, what specific demands have been made from Pakistan in FATF this year, and why hasn't Pakistan been able to fulfill them in time?
Third, reportedly, Advisor to Finance, Mr. Miftah Ismail, who led Pakistan delegation at FATF said in a recent interview that Pakistan was already on the grey list and it could be placed in Black List, in June 2018 if it failed to comply with FATF the demands of terrorist-funding regulations. Can you confirm this?
Fourth, today, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, while addressing the Kabul Process, made a remarkable comment by extending a hand of frienship to Pakistan, and suggesting that Taliban join the peace process. Pakistan has traditionally been talking about this, and President Ghani's comments are a belated reinforcement of Pakistan's viewpoint! Your comments on his statement please! (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj TV)
On your last question, I have seen the relevant media reports in this regard. Once the statement is formally released, I will be able to comment on it.
On the questions regarding FATF, at the outset I would like to state that the lead Ministry for dealing with FATF/ICRG is the Ministry of Finance. Secondly, the internal processes of FATF are confidential. Therefore, I will not be able to comment on its deliberations.
Pakistan will be assigned to the 'grey list' in June, once an Action Plan has been mutually negotiated. The statement that Pakistan will be transferred from the 'grey' to the 'black' list in June this year, is therefore not true. The FATF website clearly demarcates the countries in 'black' list, as those who are non-cooperative.
On your question regarding specific demands made by FATF, it has highlighted certain deficiencies in the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) framework of Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan, over the last few years, has taken a number of measures to address these issues, including through enactment of legislation, issuance of regulations and guidelines by SBP and SECP to the financial sector, establishment of the Financial Monitoring Unit and implementation of UNSC 1267 sanctions on the entities of concern (JuD/FIF). We will take further actions for addressing any remaining deficiencies.
Reportedly, the Afghan Government has initiated discussions with the Qatari government to close down the Taliban's Doha wing. Are you aware of this development? In your view, how will this impact peace prospects in Afghanistan?
Second, has there been any conclusion to the inquiry initiated a few weeks ago regarding Pakistan's High Commissioner to Australia? Please share details! (Mateen Haider - Freelance Journalist)
On your second question, the inquiry is still ongoing. We will share the details with the media once it is complete.
On your second question, Pakistan has always maintained the principled stance that the only solution of the Afghan conflict lies in a politically negotiated settlement led by an Afghan-owned peace process which should appropriately include all Afghan parties and factions. A military approach over the past seventeen years has failed to render the desired results. It has rather exacerbated the situation and increased the miseries of the Afghan civilians. Question We all know the scenario that US has created in FATF against Pakistan, but side by side, we see a change in some sections of the US Administration, as US CENTCOM Chief General Joseph Votel has appreciated Pakistan's role in fighting terrorism. What specific steps has Pakistan taken for the US to appreciate Pakistan's performance at the same time as we receive criticism? (Syed Mohsin Raza - Asas Group of Publications) Supplementary Questions The White House Deputy Press Secretary has stated that President Trump is not satisfied with the progress on Counter Terrorism when it comes to Pakistan. General Votel on the other hand has appreciated the positive indicators from Pakistan on terrorists. What progress are they eyeing for? What is the common ground that both sides are trying to reach at? Second, Ambassador Lisa Curtis was recently in Pakistan, and met the Foreign Secretary. However, no details of their talks were released to the media. Can you please share the main agenda items? Third, reportedly, during the recent visit of Ms. Lisa Curtis, Pakistan has conveyed to the US that it is willing to go the extra mile to save the alliance with Washington, but will not compromise on its integrity. Can you confirm? (Essa Naqvi - Dunya News)
We continue to get differing signals from different parts of the US Government. General Votel, as you mentioned, appreciated the positive indicators from Pakistan. Pakistan has made immense efforts to address issues related to counter-terrorism. We continue to ask the US for actionable evidence.
Ambassador Curtis called on the Foreign Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting took place in the context of our regular and continuous engagement with the US. The main agenda of the meeting of the Foreign Secretary with Ms. Lisa Curtis was to exchange views and understand each other's perspective on how to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Both sides have a desire to work together to pursue our common objective of stabilizing Afghanistan.
The main agenda of the meeting of the Foreign Secretary with Ms. Lisa Curtis was to exchange views and understand each other's perspective on how to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Both sides have a desire to work together to pursue our common objective of stabilizing Afghanistan.
Reportedly, EU has threatened Pakistan that if it does not make any positive progress in the Asia Bibi's case, it will review the GSP plus status of Pakistan. Can you confirm this development?
Second, although the world very quickly points fingers at human rights situation in Pakistan, no one voices such urgency when it comes to human rights violations in Syria, Yemen, or the gruesome conditions of pellet victims and others in Jammu & Kashmir. Is our Foreign Policy weak, or is the international community selective in its human rights approach? (Auon Sherazi - Such TV)
Reportedly, Rome's Colosseum was lit in red in solidarity with persecuted Christians, particularly Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. What are your comments on this? (Saad Umar - Roze News)
On your first question, I am not aware of it. However, I will ascertain facts and then revert.
On your second question, Pakistan continues to raise its voice against the human rights excesses in all parts of the world, including against defenceless and innocent Kashmiris in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir, at all bilateral and multilateral forums.
On Mr. Saad Umar's question, the Colosseum was illuminated red to express solidarity with "persecuted Christians around the world" by the Catholic Group, "Aid to Church in Need". This event was not specific to any country, but was in solidarity with Christians worldwide. There were live link-ups with Aleppo, Syria and Mosul, Iraq. Simultaneously, the Maronite Cathedral of Saint Elias in Aleppo in Syria and Church of Saint Paul in Mosul, Iraq were also illuminated in red, as a symbol of "blood of martyred Christians".
Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, Secretary General of Italian Bishops Conference addressed the gathering. Some sections of the media twisted his remarks. The husband and daughter of Asia Bibi were also present. They often go to Rome, so it was not a one-off visit.
There is a reshuffle in the military regime in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is also increasingly campaigning against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Is Pakistan's foreign policy aligned with these developments? (Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)
We do not comment on the internal matters of other countries. On Yemen, our policy is clear and in public domain.
Reportedly, India has recently carried out a successful test flight of its Rustam 2 drone, which is being developed on the lines of the US predator drones for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes. Does Pakistan possess this technology? I need your comments on this development! (Tariq Mahmood - SAMAA TV)
The development and use of drones for military purposes is an emerging world-wide trend. It is essential to ensure that the use of drone technology is consistent with the principles of the UN Charter, International Humanitarian Law and other established norms of responsible state behavior.
India's development of drone technology is worrying when seen in the larger context of its buildup and expansion of military capabilities in the conventional and non-conventional domains, which are subjecting regional strategic stability to increasing strain.
You may seek further information from the Ministry of Defence regarding the last part of your question.
Reportedly, UK's Trade Envoy to Pakistan has clarified that after UK's exit from EU, Pakistan would have the same level of access to UK markets as it has under the GSP Plus Scheme, provided Pakistan fulfills certain requirements. Can you confirm this? What requirements are we expected to meet? (Shabbir Waghara - PTV World)
The UK Government has confirmed more than once through formal communications, as well as in a press statement, that it would continue to allow trade concessions to Pakistan after Brexit, as is being done by the EU through GSP Plus scheme. Pakistan is successfully implementing the 27 International Conventions that it has signed under the agreement.
The annual trade between Pakistan and the United Kingdom stands at about US$2.5 billion, with Pakistan's exports to the United Kingdom at US$1,591 million. Pakistan's imports from the UK are around US$904 million. The main exports items to UK include: i) textiles, ii) rice, iii) woven cotton fabrics, iv) medical/surgical instruments, v) synthetic fabrics and vi) sports goods, whereas UK's main exports to Pakistan are i) machinery and parts, ii) ores and concentrates of iron and steel, iii) chemical material and products, iv) medicinal and pharmaceutical products, v) iron and steel and products.
Reportedly, the Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India are likely to meet on the sidelines of Kabul Process in Afghanistan. Can you confirm? (Naveed Saddique - Dawn News)
No such meeting has been envisaged.
Reportedly, FIA has contacted Interpol to issue a red warrant for former Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Hussain Haqqani. What role has Foreign Office played in this regard, as it has been reported that Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior?
Second, in an international survey held recently, Pakistani passports were the 4th worst in ranking. What steps has the Foreign Office taken to improve this ranking? How is Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinating with other Ministries in this regard? (Rashida Sial - Abb Tak)
On your first question, this is a decision of the Supreme Court. The FIA is taking necessary action to implement the directives of the Supreme Court. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide whatever assistance it can, as far as coordination with the US authorities is concerned.
Your second question pertains to the Ministry of Interior.
Prime Minister recently visited Afghanistan to inaugurate the TAPI gas pipeline project, while the Indian Minister was also there. Has any back door diplomacy taken place in this visit, or the issue of India committing ceasefire violations along the LoC and gross human rights abuses in IoK discussed? (Asghar Ali Mubarak - Daily Mail Islamabad)
I am not aware of any such formal meeting with India.
21 Pakistani students have been selected in different medical colleges of Bangladesh on SAARC quota but Bangladesh High Commission has not issued visas to any of them so far. Your comments please? (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal - Daily Kashmir Post)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in close coordination with the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) timely shared the names of students who were selected under SAARC quota for the medical colleges of Bangladesh with the Bangladesh High Commission (BHC).The students applied visas accordingly well before the deadline of admissions of 29th January 2018. However till date BHC has not issued visas. The issue has been repeatedly raised with the Officials of the BHC in Islamabad and the SAARC secretariat in Kathmandu as well. BHC has assured that the issuance of visas is only a matter of time and they will be issued visas soon. They also informed that clearance for the visas is awaited from Bangladesh.
Indian media has reported that Indian Foreign Secretary may visit Pakistan in the upcoming days. Can you confirm these media reports?
Second, reportedly, India and Pakistan are planning on an agreement involving the exchange of elderly, mentally challenged and female prisoners. Can you confirm this? Also, can we expect the revival of India-Pakistan Judicial Commission? (Bashir Chaudhry - Channel 24)
What is the update on the Pakistani student who inadvertently crossed the LoC recently? Has Pakistan demanded consular access for him? (Asghar Ali Mubarak - Daily Mail Islamabad)
On your first question, I am not aware of any such visit.
On your second question, the proposal is being examined by the Ministry of Interior.
On the supplementary question, our High Commission in New Delhi is actively pursuing the matter, and we are in constant touch with the Indian authorities in this regard.
You have told that Pakistan will be put in the FATF grey list by June this year. What implications will Pakistan face?
Second, during the recently concluded National Security Committee Meeting, it was agreed that our foreign policy will move towards enhancing ties with friendly countries, and increasing focus on counter-terrorism efforts. In your view, Pakistan suffers from a major trust deficit from the international community in this regard. How it can be restored? (Fida Hussain - Radio News Network)
Can you share the names of countries which supported Pakistan in the FATF forum? (Amjad Ali - PTV News)
To your last question, as I have mentioned earlier, the deliberations within FATF are confidential, so I will not be able to share details.
Regarding your question on FATF's implications, please consult the Ministry of Finance for technical details.
Yes, the National Security Committee meeting decided on the recalibration of the Pakistan's foreign policy with increased emphasis on enhanced bilateral ties with regional friendly countries. The policy is being immediately put into action.
In the recent visit of Ambassador Lisa Curtis, she expressed concerns over Haqqani Network, militancy, terror financing and money laundering in Pakistan. What was our response? Please share details! (Ali Hussain - Business Recorder)
I will not be able to share any details, as the discussions are ongoing outside the public glare. However, rest assured that Pakistan conveyed its position on all matters of national interest in the clearest manner to Ms. Curtis.
India is committing ceasefire violations along the LoC in which innocent civilians are being martyred. On every count, Foreign Office summoned the Indian DHC and handed over demarche, which has no effect on Indian behavior. What more can be done in this regard? (Shahzad Mirza - Royal News)
Indian belligerent posture along LoC and the Working Boundary has implications for not only Pakistan but also the region. Pakistan continues to give a measured and befitting response to the Indian ceasefire violations. It is regrettable that India resorts to such untoward acts that are detrimental to the peace and stability of the entire region.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Government of Pakistan