Record of the Press Briefing held on 15 September 2011

Islamabad:

Opening Remarks

As rain has been pounding southern Pakistan, the devastation caused by it and floods is massive. We appreciate messages of sympathy and solidarity with the people of Pakistan that we have received from the international community and the assistance being provided. The NDMA and EAD with the UN are undertaking a needs assessment.

The Foreign Ministry has undertaken an outreach to the international community, both bilateral friends and partners as well as multilateral organization, following the appeal by the President and the Prime Minister. A briefing was held for the diplomatic community on 12 September.

Last night the Foreign Minister had interaction with Heads of Mission and asked them to request their capitals to provide assistance to the flood affected areas where more than five million people had been affected.

In the case of the spreading dengue virus, WHO is being approached to see how best the virus can be contained and eliminated. We thank the Sri Lankan Government for sending a team of doctors and experts to share their experience with dengue fever.

In the context of our policy of regional outreach, the Prime Minister retuned from Iran after a 3 day visit on 13 September. The Joint Communiqué adopted at the end of the visit noted the immense opportunities available in the two countries and to optimize economic complementarities for shared progress and prosperity.

They agreed to fast track implementation of various joint projects, to create a facilitative regime to enhance economic and trade cooperation, and upgrade rail and road connectivity. A Joint Working Group headed by the two Foreign Ministers has been established to follow up the implementation of decisions taken at the leadership level and a Security Committee has been established headed by the two Interior Ministers.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is leaving for New York to participate in the 66th Session of the UNGA. She will take this opportunity for an outreach for international assistance to respond to the devastation caused by the floods. She will be in New York from 17-27 September.

She will also lobby for Pakistan’s elections to a seat on the UNSC to be held in October. She will meet a large number of her counterparts on the sidelines of the UNGA.

On 18 September, the Foreign Minister will meet US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Pakistan attaches importance to this engagement which will provide an opportunity to discuss all issues.

We have seen the remarks attributed to the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta carried by the media today. These remarks are not in line with the cooperation the two countries have in counter terrorism. Terrorism and militancy are complex issues.

These require close cooperation among all concerned. Pakistan and the US have cooperated in countering terrorism. Pakistan’s cooperation is premised on respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and entails joint actions. We have raised the issue of “safe havens” and “sanctuaries” on the other side of the border from where militants have launched attacks against our border posts and villages, killing many innocent civilians and destroying schools and homes.

There is need to clearly address the issue in a cooperative mode and work for de-escalation in violence as violence is no solution to any problem. We are prepared to continuing cooperation in countering terrorism.

Finally, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Jaweed Ludin will be in Pakistan today to lead his delegation to the third meeting of the Working Group of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Commission on Reconciliation and Peace in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan side will be led by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. Both sides will have intelligence and military representatives in their delegations. Issues of reconciliation will be discussed.

Questions and Answers

Q 1: My question is about the change in American attitude. Mr. Panetta is not alone in his diatribe against Pakistan Mr. Biden has also termed Pakistan as an unreliable partner. So is Pakistan going to address this issue and protest against this kind of treatment?

A 1: I have clearly stated our position on what has been reported in the media. What has been said is not clearly in line with the cooperation that exists between the two sides on counter terrorism.

Q 2: I was wondering why Pakistan does not lodge stronger protest or resort to sanctions against the United States against drone strikes on its soil?

A 2: Pakistan’s position on drone attacks is guided by the resolution of the Parliament and it has been clearly conveyed to the United States on a number of occasions. This is an issue which is a matter of ongoing discussions between the two sides.

Q 3: You have talked about flood relief assistance. Could you please share the details of the assistance that have been received? How much of it is in cash and how much is in the form of relief goods? Which are the donor countries? My second question is that the US government has certain reservations against Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Shouldn’t Pakistan clarify its position on the issue?

A 3: As I said in my opening statement, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the Provincial Government and Economic Affairs Division (EAD) are undertaking a needs assessment with the UN. The international community finds it easier to respond to the UN flash appeal based on needs assessment. We expect that needs assessment to be completed soon.

In the presentation made by the NDMA to the diplomatic community, the requirements at this stage of rescue and relief have been identified. These include tents, water purifying tablets, water purifying equipment and assistance for sanitations, food rations and blankets etc. Our Foreign Minister, when she met her Iranian counterpart two days ago, was informed that Iran would be sending two plane loads of relief goods.

In addition, China has pledged 4.7 million dollars and Japan has announced 450,000 US dollars, as relief assistance. United States State Department has issued a Press Release which states that they will provide 346,000 families food assistance. They are also sending shelter, food items, medical assistance and tents. In addition we have received messages of sympathy and support from a number of countries.

On Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Pakistan is facing an energy crisis. It is in Pakistan’s national interest to have access to energy. The people of Pakistan are demanding more energy. The Government of Pakistan has decided to continue this cooperative project with Iran that will help us meet our energy needs.

Q 4: This is regarding reports about the opening of Taliban office in Qatar. Has Qatar or Afghanistan or the US involved Pakistan in this initiative? If yes, what was Pakistan’s response?

A 4: These are media reports which we cannot yet confirm.

Q 5: Mr. Joe Biden has been a friend of Pakistan. He was co-author of the Kerry Lugar bill. When he says that Pakistan is an unreliable partner in addition to Mr. Panetta’s statement today, is it not a matter of concern for Pakistan?

A 5: I think what I said earlier very clearly reflects our position on the comments that have been made by Mr. Panetta and Vice President Biden. We believe that shared objectives can be achieved in a cooperative mode.

Q 6: My question is on flood relief assistance. Do we have our own clear needs assessment? There is a lot of confusion. On the one hand, the Federal Government is seeking assistance from abroad. On the other hand, the opposition party PML (N) has said that we do not need external assistance at this stage. My second question is: has the Prime Minister’s visit to the UN General Assembly Session been cancelled?

A 6: On relief assistance, obviously the NDMA and the Provincial Government have undertaken an assessment of the needs and requirements. International donors often provide assistance on the basis of a collective needs assessment done by all UN Organizations that is reflected in a flash appeal.

The international organizations that are on ground, including the World Health Organization, have done some preliminary needs assessment. The situation on the ground is demonstrated by the reality that is displayed on television screen. This is massive devastation. It has affected every district of Sindh. It is critical for all of us to realize the fact that the situation is extremely difficult for our brothers and sisters living in southern Pakistan.

Answering your second question, the Prime Minister’s visit to the UN General Assembly Session has not yet been officially announced. It is being worked.

Q 7: Mr. Leon Panetta has once again alleged that Ayman Al Zwahiri is in Pakistan and that Pakistan has to initiate action in North Waziristan. If Pakistan is not willing to act, the US will intervene unilaterally in Pakistani Tribal Areas.

What are your comments? My second question is that the Yemeni Foreign Minister has met Pakistan’s Ambassador in Yemen and sought information on the handing over of Osama bin Laden’s wife to Yemen. Is it the report correct?

A 7: On your first question, I will refer you back to what I said earlier and also to the fact that Pakistan has always said that timely intelligence sharing is critical for dealing with high value targets. As for your second question, I will have to check because I do not have any information on it.

Q 8: Do you have any idea about the number of troops which Pakistan is going to deploy on Chitral border next to Afghanistan and can you also give some idea about the total losses suffered by Pakistan because of cross border incursions from Afghanistan till date?

A 8: I think that is a question that can be best addressed by the ISPR because it is an operational detail.

Q 9: My question is also related to cross border incursion from Afghanistan. The Government of Pakistan has lodged protests against these attacks, has any reassurance or commitments been offered by the Afghan government on help to stop these attacks?

A 9: Pakistan has taken up the issue of militant incursions into Pakistani territory. The Government of Pakistan and Afghanistan agree that militants and terrorists are their common enemy and that is important to ensure that they do all that they can to prevent such incidents.

Q 10: Last week, the Danish Ambassador was detained by police in Abbottabad when he was found taking pictures of OBL compound. On the subsequent day, some Chinese journalists were also checked visiting the same area. Is it the importance of OBL’s compound? Did the Danish Ambassador have permission from the Foreign Office? My second question is if there has been any development on the issue of Pakistani children kidnapped by Taliban?

A 10: The Danish Ambassador and his wife were not arrested. There was a misunderstanding on the part of the local authorities which caused some inconvenience which is regretted. On the second question about the issue of children kidnapped by the militants, both the governments are in contact. It is the Ministry of Interior which is addressing this issue.

As you know the Cabinet took a decision at its last meeting and requested the government of Afghanistan to secure the release of these children. We have the best relations with the Afghan government. The militants are not just the enemy of Pakistan they are the enemies of Afghanistan as well.

Q 11: My question is about your statement of Pakistan’s energy needs. Did we take this position during the last round of Strategic Dialogue with the United States? And what was their reaction?

A 11: The Pakistan-US Energy Working group is currently in session. The first session was held yesterday it is ongoing today. US has sent an important and high level delegation. The US is ready to assist Pakistan in trying to meets its energy needs.

Q 12: On the question of carrying out unilateral strikes, Mr. Biden and Mr. Panetta are responsible people. Their statements have to be taken seriously. What is your specific response?

A 13: I have already very clearly stated our position in the opening statement.

Q 14: The Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister who is arriving today will also go to Washington for strategic talks. He is supposed to discuss the issue of long term US bases in Afghanistan.

We know the China and Iran have certain reservations on this issue. What is Pakistan’s position on this issue? And will come up in talks today?

A 14: This is for the people and government of Afghanistan to decide.

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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