Afghan President expected to visit Pak, says Nafees Zakaria

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ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to visit Pakistan shortly to ‘further’ improve bilateral relations, after his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Astana.

“We will welcome visits from Afghanistan as well in order to grow the mutual cooperation,” Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said during the weekly media briefing when asked to comment on expected visits of Chinese and Afghan leaders.

Responding to a query, he said that China was an important partner in efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and China were working closely under the initiatives like QCG, Heart of Asia, Istanbul process etc which are aimed at bringing lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Besides Afghanistan in the context of regional cooperation for security and development, both the sides would also review the state of bilateral relations. The Chinese foreign affairs minister would be visiting over the weekend. Both the sides would discuss all issues of mutual interest including the regional situation.

When asked to comment on shooting down Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), the spokesperson said that Pakistan’s position on drone strike was clear, they were counterproductive and cause collateral damage and as far as Iran’s UAV was concerned, the drone was hit by the Pakistan Air Force, as it was unidentified and was flying at around 3-4kms inside Pakistani territory.

He said that Pakistan has already shared the information about striking down of this drone with the Iranian authorities indicating that the drone was struck down by the security forces, as it was unmarked and there was no prior information about its flight. While congratulating the Pakistani nation on the historic victory against India in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy, he said the Amnesty International has called upon India to release all those arrested on charges of celebrating Pakistan’s victory.

He said that arresting Kashmiris for celebrating Pakistan’s victory against India was a sad state of affairs. Commenting on the Indian atrocities in Indian-held Kashmir, he said that since 1947 Indian forces have killed over a million Kashmiris. Since 1990, killings of innocent Kashmiris touched the figure of 100,000, he said.

He said that the grave human rights situation in India has raised international concern, the manifestation of which is constant coverage of the atrocities perpetrated by the Indian forces in the disputed state in the international media and social media despite restrictions, debates in foreign parliaments and activities to condemn India.

He pointed out that statements expressing concerns have been issued by the international forums. He said that Pakistanis would not forget their Kashmiri brothers on the eve of Eidul Fitr especially the children who are facing brutalities of Indian troops in the state.

He said that Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has written a letter to the UN secretary-general, UN Security Council President and other bodies including OIC to update them on human rights violations in the state. Responding to the statement of Indian army chief, the spokesperson said that such statements must be seen in the light of ground realities.

To a question, he said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres offered mediation to resolve outstanding disputes between Pakistan and India soon after assumption of the office. A similar offer was made in March this year by UN chief’s office. “Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute and is outstanding on the UN Security Council agenda,” he said.

Zakaria said that the relevant UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir remain unimplemented, which promise Kashmiris their right to self-determination in accordance with their wishes and aspirations. UN has a responsibility by virtue of these resolutions to resolve the issue and call upon India to immediately stop the bloodshed of Kashmiris.

To a question, he said that Pakistan gives special importance to its longstanding relations with the US in various spheres. “We strongly believe that continuing relations with the US and other countries is critical for promoting peace and stability in the region,” he added. “Our counter-terrorism operations are totally driven by our own national interest and are directed against all terrorists,” he said.

Responding to the question about OIC’s role in resolving Kashmir issue, he said that OIC has always supported the Kashmiri people and their struggle for freedom which has been promised to them in the relevant UN resolution on Kashmir. He also said that several OIC resolutions exist that not only condemn the barbaric acts of Indian troops but also emphasises the resolution of Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolution.

About the issue of the fence on Pak-Afghan border, the spokesperson said that it’s an effective tool of border management, moreover the fence has been built on the Pakistani side of the border. Answering about the two missing Pakistani officials working in Jalalabad, he said that the government was in constant touch with the Afghan authorities over the matter.

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