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ISLAMABAD: Taking strong exception to an unwarranted reference against it in the India-US joint statement issued at the conclusion of talks between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis with their Indian counterparts, Pakistan has rejected the allegations as baseless.

“We have conveyed our position to the US side,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said at a weekly press briefing here on Thursday.

He was of the opinion that mentioning a third country with unsubstantiated accusations in a formal outcome document was inconsistent with established diplomatic norms. “What is more ironic is that many other thorny issues involving the third country were avoided in the joint statement by the Indian side on the pretext of the same diplomatic practice,” he said, adding that the Mumbai attacks trial was ongoing in an antiterrorism court and the judicial process would take its course.

FO spokesman says explanation sought from High Commissioner to UK Sahibzada Ahmed Khan for his slurred speech in a show

“We expect the US to focus similarly, if not more, on Indian state terrorism and the resulting humanitarian emergency in IoK, where Indian atrocities have intensified. Indian occupation forces continue to kill innocent Kashmiris with impunity. Last month alone, more than 30 innocent Kashmiris were slaughtered in cold blood. Hurriyat leaders continue to be incarcerated on trumped-up charges,” the spokesman said.

In reply to a question about the US announcement to scrap a military aid of $300 million to Pakistan, Dr Faisal made it clear that it was not an aid but reimbursements to be made to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) which had been discontinued.

“We have also seen reports regarding Department of Defence’s notification to the Congress to re-programme $300 million originally appropriated for CSF reimbursement to Pakistan,” he said. However, it was not a new development, he noted.

He recalled that the United States had withheld a substantial amount of the money, due to Pakistan, for reimbursement under the CSF because of Congressional restrictions since 2015 and said the $300m fund also fell under this category.

The US side had also clarified that it was not a new development and not linked to the visit of the secretary of state to Pakistan. “Our position is consistent that CSF reimbursement cannot be equated with US assistance suspended earlier this year,” he said.

Commenting on the recent remarks made by the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan in Calcutta that the new government in Pakistan had opened a political window and filled India with certain hopes, Dr Faisal said: “We have also been saying since long that dialogue is the only way forward to settle all outstanding issues between Pakistan and India. We are officially waiting for a response from India on how they want to move forward. We have a consistent position on this.”

Referring to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone call to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan and a letter received by Pakistan’s foreign minister from his Indian counterpart, the FO spokesman said: “We want to utilise the same window and see how we can move forward.”

Slurred speech

About the recent media reports and clips showing Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Sahibzada Ahmed Khan speaking in a TV show with his speech slurred, Dr Faisal said an explanation had been sought from the former by the foreign minister and he had been called to Pakistan.

Dr Faisal confirmed that Pakistan had temporarily halted work in its Consulate General in Jalalabad due to security concerns. “We are working with the Afghan government to resolve the issue. Till resumption of consular services at the Consulate General of Pakistan in Jalalabad, students, patients and other visa seekers residing within the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Pakistan in Jalalabad may contact the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul for issuance of visas.”

He also confirmed that the Turkish foreign minister would visit Islamabad and there would be delegation-level talks with the Pakistani foreign minister. The Turkish foreign minister will also call on Prime Minister Khan.

In reply to a question, he said the prime minister would shortly visit Saudi Arabia, but added that details of the visit would be shared later.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018