ISLAMABAD: As the number of cross-border attacks targeting security forces from Afghanistan increases, Foreign Office on Thursday said Pakistan was holding discussions to sort out the issues.

Addressing the weekly press briefing, FO Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch agreed that there were issues at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

“The two sides are holding regular border flag meetings and are engaged in discussion at various levels, including Kharlachi Border Crossing Point,” Ms Baloch told reporters.

She said the Chaman border was reopened on Monday following Border Flag Meetings between the two sides.

Spokesperson says engagement ongoing at various levels to prevent attacks; says PM’s Turkiye visit ‘on track’; slams India’s remarks in UNSC

The focus of these meetings was to clear pedestrian, traffic and trade consignments, she added.

The ‘Friendship Gate’ at the border was closed on Nov 13 after an armed man from the Afghan side opened fire on Pakistani security personnel, resulting in the martyrdom of one soldier.

Ms Baloch said Afghanistan has communicated its “serious regret” over the incident and constituted a high-level committee comprising officials from foreign and border and tribal affairs ministries, local chambers of commerce and tribal elders to investigate the incident.

“We continue to engage with the Afghan side through our embassy in Afghanistan and the Afghan embassy in Islamabad”.

PM’s Turkiye visit

Briefing about Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s upcoming visit to Turkiye, the spokesperson said it was “taking place as planned”.

The prime minister will visit the country for a two-day trip on Friday at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Pakistan and Turkiye enjoy fraternal ties deeply embedded in commonalities of faith, culture and history and underpinned by exceptional cordiality and mutual trust,” she said.

The two leaders will inaugurate PNS Khaibar, a MILGEM Corvette Ships of the Pakistan Navy at the Istanbul Shipyard, she told the reporters.

The contract for four Milgem class corvettes for the Pakistan Navy, with concurrent Transfer of Technology, was signed with ASFAT Inc, a Turkish state-owned Defence contractor firm in 2018.

The MILGEM project, a joint collaboration between the two countries, represents a “significant milestone” in the Pakistan-Turkiye strategic partnership, she remarked.

The two leaders will also hold wide-ranging discussions on the regional situation and other issues, she added.

The prime minister will also interact with the Turkish business community.

Pakistan rejects India’s remarks

Ms Baloch also said Pakistan rejects India’s unwarranted remarks at a Security Council briefing.

“Unfortunately, India continues to abuse its non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council and the Chair of the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee to target Pakistan through false narratives and malicious propaganda”, she noted.

She said India’s irresponsible behaviour confirmed that it “neither has the competence nor the wisdom” to qualify as a permanent member of the Security Council.

She also censured India for its “blatant human rights violations” in held Kashmir.

“We have not seen any improvement in the situation in [held Kashmir] as it remains under military siege and Indian oppression there continues unabated.”

About the recent decision to establish the ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ at the COP-27, Ms Baloch said the parties also agreed to establish a transitional committee for recommendations to operationalise the Fund and determine its terms of reference for new funding arrangements and disbursement mechanism.

“Once these details are ironed out, we will be able to predict the future funding situation”, she said.

When reporters asked about the reasons behind the delay in the appointment of a new foreign secretary, Ms Baloch said: “This is a decision taken at a very senior level. What I can share with you is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is continuing to perform its functions to the best of its abilities as we have always done in the past.”

The FO has been functioning without a full-time foreign secretary since the retirement of Sohail Mahmood on September 30 after serving three and a half years in the position.

In October, the government assigned the look-after charge to Special Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jauhar Saleem.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2022

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