ISLAMABAD: Underlining that Pakistan was a confident democratic country, the Foreign Office on Friday expressed confidence that outside voices could not influence the nation’s democratic polity and governance.
“People of Pakistan are wise enough to make political decisions on their own and do not need outside advice,” Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a weekly press briefing.
She was responding to a volley of questions about a fresh series of pro-Imran Khan tweets by former US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and comments by various members of the US congress about political developments in Pakistan.
She was also asked to comment on media reports suggesting that Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ameer Khurram Rathore, was being called back just after serving there for a little over a year for supposedly playing a role in restoring relations between PTI chief Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Spokesperson terms reports of diplomat’s replacement in Saudi Arabia ‘speculation.
To this, Ms Baloch said: “I do not have any personnel announcement at this stage. Postings and transfers are normal happenings in this ministry. I do not, therefore, want to add to speculation in the media.”
However, she said some of these reports about Mr Rathore were incorrect and unfair, as he was a “highly professional diplomat who has served Pakistan well for several years and will continue to do so in the future”.
The development comes after former prime minister Imran Khan revealed last month that he was still in touch with the Saudi crown prince.
Mr Rathore was appointed Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia in February last year. He replaced Bilal Akbar, a retired general, who had also been prematurely removed.
When a questioner recalled that this was happening for the second time, Ms Baloch insisted that most media reports about postings and transfers were based on speculation. “I would only be able to comment when I have confirmed personnel transfer information. At this stage, we cannot comment on any personnel transfers,” she said.
On other developments, the foreign ministry spokeswoman said the Pakistan-Malaysia Bilateral Political Consultations would be held next week in Kuala Lumpur. The agenda includes discussions on political, security and military cooperation, trade and investment ties, and cooperation in science and technology, health, tourism and culture.
She said the two sides would also exchange views on regional and global issues, including developments in the Asia-Pacific region, climate change and Islamophobia.
On a question about hideouts of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan and the group’s involvement in terrorism activities in Pakistan, she said: “We are in contact with the Afghan interim authorities on security and counterterrorism matters, including our concerns regarding terrorist entities which have hideouts in Afghanistan. Our security agencies are in contact.”
Recalling the defence minister’s recent visit to Afghanistan, Ms Baloch said all these matters were discussed. “We expect the Afghan authorities to take action against these terrorist entities and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to Pakistani people and Pakistani security forces,” she said.
On reports about an Afghan delegation’s follow-up visit to Pakistan and what was discussed, she said: “Any visits or discussions that pertain to security and counterterrorism are sensitive in nature. I would, therefore, not like to divulge the nature of these discussions.”
Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2023
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