ISLAMABAD, May 2: The Foreign Office on Tuesday declared that investigations into the Dr A.Q. Khan affair were over and as far as Pakistan was concerned the chapter was closed. “As far as we are concerned this chapter is closed,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam stated in response to a question at a weekly news briefing.
The spokesperson asserted that the government had conducted thorough investigations into the affair and shared the information and conclusions with the International Atomic Energy Agency besides other countries, including the US. “Our cooperation has been appreciated both by the IAEA and the United States,” she maintained.
In reply to a query, Ms Aslam said the Americans had not asked any questions about scientist Dr Mohammad Farooq, who was released last week. When asked if his release marked the end of Pakistan’s investigations into the affair, she said: “I would presume that with Dr Farooq’s release there is a closure to that.”
The spokesperson said there was no question of giving the US direct access to any Pakistani scientist, saying: “We have repeatedly emphasised that, whatever information is required, questions can be forwarded to the government of Pakistan and we would get the answers. We would do the investigations and transmit this information.”
JAMAAT-UD-DAWA: Responding to a question, Ms Aslam said the government had no intention of designating the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its affiliate organisation as terrorist entities as done by the US. However, Pakistan would be legally bound to take action if they were placed on United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee’s consolidated list, she said.
She said the US had approached the UNSC for designation of the organisations as terrorist outfits and for putting them on the committee’s list.
“We do not put any of our entities on the terrorist list if the action is taken under the US domestic law,” she said in reply to a question.
KASHMIR MEETING: On All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders’ planned meeting with the Indian prime minister, the spokesperson said: “This is part of the trilateral engagement in which Kashmiri leaders are meeting amongst themselves and the leaders of Pakistan and India, and we welcome it.”
She said Pakistan had emphasised all along that it was important to involve the Kashmiri leaders in the peace process or at least have their association with the process.
She said the killing of 34 Hindus in Doda was unfortuunate, adding: “It is a terrorist act and we condemn it.” She was confident that the incident would not have any impact on the peace process.
When asked about some lobbies in the Indian establishment wanting to derail the peace process, Ms Aslam replied: “I understand that the Indian government and Indian occupied Kashmir’s administration would be carrying out investigations… I’m not in the business of conspiracy theories.”
“As far as we know, China did not intervene during the Kargil conflict,” she said when asked about an Indian army genera’s claim in this regard.
US DIALOGUE: Ms Aslam, who participated in the inaugural session of Pakistan-US strategic dialogue in Washington last week, said various aspects of the bilateral relationship were reviewed during the meeting and both sides agreed to deepen and broaden it.
She said the foreign secretary and his US counterpart had decided that the working groups on different subjects would meet over the next two months. This, she said, would follow another round of talks between the foreign secretary and US Under-Secretary Nicholas Burns. “We expect progress once the working groups meet,” she said.
In reply to a question, she said the issue of mining and fencing parts of the Afghanistan border was discussed during the meeting.
She underlined that cross-border movement was taking place from both ends, saying people from Afghanistan were also coming into Pakistan and creating trouble here.
“While we are doing all we can, we expect the other side to also initiate action and if they want they can mine the border to deter this movement,” she stated.
She said the Pakistan-Afghanistan-US joint military exercises that started on Tuesday were aimed at promoting coordination among the three countries.
AIRFIELDS: Responding to a question regarding Pakistan’s readiness to open its airspace and airfields to Dutch aircraft active in Afghanistan, she emphasised that such cooperation would not be part of any military operations in the neighbouring country.
Pointing to the fact that the Netherlands was deploying additional troops in Afghanistan under the Nato-Isaf command, the spokesperson said Pakistan had been providing logistic support to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the International Security Assistance Force in their security operations in Afghanistan.
She underlined that Pakistani facilities were not meant for military action in Afghanistan but as a transit point, adding that Isaf had been using part of the base in Karachi for its forward mounting operations to lift their supplies.
“If we have similar cooperation with the Netherlands it is in that context,” she said, adding that Dutch troops in Afghanistan were in any case not involved in military operations but were there to provide security cover.
The spokesperson told a questioner that the government had no confirmation of reports that India would be stationing 12 MiG aircraft at a base in Tajikistan. However, she said Pakistan was aware of the fact that India was helping Tajikistan develop an airfield.
SAARC: Responding to question regarding disappointment expressed by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on the role of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Ms Aslam said that did not mean a change in the country’s policy. “We want Saarc to be an effective and vibrant organisation and if progress in the context of Saarc is slow, naturally there is disappointment.” She maintained that Pakistan was working with other countries to make Saarc successful.
She said Pakistan was heartened by the interest shown by a number of countries in the region and outside it to join the organisation as observers. “That shows that Saarc as an organisation is gaining credibility.”
In reply to a question, she said: “The Saarc Charter says that political disputes cannot be discussed but, realistically, if Saarc were to do that perhaps it would help the member states to discuss a number of issues at this forum, which is important to all the countries.” She recalled that the Forum of Eminent Persons formed to look into ways of making Saarc more effective had recommended that the association should be able to discuss political disputes and help member countries resolve them.
UAE PACT: The spokesperson said the defence agreement signed with the United Arab Emirates last week would increase, promote and deepen cooperation in the field between the two countries. She said the agreement would cover joint military training and exercises, research, exchange of information, security in defence policy coordination and defence procurement. It would pave way for more systematic exchanges between the two military establishments, she said.
GAS PIPELINE: Replying to a question, Ms Aslam said Pakistan and Iran were ready to develop a gas pipeline bilaterally as well. She said Pakistan was looking at both bilateral and trilateral tracks. If for some reason India was unable to join, the pipeline could be built from Iran to Pakistan, she said, adding: “However, we would be very happy if India is still part of this project.”
“We have no indication that India is not part of this gas pipeline anymore,” she said.