ISLAMABAD: Though no new approach has been made for a prisoner swap between the US and Pakistan involving Dr Aafia Siddiqui and Dr Shakil Afridi, the foreign office spokesperson hinted that the government was pondering over a legal route for the swap.
“Pakistan and the US do not have any bilateral prisoners’ exchange agreement. There are two regional arrangements which if joined could provide a basis for discussion on such issues. This particular aspect is under consideration in the Ministry Of Interior,” the foreign office spokesperson said during his weekly briefing. He also said that the Ministry of Interior could better answer about the arrangements under which prisoners were exchanged with the US.
Asked whether US secretary of state John Kerry would be arriving with an agenda to secure the release of Dr Afridi, the spokesperson dismissed it as speculative.
He also said that the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry was very much on the cards, the dates for which were being worked out.
Asked whether Pakistan-US relations were currently ‘strained’, the spokesperson chose not to colour the relation in that term.
“It’s a multi-faceted relationship,” he described, adding, “Our two countries have been collaborating in a number of areas of mutual benefit. Like in every relationship, there are points of convergence as well as divergence.”
“I believe that Pakistan is engaged with the US on the basis of mutual respect and mutuality of benefit,” he said.
Relations with Afghanistan
The recent visit of Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was brought up, and the spokesperson said that the first high level exchange of visits between Afghanistan and Pakistan had resulted in the invitation for Karzai to visit Pakistan being extended.
“The two governments are engaged in preparing for the visit and working out mutually convenient dates.”
He added that Pakistan hopes that the two countries “will work together on an agenda that leads us to lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region.”
“We believe that close engagement between Pakistan and Afghan governments could help achieve the objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
Asked about conditions that Karzai had proposed for visiting Pakistan and the allegations that Pakistan had been sabotaging the peace process, the spokesperson said that Pakistan did not want to get into a blame game.
“Yes, there have been allegations from the Afghan side, but we exercised utmost restraint and we will continue to do that.”
Instead, the spokesperson said that Pakistan remained positive.
“On Afghanistan, we have taken a positive and constructive approach. We believe that close engagement between Pakistan and Afghan governments could help achieve the objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan. We will persevere with our approach.”
Relations with India
On asked about the government’s stance on the killing of Pakistanis in an Indian train blasts, he said that our region has been afflicted by the menace of terrorism, and “it is incumbent upon all countries (of the region) to cooperate in fighting terrorism.”
“Pakistan believes that instead of leveling allegations, steps should be taken to promote cooperation in counter terrorism,” he said.
He said that Pakistan hopes that the meetings under Joint Anti Terrorism Mechanism, where such issues are referred, to resume. “We hope that the resumed dialogue process will start soon to enable us to take up these issues.”
On asked about the question of US drone strikes in Pakistan, the spokesperson said that Pakistan’s position on drone strikes was very clear.
“This government has laid a high priority to expressing our position to the US government and the world at large that drone strikes are counter-productive, violate our national sovereignty, violate the international law and endanger the human rights. This position is being conveyed to the US Government at all appropriate levels, and will also be taken up at the forthcoming interaction with the US side,” he said.
He added that Pakistan’s view has a solid legal basis. “We are aware that an international debate is also underway on the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the drone strikes. Pakistani leadership has made it clear that we will continue to project our perspective.”