Legitimate concerns: Pakistan engaged with WHO over polio campaign, says FO

Foreign Office spokesperson says interior ministry is engaged with US authorities over Pakistanis in Guantanamo Bay.


Web Desk March 13, 2014
“I don’t agree that there is an impression in Iran that Pakistan is not serious. Pakistan is serious and Iranian government is aware of that." PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: A day after prime minister Nawaz Sharif termed the violence riddled polio campaign in Pakistan part of the collateral damage in the war on terror, the foreign office insisted on Thursday that the government was focused on the issue, and expressed determination to carry forward the campaign.

During the weekly briefing, the foreign office responded to questions about concerns over the polio campaign in Pakistan including possible travel sanctions by different countries and the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO labeled Peshawar as the reservoir of polio this year.

“About Polio, more than anyone else, it is our concern. It is about the future and health of our children,” the spokesperson said.

Pakistan already faces restrictions from India. Passengers from Pakistan are required to produce a certificate proving vaccination. However, the spokesperson said she was unaware of similar plans by any other country over impending restrictions.

“Unlike the perception, the reality is that most of the children in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and FATA have been inoculated,” the spokesperson said, adding that “We have remained engaged with WHO in Geneva as well and while they understand the problem, the security threats, they are keen to help Pakistan overcome this problem and provide vaccination to all children.”

Saying there was “no need for concern,” she noted that the inoculation campaign was an “ongoing issue and we will remain engaged with WHO and other governments.”

Pakistan serious about I-P pipeline

Asked about the growing clamor from Tehran over the stalled Iran-Pakistan pipeline, the spokesperson reiterated that Pakistan remained committed to the project.

“I don’t agree that there is an impression in Iran that Pakistan is not serious. Pakistan is serious and Iranian government is aware of that,” she said, adding that Pakistan’s commitment to the project has been oft repeated.

She referred to the statement by Advisor to the PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in the parliament where he reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the project.

“We have had discussions and a number of options are under consideration by the two sides. We are considering a number of proposals together.”

Afghanistan elections

The spokesperson expressed lack of knowledge on why no arrangements had been made to extend franchise to Afghan refugees living in Pakistan ahead of the upcoming polls in Afghanistan.

“It is most probably because of some administrative arrangements they are not able to make for conducting elections for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.“

However, the spokesperson said that Pakistan was willing to extend all possible facilitation to Afghanistan for the upcoming elections. “We will extend whatever help the Afghan government requests us for and we are able to give.”

Repatriating Pakistanis

Asked about Pakistanis who face deportation for the UK and some Pakistanis held in the US administered Guantanamo Bay prison, the spokesperson said that the relevant departments were engaged over the repatriation of citizens.

“You know that Pakistan and the European Union signed a re-admission agreement and under that those persons whose Pakistani nationality is determined and who are living in the United Kingdom or any other European country illegally, we accept them back.”

She ruled out mass deportations, but acknowledged that some illegal Pakistanis are being repatriated. “Our Ministry of Interior is coordinating.”

About Pakistanis in Guantanamo Bay, the spokesperson said that they had been in touch with US authorities.

“I don’t know the exact number but yes, we have been in contact with the US authorities.”

The spokesperson highlighted visits by officials of interior ministry to meet the detainees and determine their nationality. “Many Pakistanis were released as a result of those efforts.”

She declined immediate knowledge of a specific pact with US over Pakistanis held in Guantanamo bay.

NDMA

The spokesperson said that the delay in according the NDMA to India was dependent on India fulfilling its actions.

“As the name indicates, NDMA means non-discriminatory market access. There are a number of things in that respect that India is expected to do.”

She explained that the timelines were agreed on the sidelines of the SAARC Business Conclave in New Delhi.

“Once India completes those actions, NDMA would be given by both countries to each other.”

Rejecting the notion that the Foreign Office was opposing the NDMA, she said that the government will decide after due consultation with all the stakeholders.

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