Press Release by Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman
Statement at the Press Briefing
by the Foreign Secretary
(19 October, 1999)
Suspension from Councils of the Commonwealth
The decision of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group which met in London on I 8th October 1 999, to suspend Pakistan from participation in the Councils of the Commonwealth, ignores the extraordinary circumstances which led to the enforcement of emergency in Pakistan. It also overlooks the fact that there is no Martial Law in the country and there is popular public sentiment in favour of the change. The Chief Executive has already announced the framework for the multi- tier administration which will be primarily civilian in character. The elected President of the country continues to hold office. The judiciary is functioning normally under Civil Law. The fundamental rights, including the freedom of press, are protected. The priorities of the new administration focus on good governance, revival of the economy, national integration and transparent accountability which have been the persistent demand of the people of Pakistan in the past many years.
The CMAG decision also does not take into account the categorical statement by the Chief Executive that "the Armed Forces have no intention of staying in charge any longer than absolutely necessary to pave the way of true democracy to flourish in Pakistan".
The Government will receive the Ministerial delegation which CMAG has agreed to send to Pakistan shortly to meet with the Pakistani leadership. Prior to the CMAG meeting, we had suggested to the Commonwealth Secretary General that a fact-finding mission should first visit Pakistan to assess the public reaction and to have a better understanding of the situation. In taking the decision, the CMAG has, therefore, ignored many important aspects, especially the public reaction to the change in -Pakistan, and has applied the Harare Declaration principles in haste. We regret this decision.
New Political Dispensation
I should also like to avail myself of this opportunity to brief you on the new political dispensation in Pakistan.
firstly, let me say a few words on the circumstances which necessitated the change. The Chief Executive has focussed on the compelling factors in his detailed policy statement on I 7th October, 1999. It is noteworthy that :
a. He took over in extremely unusual circumstances which were not of his making.
b. Pakistan, in the recent years, had experienced merely a label of democracy and not the essence of it.
C. He was faced with the challenge of saving the nation which he did while taking care not to sacrifice the
Constitution. The Constitution has only been temporarily held in abeyance.
d. Martial Law has not been imposed. The armed forces have no intention to stay in charge any longer than absolutely necessary to pave the way for true democracy to flourish in Pakistan.
Priorities of the Government
You are also aware of the priorities of the Government which the Chief Executive spelt out in his policy statement and these priorities include strengthening of the Federation, the revival of economy, ensuring law and order and swift and across the board accountability. These will be achieved through good governance. The Chief Executive has clearly pledged that the Government will serve the people.
You have all seen the reactions to the change in Pakistan. It is a matter of satisfaction that by and large there is a sense of understanding and a feeling that the situation in Pakistan did in fact require remedial measures.
Yes, critical comments have also emanated from some quarters, particularly abroad. These reactions have been made in disregard of important considerations which I deem necessary to mention to you at the cost of repetition.
a. The people of Pakistan welcome the change. There is calm and a sense of relief in the country. The popular sentiment reflects disappointment with the experience of the past. The people now desire good governance and clean administration which can lead the country towards stability, economic revisal, national integration, true accountability and genuinely functional democracy.
b. Despite the proclamation of emergency, there is no Martial Law nor military courts in the country. The Constitution has not been abrogated and the country is being governed in accordance with its provisions as far as possible.
c . The elected President continues to remain in office. The judicial system is intact and the judiciary is functioning normally at all levels under Civil Law. The fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution remain in place.
d. The new multi-tier set- up would be civilian in character which will include persons of ability, professional merit and repute.
e. The new dispensation may not carry the label of democracy but would in a sense ensure a transparent, clean and efficient system in keeping with the desires of the people.
The Chief Executive has declared that there will be no change in the foreign policy of Pakistan. We will continue to honour all our international obligations and commitments as in the past. we would maintain our policy of friendship and cooperation with all countries as usual.
On Afghanistan our policy is clear and consistent. We desire durable peace in Afghanistan through negotiations and reconciliation among the Afghans. The Chief Executive has reiterated this policy while stressing the need for a broad-based Government which is representative of all segments of the Afghan society. Only the Afghan people are competent to bring about such a Government. The Tashkent Declaration which Pakistan signed during the Six Plus Two meeting in the Uzbek capital in July this year also emphasizes the establishment of such a Government. Pakistan will continue to extend its fullest support to all efforts aimed at promoting the Afghan peace process including those of the UN and the OIC.
Let me here emphasize that Pakistan remains opposed to all forms and manifestations of terrorism. We support international effort to combat terrorism. we have always extended our full cooperation to the international community for this purpose.
Relations with India
As regards relations with India, we have always desired that Pakistan and India should sincerely work towards resolving their outstanding problems especially the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. With this end in mind, we would welcome unconditional and result-oriented dialogue with India. As a confidence building measure the Chief Executive has announced an important initiative of unilateral military de-escalation along Pakistan's border with India.
The Chief Executive has reiterated our policy of maintaining moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris. He has underscored that India must honour the UN Resolutions and its own commitments to the people of Kashmir. There must also be an end to the repression of the Kashmiri people and their fundamental human rights must be respected.
Security and Non-Proliferation Issues
Pakistan has always been sensitive to international non- proliferation concerns. We will continue to pursue our policy of nuclear and missile restraint and sensitivity to global non- proliferation and disarmament objectives. As regards CTBT, there is no change in our positive approach. We need an atmosphere free of coercion. Sanctions, as we have always said, are counter-productive and unacceptable to us. Their continuation does not evoke a sense of equity or inspires confidence and cooperation.
The following issues were discussed during the question- answer session.
? To a question with regard to the Chief Executive's initiative of unilateral withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the international border with India and New Delhi's response to the gesture, the Foreign Secretary stated:
"We have seen the Indian reaction; some statements have emanated from New Delhi. Unfortunately, it is not a positive response. But let me emphasize as far as our position is concerned the Chief Executive has made a positive offer of unconditional dialogue. He has also taken an important initiative in terms of confidence building measures and we remain prepared for an unconditional, sincere and meaningful dialogue. That is what our position is."
? When his attention was drawn to the international community's apprehension that since the Chief Executive in his policy statement had not given a time table to return to democracy, the present arrangement might continue indefinitely, probably for a decade or so, as witnessed in the past, the Foreign Secretary said:
"As you are aware, the Chief Executive has promised that his Government's main purpose is to serve the people and he has underscored that the Armed Forces have no intention to stay in charge any longer than it is absolutely necessary to pave the way for true democracy to flourish in Pakistan. It is obviously difficult to set a firm time schedule. The priorities set by the Government require a sustained effort. If the essence of democracy is the fulfillment of the wishes of the people, the new Government has pledged itself to that goal and the people of Pakistan have shown confidence in this commitment."
? Asked as to what extent the decision of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to suspend Pakistan from participation in the Councils of the Commonwealth would affect Pakistan, the Foreign Secretary said:
"The suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth basically deprives us from being in Durban and the Commonwealth Heads of State/Government Meeting (CHOGM). We have to wait and 'sea-. This is only a kind of an interim decision and the final decision would obviously be taken in Durban. We would have also to wait for the outcome of the visit of the 4-member Ministerial delegation of the CMAG. So, it would be premature to say anything about its effect. Economically, it will not be much."
? Referring to Pakistan's unilateral decision to withdraw troops from the international border with India, a correspondent inquired if the gesture would be extended to the LoC as well, and if Pakistan was still committed to the Lahore process, the Foreign Secretary stated:
"As we all know the situation with regard to the Line of Control is qualitatively different from that of our international border; because the situation on the LoC has always been volatile with heavy concentration of troops across the Line. Pakistan responds only when the Indians indulge in shelling and indiscriminate firing. So, in these circumstances it is not prudent to lower our guard. As regards the Lahore process, I think first of all the responsibility. for creating the requisite atmosphere rests primarily with India. Our proposal for resumption of dialogue has been made in good faith and we believe that dialogue is in the interest of both Pakistan and India, as well as the region."
? When his comments were sought on the Chief Executive's statement on Afghanistan urging a broad-based Government in Kabul, and if it was a signal of change vis-a-vis the Taliban, the Foreign Secretary said:
"We have always maintained this position that Afghanistan needs a broad-based Government in keeping with the legitimate aspirations of the Afghan people and it is only the Afghans who have to decide what type of Government they want."
? Asked as to why the new set-up in the country had not changed the foreign policy, the Foreign Secretary remarked:
"Our policy has always been one of friendship and cooperation with all countries. our policy has always been to promote and seek peace not only in the region but in the world at large. You want us to change that policy?"
? When his comments were sought on imposition of sanctions against Afghanistan, the Foreign Secretary said:
"That is a decision taken by the UN Security Council which is a body of 15 member states and Pakistan is not one of them. But our position on sanctions, as a matter of principle, is one of strict opposition. We oppose sanctions. Sanctions do not serve any purpose. They are always counter productive against whichever country they are."
? Asked if the Security and Non-proliferation dialogue with the United States would continue or could be disrupted following the change in the country, the Foreign Secretary observed:
"Well, we have always maintained very positive attitude towards Security and Non-Proliferation issues. As you know we have already held 8 rounds of talks and are looking forward to the resumption of dialogue."
?To a question about the over all reaction of the world to the change in Pakistan, the Foreign Secretary said:
"As I have already stated there is by and large an understanding of the exceptional circumstances that necessitated the change. There have been expressions of concern in some quarters as I said earlier and the underlying concern of these expressions, as we understand, has been the welfare of the people of Pakistan and the stability of the country. Exactly, these elements constitute the main preoccupation of the present Government."
? When his attention was drawn to reports in the media about removal of Pakistani High Commissioners and Ambassadors from various capitals as a result of the change at home, the Foreign Secretary said:
"It is a very relevant question. In fact, there have been speculation in the media regarding the contracts of non- career Ambassadors. The factual position is that the Government has the right to appoint Ambassadors from outside the professional cadre, and we had 18 such non- career Ambassadors. According to their contract the non- career Ambassadors are "deemed to have tendered their resignation if the Government which appointed them goes out of office unless the new Government expressly permits them to complete their tenure". Now, in accordance with this contractual provision all the 18 non-career Ambassadors were deemed to have resigned from their posts with effect from the date the Government which appointed them went out of of f ice. The present Government has accepted the resignations of 11 non-career Ambassadors, whereas the remaining 7 have been allowed to continue and complete their tenure.
Here, I must clarify that some reports erroneously indicated some missions which are not affected by this change. For example, our Ambassador in Vienna is a professional of high calibre and is doing an excellent job there. Some reports indicated that he is also one of them whose contract were being terminated. This is untrue; he is a career Ambassador and continuing there. Vienna is basically a UN related Mission and we don't want any confusion to continue on that account.
You might be interested to know which are the contract Ambassadors whose resignations have been accepted. They were our Ambassadors in Thailand, United Kingdom, Portugal, Uzbekistan, Mauritius, Myanmar, Kenya, Norway, Bosnia, Spain and Bahrain. About Mr. Tariq Fatemi, I may mention that he is a career Ambassador; and as you are aware, it is naturally the prerogative of every Government to have an Ambassador of its choice in a capital like Washington. So Mr. Fatemi has ceased to be Pakistan's Ambassador in Washington and his replacement will be decided in due course.