Monday June 17, 2024

Outside voices can’t influence our democratic process: FO

By Mariana Baabar
March 25, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The unsolicited advice for Pakistan, which continues to come from former US special representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, echoed at the Foreign Office on Friday during the weekly media briefing, visibly agitating the spokeswoman.

As soon as President Arif Alvi tweeted his letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asking him to direct the authorities concerned to assist the ECP in holding the general elections in Punjab and KP on time and highlighted the human rights abuses, Khalilzad quickly re-tweeted it.

Earlier, in a Tweet Khalilzad tweeted, “Pakistan, civil and military leaders might ponder the state of their country and the disastrous course it is on. In respect for their obligations and in the interest of their people, they should change course”.

When these statements from Khalilzad were raised at the Foreign Office, the spokeswoman first responded by saying, “I would like to invite your attention to a statement, which was released by this ministry a few days back and yesterday by the minister for information. I have nothing further to add to that”.

Last week, when the matter was raised, she said, “Pakistan does not need lectures or unsolicited advice from anyone on how to cope with the challenges we face today. As a resilient nation, we will come out stronger from the present difficult situation”.

However, the media continued to raise the question once again till the spokeswoman appeared to be quite flustered. “I am surprised why the fascination with this statement. You know very well, there was a statement issued by the minister of information yesterday. So, I do not understand why I am being asked again and again about the comments made by an individual in their private capacity on Twitter,” she said.

Pakistan is a confident democratic country and there is confidence that any outside voices cannot influence its democratic polity and governance. The people of Pakistan are wise enough to make political decisions on their own and do not need outside advice, she added.

Asked in which capacity Khalilzad was making these statements, the spokeswoman replied, “I would advise you to ask him directly whether it is his personal opinion. He’s available on Twitter. My statement stands. Minister for information has already commented yesterday”. When asked to comment on media reports that Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia was being recalled and a new ambassador being considered, the spokeswoman’s response was 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.”

When asked again whether a new ambassador for Saudi Arabia was being considered, she said, “In terms of personnel announcements, 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. I would only like to add here that some of these reports about Ambassador Rathore are incorrect and unfair. Ambassador Rathore is a highly professional diplomat who has served Pakistan well for several years and will continue to do so in the future.”

To a question about the recent visit to China by the foreign secretary and reports that the Chinese loan of $2 billion had been delayed and whether there were there any assurances about this loan, the spokeswoman did not give a direct response. “Pakistan and China are all-weather strategic cooperative partners and our two countries cooperate on a range of issues including economic and financial matters. We are grateful to the Chinese government and the people for the economic and financial support that they have provided to us in these difficult times. The people of Pakistan will remember this for a long time,” she said. Asked whether Pakistan would participate in the National Security Advisers SCO meeting in New Delhi, the spokeswoman said Pakistan was an active member of SCO and regularly participated in all SCO activities and constructively contributed to their outcomes and will continue to do so. “In terms of the specific meeting that you have referred to, we will make an announcement closer to the date”, she said. Commenting on an episode when Pakistan’s Defence Attache at the Pakistan High Commission was not allowed to participate in a SCO related meeting, the spokeswoman explained, “Regarding that unfortunate development last week, we have expressed our concerns with the SCO and our point has been well registered with the entire organization. Regarding the future meetings, I cannot predict how things would develop, but I can share with you that yesterday a delegation of Pakistan from the Joint Staff Headquarters attended the 16th meeting of the expert working group under the Council of the Ministers of Defense of SCO member states. It was a working level delegation that attended in-person.” The spokeswoman announced that Pakistan-Malaysia Bilateral political consultations will be held next week in Kuala Lumpur. “The agenda includes discussion on political, security and military cooperation, trade and investment ties, cooperation in science & technology, health, tourism and culture. The two sides will also exchange views on the regional and global issues including developments in the Asia-Pacific region, Climate Change, and Islamophobia”, she said.