Five Pakistanis still languishing in Guantanamo Bay prison: FO

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Guantanamo Bay prison

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday revealed that there were at least five Pakistanis who were being detained at US’ Guantanamo Base in Cuba.

During the weekly briefing on Thursday, the foreign office spokesperson revealed that a two member delegation that had visited the facility in August 2006, had found six Pakistanis among the 164 people detained at the facility.

The spokesperson added that the Pakistani mission in Washington had in 2011 sought consular access to these detainees. One of the six detainees had been released, but five still remain in detention.

The five Pakistanis detained in Guantanamo Bay include Saifullah Piracha, Majid Khan, Ghulam Ahmed Rabban, Muhammad Ahmed Rabbani and Ammar Ali Balochi.

NYT report

Responding to a question about the New York Times story that claimed some officials in Pakistan knew about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, the spokesperson referred to the statements made by the military and former PAF chief earlier in the day.

“I may add here that there are many inconsistencies in the article. The author herself talks about suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge.”

Dismayed with Mishrano Jirga

Asked about allegations leveled by the Mishrano Jirga in Afghanistan, the spokesperson said Pakistan was disappointed with unfounded allegations.

“We express our deep dismay and disappointment over the unfounded allegations leveled at Pakistan in the statement of Afghanistan’s Mishrano Jirga of 19 March 2014.”

She reiterated that the world knows how seriously Pakistan had suffered from the scourge of terrorism and extremism over the past three decades, emanating primarily from the conflict and instability beyond its borders and the sacrifices it had made.

“Any attempt to depict Pakistan as other than a victim of terrorism is a travesty that we completely reject. It is disconcerting that such injurious statements be made at a time when sincere efforts are underway to turn a new page in the bilateral relationship with Afghanistan.”

NDMA for India

Asked about the impending NDMA status that will be accorded to India, the spokesperson said that the forward movement in trade was taking place after due consultations among all stakeholders.

“We have certain concerns and those concerns need to be addressed in the context of non-tariff barriers and phytosanitary standards and their implementation.”

She explained that the NDMA is a non-discriminatory arrangement for trade in which both sides equally benefit. “Opportunities are provided, or not hindered by either side to the business community of the other side.”

However, she noted that in order to make the process of trade durable and for bilateral relationship to move forward on sound footing, there was a need to comprehensively address all the issues between Pakistan and India. “That includes particularly Jammu and Kashmir and other issues such as Siachin, Sir Creek and Water issues.”

The spokesperson referred to Nawaz Sharif’s statements on arms, reiterating that Pakistan does not want an arms race but at the same time was mindful of its defense needs.

Missing Malaysian plane

Noting that efforts are still under way to confirm whether satellite imagery of debris found in the South Indian Ocean, the spokesperson said that Pakistan’s data was available to investigators.

“Our data was available but our radars did not see anything and rightly so because the aircraft it seems, did not come in this direction.”

The spokesperson also rejected the notion that Pakistan was defensive about speculation that the missing plane may have come to Pakistan.

“No, we were never on the defensive. The allegations were so absurd. Those who make these allegations undermine their own credibility.”

She explained that there are only four to five airports in Pakistan where a 777 can land. The spokesperson added that Pakistan’s sympathies were with the countries whose nationals were on board and more particularly with the families. “We would have liked to see the aircraft recovered safely but as the time elapses, the chances of that are little. We offered our help in response to the request made by Malaysia to the international community to share any information or any blip on the radars where the aircraft could be spotted.”

Visit to Iran, Nuclear Summit

The spokesperson confirmed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Iran and The Hague were on the cards.

“We hope that it [visit to Iran]would be in the first half of 2014. Exact dates have not been worked out.”

On the Hague, she said that Nawaz was most likely to attend the Nuclear Summit. “We have participated in all the previous summits. We have very actively and constructively participated in the negotiations, drafting of the communiqués and outcome of these summits.”

She said that as a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan takes its responsibility of nuclear security very seriously as it has been agreed in the summit process that nuclear security is primarily a national responsibility.

On meetings on the sidelines expected at the Hague, she said there was not much time. “Because the summit has so many engagements and events, there is not much time. We have not requested any bilateral meeting.”

However, she did not rule out a possibility for a bilateral meeting. “In case we receive any request or some meetings are arranged, we will let you know.”

Mediation in Muslim world

Reiterating that Pakistan does not interfere in the bilateral relations of other countries and that it has a specific arms export policy in light of recent speculation, the spokesperson said that Pakistan was a force for unity in the Muslim world.

However they have “not asked Pakistan for mediation.”

Asked about Akhwan- ul- Muslimeen, who have been declared as a terrorist organisation by Saudi Arabia, the spokesperson said that Bahrain’s position on Muslim Brotherhood is their position.

“I won’t like to comment on that or on Saudi Arabia’s position. We have our own independent relationship with Egypt and with other countries. We deal with countries.”

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