Pakistan to keep its national interests supreme; not to take dictation: Khawaja Asif

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Asif on Thursday said that Pakistan will always keep national interest supreme before taking decisions and will not take dictation from any external power or other country.

During question hour, he said “We will give priority to our own interests and will not take dictation from any power and country while taking important decisions”.

Khawaja Asif said that national interests were not kept supreme in the past but now Pakistan had been trying to play role to protect its interest. “We will continue our efforts for peace on Eastern and Western borders but dictation would be not taken from others and national interests would be kept on priority”, he maintained.

He said Pakistan trade relations with Afghanistan have been affected during the last few years. He said that Afghanistan insists to give it trade route through Wagah border which had been denied.

He said that the Speaker National Assembly has summoned the meeting of National Security Council on February 1,to discuss many issues including relation with Afghanistan.

The minister said that Pakistan’s decision to join US in 1989, 1990 and 9/11 was not in the best interest of the country.

Khawaja Asif said “Pakistan pursues the policy of peaceful neighborhood. Our focus is on maintaining and strengthening peaceful and friendly relations with all neighboring countries including China, Iran, Afghanistan and India,on the basis of mutual respect and equality.”

He said that in recent years, Pakistan had contributed hugely for the regional peace and security and taken successful military action against all elements that are detrimental to the peace and security of the region.

“Through our military operations, we have cleansed our territory of all terrorist groups that were threatening not only the peace in Pakistan but also in the region. We have deployed around 200,000 troops on our borders with Afghanistan to interdict cross border movement of the terrorist elements” he added.

Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan is building border management infrastructure along Pak-Afghan border with a view to encourage bilateral trade and facilitate legal travel between the two countries while making the illegal crossing of the border difficult.

He said, “Pakistan believes that peace and stability in Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan.

We believe that Pakistan benefits more than anyone if there is lasting peace in Afghanistan. We understand that a stable Afghanistan would help us promote our agenda of economic development and regional connectivity. “The foreign Minister said, “In our reckoning, the only solution to Afghan conflict lies in a politically negotiated settlement that is owned and led by Afghans. Towards this end, Pakistan as a policy participates in all Afghanistan related multilateral fora to contribute constructively to the peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

Only last month, he said, Pakistan participated in the first meeting of the China-Afghanistan- Pakistan ,Foreign Ministers Dialogue in Beijing.

“The three sides agreed to take joint steps against terrorism and not to let any country, group or individual to use their,territory for violence anywhere” he added.

Khawaja Asif said,“On bilateral plane, we had shared with Afghanistan a comprehensive engagement plan titled, Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Solidarity (APAPS) that envisages bilateral engagement under five working groups. We will be taking further steps in coordination with our Afghan brothers for early operationalization of the working groups.

He said that Pakistan has been home to millions of Afghan brethren,who were forced to leave their country by persistent conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan has offered unprecedented hospitality and support to the Afghan people and extended life amenities like education and health at par with the Pakistani citizens, he added.

“Over 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistani educational institutions, and are now working in Afghanistan’s public and private sectors, fulfilling the needs of their country” he added.

Foreign Minister said that Pakistan has extended 6,000 fully funded scholarships for Afghan students in Pakistan. Almost 3000 have already been availed and another batch of 750 Afghan students is set to start their scholarships in Pakistan.

He said that Pakistan dedicated 100 seats to the female candidates. In addition, Pakistan undertakes capacity building programs of Afghans from various professions.

To another question he said in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of a peaceful and friendly neighborhood, Pakistan is pursuing the policy of good relations with all the countries of the region including Bangladesh.

“Pakistan-Bangladesh relations are rooted in common history. Pakistan desires to maintain a forward looking approach in its bilateral relations with Bangladesh” he added.

However, the ties are currently weighed down by bitter memories of 1971. Pakistan has consistently urged the Bangladesh government to uphold its commitment as per the Tripartite Agreement of 1974. Pakistan desires to move ahead and Pakistan and Bangladesh can work together for the development of their respective countries.