Unedited transcript of the press conference addressed by the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson on 11 December 2006, as posted on the official Pakistan website.
No statement was made in the beginning and the Press Conference opened with Question/Answer Session.
Asked whether President Musharraf's new proposals on Jammu and Kashmir articulated in an interview with NDTV did not mean Pakistan had turned its back on its principled position on Kashmir and whether Pakistan had received any response from India on these proposals, the Spokesperson said:
There is no change in Pakistan 's position on the Kashmir issue. The President was essentially talking about the need for flexibility to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute which is acceptable to all sides. These were not new proposals. He has talked about these ideas a number of times. At no stage in the interview, the President said that Pakistan would unilaterally give up its position. He was emphasizing the need for flexibility by all sides to find a solution to the dispute, a solution that is acceptable to Pakistan , India and above all to the people of Kashmir . The ideas are about creating an environment in which a final settlement which is acceptable to all stakeholders can be reached. If you have seen the interview or its transcript, the President did not say what has been attributed to him. The President did not say that Pakistan would unilaterally give up its position. He talked about the need for flexibility by both sides. And flexibility cannot be unilateral
We have not seen any specific reaction to the President's interview but the issue of Jammu and Kashmir , along with other issues is being discussed between the two countries. This is a very important component of the Composite Dialogue Process.
In response to a comment that the President's proposals amounted to renunciation of Pakistan's claim that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and if Pakistan would be ready to give up its part of Kashmir and whether she would say that Azad Kashmir is not part of Pakistan, the Spokesperson said:
Pakistan 's legal position on the Jammu and Kashmir disputes is based on the UN resolutions. Kashmir is a disputed territory. According to the UN Security Council's resolutions, Pakistan and India are parties to this dispute and Kashmiris have to essentially decide their future. It is about the aspirations of Kashmiri people. Pakistan does not claim Kashmir as an integral part. Kashmir is disputed. We however, hope that when Kashmiris are able to exercise their right to make a choice, they would opt for Pakistan .
The President did not talk about giving up Pakistan 's position on Kashmir . Azad Kashmir has its separate identity with a President and Prime Minister. It is not a province of Pakistan . If it were, there would have been a Governor and Chief Minister instead of President and Prime Minister.
In response to a comment she clarified that "Kashmir banayga Pakistan " is a slogan raised by Kashmiris.
Asked how Pakistan being the only Muslim country that possesses nuclear power viewed G.C.C's announcement that it would go for acquiring nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, the Spokesperson said:
Pakistan is a nuclear power. Nuclear weapons have no religion. We believe that every country has the right to have access to civilian nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under safeguards.
Asked about the outcome of Foreign Minister Kasuri's recent visit to Afghanistan , the Spokesperson said:
The Foreign Minister had addressed a press conference with his counterpart in Afghanistan . You may have seen that. The visit was in the context of the quarterly meetings framework that was established by the two Foreign Ministers when Foreign Minister Spanta visited Pakistan .
The Foreign Ministers reviewed bilateral relations. All aspects of bilateral relations including trade, cooperation in other fields such as scholarships that Pakistan has offered to Afghanistan and issue of prisoners were discussed. The Foreign Minister discussed the proposal of jirgas with the Afghan leaders. The Foreign Minister had two sessions with his counterpart. He met President Hamid Karzai. He also met the Speaker of the Lower House Mr. Younus Qanooni. The discussions in these meetings were detailed, open, and constructive. When I say candid and open, it doesn't translate into differences. They talked about the perceptions on both sides. They also exchanged views on the need and to bring down violence. These were good meetings. The Foreign Minister invited his Afghan counterpart to visit Pakistan . The visit is likely to take place within the next quarter.
When her attention was drawn to media reports that the visit of Foreign Minister Kasuri to Kabul was marred by the disagreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the list of elders who would participate in the in the jirga, the Spokesperson said:
The report is absolutely baseless. We gave our comprehensive proposals on jirgas and the Afghans appreciated that. They did not give us a proposal during the Foreign Minister's stay there. But we understand that a proposal is being handed over to our Embassy in Kabul .
Asked why the World Bank's Neutral Expert on Baglihar deferred his final determination, and if he could give his verdict outside the purview of the Indus Waters Treaty and whether there would be another meeting before his judgment, the Spokesperson said:
The Neutral Expert has been appointed by the World Bank under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty. Therefore, he has to make his determination within the context of the Indus Waters Treaty. His mandate flows from the provisions of that Treaty. We expect his judgment to abide by the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.
The delay in judgment has been because certain new elements were brought to the notice of the Neutral Expert which he would be looking into before he makes his determination.
At the moment, no meeting is planned. However, if the Neutral Expert requires another meeting, he would request the two sides accordingly.
In response to a number of questions about her response to an earlier question whether she implied that Pakistan did not claim Kashmir and if that stand did not go against the two nations theory and the position of the founder of the nation on the issue and whether the President's suggestions meant a u-turn in Pakistan's position on Kashmir, the Spokesperson said:
Our position is very clear. Our legal position is based on the UN Security Council resolutions. The final settlement of the Kashmir dispute has yet to take place. You need to understand the historical stance of Pakistan on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir . Pakistan does not see Kashmir as a territorial dispute. It is about the aspirations of Kashmiri people. Pakistan has never claimed Kashmir to be an integral part of Pakistan . It is our hope that when Kashmiris are in a position to make a choice they would accede to Pakistan . This is not something new. This position is reflected in our Constitution as well. I will draw your attention to the article in our Constitution which says that when people of Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan , the relationship between Pakistan and Kashmir would be determined in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiris. This article has always been a part of our Constitution.
What the President has said and what we have been saying repeatedly is that Kashmir is a dispute that is yet to be settled and its settlement has to be acceptable to all the stake holders i.e. Pakistan , India and above all the people of Kashmir . If India shows flexibility and we have a settlement of the Kashmir issue that is acceptable to all the stakeholders then it would become the new positions of Pakistan and India . Again, let me reiterate that we have not given up our legal position.
Asked to comment on the International Crisis Group's report on FATA criticizing the North Waziristan Peace Deal, the Spokesperson said:
I have not seen the complete report but yes I am aware of it. The International Crisis Group has one particular way of looking at things. What is important is what the report of the UN Security Council Mission has to say. The Mission visited Afghanistan last month for a week. It transited through Pakistan and held a meeting with the Foreign Secretary. During their stay in Afghanistan , the Mission members met a number of people including, government representatives, members of international organizations, members of civil society, NGOs and political representatives. They met President Karzai as well. They discussed at great length the problems in Afghanistan and factors that are responsible for the present situation there. I think the UNSC Mission's report has more credibility.
I would also like to draw your attention to an ISAF report which says that violence has drastically come down in the last two months. You can go further back and look at the report of the UN Secretary General.
Asked about the factors responsible for the recent outburst against Pakistan by the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Spokesperson said:
President Karzai was talking about the suffering of the Afghan people because of conflict and violence there. It is an emotional statement which mentions Afghan civilians being killed in bombardment and suicide attacks. Terrorism is a problem for everyone. Pakistan is a victim of menace. We are also suffering because of the situation in Afghanistan . There have been many suicide attacks in Pakistan . We are a victim of terrorism and we have been fighting terrorism. On what needs to be done about the situation in Afghanistan , how it can be ameliorated, our views have already been articulated. We have very clearly spelled out the need for a comprehensive strategy comprising political reconciliation and massive economic development in addition to military actions.
Asked, with reference to U.S-India nuclear deal, whether Pakistan had taken up the issue with the US , the Spokesperson said:
Our position is very clear. We have our energy requirements and we should have access to nuclear technology to meet our energy requirements. That position remains unchanged.
Asked about the agenda of the Egyptian Foreign Minister's visit to Pakistan , the Spokesperson said:
Bilateral issues, regional situation, Iraq , Palestine and other international developments are on the agenda.
Asked about Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia , the Spokesperson said:
On the Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia, we have already issued a statement which outlines the various aspects of this visit. He would be discussing the whole range of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia . The leaders of the two countries would review the regional situation, Afghanistan , Iraq , Palestine , the developments in the Middle East . They would also be talking about the reform, revitalization and restructuring of the OIC.
When her attention was drawn to the recent arrest by the Indian authorities of the Kashmiri leaders who were protesting against Indian atrocities, the spokesperson said:
We have repeatedly expressed concerns through this forum. We have deplored and condemned human rights violations in Kashmir .
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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