"The people of Pakistan are wise enough to make political decisions on their own," FO spokesperson says
ISLAMABAD:The Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch on Friday once again snubbed former US special representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, for tweeting more unwanted advice on how to steer Pakistan's politics out of its chaotic spiral — while laying bare his obvious lean towards Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its policies, The News reported.
In a tweet President Arif Alvi, asked Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, in his letter — also posted on Twitter — to direct authorities to assist the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in holding timely elections in Punjab and KP, while also underscoring the human rights abuses, Khalilzad re-tweeted the tweet.
Earlier, Khalilzad wrote on Twitter: "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."
As it was brought to light at the Foreign Office, the spokesperson 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 of advice 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 until the spokesperson 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 a 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, Baloch 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 was being considered, the spokesperson'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 FO spokesperson 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."
She also noted: "The people of Pakistan will remember this for a long time," she said.
Asked whether Pakistan would participate in the National Security Advisers Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in New Delhi, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch 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 an SCO-related meeting, she 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 organisation.
Regarding 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."