FO regrets ‘interference’ by foreign missions commenting over Baloch protests

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The Foreign Office on Thursday regretted the “interference” by some foreign missions in Pakistan for commenting on the Baloch protesters, saying the country was fully capable of handling its internal matters. Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch at a weekly press briefing said the constitution of Pakistan guaranteed freedom of expression to its citizens and the laws were in place to deal with such cases internally.

The spokesperson’s statement came in response to a question over the recent tweets by Norway’s embassy and the European Union Ambassador in Pakistan who expressed “concerns” over the alleged mistreatment of the Baloch protestors in Islamabad. “The interference of foreign embassies in Pakistan is regrettable,” she said, adding that the country was committed to protecting the rights of its people. She said the country’s courts were independent and had taken decisions in this regard on several occasions. Asked if the coming year held any prospects of resumption of ties with India, the spokesperson said India needed to take steps to create an environment for a dialogue. She, however, categorically pointed out that the dialogue with India could only take place based on “equality, respect and with discussion on Jammu and Kashmir as the priority issue”. On relations with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), she said Pakistan and GCC were on the verge of concluding a Free Trade Agreement soon, the first of such kind by the GCC with any country. She said negotiations in this regard were taking place, which would culminate in the signing of agreements “shortly”. The FO spokesperson dismissed the report about India demanding Pakistan to hand over the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed in connection with the Pulwama incident. “This is based on speculative reporting,” she said when asked if India had sent an official request to Pakistan to extradite Saeed. Mumtaz Baloch said Indian occupation forces in Jammu and Kashmir continued to put curbs on the residents and the Kashmiri leaders. She said Pakistan strongly condemned the decision of the Indian authorities to ban the Muslim League Jammu & Kashmir Masarat Alam faction for five years. “Putting restrictions on Kashmiri leaders is India’s disrespect for international norms,” she said, adding that India must lift the ban and release the incarcerated political prisoners. The FO spokesperson gave a yearly roundup of Pakistan’s achievements in the international arena and the efforts made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the domain of diplomacy.