ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Thursday categorically ruled out any possibility of releasing Dr Shakeel Afridi saying the matter was sub-judice.
“If the courts exonerate him that would be a different matter but he has been convicted and the review process is taking place,”, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam told weekly press briefing when asked Pakistan’s position after the US linked its aid to the release of Dr Afridi.
She further said this issue could be taken up in the ministerial meeting on US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in the context of linking 33 million dollars aid with Dr Shakeel Afridi’s release. The two-day ministerial meeting is slated for January 27 and 28 in Washington.
Commenting on the stand-off between Islamabad and New Delhi over the suspension of Muzzafarabad- Srinagar and Poonch-Rawalakot bus service, the spokesperson said Pakistani and Indian authorities are in contact and trying to resolve this matter.
She said the Indian High Commissioner met the Foreign Secretary on Wednesday and among other things, this issue was also discussed. She said both sides were of the view that the issue should be resolved at the earliest.
The spokesperson clarified that the drivers from IOK had not been arrested. They were just stopped on this side. Forty-nine trucks from AJK had been detained on the other side.
“We are very keen that trade between Pakistan and India and intra Kashmir trade across LoC takes place smoothly. We also summoned the Indian Counsellor to the Ministry just before our Deputy High Commissioner was called into their MEA essentially in an effort to resolve the deadlock,” the spokesperson added.
Answering a question about the purpose of the visit of Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to Pakistan, Tasneem Aslam said a number of issues relating to commerce, trade and creating an environment in which trade cold flow from both sides on equal footings would be under discussion.
When asked about the upcoming visits of Saudi interior minister, the spokesperson said a number of high-level visits from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan were under discussion. “Similarly, there are many agreements which are under process between the two countries,” she added.
Answering a question relating to Pakistan cricket team’s participation in the cricket series due to take place in Bangladesh, the spokesperson said Islamabad was watching the situation in Bangladesh adding that the T-20 World Cup would not start before the end of the February and probably a decision regarding the security situation would be made closer to the dates of the event.
Earlier, in her opening statement the spokesperson said that last evening the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Spain Mr Gonzalo De Benetino telephoned the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to condole the death of six Levies soldiers and to thank the government of Pakistan for saving a Spanish citizen who was crossing from Iran into Pakistan and there was an attempt to kidnap him. Six soldiers laid their lives in order to avert the kidnapping and 10 others were injured.
Agencies add: The Pakistani foreign ministry in a statement Monday said it was ‘disappointed’ at the condition. It said that Afridi, a citizen of Pakistan, was accused of having violated the country’s laws.
“His action also caused immense damage to the polio campaign in the country. His case is sub-judice and he remains entitled to due process under the law,” it said. “Consequently, any linkage of US assistance to this case is not in keeping with the spirit of cooperation between the two countries.”
The statement added that Pakistan and the United States were engaged in building a close, cooperative relationship, and that it hoped the process could move forward in a “constructive manner.”