President Zardari to visit Iran on Monday

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari is to visit Iran to perform ground-breaking of gas pipeline project taking place on Monday next.

Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan said at the weekly news briefing in Islamabad on Thursday that several heads of state have also been invited to attend the ceremony.

He said Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources is working out details. He rejected the impression that Pakistan was in a fix over the project due to foreign pressure and said the project being in our national interests we are committed to go ahead with it.

The spokesman said Pakistan is aware of concerns of the United States and some other countries about the project but hoped that they would understand Pakistan’s economic compulsions in this regard.

To a question he said discussions are also going on with Iran about setting up of an oil refinery at Gwadar.

The spokesman also confirmed that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf would pay a personal visit to Ajmer Sharif shrine in India on Saturday. He said no talks are yet scheduled on the occasion with Indian leadership.

Asked to comment on Indian Prime Minister’s allegations that Pakistan was not doing enough against terrorism, he said Pakistan condemns terrorism and extremism in all its forms and manifestations. He said it is a common threat and requires a common strategy and cooperation amongst all countries of the region.

As for Mumbai attacks, he said Pakistan has repeatedly told India to provide proof that could stand scrutiny in the court of law as mere statements are not enough.

The spokesman said Pakistan wants resolution of all issues with India through dialogue including the recent incident on the Line of Control. He said Pakistan has even gone to the extent of offering investigations under the mechanism of UN system.

About grant of MFN status to India, he said Pakistan Government is committed to its decision in this regard but the two countries have to complete the required processes first.

When his attention was drawn towards reports that India wants Pakistan to seek NOC for construction of water reservoirs in Azad Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan, the spokesman said Pakistan doesn’t need any NOC from India.

This position has also been supported by the latest verdict of the international court of arbitration in Kishan Ganga dispute.

He, however, added that under provisions of Indus Basin Treaty, India is under obligation to inform Pakistan before hand if it wanted to build any structure on three Western rivers meant for Pakistan.

To a question he said there was an understanding with the United States for initiation of case against Raymond Davis for killing two Pakistanis in Lahore but so far no such development was in his knowledge.

Asked to sum up five year foreign policy of the present Government, the spokesman said the focus has been on improving relations with regional countries including India and Afghanistan. He said it is also pertinent that the Government involved the Parliament in the formulation of the country’s foreign policy.