ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan has expressed grave concern over the use of ammunition containing chemical agents by Indian forces to kill Kashmiris and destroy their properties in Occupied Kashmir.

“If use of chemicals in the ammunition is confirmed, then it would constitute a serious violation of international norms and India’s international obligations under Chemical Weapons Convention,” Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Nafees Zakariya told journalists during a weekly press briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

The FO spokesperson called upon the international community, particularly relevant international organisations to look into such reports. “Charred bodies of Kashmiri youth were found in the debris of five houses destroyed by Indian forces at Bahmnoo and Kakpora in Pulwama,” he said, adding the bodies were extensively burnt and beyond visual recognition.

Questioned about the US State Department’s licence to grant 22 predator guardian drones to India, Zakariya said Pakistan was deeply concerned on the supply of advanced military technologies and hardware to India, which further undermined the objective of preserving strategic balance in the region.

“We will continue to voice these concerns, both through bilateral engagements as well as at relevant international forums. While urging the international community to objectively assess the highly destabilising consequences of its actions and policies towards our region, Pakistan will not be oblivious to the imperative of safeguarding its national security,” he added.

To a question about Indian Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s statement that India’s alleged surgical strikes last year were planned several months before September 2016, Zakaria said there was discrepancy in the Indian claims which contradicted each other.

“False claims of surgical strikes denote Indian irresponsible attitude, which threatens regional peace and stability,” he said.

Zakaria welcomed Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s statement for united efforts on Kashmir.

“The entire Muslim Ummah is concerned over grave human rights situation in Kashmir. Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has repeatedly condemned Indian atrocities and called for an independent fact-finding mission to be sent to the occupied Kashmir,” he elaborated.

Pakistan, Zakaria said, believed that India must be confronted to immediately stop the bloodshed in Kashmir and call for an early implementation of relevant UNSC resolutions that promise Kashmiris UN-supervised plebiscite to exercise their right to self-determination.

He said Senator John McCain’s affirmation that there was no change in US position on Kashmir was also reaffirmed by the State Department.  Earlier in his opening statement, Zakaria condemned the continuous shedding of blood of the defenceless Kashmiris. “Indian occupation forces mercilessly killed 15 and seriously injured 250 Kashmiris, including children, people of old age, women and journalists. Eyes and vital organs of around two dozen young boys were targeted using pellet guns,” he said.

The spokesperson said that the Kashmiri leaders, including Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Mohammad Yasin Malik, Shabbir Ahmed Shah and others were not allowed to join congregational Eidul Fitr prayers.

Zakaria did not comment on a question about the two officers of Ministry of Foreign Affairs who appeared before the joint investigation team – probing the Panama leaks scandal.

Responding to a question, he said that Haqqani network was not operating from Pakistan but Afghanistan. Zakaria said that the Afghan allegations – backed by the US and India – about the presence of the Haqqani network in Pakistan was a “mere rhetoric”.

“It’s more of rhetoric than anything else. It is an attempt to put the blame of failures in Afghanistan on others. As a result of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operations, without any discrimination, the terrorists are on the run and their infrastructure has been dismantled. These terrorists, namely Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan (TTA), Daesh, Jamaatul Ahrar, remnants of al-Qaeda and a number of other splinter groups are settled in the ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan,” he said.

Zakaria said that the TTP and the TTA had fled to Afghanistan.

“In Pakistan, there is no organised presence of any of those terror outfits,” he added.

The spokesperson said on June 12, 2017, TTA leader, Mullah Abdul Bari was killed by Afghan 215th Maiwand Corps in Nad-e-Ali, Helmand. He said on August 30, 2016 killing of four commanders of Haqqani network in US airstrike in Afghanistan’s Jani Khel district was reported.

He said killing of Haqqani commander, Karnail, was reported on July 25, 2016 in eastern Khost province of Afghanistan in an encounter with the Afghan security forces.

In June this year, the spokesperson said, the killing of Haqqani commander Sirajuddin Khademi was reported in a US drone strike in Sarwaza district of Paktika province.

“With these statistics, it is evident that Haqqani network is based in Afghanistan and operates from there,” he contended. 

Zakaria said that Pakistan had discussed the issue of peace efforts in Afghanistan during the US senators’ visit to Islamabad over the weekend.

“US policy on Afghanistan is expected, shortly. There is convergence of thoughts of both the US and Pakistan in the context. Pakistan’s position on the efforts for reconciliation is clear. We believe in Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. We also firmly believe that peace and security in Afghanistan has direct bearing on the peace and security in Pakistan. Peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. We fully support all efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

The spokesperson said that India was undoubtedly part of the problem. “India doesn’t want peace in Afghanistan as its presence there is primarily aimed against Pakistan. Let me emphasise that Pakistan and Pakistani people are the most sincere friends of Afghanistan,” he added.

Asked if during recent visit, the US senators led by John McCain had accused Pakistan of supporting Haqqani network and other terrorist group, Zakaria said: “We draw no distinction in our fight against terrorism. We have been successful in dismantling terrorist infrastructure. Terrorists are on the run. This is manifested in improved security situation and economic indicators in the country.”

On revival of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) for Afghan peace, Zakaria said: “You may recall that the matter of QCG was discussed during the meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ashraf Ghani in Astana. It was agreed that the QCG was one of the means for cooperation in the context of peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

He said there had been a number of high-level interactions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, lately.

The most recent was between Prime Minister Nawaz and President Ashraf Ghani on the sideline of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Astana.

He said that the prime minister’s ongoing visit to Tajikistan had three elements, namely, bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral.

During the prime minister’s ongoing visit, a quadrilateral meeting including Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan was also scheduled, which will be an occasion for the two leaders to be together.

“Such occasions afford opportunity to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines. Adviser Sartaj Aziz met Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar on the sidelines of the recent Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. Senior officials from both Pakistan and Afghanistan also met on the sidelines of Kabul process in Afghanistan, last month,” he said. Both sides, Zakaria said, had been interacting to overcome the common challenges.

To a question about the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), he said that the group was in the process of formulating criteria for admission of non-members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty states.

“Pakistan is of the view that the NSG should evolve and agree on transparent, objective and non-discriminatory criteria that provides for simultaneous membership to non-NPT states. We believe that Pakistan’s membership in NSG is a mutually-beneficial proposition. Pakistan’s NSG membership will further the NSG non-proliferation objectives by the inclusion of a state with nuclear supply capabilities and its adherence to NSG guidelines and best practices on supply of controlled items, goods, materials, technologies and services,” Zakaria said.

The grant of waivers and special treatments, he said, undermined the credibility of global non-proliferation regime besides eroding regional strategic stability.

“Since the grant of waiver in 2008, India massively expanded its capacity to produce fissile material for military use thus moving against the objective of strategic stability in the region. International reports about new nuclear facilities built by India confirm Pakistan’s concerns in this regard,” he said.