ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Thursday said that it would not sever ties with Iran because of Tehran’s tension with Washington. Addressing a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan was examining the implications of the US re-imposition of sanctions on Iran.

To a question about US warning that the countries which would do business with Iran would suffer, he said: “Pakistan, being a sovereign state, reserves the right to pursue legitimate economic and commercial interests while respecting the international legal regime.”

Regarding Pak-Russia ties and the US statement that Russia was trying to assert its presence across the region, the spokesperson said: “Our defence relations have grown steadily over the years and both countries have established regular military-to-military contacts. I will not comment on US statement.” Faisal said Pakistan and Russia have been successful in developing a strong partnership, which was based on mutual trust, commonality of interests and convergence of views on important global and regional issues.

“The two countries have been able to construct a positive trajectory in sustaining high-level interactions and exploring new avenues to cement bilateral relations in all spheres including the defence sector,” he added.

The two countries, the spokesperson said, had held two editions of the joint military exercise named ‘DRUZBA’ (Friendship) in Pakistan in 2016 and in Russia in 2017.

“Both countries also held counter-narcotics naval exercise called “Arabian Monsoon” in the Arabian Sea in 2014 and 2015. A Russian warship participated in the multilateral naval exercise AMAN-2017 from 10-14 February 2017 and PNS Aslat visited Saint Petersburg and participated in Russia’s Navy Day celebrations on July 29, 2018,” he elaborated.

To a question about Pakistan Ambassador to the US Ali Jehangir Siddiqui’s fate, Faisal said according to their contract, “non-career ambassadors are deemed to have resigned unless the new government decides otherwise.”

Faisal drew attention of the world community towards Indian attempts to change the demography of Occupied Kashmir to pre-empt the outcome of any future plebiscite.

He said that despite rampant Indian state terrorism, Kashmiris in the held territory observed a complete strike against Indian attempts to abrogate Article 35-A in an effort to strip Kashmiris of their permanent resident status. He termed it a complete violation of the numerous UNSC resolutions and international law.

The spokesperson said Indian forces killed twelve innocent Kashmiris last week in their brutal acts of violence. He expressed deep concern over reports of shifting of senior women Kashmiri leaders from Mandoli Jail to notorious Tihar Jail in New Delhi to exert additional psychological pressure on the families and to keep them away from scrutiny. He said Indian Deputy High Commissioner was summoned on second of this month to condemn the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control in Mandal Sector, resulting in the death of one civilian.

Faisal said so far in 2018, the Indian forces had carried out more than 1400 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the death of 30 civilians and injuries to 121 others. To a question regarding reported increase in number of surveillance posts along Pakistan’s border by India, the spokesperson said: “Our armed forces are fully equipped and prepared to defend the motherland against any attempt including strengthening of surveillance.”

Faisal said Pakistan was ready to make all efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. The spokesperson said Pakistan supported Saudi Arabia in protecting its sovereignty based on historic and brotherly relations between the two countries.

Faisal said Pakistan was prepared for the Financial Action Task Force team’s visit this month.

Asked about the meeting of Pakistan Permanent Representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi with PTI chief Imran Khan, he said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not in the loop, adding no one from the ministry had met the would-be Prime Minister.

Faisal said Pakistan believed in a peaceful neighborhood. “Our armed forces are fully equipped and prepared to defend the motherland against any threat, including strengthening of surveillance,” he added. He said the abhorrent maltreatment of Indian minorities, including Muslims, was a reality. “Saner voices in India itself are speaking out against it but cow vigilantes and mob lynching continue to rise. It is in India’s best interest to put an end to the strong existing fascism in India.

 It is to India’s own detriment to encourage such extremism and fascist tendencies which are the ‘acceptable norm’ in India,” he said.

To a question, Faisal said no foreign dignitaries had been invited for the Independence Day.