ISLAMABAD - Pakistan only has a limited influence over the Afghan Taliban and Islamabad cannot tell when the next round of talks between the United States and the Taliban will be held, the Foreign Office said Thursday.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said: “We have always stated that Pakistan exercises limited influence over the Taliban. We cannot respond as to when the next round of negotiations between the US and Taliban will take place.”

He said Pakistan was preparing reply to US President Donald Trump’s letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding joint efforts for Afghan peace.

To a question about Pakistan’s representation in US-Taliban meeting in the United Arab Emirates, Faisal said: “An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan was present during the talks.”

The spokesperson also termed the trilateral meeting between Pakistan, China and Afghanistan successful, in which all three countries vowed to cooperate against terrorism.

“Pakistan has played its part in the Afghan peace process, and it has been lauded. All three countries had consultative meeting as well, in which it was decided that the parties would work against terrorism, and enjoy the benefits of the One Belt One Road,” he added.

The spokesperson reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to work towards the Afghan issue through dialogue. Dr Faisal said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during his recent visit to Kabul, met the Afghan delegation and reassured Afghanistan of cooperation for peace in the war-torn country.

The spokesperson said presidential election in Afghanistan was the internal matter and Pakistan does not interfere in other countries’ matters.

On the Kartarpur corridor, he said there was absolutely no question of any land swap. “The Kartarpur Corridor was a gesture for the Sikh minority community made on their request to provide a visa-free corridor, facilitating their visit of a shrine of importance to them,” he added.

Dr Faisal said Pakistan had offered a comprehensive roadmap to India for dialogue in which all matters were to be discussed. “The offer was made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, our highest office. You all know how India responded to that,” he remarked.

To a question, the spokesperson said that Pakistan continued to exercise its rightful claim over the Jinnah house in Mumbai, and “won’t let any occupation attempts materialise. Even India has acknowledged our claim (right).”

The spokesperson condemned the Indian brutalities in held Kashmir. “Pellet guns and force is being used against the Kashmiris.” He said India was using force to suppress the voice of the Kashmiris.”

He said that India should give access to international organisations to investigate the atrocities being carried out in Kashmir.

About the case of Hamid Nihal Ansari, Dr Faisal stated that the convicted spy had crossed illegally into the country, and was involved in espionage. “We exchange list of prisoners with India every six months,” he said.

He called upon India to allow the UN Military Observer Group on India and Pakistan to monitor the situation on Line of Control and Working Boundary.

He said Pakistan will continue with its moral, diplomatic and political support to the people of Kashmir and their just right to self-determination.

The spokesperson said Pakistan had also written letters to the Secretary Generals of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and a meeting of Contact Group on Kashmir will also be held soon.

To a question regarding demolishing of two mosques in Allahabad in India, the spokesperson said India should respect the rights of minorities. 

Responding to a question regarding Pakistani prisoners in Sri Lanka, the spokesperson said forty eight prisoners are there who have been convicted and are completing their sentences and now their verification is being done by Sri Lankan authorities and when it gets completed the prisoners will be repatriated.

He said an envoys’ conference of diplomats will be held in Islamabad on December 27 to discuss the economic issues.

The spokesperson also refuted the reports news sensitizing the issue of Pakistani women in China. He said there were 44 women out of which six had been repatriated to Pakistan, three were under investigation, 23 were free and were living in Xinjiang and eight were voluntarily undergoing training in China.

About allegations from Bangladesh on interference, he said: “It is out rightly rejected. Being a democracy we respect all democratic processes and believe that these should run their course.”

Dr Faisal said Pakistani prisoners in Colombo were on a hunger strike and the high commission got in touch with them and ensured provision of food and aid to the prisoners.

Asked if Pakistan will allow Christian to visit their religious places in Israel as demanded by some groups, he said: “We have not received any such formal request.”

India rejects Pakistan claim over Jinnah House

Monitoring Desk adds: India on Thursday strongly rejected Pakistan’s claim of ownership of the Jinnah House in Mumbai and said the property belongs to it.

“Pakistan has no locus standi as far as this property is concerned. It is a government of India’s property and we are in the process of renovating it,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

The Jinnah House on Malabar Hill in Mumbai was designed by architect Claude Batley in European style and Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah lived there in the late 1930s. Pakistan has been demanding that the property be handed over to it for housing its Mumbai consulate.

Kumar said the government is considering putting the Jinnah House into use on the lines of the Hyderabad House here. The property would be used to host government events, the MEA announced on Thursday.