ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday showed optimism that a peace deal between the United States and Afghanistan Taliban will be signed soon.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said there was no other country desirous to see peace and stability in Afghanistan more than Pakistan.

“Regarding the peace agreement, we hope it will be signed sooner rather than later and leads to intra Afghan dialogue and eventual peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s participation in the Afghan peace process and the potential signing date of agreement will be known soon,” she added.

The spokesperson said that Pakistan had contributed towards achieving peace. “Pakistan is keen to see the peace process move forward and lead towards intra-Afghan dialogue,” she said.

Aisha Farooqui said the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres had also appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghanistan peace process.

“He acknowledged Pakistan’s contribution to UN efforts in promotion and maintenance of international peace and security; recognized the extraordinary generosity and solidarity that the Pakistani people have shown by hosting millions of Afghan refugees for over four decades,” she recalled.

Regarding the Afghanistan election results – in which President Ashraf Ghani was declared winner – she said: “We have noted the announcement made by the Independent Afghan Election Commission of Afghanistan. We are monitoring the developments and will respond at an appropriate time.”

To a question about Taliban leader Ehsanullah Ehsan’s escape, she said there were mere speculations about any bargain for the peace deal.

Asked about US President Donald Trump’s upcoming – February 24 - visit to India, Aisha Farooqui said Pakistan hoped that during the US President’s visit to India the issues being faced by the people of Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir will be raised with the Indian government.

“We also expect that the offer of mediation expressed by the US President will be taken forward through some concrete practical step,” she added.

About US Senator Lindsay Graham and other lawmakers’ letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Kashmir, she said the letter aims to draw attention towards atrocities being committed in the Indian occupied Kashmir.

“There are growing voices calling upon India to provide fundamental freedoms to the people of Kashmir to lift the draconian laws like Public Safety Act. The letter that has been sent is yet another voice in that growing international call on the government of India to abide by international law, human rights conventions and to ensure that a just resolution is given to the people of held Kashmir, so we welcome it,” she added.

Aisha Farooqui said the visits of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were highly successful and the two leaders supported Pakistan’s stance.

On the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, she said, SG Guterres expressed his “deep concern at the increase in tensions since last year” and stressed that the solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute lay in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the resolutions of the Security Council.

Aisha Farooqui reminded that while visiting the Kartarpur Corridor, the UN secretary general had called it “a welcome symbol of interfaith harmony, a unique experiment in cross-border ties, showing Pakistan’s commitment to peace.”

“The key take-away from the recent visits of the UNSG and from that of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier is the growing acknowledgement by the international community of Pakistan’s contribution towards global peace and security,” she said.

Aisha Farooqui said Pakistan was contributing through its peacekeeping troops across the globe in UN Peacekeeping Missions and through hosting of millions of displaced and dispossessed Afghan refugees or through its consistent stance for peaceful resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with UNSC Resolutions.

“Kartarpur corridor also offers a space for the Sikh community from all over the world to practice their religion in a spirit of harmony and peaceful co existence.  Pakistan is now being recognized as a ‘Partner for peace’ in the world,” she maintained.

About the people detained in Saudi Arabia, she said Pakistan was in touch with relevant Saudi authorities. “Every year, before the month of Ramazan, Saudi authorities routinely carry out exercise against the illegal expatriates and illegal workers especially in Makkah region. The assumption that it is a Pakistan-specific drive is completely incorrect. The campaign is not Pakistan-specific; the Saudi authorities have arrested nationals of several countries as part of this drive,” she clarified.

Certain social media sections, she said, had sought to give it a misleading political angle. “We stress again that it is in the interest of the deep-rooted Pakistan-Saudi brotherly relations that such baseless reporting and irresponsible twist are avoided at all costs.

The fraternal Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relationship is of strategic importance and remains strong and dynamic. Our fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia are of strategic importance and remain strong and dynamic,” she remarked.

On the Coronavirus outbreak in China, Aisha Farooqui said a two-member team of officers of the Embassy of Pakistan in Beijing had been sent to Wuhan city for the purpose of evaluating situation and ensure the welfare and safety of all Pakistani students there.

“So far, they have visited seven universities and individually met with every student. They have also met the administration of each university and the local Chinese authorities in Wuhan. These members of the Task Force would remain deployed in Wuhan and would not return to Beijing until the quarantine is lifted,” she said.

Aisha Farooqui elaborated that their mandate was to make sure that “all needs of our students are addressed and provided to them. Their safety, wellbeing and health will be constantly monitored and ensured in close coordination with the respective university administration and Chinese authorities.”

The spokesperson said last year’s acquittal of the self-confessed mastermind of the Samjhauta Express blasts, Swami Aseemanand, and other accused only reconfirms the culture of impunity that the perpetrators of terrorist attacks enjoy under the extremist political dispensation in India.