ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan Monday said it will attend a meeting in Russia on Afghanistan peace process next month but the level of participation had not been decided so far.

Addressing a weekly media briefing here, Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan backed an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process aimed at bringing all warring factions, including the Taliban, to the negotiating table.

In the April 14 peace conference on Afghanistan in Moscow, representatives of 12 countries have confirmed participation. There have been reports that Afghan Taliban will also be in attendance.

Nafees Zakaria said the decision on the level of Pakistan’s participation will be taken in due course. “As regards the outcome, I would like to reiterate that Pakistan constructively participates in these meetings for pursuing lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. We hope the deliberations in this meeting would be focused on this objective,” he said.

On Pak-Afghan border tension, he said, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to open the borders as a goodwill gesture. “It is expected that the Afghan government will take measures to address the reasons that led to the closure of the border,” he added.

Zakaria said the recent meeting in London – between Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar - also focused on the need for an institutional mechanism for counter-terrorism cooperation, to which Afghan side was also agreed.  “We hope that the two countries will work through the agreed mechanism for cooperation for preventing cross-border terrorism and enhancing bilateral interaction in different areas,” he said.

The spokesperson said Pakistan and Afghanistan understood the need to engage constructively and tackle issues of mutual concern, particularly that of cross-border terrorism, and agreed on the need to mutually cooperate in countering the menace of terrorism.

To a question on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement that ISIS was recruiting people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, he said Tillerson had expressed his apprehension and concern regarding ISIS’s efforts to recruit people, and has identified some countries.

In the context of Pakistan, he said: “We have undertaken great efforts to eliminate terrorism from its roots in Pakistan and have made significant successes. This is manifested in Pakistan’s improving economic indicators and reduction in terrorist incidents in the country. Our efforts have been recognised by the world leadership, including that of United States. Many international leaders and experts have witnessed first-hand the successes achieved in Pakistan as a result of counter-terrorism operations.”

He said Pakistan drew no distinction between terrorist elements and will succeed in its endeavours to root out the menace from its soil.

He said there is no presence of ISIS in Pakistan. “What Tillerson expressed his concern about was ISIS efforts to recruit people from different countries. The recruitment could be done from any country from amongst the vulnerable people. On our part, we are determined to thwart any such attempt by any terrorist organisation,” the spokesperson said.

When his attention was drawn to US State Department’s Country Report 2016 that criticised Pakistan on account of human rights situation, he said: “We have seen the State Department’s so-called Country Reports on HR Practices for 2016. As a matter of principle, we do not recognise validity of unilateral approaches, including reports sitting in judgment of other states. As such, these reports are invariably inherently flawed and lack objectivity. It comes as no surprise that as regard Pakistan, the Report is far removed from facts and depicts a grossly inaccurate and misrepresented picture.”

He said Pakistan remained deeply committed to the promotion and protection of human rights of all its citizens. The government, he said, accorded high priority to advancing the mutually reinforcing objectives of development, human rights and democracy for the people of Pakistan.

“Many international obligations have been undertaken by Pakistan besides a number of important domestic initiatives for the promotion and protection of human rights,” he said. He said while Pakistan strived to achieve an ideal state of human rights, “we are cognizant that all countries are confronted with challenges. International cooperation and constructive dialogue coupled with adherence to international conventions are the best ways of promoting the common objective of universal human rights. Countries that are not even party to some of the core human rights conventions have no standing to question others.”

Pakistan, the spokesperson said, was fully conscious of its international and national obligations with regard to promotion and protection of human rights, and the government remains committed in its resolve to ensure fundamental rights, prosperity and well-being of all the people of Pakistan.

On India’s arms buying spree, the spokesperson said New Delhi was involved in arms race. “This relentless arms-buying spree is driven by its desire for regional hegemony and global power status. Pakistan has never wanted to engage in any kind of arms race. We have long maintained that the two countries need to devote their resources to their socio-economic development and must engage in a meaningful dialogue for mutual restraint measures and conflict resolution for lasting peace and stability in South Asia,” he said.

Zakaria said the international community had a role to play in prodding India to positively respond to Pakistan’s proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia.

He said India had not approached Pakistan for access to 13 Pakistani witnesses in court to the 2007 Samjhauta Express terrorist. “We have seen the media reports. However, we have not received any such request from the Indian government,” he added.

About Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s telephone call to PM Nawaz Sharif on Pakistan Day, Zakaria said: “These are normal courtesies between leadership of various countries to congratulate each other on occasions of national importance. I will not get into any speculations in this regard.”

 He condemned the grave human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir, adding the country Report on Indian HR record for 2016 was a big question mark on the credibility and fairness of such accounts. 

“During the assessment year, extra-judicial killing of a Kashmiri young man, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, led to the resurrection of a widespread peaceful movement for self-determination, which the Indian occupation forces tried to suppress brutally,” he said.

He said the entire country and Pakistanis abroad celebrated Pakistan Day. “We were joined by our friends from across the world on this joyous occasion. Pakistan Day was also celebrated across the length and breadth of Indian Occupied Kashmir and Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Zakaria said the Indian police physically assaulted and ruthlessly beat up seven journalists, including senior photo-journalists Tauseef Mustafa, Mubashir Khan, Farooq Javed Khan, Umar Sheikh and Shauib Masoodi at Hyderpora in Srinagar, who were trying to carry out their professional duties.

He said two of Foreign Service Officers, Shahbaz Hussain and Liaquat Ali Warriach were decorated with Tamgha-e-Imtiaz on March 23 for their extraordinary performance of evacuation of Pakistanis from Libya during 2014. Asked about Ayaz Hussain Jamali, a Pakistani oil engineer who had been kidnapped in South Sudan, the spokesperson said the government of South Sudan has been approached on the matter.