ISLAMABAD - In response to the statement of Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar that India would engage in terrorism to counter terrorism, Pakistan Thursday said all appropriate steps would be taken to protect its national interests.

“There are various options available to the Foreign Office, but it chose to exercise one relating to issuance of a statement by Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz,” Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said in his weekly press briefing. He went on to say that the statement of the Indian defence minister should be a matter of concern not only for Pakistan but also for others in the region and beyond.

“The Indian minister’s statement may also be seen in the backdrop of an earlier statement of even graver nature made by Ajit Doval in February 2014, days before he was appointed national security adviser. Their statements confirm Pakistan’s apprehensions about India’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan,” the Foreign Office spokesperson said. The spokesperson said Pakistan was the biggest victim of terrorism and had suffered more than any other country in the world, adding it had lost more than 50,000 lives and suffered economic losses to the tune of 100 billion dollars.

He said: “Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestation and reiterates its commitment to good neighbourly relations with all neigbouring countries, including India. This is our prime minister’s vision and we are pursuing it sincerely. I do not want to comment on the objective of the hawkish statements being made from the other side.”

Answering a question, the spokesperson said they were aware that Indian media was carrying out a campaign against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which was not a positive thing. He added the corridor was beneficial for the whole region and Pakistan and China were committed to executing the project.

Commenting on the investigation into the Axact-related issues, the spokesperson said it was still going on, adding a number of US entities and educational institutions had allegedly been named in the scandal. “Therefore, on the request of the investigating authorities concerned, we have approached the US side for assistance in the ongoing investigation against Axact in Pakistan,” he averred. The Foreign Office spokesperson said the FIA team’s visit to the US Embassy yesterday was in the context of the ongoing investigation.

Answering a question, Qazi Khalilullah said Pakistan, Afghanistan and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were working closely to devise a timeline for the return of Afghan refugees.

On Islamabad-Kabul relations, the spokesperson said Pakistan wanted peace and stability in Afghanistan and supported Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. He reminded that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during his recent visit to Afghanistan, had made it categorically clear that enemies of Afghanistan were enemies of Pakistan. “Pakistan is committed to enhancing ties with Afghanistan in different fields,” he added. Replying to another question, he said there were no footprints of IS in Pakistan and the country’s security agencies were alert to take any action, if required.

The spokesman said they had issued a statement based on internationally recognised principles against the death sentence given to former Egyptian President Morsi and many others. He made it clear that the relations between the people of Pakistan and Egypt were deep-rooted and hoped existing ties between the two countries would be further strengthened in the days to come.

Commenting on the arrest of a Pakistani citizen in Bangladesh, the spokesperson said that the Pakistan high commissioner to Dhaka met the Bangladeshi foreign minister on May 27 to discuss the issue. “The high commissioner has requested for consular access to the arrested Pakistani and the Bangladesh foreign minister has assured him of providing the consular access,” he said. He added the Bangladeshi foreign minister was informed that Khalid Mehmud had been on a legitimate visa in their country since his arrival in 2014 and was doing his job as an electrical engineer in a textile factory there. He had been associated with textile industry for the last 15 years, the spokesman added.