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Record of Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 13 September 2018

(2018-09-13) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Assalaam-o-Alaikum,

On the foreign policy front, let me take a round of this weeks' activities.

The Indian occupation forces during cordon and search operations killed fourteen (14) Kashmiris including a science graduate, 32-year old Altaf Kachroo, Umar Rashid Wani, 22-year old Fayaz Ahmad Wani, Bilal Ahmad Bhat, Hakim-ur-Rehman, Asif Nazir Dar, 18-year old Furkaan Rashid Lone, Liaqat Ahmad Lone and Abdul Ahad Ganaie in Islamabad, Pulwama, Bandipore, Srinagar and Kupwara districts. We denounce the use of brutal force by the Indian occupation forces against the Kashmiris.

We condemn the gross human rights violations by the Indian occupation forces and the continued violent operations in Shopian, Pulwama, Islamabad, Kulgam, Kupwara, Bandipore, Baramulla and Srinagar districts of occupied Kashmir.

The recent arrest of Kashmir-based journalist Aasif Sultan in Srinagar raises serious concerns about the deteriorating state of press freedom in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. We are also concerned about the deteriorating health of senior Hurriyet leaders including Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Masarat Alam Butt, Syeda Aasiya Andrabi, Nahida Nasreen and Fahmida Sofi, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Aiyaz Akbar, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Peer Saifullah, Mehrajudin Kalwal, Farooq Ahmad Dar, Ghulam Muhammad Khan Sopori, Maulan Sarjan Barkati and hundreds of Hurriyet leaders and activists languishing in notorious Indian Tihar Jail in New Delhi and other different jails and interrogations centres in occupied Kashmir.

The Acting Indian Deputy High Commissioner was summoned to the Foreign Office and the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces in Khanjar Sector along the Line of Control on 10 September 2018, resulting in the shahadat of one innocent civilian Mr. Guftar Hussain, were unequivocally condemned. The Indian Forces have carried out more than 2050 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the shahadats of 33 innocent civilians, while injuring 122 others. This unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing from year 2017 when the Indian forces committed 1970 ceasefire violations. I urged the Indian side to respect the 2003 Ceasefire arrangement and that the Indian side should permit UNMOGIP to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

The Chinese State Councilor and the Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi visited Pakistan from 7-9 September 2018 and reaffirmed the "all-weather strategic cooperative partnership" between the two countries, Mr. Wang Yi underlined that Pakistan will always be a priority for China in its Foreign Policy. The Foreign Minister reciprocated the sentiments of the State Councilor and reaffirmed the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries. The Foreign Minister highlighted the significance of CPEC for the socio-economic development of Pakistan and stressed that it will always remain a national priority for Pakistan.

On 31 August 2018, the Iranian Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Javad Zarif, held detailed talks with Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Detailed discussions were also held on regional and global issues including the situation in Afghanistan and US decision to unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA. It was agreed to host the next rounds of bilateral political consultations and the Joint Economic Commission at early dates.

On 8 September 2018, Saudi Minister for Information, H.E. Dr. Awwad Bin Saleh Al Awwad, met the Foreign Minister and conveyed the greetings and felicitations of Saudi leadership to the new Pakistani leadership.

The Foreign Minister thanked the visiting dignitary and highlighted the importance attached by Pakistan to its relations with the Kingdom and commitment of the Government of Pakistan to translate the longstanding historic relations between the two countries into enhanced economic partnership.

On 31 August 2018, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Kazuyuki Nakane, met the Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and congratulated him on his appointment. Both countries expressed firm resolve to increase high level interaction between the two countries.

On 03 September 2018, the Foreign Minister met the Former Australian Senator, Ms. Lee Rhiannon, and raised the issue of human rights violations in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK) especially in the context of the OHCHR Report on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir which recommends the formation of a Commission of Inquiry (COI).

While expressing support for the Kashmiri people, Ms. Rhiannon regretted that Jammu and Kashmir remains one of the longest unresolved disputes on the agenda of United Nations Security Council.

The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani called Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on 03 September 2018, and congratulated him on his appointment as Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister reiterated that as close neighbors, peace and prosperity of the two countries are interlinked while highlighting the need to work together for achieving lasting regional peace.

Now the floor is open for questions.

Question

Amb Alice Wells, in a statement, said that US will support talks between Pakistan and India. Secondly, Mike Pompeo was supposed to deliver a message from Pakistani side to New Delhi regarding talks. Was the message delivered and what was the Indian reaction? (Ms. Rashida Sial, Abb Tak)

Answer

I cannot comment on behalf of any country except Pakistan and our position is very clear. We are ready for talks with India. We have also conveyed our position to the international community. It remains for India to respond.

Question

Recently, there have been reports in media and clips showing Pakistan's High Commissioner to UK Sahibzada Ahmed Khan in a intoxicated state and giving slurred speeches in a TV Show. Your comments please! (Syed Mohsin Raza - Sach TV)

Supplementary Questions

Has Foreign Office conducted preliminary investigations? Was the activity according to the diplomatic norms and compatible with the status of the High Commissioner? Secondly, was our High Commissioner intoxicated? Has Foreign Office collected information to countercheck High Commissioner's behavior? Has the explanation notice been served to the High Commissioner? (Mr. Mateen Haider - DAWN News)

Answer

You must have seen the press release issued on this yesterday. The Foreign Minister has taken a note of this. The High Commissioner has been recalled to render an explanation.

Question

Reportedly, the US has announced to cut-off Military Aid of US $300 Million to Pakistan. Will the cut in aid affect the Pak-US relations and also Pakistan's efforts in war against terror? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Kashmir Post)

Answer

First of all, let me clear to you that it was not aid but reimbursements to be made to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund, which have been discontinued. We have also seen reports regarding Department of Defence's notification to the Congress to re-programme $300 million originally appropriated for CSF reimbursement to Pakistan. This is, however, not a new development. You would recall that US has withheld substantial amount of money, due to Pakistan, for reimbursement under CSF because of Congressional restrictions since 2015. This $300 million also fell under this category. US side has also clarified that it was not a new development and not linked to the visit of Secretary of State. Our position is consistent that CSF reimbursement cannot be equated with US assistance suspended earlier this year.

Question

In a recent statement by Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, while addressing a gathering in Calcutta, the High Commissioner has stated that the new government in Pakistan has opened a political window for India and filled India with certain hopes. How would you like to comment on this? Secondly, before the visit of Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State to Pakistan, he had said that the US wanted to reset its ties with Pakistan and after Mike Pompeo's visit, we have seen hope and optimism. What are the contours of the new relationship between Pakistan and US? (Mr. Shaukat Mehmood Paracha - Aaj News)

Supplementary Question

When Mike Pompeo was leaving for India, he stated at the Islamabad Airport that he gave a message to Pakistan to eradicate terrorist hideouts in Pakistan. Was this issue discussed during meeting of Foreign Minister of Pakistan with Mr. Pompeo? What is the reaction of Foreign Office to Mike Pompeo's statement? (Mr. Majid Jarral - News One TV)

Supplementary Question

Are there any Track-II or back-door contacts between Pakistan and India? If there are any, they are at which level? (Mr. Anwar Abbas - Waqt News)

Answer

We have noted the statement of India High Commissioner. We are also saying since long that dialogue is the only way forward to settle all outstanding issues between Pakistan and India. We are officially waiting for a response from India on how they want to move forward. We have a consistent position on this. If you see the recent overtures, Prime Minister Modi called our Prime Minister and our Foreign Minister also received a letter for his Indian counterpart. We want to utilize the same window and see how we can move forward. Secretary Pompeo's visit to Islamabad last week was welcomed by Pakistan. This offered an opportunity for both sides to have a very frank and candid conversation. We issued a press release on the visit mentioning that both bilateral and regional issues were discussed. Foreign Minister himself gave a very comprehensive briefing to the media in the evening of 5 September. Foreign Minister has been invited to Washington DC by the Secretary of State. The continuation of engagement at the leadership level is important to take the relationship forward.

Regarding the statement of Mr. Pompeo in India, we have taken strong exception to the unwarranted references against Pakistan in the recently issued Indo-US Joint Statement of 6 September 2018. Pakistan rejects these baseless allegations. Accordingly, we have conveyed our position to the US side. The Ministry is of the view that mentioning of a third country with unsubstantiated accusations in a formal outcome document is inconsistent with the established diplomatic norms. What is more ironic is that many other thorny issues involving the third countries were avoided in the Joint Statement by the Indian side on the pretext of the same diplomatic practice. As you are aware, the Mumbai trail is ongoing in the Anti-Terrorism Court in Pakistan. The judicial process shall take its course.

We expect the US to focus similarly, if not more, on the Indian state terrorism and the resulting humanitarian emergency in IoK, where Indian atrocities have intensified. Indian occupation forces continue to kill innocent Kashmiris with impunity. Last month alone, more than 30 innocent Kashmiris were slaughtered in cold blood. Hurriyat leaders continue to be incarcerated on trumped up charges. Foreign journalists are prevented from reporting on the situation in IoK. The recent suspension of Al Jazeera is just a case in point. After the brutal murder of Shujaat Bokhari, Indian forces have arrested the Kashmiri journalist, Atif Aasif Sultan on trumped up charges exposing the truth behind Indian claims of being the so-called biggest democracy and its commitment to freedom of expression and the press. It is also unsurprising to see zero mention of the continued ceasefire violations by India across the LoC/WB which pose a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.

Regarding Track-II and back-door contacts, please note that there are few Track-II initiatives with India which are not official. I have no information about any back channel that would be currently operational.

Question

Reportedly, Bahrain is denying visas to Pakistani citizens. Your comments please! (Mr. Asim Ali Rana - ARY News)

Answer

We are in contact with Bahraini authorities through our Mission in Manama, as well as, through Embassy of Bahrain in Islamabad. Bahrain has not frozen visa facility for Pakistanis. It has started greater scrutiny of visa applications, not only from Pakistan but also from other countries. We have taken up the matter with the government of Bahrain at the Foreign Minister's level and have been assured of their cooperation.

Question

Although the Foreign Office has made clarification in the statement, through a Press Release, which was issued after the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister to Pakistan, but our Commerce Minister in his recent interview with London-based Financial Times (FT) Newspaper stated that Pakistan is considering renegotiating some agreements signed with China under the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiatives. What is Foreign Office stance on it? (Mr. Tariq Mehmood, One News)

Answer

The question pertains to the Ministry of Commerce. However, I will stand with our Press Release.

Question

I will supplement the question by Mr. Tariq Mehmood from One News in a different way. After the interview of our Commerce Minister, it is observed that the feelings of Chinese are different now. So, is the Foreign Office considering mending the differences created thereto? Secondly, regarding my discussion with you about closure of Pakistan Mission in Jalabad you said that you will share the relevant information during the Press Briefing. So, are you able to share the information now? (Mr. Mazhar Iqbal - Public TV)

Answer

Regarding Commerce Minister's interview, I believe there is no affect on our relationship with China. I completely reject any insinuations against CPEC. We have already issued a detailed Press Release and we stand by that.

Pakistan has temporarily halted work of its Consulate General in Jalabad due to security concerns. We are working with the Afghan government to resolve the issue. Till resumption of consular services at the Consulate General of Pakistan in Jalalabad students, patients and other visa seekers residing in the jurisdiction of Consulate General of Pakistan in Jalalabad may contact Pakistan Embassy in Kabul for issuance of visas. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also had a telephonic conversation with his Afghan counterpart Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani on the subject. He urged the Afghan Government for restoring the previous security arrangements existing till 28th August 2018; so that the Consulate General's normal functioning could be resumed at the earliest. The Afghan Foreign Minister has reassured a positive outcome in this regard.

Question

Reportedly, Turkish Foreign Minister is expected to arrive Islamabad tonight. What would be the agenda of the meeting and with whom the Foreign Minister will meet in Pakistan? There are also reports that Turkish Embassy has requested that the Turkish Foreign Minister wishes to visit Lahore as well. Is there any such news? (Mr. Shabbir Wahgra - PTV World)

Answer

Yes, the Turkish Foreign Minister will arrive tonight and there will be delegation-level talks with our Foreign Minister. The Turkish Foreign Minister will also call on the Prime Minister. I am not sure about his visit to Lahore.

Question

Pakistan has expressed goodwill by offering the opening of Kartarpur Corridor. Have we received some formal communication from the Indian side regarding the Kartarpur corridor? (Mr. Amjad Ali, PTV World)

Answer

I do not have any information on this.

Question

Can you confirm that Secretary Pompeo assured Pakistan of US support in IMF? (Mr. Ali Hussain - Business Recorder)

Answer

We have not yet decided about going to IMF and the Foreign Minister has already briefed the media on Secretary Pompeo's visit. The question pertains to Ministry of Finance.

Question

It is been in the news that the Prime Minister is shortly visiting Saudi Arabia. What would be the timings and the Agenda of the meeting? (Mr. Waqas Azeem - 24 News)

Answer

Yes, the Prime Minister will visit Saudi Arabia. The details of the visit will be shared later.

Question

The Foreign Minister will shortly be leaving for Afghanistan. What will be the Foreign Minister's agenda during the said visit? Secondly, will Pakistan accept any US mediation in Pakistan-India relations? (Ms. Rabia Peer, VoA)

Answer

Our position on India is very clear. We have been stating that we are ready for negotiations with India as issues between both countries can only be resolved through dialogue. Time will tell what kind of role the US can play in resolving the differences between Pakistan and India. Regarding your question on the Foreign Minister's visit to Afghanistan, we will be shortly issuing the details. But let me tell you that all bilateral issues will be discussed during the visit especially under the APAPPS.

Question

Reportedly, the government has announed that Shareef family will be facilitated in bringing the dead body of (late) Begum Kalsoom Nawaz to Pakistan. The Shareef family is denying the same. Your comments please! (Mr. Khalid Mehmood - Express NEWS)

Answer

I have seen the news but I have no information on this.

Question

The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a report whereby they have recorded serious concerns about freedom of expression in Pakistan. Would you like to comment! (Mr. Jalil - VoA)

Answer

I have not seen the report yet. Let me take a look at it and then I will be in a better position to respond to your question.

Question

The trend of unprofessionalism is increasing day by day among the Foreign Office officials posted abroad. For instance, Pakistan Embassy in Bahrain has issued Pakistan passports to non-Pakistanis which resulted in termination of visas. Secondly, the Chinese Foreign Minister was not welcomed in a professional manner. Thirdly, the issue of our High Commissioner in UK is in front of you. Your comments please! (Aon Sherazi - Such TV)

Answer

Pakistan has a professional cadre of foreign service officers who are actively engaged in promoting the foreign policy interests of Pakistan all over the world. I am proud of being a part of this service. As far as the welcome of Chinese Foreign Minister is concerned, there is a set procedure and protocol and we follow that. I have replied to the other questions earlier.

Question

Recently a trend has been noticed that during the visits of foreign dignitaries, media is not invited. For instance, during Mike Pompeo's visit the US media accompanied him but on our side media was not invited? Is it because facts are being hidden from the media? (Mr. Ijaz - GNN)

Answer

State media was present during all the visits of the foreign dignitaries.

Question

Media is reporting that the government is considering the revision of CPEC projects. What are your comments? (Mr. Adeel Wariach - Dunya News)

Answer

We have already rejected such reports.

Question

Can you please shed some light on the number of non-career diplomats serving in Pakistan's Missions abroad. Will Mr. Ali Jehangir Siddiqui be recalled from the US? (Mr. Khattak - DAWN News)

Answer

The Foreign Minister has already stated that a decision about the non-career diplomats will not be taken in haste, but only after due consideration.

Question

The British High Commissioner has reportedly said that they will support Pakistan on the FATF Forum. Your comments please.

Answer

I have not seen the reports. The government is actively working on this issue. The subject pertains to the Ministry of Finance.

Question

Because of his visit to Pakistan, Mr. Sidhu has been severely criticized in India and recently an old court case has been re-opened against him. What are your comments? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Kashmir Post)

Answer

This is India's internal matter. I do not want to comment.

Question

There are reports that the Taliban and the US have shown readiness for talks. The first round of talks have already taken place in Qatar. There is a likelihood that in the second meeting the issue of the exchange of prisoners will be raised between the two sides. What are your comments? (Mr. Jaleel - VoA)

Answer

We support Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, which is the only way to resolve the Afghan issue.

Question

When will the Foreign Minister leave for attending the UNGA Session in New York? Can you please share the details of his schedule in New York? Will he be meeting the Indian External Affairs Minister? (Mr. Mateen Haider - DAWN News)

Answer

We will share the details very soon.

Question

The Foreign Minister has stated that he is going to Afghanistan with a new message. What is that new message? Is this only a courtesy visit? Will the issue of terrorists hideouts in Afghanistan be discussed? (Ms. Rashid Sial - Abb Tak)

Answer

This is not just a courtesy visit. The details will be shared in due course.

Question

Keeping in view the US sanctions on Iran, how would you view the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project? In the wake of Iranian visit to Pakistan would you like to shed some light on Pakistan's position on US sanctions? (Mr. Mazhar Iqbal - Public TV)

Answer

The subject pertains to the Ministry of Petroleum. Our position remains the same.