(2018-04-19) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]
Bismillah IrRehmanNirRahimAssalaamAlaikumLadies & Gentlemen!
It gives me great pleasure to start today’s briefing with good news – Spring is not the only thing returning to Swat, it is also peace and prosperity. Swat held its first science festival from18-19 April 2018, with a huge attendance of 1500 girls and 5000 boys, from more than 130 government and private schools of Swat district. The students exhibited more than 100 science models, including interactive displays and live experiments, some involving robotics, hydraulics and electrical circuits.
1036 students created simultaneous extraction of DNA from strawberries setting the first ever record in national history. Our School children, the leaders of tomorrow, took a head start with solving their own problems by designing many innovative models, including a desi air conditioner, light sensor models to automatically switch on and off street lights to conserve power to fix the district’s own problems including improved road infrastructure, electricity and water management. The festival is just one of the many dividends of peace in the region and testament of the success of Pakistan’s operations which have eliminated all terrorist sanctuaries from the area.
Now, let me give you a brief roundup of activities on the foreign policy front:
Prime Minister ShahidKhaqan Abbasi is leading the Pakistan delegation to the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM-2018) in London from April 18-20, 2018. The participation in CHOGM-2018 would provide an opportunity to highlight the advances made by Pakistan, including its transition to a modern and dynamic emerging market, which is an attractive destination for business, investment and trade. The Prime Minister will participate actively in all executive and retreat sessions, as well as, a number of events being held on the sidelines of the CHOGM. During his stay in London, the Prime Minister will call on HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH the Prince of Wales and meet the British leadership.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif is visiting Beijing to attend the meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization from 23-24 April, 2018. The Council of Foreign Ministers will discuss issues related to peace and security at the international and regional level and promotion of cooperation between member states and finalize preparations for the forthcoming SCO Heads of State Council in Qingdao. The Foreign Minister will also have a bilateral meeting with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Pakistan categorically rejects the Indian allegations of “attempts to incite Indian pilgrims” on the issue of ‘Khalistan.’ By spreading such falsehoods, India has chosen to deliberately stoke further controversy around the visit of Sikh pilgrims, currently attending the Baisakhi and KhalsaJanamdin ceremonies in Pakistan. The Sikh community has been protesting against the Government of India for screening a controversial movie in India, which hurt their religious sentiments. These protests had started in India and other parts of the world before the Sikh Yatrees arrived in Pakistan. In view of the charged situation and the explicit refusal of the Sikh Yatrees to meet Indian officials, the Indian High Commissioner cancelled his visit on 14 April 2018. Indian attempts to distort the truth and obfuscate facts are unethical and regrettable. It is ironic that the country, whose highest officials are on record for statements against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan, chose to indulge in blatant hypocrisy by twisting the facts.
Indian atrocities continued unabated during last week also. Indian occupation forces martyred four Kashmiris including 21-year-old Aamir Hameed Lone in Kanga area of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian occupation forces are using pellet guns with impunity on the peaceful protestors in the Indian occupied valley, which continue to blind the innocent Kashmiris in hundreds. Moreover, the brutal killing of 8-year old Muslim girl Asifa at Rasana Hiranagar in Kathua in Jammu region of Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir has splashed the gruesome story of violence on Kashmiris in all parts of the world and has shaken their conscience badly.
Last Sunday, our FC troops deployed along Pak-Afghan border at Kurram Agency came under-fire from the Afghan side, while they were on routine patrolling and fencing activity on the border. The Afghan border security forces, assisted by Afghan tribesmen, fired on our troops, resulting in shahadat of five soldiers. The Afghan border forces and tribesmen also got hold of the bodies of our troops and detained one soldier. As there were a large number of tribesmen on Afghan side, our troops exercised utmost restraint to avoid civilian causalities. Our side, via diplomatic and military channels immediately engaged the Afghan authorities to hold border flag meeting to help resolve the situation. A border flag meeting was held between the commanders of the two forces and situation was amicably defused. Afghan side handed over bodies of five Pakistani FC personnel and the detained sepoy to Pakistan. In their engagement, the two sides emphasized the need for further enhancing border coordination to avoid recurrence of such incidents in the future.
The Special Secretary (UN&EC/SCO), Ms. Tasnim Aslam received the UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Mr. MorislavJenca at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 12 April 2018. The two sides exchanged views on regional peace & security situation.
We are following the situation in Syria with grave concern. We call on all sides to refrain from actions inconsistent with the UN Charter. Pakistan condemns the use of chemical weapons anywhere by anyone. It is important to establish facts through urgent and transparent investigations by the OPCW. We call upon all parties to strive for an agreement within the OPCW framework and extend full support to the Organization. At this time our thoughts are with the people of Syria who have suffered as a result of ongoing turmoil in that country. We hope that all parties will work to find an urgent solution to end the sufferings of the Syrian people.
Pakistan was re-elected on 17 April 2018 to the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (CNGO) for the term 2019-22, during elections held in New York. Pakistan was one of the four countries elected to this important body in a contested election within the Asia Pacific region.
Now the Floor is open for Questions
Reportedly, Iranhas handed over 66 illegal Pakistani immigrants to Pakistani authorities at Taftan border. Can you confirm?
Second, Iranian Supreme leader has said in a statement that people of Kashmir will push their enemies back with the help of resistance, in the near future. How do you see his statement? (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal – Daily Kashmir Post)
Reportedly, Iranian authorities have claimed that three Iranian security personnel were killed and many others injured in a firing incident by rogue elements from Pakistani territory. What are your comments on this? (Anwar Abbas – Waqt News)
When illegal Pakistani immigrants cross over into Iranian territory, the Iranian relevant authorities take them into custody and hand them over to relevant Pakistan authorities at Taftan border. Both the sides are engaged in strengthening cooperation on border management to stop the illegal movement of immigrants.
On Mr. Khawaja’s second question, as we understand, the Iranian Supreme Leader in his statement has stressed on Iran’s support to the resistance shown by Muslims wherever they face tyranny, including in Jammu and Kashmir, where they struggle for realization of the right to self-determination. We appreciate Iranian Supreme Leader’s enunciation of support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. After the recent surge of Indian state terrorism in Indian occupation forces, our Foreign Minister talked with his Iranian counterpart and Iran has condemned the Indian brutalities in Kashmir. International community is concerned about continued Indian barbarism and human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir.
On the last question, I have not seen any statement from Iranian officials regarding the alleged incident.
Why did Foreign Office not summon the Afghan Ambassador over the martyrdom of FC personnel on Pak-Afghan border?
Second, reportedly, Trump Administration has warned Pakistan that it could lose US civilian aid worth tens of millions of dollars this year, if it did not do enough to combat human trafficking. Your comments please! (Rashida Sial – AbbTak)
A US State Department official has confirmed that travel restrictions will be imposed on Pakistani diplomatic and consular staff in the US from 01 May 2018. Has US officially informed Pakistan regarding these restrictions?(Shabbir Waghra – PTV World)
US Undersecretary of State has said that these restrictions on Pakistani diplomats are on reciprocal basis. What are your comments? (Ali Hussain – Business Recorder)
Regarding travel restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in Washington, yes, we have received official communication regarding certain measures that the US intends to implement w.e.f. May 1, 2018. The issue is primarily of reciprocity. Both sides are in touch and we are hopeful that the matter will be resolved. We have nothing more to add to this at the moment.
On aid cut, human trafficking is a curse and the government is taking all measures to curb this. During the past years, the government has made significant efforts in all relevant areas to meet the standards for the elimination of trafficking by increasing investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. We have also made some progress recently, in enacting antihuman smuggling legislation. A detailed report in the context of Trafficking in Persons report 2018, prepared by the Ministry of Interior (FIA) on the measures undertaken during the past year, has been shared with the US side. We hope that Pakistan’s efforts would be acknowledged in this regard.
I have addressed the question on Afghanistan in my opening remarks.
Reportedly, Indian Air Force said that they have doubled the number of fighter jets compared to Pakistan Air Force. What are your views on this?
Second, yesterday, Prime Minister Modi referred to the so-called surgical strike by India against Pakistan, in UK. He has stated that Pakistan was informed about the strike, once it had allegedly taken place, before the media. Isn’t India using the UK territory to lash out at Pakistan against diplomatic norms? What are your comments on this? (Essa Naqvi – Dunya News)
In the same speech in UK, Indian Prime Minister lashed out at Pakistan and said that India knows how to tackle the country that is exporting terrorists. What are your comments? (Anas Malick – Republic TV)
On the first question, Indian hegemonic designs are an open secret and have subjected the region to a compulsive arms race. Pakistan believes in mutual respect and a policy of peaceful coexistence, but our armed forces are well prepared and vigilant to respond befittingly to any threat to the motherland.
On Indian Prime Minister’s statement, we have already categorically dismissed the farcical allegations of the so-called surgical strike, which is nothing but a figment of Indian imagination and a tenuous relationship with truth. Constant repetition of a fallacious claim does not make it real. The Indian Government is increasingly sounding like a broken record.
Indian Government has come under immense criticism about the brutal Kathua rape of 8 years old Asifa who was kidnapped, held in a temple, repeatedly raped and then bludgeoned to death. The brutal, heinous murder is an indication of the inhuman manner in which rape is systemically used as a tool of subjugation in IoK. The horrific Unnao case where a minor girl was allegedly raped by members of the incumbent government and her father found dead subsequently under mysterious circumstances has stoked further criticism against the Indian Government and sections of the society that is not only tolerating these barbaric acts but even protecting them.
The widespread protests against the complete failure of the Indian Government to bring the perpetrators to justice, especially when government is complicit in such incidents, has exposed the deepening fissures in Indian society and the government. This criticism is not confined to India but has spread to the whole world, including UK and Sweden. All this is happening even while atrocities and human rights violation by Indian occupation forces continue in IoK including the shelling, cane charges and tear gas attacks by Indian forces on unarmed innocent students in IoK.
History is replete with instances of Pakistan being back-stabbed by India, rather than the other way around. It is India which continues to sponsor of acts of terrorism in Pakistan. Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan’s custody is the living proof of who exports terror.
We have repeatedly seen attempts in India to externalize internal problems or dragging in Pakistan for electoral gains. Baseless Indian allegations are just sad political gimmickry, an absurd attempt to put on a show to divert attention from such heinous incidents and its abject failure. India should take care of the skeletons in its closet and not drag other countries in ploys to secure votes.
We are witnessing that Afghanistan is employing constant aggression and pressure tactics on Pakistan, despite high level visits to and from Afghanistan recently. Has Afghan side assured Pakistan that its territory will be not used against Pakistan?
Secondly, what are the reasons that US is restricting the movement of Pakistani diplomats in Washington. Do you think that deteriorating bilateral relations is the reason behind such move? (Shahid Maitla – ARY News)
Reportedly, Pakistan is also going to restrict the movement of US diplomats in Islamabad from 01 May 2018. Can you confirm?(Rashida Sial – AbbTak)
On restrictions of diplomats, I have nothing more to add.
On Afghanistan, Pakistan sincerely believes that all outstanding issues and differences can be achieved through sustained and meaningful dialogue with the Afghan authorities. The recent visit of our Prime Minister was a reflection of this spirit. We constantly raise our concerns of Afghan territory being used for terrorist activities in Pakistan, Afghan refugees’ early repatriation, rise in drug/poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and its direct linkage with war economy etc. with the Afghan officials on a regular basis. We believe that under APAPPS framework, a sustainable and long-lasting solution to the problems can be achieved by both sides.
Pakistan has condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but you have not condemned the launching of missile attacks by US and allied countries. Russia, Iran and China have out rightly condemned US aggression against Syria, but Pakistan has remained silent. Your comments please! (Zameer – INP)
Pakistan condemns the use of chemical weapons anywhere by anyone. It is important to establish facts through urgent and transparent investigations by the OPCW. We call upon all parties to strive for an agreement within the OPCW framework and extend full support to the Organization.
At this time our thoughts are with the people of Syria who have suffered as a result of ongoing turmoil in that country. We hope that all parties will work to find an urgent solution to end the suffering of the Syrian people.
Pakistan is following US policy in the Middle East. On the contrary, there is a misunderstanding between the two countries on regional policy especially vis-a-vis Afghanistan. Please clarify Pakistan’s position!
Please brief us on Prime Minister’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia. (Salman Hashmi – Forensic Eye)
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited Saudi Arabia on 15-16 April 2018, on the invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to attend the closing ceremony of the Joint Gulf Shield-I, military exercise, in the Eastern Region of the Kingdom. He was accompanied, amongst others by the Defence Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The Joint Gulf Shield I exercise involved units from army, navy, air force and the Special Forces of Saudi Arabia and 24 other countries, including Pakistan. The multilateral military exercise aimed at increasing military readiness of participating countries. Pakistan participated with contingents from all three forces as well as its JF-17 Thunder aircraft and Pakistan Navy ships.
The Prime Minister also held a meeting with His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, on the sidelines of the closing ceremony. The Minister of Defence, Chief of Army Staff and other select members of the Prime Ministers delegation accompanied the Prime Minister during the meeting.
Regarding your first question, there is no confusion in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy. We are closely watching our national interest that is clearly defined. There are differences between our position and that of others, primarily because we hold our national interest paramount.
During the recent hearing in the Islamabad High Court regarding putting Colonel Joseph’s name on ECL, the question arose as to what Vienna Convention states on putting the name of a diplomat on ECL? Can you confirm that court has contacted Foreign Office regarding the matter?(Mona Khan – Geo News)
Has US officially contacted Pakistan for the release of Colonel Joseph? (Syed Mohsin Raza – Asas Group of Publications)
There are reports that someone from Foreign Office has called the SHO of Islamabad police to order release of Colonel Joseph. Can you confirm? (Shahid Maitla – ARY News)
We are awaiting the outcome of preliminary investigations from Islamabad Police, based on which further actions would be initiated. I would like to invite your attention to the Articles 31 and 32 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 which inter-alia deal with diplomatic immunity. He will be treated under Pakistan’s Diplomatic and Consular Privileges Act 1972, which gives effect to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963.
There are reports that some Chinese nationals coming to Pakistan for business purposes have criminal backgrounds and are a security concern for Pakistan. Does the Chinese Government share the details of Chinese businessmen coming to Pakistan? Also, could you give the exact of the number of Chinese people that have come to Pakistan so far? (Syed Mohsin Raza – Asas Group of Publications)
The line Ministries for your query are Ministry of Planning and Interior. However, let me reiterate that Chinese authorities are extending full cooperation on all matters. It goes without saying that CPEC has brought immense investment and economic opportunities for Pakistan.
Reportedly, Taliban have rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to take part in the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections. What is your stance in this regard? (Rabia Pir – VOA DEEWA Radio)
This is an internal matter of Afghanistan.
You mentioned in your opening remarks about good news vis-a-vis Swat. We are unable to understand its relation to foreign policy.
Second, what are your comments regarding certain reports emanating from China that state that Pakistani nationals arrested in China have been detained beyond the completion of their sentence?
Any update on the Chinese women from Xinjiang being reunited with their Pakistani husbands? (Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)
In response to your first question, a major part of the foreign policy of Pakistan is to project its positive image to the rest of the world. It is high time that media in our part of the world graduates from broadcasting sensational and negative reports about Pakistan, to project and highlight Pakistan’s positive news. This sense of maturity on the part of media will be instrumental in shaping and changing the opinion of our masses. These are some excellent steps undertaken by our youth on their own initiative to get rid of some local ailments. We are proud of our youth and we want to share that with the global community.
On matters related to Pakistani prisoners currently detained in China, we have given detailed response in our earlier press briefings.
On your last question, as I mentioned earlier all matters of mutual interest are being actively discussed with China.
Why is the Foreign Office quiet when an Indian serving RAW agent has defected in the US and is even sharing details of the infamous ”Friends of Baluchistan” Organization and how RAW has been systematically involved in the destabilization of Pakistan? Is there any plan to take the matter to ICJ? (Auon Sherazi – Such TV)
As an aside, India’s response submitted in the ICJ has been received in the Foreign Office yesterday.
I do not think that there is a bigger example of India’s state terrorism in Pakistan than the apprehension of Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev. I will get details about your question and revert.
Is there any chance of meeting between Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of SCO Foreign Ministers meeting in Beijing?
Second, what are the prospects of Mr. Ali Jahangir Siddiqui’s appointment as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, as there are reports that the US authorities have not given clearance to his appointment? (Majid Jarral – News One)
On your first question, no such meeting is envisaged so far.
I have nothing new to add on your second question.
A Sikh Yatree woman, who had come to celebrate Baisakhi in Pakistan, has embraced Islam and married a Pakistani national. She has also urged the Pakistani government to extend her visa allegedly claiming threat to her life back home. Do you confirm this incident?
Please consult Ministries of Interior and Religious Affairs for a response.
Regarding the Islamic Military Alliance, has Saudi Arabia shared the ToRs with us so far? Is there a decision on the level of participation by Pakistan in the coalition? (Ali Hussain – Business Recorder)
You may refer your question to Ministry of Defence.
My question pertains to statement given by former Afghan diplomat Abdul Salam Zaeef that Pakistan has conducted operations against two suspected Afghan militants. Do you confirm? (Haroon Rashid – BBC)
I have no information regarding the matter.
Last modified: November 22, 2019
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