Media Briefing|

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,

Assalaam-o-Alaikum,

It has been 249 days since the illegal and unilateral action of India on 5 August 2019. In the last few days, Indian Occupation forces martyred nine innocent Kashmiris, including Aijaz Ahmed Naikoo, Shahid Ahmed Malik, Waqar Farooq, Muhammad Asharaf Malik, Sajjad Ahmed Hurrah and Aadil Hussain Mir in Kulgam, Kupwara and Sopore areas.

Pakistan has strongly condemned and rejected the latest Indian action aimed at illegally changing the demographic structure of the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K). The so-called “Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Order 2020”is another illegal step by India to settle non-Kashmiris in IOJ&K by changing the domicile laws. This is a clear violation of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention. This Indian action, which is a continuation of India’s illegal and unilateral steps since 5 August 2019, also constitutes a violation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan, and humanitarian norms. At this moment of global health crisis, it is a particularly reprehensible act as it seeks to take advantage of the international community’s focus on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and further advance BJP’s sinister, “Hindutva” agenda.

Pakistan also remains deeply concerned at the lack of medical supplies and assistance in IOJK where 170 cases of Coronavirus have been reported as well as the death of five people.

Voices from within India and around the world continue to condemn the inhuman oppression of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In a joint statement recently, six international human rights organizations underscored that measures to combat COVID-19 must respect human rights of every individual and urgently release all political prisoners, human rights defenders and all those arrested in IOJ&K after 5 August 2019. These organizations, in their Joint Statement also reminded India of its obligation under international law to ensure the physical and mental health and well-being of inmates.

Pakistan strongly rejects the officially-inspired reports that appeared in the Indian media seeking to link Pakistan with the terrorist attack on a Gurdawara in Kabul on 25 March 2020. As a country that has suffered the most and has fought resolutely against the scourge of terrorism, including State-sponsored terrorism emanating from across the border, Pakistan firmly believes that such despicable terrorist acts have no political, religious or moral justification. We are very well aware of India’s continuous smear campaign against us but are confident that these tactics will not succeed in misleading the world community.

In recent days, as part of his continued diplomatic outreach, Foreign Minister Qureshi exchanged views on the situation arising out of the Covid-19 Pandemic and ways to address it with his counterparts from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia as well Secretary General SCO. In these conversations, the Foreign Minister also highlighted the Prime Minister’s call for debt relief and restructuring to help developing countries create the fiscal space needed to combat the disease, save precious human lives and shore up economies.

In the wake of Covid-19 outbreak, and as part of the national effort under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and the direction of the Foreign Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Missions abroad have established a robust and round the clock out-reach initiative to provide our overseas communities with relief and assistance wherever required. Food rations are being supplied by our Missions across the globe where ever our nationals are facing hardship due to the prevailing pandemic situation.

Following the establishment of the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 PANDEMIC RELIEF FUND-2020”, our Missions abroad have been instructed to share the information widely with our Diaspora communities as well as reach out to donors, philanthropists and suppliers in their areas of jurisdiction.

A comprehensive and phased plan for repatriation of our nationals in different countries has been made under which in the past few days:

101 nationals returned from UAE; 40 from Doha, 170 from Bangkok; 194 from Istanbul, 128 from Tashkent; 3 from Tajikstan, and 136 from Baghdad through special flights operated by PIA. Plans for repatriation of our nationals from other destinations are also under active consideration. As this is a dynamic and evolving situation, these plans are being reviewed regularly.

Our two member solidarity team from Beijing Embassy, comprising officers Junaid and Suleman who had volunteered to go to Wuhan and assist our students under the lockdown there, have now returned to Beijing following the lifting of travel restrictions in Wuhan after 76 days. We are immensely proud of them and recognize their commitment and dedication to serve the Nation.

In response to Afghanistan Government’s special request, and based on humanitarian considerations, it has been decided to facilitate movement of cargo trucks and containers to cross-over into Afghanistan through Torkham and Chaman border crossing points thrice a week (on Monday, Wednesday and Friday) from 10 April 2020 onwards.

Furthermore, in view of the current situation due to Covid-19, the government of Pakistan has approved the validity of all types of visas issued to foreign nationals who are currently in Pakistan, that had expired since 15 March, 2020 and are due to expire by 30th April 2020 shall be deemed to be valid till 30 April, 2020.

Thank you very much.

Question: What is Pakistan’s stance as Taliban break off talks with Afghan Government on prisoners’ exchange? (Rabia Pir, VOA Deewa Radio)

Supplementary Question: Taliban break off talks with Afghan government on prisoner exchange, how Pakistan sees the future of Afghan Peace Agreement and its impact on Pakistan? (Muhammad Shoaib Khan, JNN)

Supplementary Question: Taliban have refused to take part what their political spokesperson describes fruitless meetings. Delay in prisoners exchange has already delayed intra Afghan dialogue. As one of the key stakeholders in peace process, how does Pakistan view hurdles in peace process? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)

Supplementary Question: Please let me know the current status of Pak-Afghan relations especially after the Taliban broke off talks with the Afghan government on a prisoner exchange, a main step in peace talks being brokered by the United States after it agreed on a troop withdrawal pact with the militants? Is Pakistan concerned about postponement of the intra-Afghan dialogue over prisoner issue? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International/ PPA News Agency)

Supplementary Question: How do you see recent development after Taliban backed out of talks with Afghan Government delegation on release of prisoners. Don’t you think it would lead to another crisis in Afghanistan in days to come? (Naveed Siddiqui Dawn News)

Supplementary Question: Taliban broke off the talks with Afghan government and announced that it will no longer be holding talks with Ghani administration on the prisoners’ swap. Your comments please? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Question: Would you like to Comment on the Current Situation in Afghanistan. What are the updates? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)

Question: American Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice wells has warned Kabul of international aid cut if Afghan leaders did not agree to an inclusive govt. what is Pakistan’s position on political crisis in Afghanistan? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)

Answer: I will draw your attention to our stated policy on Afghanistan. Pakistan has always supported a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours. We believe that the signing of the US-Taliban Peace Agreement has created a historic opportunity for the people of Afghanistan. It is imperative that this historic opportunity is seized and all parties work together constructively for securing durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Question: Under the JCPOA all parties of the agreement were bound to honor their commitments towards Iran, but the European signatories have failed to do so especially after the US withdrawal from the deal. Currently Iran is facing difficulty in its fight against Coronavirus, so don’t you think that it is high time that the European countries must step forward and honor their commitments towards the Islamic Republic? (Afzal Reza, IRNA)

Question: Did FM Qureshi or any government official talk with Iran on the issue of pilgrims, because they are still coming from Taftan Border? (Muhammad Shoaib Khan, JNN)

Answer: As you are aware, the Foreign Minister had a telephone conversation with the Iranian Foreign Minister recently. The Foreign Minister conveyed deep concern and sorrow over the loss of lives in the ongoing pandemic. The Foreign Minister also commended the Government and the People of Islamic Republic of Iran for valiantly combating COVID-19.

Pakistan believes that JCPOA is a good example of mutually negotiated settlement of a complex issue through dialogue and diplomacy. We understand the problems being faced by Iran in combating COVID-19 while facing sanctions. It was in this context that Prime Minister Imran Khan called for lifting sanctions on Iran to enable it to utilise its resources and save precious lives.

Question: Sindh High Court has sent notices to Foreign Office, US consulate in Karachi after Afia Siddiqui’s family moved court to get proof of her well being after reports of virus spread in US prisons. Your comments please including any latest update on Afia Siddiqui health. (Saima Shabir, Arab News)

Answer: Pakistan’s Consul General in Houston has been tasked to inquire the wellbeing of Dr. Afia Siddiqui in view of the spread of Corona Virus. The CG has called the prison warden to inquire about the health of Dr. Afia and was informed that she was doing well. Pakistan’s Consulate General will continue to get updates regarding the health of Dr. Afia and would also resume regular visit to the prison as soon as U.S authorities permit such visits owing to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

Question: The Presidential and Parliamentary elections were held in Nagorno-Karabakh, occupied territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 31 March 2020. What is Pakistan official take on it? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

Answer: The Presidential and Parliamentary elections held on 31 March 2020 in Nagorno-Karabakh, occupied territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, is a clear violation of international norms. The election constitutes a clear breach of international law and UN Security Council resolutions. It is taken as an attempt by Armenia to hamper the ongoing negotiation process for finding lasting solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through peaceful means. Pakistan reaffirms its principled position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and reiterates its support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

Question: As China eased lock down, so when Pakistani students in China will be able to return home to visit families, also Pakistani citizens there? (Naveed Akbar,Aaj TV)

Answer: Chinese government has lifted lockdown form Wuhan city yesterday, i.e., 8th April, 2020. With the lifting of the lockdown, outbound travel has resumed from Wuhan enabling people to travel from there.

Question: Will you please update us regarding New Travel Advisory? (Khawaja Nayyar, Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer: The question pertains to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Question: How many stranded Pakistani nationals from different countries have been successfully repatriated to Pakistan so far? (Nuaman Ishfaq Mughal, Daily Parliament Times)

Answer:-

Sr. No      Country        Number repatriated            Date

1.              UAE              101                                      March 24

2              Qatar             40                                        March 24

3              Thailand        170                                     March 28

4             Turkey            194                                     April 3

5             Uzbekistan    128                                     April 6

6             Tajikistan            3                                     April 6

7             Iraq                136                                     April 8

Total 772

Question: Many complaints are being received against Pakistan missions abroad in the current situation of corona virus in different parts of the world. What steps are taken by Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding those Missions which are not taking any serious steps in this regard? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: All Pakistani Missions abroad have been instructed to actively engage with the Pakistani community whether to provide information, help those in need of assistance in terms of visa facilitation, food, accommodation or repatriation. All Missions have established dedicated hotlines and focal persons available 24/7 to assist our communities abroad.

Question: How many Pakistanis are still stranded in different countries and what arrangements are being made to bring them back? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj TV)

Answer: As you are aware this is a dynamic situation constantly evolving. A comprehensive phase wise plan for repatriation of Pakistani nationals has been developed in collaboration with all stakeholders.

So far : 101 nationals returned from UAE; 40 from Doha, 170 from Bangkok; 194 from Istanbul, 128 from Tashkent; 3 from Tajikstan, and 136 from Baghdad through special flights operated by PIA. Plans for repatriation of our nationals from other destinations are also under active consideration.

Question: While talking to his counterparts and Secretary General of the United Nations and other world organizations, the Foreign Minister demanded that the international community should help and support Pakistan to counter COVID-19. In addition, IMF should also consider giving economic relief to Pakistan. What has been the response of IMF and international community on this issue? (Muhammad Shoaib Khan, JNN)

Answer: – As you are aware, Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for debt relief for developing countries to enable them to direct resources to saving precious human lives and shoring up economies against the economic impact of the of the pandemic.

Foreign Minister Qureshi has since written to his European counterparts and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy underscoring, inter alia, the need to relieve the debt burden of developing countries to enable them to stem economic decline.

The initiative has resonated globally. The EU Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Video-Conference of 23 March 2020 has “discussed how to step up international cooperation and solidarity in order to support the most fragile countries”.

The IMF-World Bank have issued a joint statement on 25 March 2020 concerning debt relief. The Virtual G-20 Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia held on 26 March 2020, reaffirmed G-20 Commitment to address debt vulnerabilities. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guetterres, has called for “maximum financial and technical support for the most vulnerable people and countries”.

Pakistan welcomes these endorsements as steps in the right direction and hopes that these would culminate in concrete steps at the earliest possible.

Question: Israel has refused to let ventilators enter Gaza tying it to the release of its prisoners and also the OIC yesterday slammed the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. What is your comment on it? (Saima Shabir, Arab News)

Answer: Blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law and is condemnable. Pakistan calls for the immediate lifting of the blockade in order for Palestine to fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

We reiterate our support for a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine, on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Question: Reports coming from IoJ&K suggest that caged Kashmiris are denied access to health services ref to Coronavirus. Would Pakistan ask UN observers to look into this and share report with Pakistan? (Agha Iqrar Harron, DND News Agency Islamabad)

Answer: Pakistan has consistently maintained that the international community needs to intervene to address the dire health and human rights emergency in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K) as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. In this regard the Foreign Minister has also written a letter to the President of the UN Security Council urging the Council to play its role in lifting of communication and other blockades in IOJ&K and discussed the matter in his telephone calls with the UN Secretary General and several of his counterparts for Kashmiris’ right to unfettered access to medical and other essential supplies. Amnesty International has made a similar call to the Indian government to immediately restore full internet services to the Kashmiri people so that people in the region have full access to health- and safety-related information. We have always called for the need for international observers and Human Rights organizations to be given access to IOJK to assess the true situation on the ground there.

Question: Would you like to Comment on the recent Statement by Subramanian Swamys of BJP’S Senior Leader Regarding Muslims? (Khawaja Nayyar, Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer: Pakistan strongly condemns the statement by senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy villifying Muslims and inciting violence.

The whole world, including India, is facing the Cornavirus crisis, while extremist Hindutva leaders are spewing vitriol against Muslims. Failure of BJP to condemn such statements demonstrates its active support for violence against Muslims as was witnessed in the recent Delhi riots which resulted in over 50 deaths and 350 injuries.

Question: From last several days gunfight reports between Indian forces and local freedom fighters in IOJ&K are coming in media, on Sunday Indian army claimed that they have killed several militants near Line of Control who were trying to enter from Azad Kashmir. What your reaction on this Indian clams? (Islamuddin Sajid, Anadolu Agency)

Answer: We refute any such allegation completely. It has unfortunately become a staple for the Indian leadership and India’s state controlled media to level false accusations against Pakistan to detract from India’s home grown terrorism against the innocent people of IOJ&K and to appeal to the hard-line RSS/Hindutva inspired electoral base of the present Indian Government.

Question: As the Indian government has now introduced a new domicile policy in Indian Occupied Kashmir, OIC and Pakistan both have rejected this move but the international community is still silent over Indian actions in Kashmir, so Pakistan has any plan to move to the International Court of Justice to stop India from changing the Muslim-majority region’s demographics? (Islamuddin Sajid, Anadolu Agency)

Answer: Pakistan has strongly condemned and rejected this Indian action which is aimed at illegally changing the demographic structure of the IOJ&K. We believe the so-called “Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Order 2020”is another illegal step by India to settle non-Kashmiris in IOJ&K by changing the domicile laws. It is a clear violation of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention. And also a continuation of India’s illegal and unilateral steps since 5 August 2019, also constitutes a violation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan, and humanitarian norms.

Question: What are your Comments on the Current Situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir and Killing of the Innocent Kashmiris? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)

Answer: The current human rights and humanitarian situation in IOJ&K is indeed regrettable since the hardships of the average Kashmiris have only been precipitated following the Covid-19 pandemic, on the footsteps of India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 5. We urge India to lift the communication blockade in IOJ&K so that full information on affected Kashmiris and essential items and medical supplies can be provided to the impacted people.

Question: Due to Coronavirus the international diplomatic activities have turned slow, but the Foreign Minister’s diplomatic efforts regarding IOJ&K dispute have continued through his letters and telephonic conversations. However, the current situation in IOJ&K is getting worse day by day and India is not taking it seriously at all. How do you comment on this? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: Pakistan remains deeply concerned over continued restrictions in IOJ&K. Foreign Minister in his recent letters to the Presidents of UNSC and UNGA highlighted India’s illegal attempts seeking to change the demographic structure of IOJ&K and urged them to play their role. Similarly, the matter was also raised in the telephonic conversations of the Foreign Minister with his counterparts. It is unfortunate that instead of taking tangible actions to improve the Human Rights situation in IOJ&K, India is trying to take advantage of the shift in world attention towards COVID-19.

Question: After President Donald Trump’s threat to retaliate, PM Modi removed ban on export of Hydroxychloroquine. Is there any chance to import Hydroxychloroquine in Pakistan from India? (Khalid Mehmood Khalid, ANI News Agency)

Answer: The question pertains to Ministry of National Health Services.

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