March 12, 2020| Media Briefing|
Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Foreign Office Press Corps,
Welcome to the Foreign Office.
Today is the 221 day of the lockdown faced by the people in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. They continue to be deprived of their fundamental freedoms; their right to liberty, health, education and food. They continue to face restrictions on their freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. In the last few days, the Indian Occupation forces martyred four Kashmiris 22-years-old Umar Subhan Wagay, 62-year-old Ghulam Nabi Ahanger, Shabir Ahmad Malik and Amir Ahmad Dar in Sopore, Srinagar and Shopian areas.
We strongly condemn the continued gross human rights violations; killing, use of brute force, arrest of young men and women and Kashmiri leaders as well as attempts to bring about demographic changes in IOJ&K.
Jammu and Kashmir dispute is an internationally recognized disputed territory which has been reaffirmed repeatedly by the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary General and most recently the OIC Special Envoy for Jammu and Kashmir Dispute H.E Yousef Al Dobeay during his visit to Pakistan. His visit was a reaffirmation of the OIC’s commitment to the Kashmir cause.
The large-scale, targeted violence against Muslims that took place in New Delhi in the backdrop of highly communal statements against Muslims by BJP leaders has been a matter of grave concern and is highly condemnable. According to reports, the death toll reached 53 and hundreds are injured.
Equally condemnable is the desecration and vandalization of places of worship. According to news reports, at least 14 mosques and a Dargah were burnt down by Hindutva vigilantes within a span of 3-4 days. There is evidence that these sacred places were deliberately rampaged, while copies of the Holy Quran were desecrated.
Local Police and law enforcement officials in New Delhi were either silent spectators, or active collaborators. This is criminal behavior deserving of unreserved censure.
The most appalling fact is the stony silence of the BJP leadership. Not a single word of condemnation or apology has thus far been uttered by any BJP leader or senior government functionary over the tragic loss of lives, desecration of the holy places, or widespread damage to property. Nothing could be more reprehensible.
Internationally, we have seen several expressions of concern, including from the UN Secretary General and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. World leaders including the President of Turkey and Supreme Leader of Iran have made statements of condemnation. Prime Minister Imran Khan has clearly shared Pakistan’s perspective and our expectations from the international community.
We expect the international community including the United Nations, OIC and relevant Human Rights organizations to take practical steps to stop the Indian government from pursuing discriminatory and anti-minority polices and provide protection to the minorities, particularly Muslims, their places of worship and properties.
Question: Recently, many countries have announced restrictions on the travel of Pakistani nationals in view of fast spread of Coronavirus. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not declared Pakistan as most vulnerable country. Is the Foreign Office considering takingup this issue with those countries to relax the travel restrictions on Pakistani nationals? (Zahid Malick, Daily Metro)
Supplementary Question: Why Pakistan has not issued travel advisories as yet? While countries like USA, UK and others have issued travel advisories to prevent spread of Coronavirus? There are many direct flights coming from Europe and other countries to Pakistan which can spread Coronavirus in Pakistan. (Adeel Waraich, Dunya TV)
Supplementary Question: Reportedly, a staff member of Pakistan Embassy in Kabul Mr. Muhammad Asghar has been infected with Coronavirus and has been shifted to Islamabad. Would you please confirm?
Secondly, what is the condition of other staff members of Pakistan Embassy in Kabul? Is only the visa Section or the whole Embassy closed in view of outbreak of Coronavirus? (Naveed, Dawn News)
Supplementary Question: It has been reported today that Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has directed all foreign nationals, including Pakistanis to return to their respective countries within 72 hours. Subsequently, issuance of visas will be stopped for an indefinite time. Would you please comment on it? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY News)
Answer: On Coronavirus, as you know it has spread to many countries across the world. According to reports, so far, cases have been reported in over hundred countries. In this regard, each country is taking measures in order to ensure safety of their own people and citizens of other countries residing in those countries. It is the primary responsibility of those countries to take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Pakistan is also taking all the requisite steps at our borders and airports to ensure the safety of our people and control the spread of Coronavirus.
Pakistan Consulate in Herat has been closed for fifteen days for administrative reasons.Similarly, the consular section of Pakistan Embassy in Kabul has also been closed for a few days for administrative reasons.
As for the report of Ministry of Interior of Saudi Arabia, we have seen the report and I have also talked to our Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who is in touch with Saudi authorities to obtain more details. As I said earlier, all states are taking measures to ensure the safety and security of their people and this decision has also been taken in this context by the Government of Saudi Arabia.
Regarding Pakistani staff member in our Embassy in Kabul, as per our information there is no confirmation that he has been infected with Coronavirus. Kindly avoid speculation in such matters.
Question: US State Department has issued country report on the human rights practices in Pakistan saying that there are numerous reports that the government or its agents have committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. What is your comment on it?
Secondly, are we expecting Pakistan to work with regional countries on Coronavirus, including Iran and India? Earlier, the government of Pakistan had sent aid to China but weare yet to see any such development with regard to Iran. (Anas Malick, WION TV)
Answer:I have not seen the report that you are referring to. However, the data regarding Pakistan needs to be updated because the Government of Pakistan in recent years has taken a number of measures to ensure the fundamental rights of all our citizens. Therefore, I believe that there is a need to update report on Pakistan. The matter would definitely be taken up with the concerned US authorities.
On Coronavirus, as I said before that the Government of Pakistan is monitoring the situation very closely and will take measures required for the citizens within Pakistan and any assistance we can provide to our neighboring countries.
Question: It has been reported that Muhammad Asghar, staff member of Pakistan Embassy in Kabul has been shifted to Islamabad in quarantine. Secondly, an Afghan national Mr. Kamran was sent back from Torkham border. Would you please confirm?
Thirdly, India has banned visas for foreign nationals including Germans in the wake of growing cases of coronavirus. Is Pakistan placing such restrictions to avoid travel of foreigners coming from other countries? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)
Answer: As for return of Afghan national at Torkham, I will check and revert.
We have seen reports of cancellation of visas by some regional countries which is their own decision and aimed at protection of their citizens. As I said earlier the government of Pakistan is committed to protect its citizens and would take all measures necessary to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
Question: According to reports the situation at Taftan border is very bad with increasing number of Zaireen who have been put in quarantine. They are also protesting because of lack of facilities and bad situation there. What decisions are being taken for them? Would you please tell us about it? (Sahar Baloch, BBC Urdu)
Answer: A significant number of Pakistani Zaireen who went to Iran has returned through Taftan border. The Ministry of Health and other stakeholders have set up the facilities in coordination with Provincial Government of Balochistan for screening and quarantine of Zaireen. All efforts are being made to make sure that best possible measures are taken for the safety of Pakistani citizens. This is an ongoing work which is being taken on a daily basis because of large number of Zaireen.
Question: Asharaf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have taken oath as Presidents of Afghanistan after announcement of election results. What is Pakistan’s official stance on it?
Secondly, it has been reported that coup efforts were made in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and some members of royal family have been arrested as well. What is your comment on it? (Rashida Siyal, AbbTak TV)
Supplementary Question: Pakistan has issued a press release congratulating President Ghani on the assumption of office of the President. What is Pakistan’s position regarding Abdullah Abdullah’s claim of being President of Afghanistan as well? (ShabbirWagra, PTV)
Supplementary Question: In current environment in Afghanistan, is Pakistan going to facilitate a meeting between the warring groups in Afghanistan? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, Pakistan Press Agency)
Supplementary Question: State Department of the United States has said that increasing violence in Afghanistan is unacceptable and also harmful to recently signed Peace Agreement. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, while giving an interview, said that an intra-Afghan dialogue process may complete in next hundred days. On the other hand,the Taliban has rejected the conditional release of Taliban prisoners as announced by President Ashraf Ghani. (Jalil Akhtar, VOA Urdu)
Supplementary Question: It has been reported that the Taliban have refused to add the name of Afia Siddiqui in list of prisoners to be released. Will Pakistan take up this with the concerned authorities? (Wajid Khan, Independent News Agency)
Supplementary Question: Does Pakistan see Abdullah Abdullah to remain as the President of Afghanistan as well. How do you see the volatile situation in Afghanistan? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)
Answer: As you are aware that the Independent Election Commission announced the victory of President Ashraf Ghani in the elections. Subsequently, Pakistan felicitated President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Imran Khan also conveyed felicitations and best wishes for the new President and for the Afghan people.
You are also aware that Pakistan has always maintained that the US Taliban Peace Agreement is a historic step towards the ultimate goal of achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. The Peace Agreement reflects commitment by both the US and Taliban to work constructively. It is now imperative to seize the opportunity towards the next step of intra-Afghan negotiations.
We have seen the reports that you have referred to and we hope that the Agreement concluded between the two sides would be taken forward by all the parties in Afghanistan to find a way to sit together and arrive at a solution to take the next crucial step forward.
We believe an intra-Afghan dialogue is a crucial step in this journey towards durable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. Pakistan has played its role as a facilitator and we hope that nowthe representatives of the Afghan people will lead Afghanistan from conflict and strife to peace and security in the days and months ahead.
As for Saudi Arabia, it is our policy not to comment on the domestic issues of any other country.
Question: About the situation in Afghanistan, is Pakistan considering India as responsible for the situation in Afghanistan? (Khawaja Nayyer, Media Today)
Answer: I have already shared Pakistan’s position in detail on the situation in Afghanistan and Peace Agreement.
Dr. Afia Siddiqui is a national of Pakistan. You may recall that in July last year the Prime Minister of Pakistan during his visit to the United States had raised this issue. We have also raised this issue with the US side.
Question: You have commented on the spread of coronavirus. What concrete steps taken by Ministry of Foreign Affairs to safeguard its diplomats and the officials who are deputed in different stations across the world in our Embassies. A lot of people visit to our Embassies for visa purposes on daily basis; therefore, our staff in those Embassies is more vulnerable to Coronavirus. Secondly, how about overseas Pakistanis as many countries have given an ultimatum to them to return to their countries. What about Pakistani nationals residing in the Middle East and other parts of the world? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)
Answer: As you know that many countries are taking strict measures to stop the flow in and out of their territories. Therefore, all overseas Pakistanis in those countries are advised to follow advisories issued by the governments in those countries. Regarding safety of our diplomats and Diplomatic Missions abroad, we are constituting a plan to see how best our diplomats can be helped in case of any incident. There is an in-house discussion that is taking place led by the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Secretary. We will take appropriate measures wherever required.
Question: As you mentioned that there are all facilities are available at airport and borders for screening the citizens coming from abroad. Yesterday, Miss Noor ul Huda in a tweet said that she came from Madina Munawara early in the morning and there was no facility of checking or screening at the airport. Your comment please?
It has been reported recently that there was a controversy/dispute regarding Kohistan and Ghizer which was reportedly addressed through a Jirga. Since Gilgit Baltistan is a disputed territory no such judgment can be made. What is your comment on it? (Fida Hussain, Radio News Network)
Answer: Regarding monitoring of Coronavirus amongst incoming passengers, as you know the Ministry of Health both at the Federal and Provincial levels in close coordination with the provincial governments are involved in the first instance to ensure that all facilities are provided at the airports for screening of passengers.
Regarding the story that you are talking about, I have not seen it. There is no change in Government of Pakistan’s position on the Gilgit Baltistan status.
Question: You issued a press release regarding an Exhibition on Science and Sustainable Development which is going to be held on 16-17 March. Would you please share which sessions of the exhibition are open for the media? (Shahid ur Rehman, Japanese TV)
Answer: Science exhibition is taking place on 16-17 March 2020. It is a two-day exhibition to showcase Pakistan’s progress and work in the areas of science, technology and innovation. Some of these innovations are being deployed to meet UN Sustainable Development Goals in education, health and other sectors. On the first day the exhibition is open from 01.00 pm to 05.00 pm for public and on 17 March from 10.00 am to 05.00 pm. Both these days are open for public and the media.
Question: Recently, the Special Envoy of the OIC Secretary General on Jammu & Kashmir was on a visit to Pakistan, on the other hand communal violence in India is growing which has been condemned unequivocally by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and also United Nations Secretary General. How about Saudi Arabia and UAE? Are you satisfied with their role in this regard? (Zaheer Ali, Samaa TV)
Answer: Special Envoy of the OIC Secretary General on Jammu & Kashmir H.E. Ambassador Yousef M. Al Dobeay visited Pakistan and AJK and met with all our leadership as well as visited Azad Kashmir and the LoC. During his press briefing and other statements Ambassador Dobeay very clearly stated that Jammu & Kashmir dispute is on the top of the agenda of the OIC and recognized that J&K dispute is an international dispute. I don’t think there is any ambiguity in this regard.
Question: There are reports that OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting which was to take place in April this year has been postponed due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. Would you please confirm? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: OIC Foreign Ministers meeting is expected to take place in April in Niger. I need to check this and then revert to you.
Question: The continuing communal violence against Muslims in India has deep impact on Pakistanis as well because there are many shared families. The Government of Pakistan is not taking enough measures to stop the brutality of India against Muslims.
Secondly, would you please update regarding the letter written to the British Government for deportation of the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Thirdly, there are reportedly 1500 trading trucks stuck at Pak-Iran border which is causing huge loses to traders. What measures are being taken in this regard?(Abbas Jaafar, District News)
Answer: Regarding the movement of trucks, the movement of trucks has already started across the Pakistan-Iran border.
As for communal violence in India, I have very comprehensively commented on it in my opening remarks. You may have seen the Prime Minister’s statement on the targeted violence in India where he expressed his grave concerns. Moreover, Supreme Leader of Iran, President of Turkey and the UN Secretary General have also expressed their deep concern. Across the world in many cities protests were staged condemning the violence in Delhi in recent days.
Question: Reportedly Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is coming to Pakistan. What are the details in this regard? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Answer: I will check and revert.
Last modified: March 12, 2020
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