Media Briefing|

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

 

Assalam-o-Alaikum and welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.

Let me begin with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ongoing visit to Uzbekistan on the invitation of the Uzbek President (Shavkat Mirziyoyev).

The Prime Minister is accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the members of the Cabinet and a group of leading Pakistani businessmen.

The wide-ranging talks between the two leaders during the visit will cover the entire gamut of bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues.

A number of agreements and MoUs will also be signed to further deepen cooperation in diverse fields.
The Prime Minister will address the first Pakistan-Uzbekistan Business Forum.

The Prime Minister will also participate in the International Conference on “Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities.”

Pakistan and Uzbekistan enjoy historic fraternal relations marked by mutual respect and rooted in common culture and similar traditions.

In recent years, these relations have witnessed an upward trajectory.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi led the Pakistan delegation to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting (SCO-CFM) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Marking the twentieth anniversary of the founding of SCO, the Foreign Minister:

• Commended the work carried out by SCO during the last two decades;
• Highlighted the formidable collective political and economic potential of the Organization;
• Emphasized that the key to unlock the geo-economic potential of this region lies in developing greater connectivity and transport links;
• Underscored concern at the indiscriminate use of force in complete disregard to international humanitarian laws; and unilateral approach to solve longstanding international disputes; and
• Called for greater people to people contacts in order to strengthen ties between member states for the achievement of a shared vision of a peaceful, prosperous and inter connected SCO region.

On the sidelines of the SCO-CFM, the Foreign Minister held bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Tajikistan, China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan.

The Foreign Minister also represented Pakistan in the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group meeting.
The Prime Minister addressed the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on 13 July 2021.

During his address, the Prime Minister underscored that COVID-19 pandemic has once again underscored the imperative of unity and interdependence of nations.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi participated in the Ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), hosted by Republic of Azerbaijan in virtual mode.

In his statement, the Foreign Minister:

• Underscored the Non-Aligned Movement’s important role in promoting peace and development and in responding to current global challenges; and
• Called for strict adherence to the principles and purposes of the UN Charter and values of multilateralism for advancing the common goal of sustained peace and development.

During the week, the Foreign Minister received a telephone call from the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin.

They discussed bilateral relations and important developments in the region.

On bilateral relations, the Foreign Minister emphasized Pakistan’s commitment to forging a broad-based, long-term and sustainable relationship with the US.

On the Afghan Peace Process, the Foreign Minister stressed that there was a fundamental convergence between Pakistan and the United States.

He underscored that securing peace in Afghanistan was the shared responsibility of all stakeholders inside Afghanistan as well as key regional and international players.

The two sides also exchanged views on regional connectivity and other key issues.

Foreign Minister Qureshi thanked Secretary Blinken for the Covid-related support extended to Pakistan by the United States.

Coming to the situation in the region,

As the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is nearing completion, we remain concerned at the evolving security situation in Afghanistan.

We once again reiterate the imperative of a political settlement in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has played an important role in the Afghan Peace Process and it remains committed to facilitate the process in future as well.

However, ultimately, it is the Afghans themselves who have to decide about their future.

At this critical juncture, all Afghan stakeholders must work out an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

A meaningful engagement of the world community for promoting reconstruction and economic development in the post-conflict Afghanistan is important for ensuring sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

We also believe that peaceful settlement of the Afghan dispute should also lead to a dignified and time-bound return of Afghan refugees.

This is the time that friends and partners of Afghanistan must remain closely engaged to advance shared goals and objectives.

Coming to our eastern neighbor, Pakistan has yet again presented clear evidence of India’s financial and material support of terrorist activities in Pakistan.

We have pointed out in the past as well that India has been actively aiding and abetting terrorism to destabilize Pakistan and imperil regional peace.

Pakistan had last year shared irrefutable evidence of India’s sponsorship of terrorist, violence and instability in Pakistan resulting in indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians leading to loss of precious lives.

We call upon India to eschew the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, dismantle its terror infrastructure against Pakistan, arrest the perpetrators of the Lahore attack and bring them to justice without any delay.

On the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), Yaum-e-Shuhada-e-Kashmir was observed on 13 July to pay homage to the 22 Kashmiris, who laid down their lives fighting the brutal Dogra forces in Srinagar in 1931.

The courage of these martyrs galvanized an unparalleled struggle for self-determination in 1931 that continues till date.

Over 390 Kashmiris have been martyred by the Indian Occupation Forces in IIOJK since 05 August 2019 alone.

Only recently, an elderly woman was deliberately crushed to death under an army vehicle used by the Indian occupation forces while she was crossing the road in Nadihal village on Bandipora-Srinagar road.

India must realize that despite applying all tools of oppression and using state terrorism as a policy, it has failed to subjugate the will of the Kashmiri people.

We once again call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations and human rights organizations, to investigate the persistent extra-judicial killings of Kashmiris by Indian Occupation Forces and bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice.

Pakistan will continue to support the Kashmiri people in their just struggle against the Indian oppression till the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.

Question: I have two questions.

Firstly, there are media reports about a conference on Afghanistan to be hosted by Pakistan on 17 – 19 July. Can you please confirm?

Secondly, Taliban have captured the border area with Pakistan. What will be the security implications for Pakistan, and is there any intent to open the border crossing point? (Rashida Siyal, Abb Takk TV)

Supplementary Question: Regarding the Afghan Peace Conference, there are reports from a section of Afghan media quoting sources that the conference stands postponed, would you want to comment on that? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Supplementary Question: Taliban claim to have occupied 85% of the Afghan territory. But there is no word from Pakistan or Afghan Taliban about the return of TTP militants currently present on Afghan soil. When Afghan Taliban are specifically asked, they mention that they won’t allow Afghan soil to be used against any third country. It symbolizes that they don’t want to return the TTP militants to Pakistan. Your views please? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Supplementary Question: Afghan Taliban have raided some houses belonging to Afghan Security Forces personnel and have recovered Pakistani currency, which was reportedly being used to fund terrorist activities against Pakistan. How do you comment? (Rashida Siyal, Abb Takk TV)

Supplementary Question: There are media reports about Indian aircrafts supplying weapons in Afghanistan under the garb of evacuation. How do you see this? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY News)

Supplementary Question: Turkey had proposed to involve Pakistan and Hungary, to protect and run Kabul’s international airport following the withdrawal of other NATO-led foreign troops. Taliban have condemned this. What is Pakistan’s position vis-à-vis safeguarding the Kabul airport? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Royal News)

Answer: As for Afghan Peace Conference, I can confirm that Pakistan is hosting the Afghan Peace Conference on 17-19 July.

Any speculations about postponement of the Conference are entirely baseless.

The Conference will provide momentum to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan. A number of Afghan leaders have already confirmed their participation.

As for your question on TTP and use of Afghan soil against Pakistan, Pakistan has always maintained that peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. There are multiple reasons for our interest in peace in Afghanistan because:

• The security situation in Afghanistan has a direct bearing on the security situation in Pakistan. Any security vacuum in Afghanistan can be exploited by spoilers. We have shared evidence of Indian use of Afghan soil for state sponsored terrorism against Pakistan.

• Pakistan continues to host over three million Afghan refugees for over 4 decades. We are not in a position to cater to further influx of Afghan refugees, and for that peace and stability in Afghanistan are important.

• Economic integration and regional connectivity cannot be achieved without peace and stability in Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan is essential for successful implementation of regional connectivity initiatives.

As for your question on the Taliban gaining control over Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, a large chunk of Pakistan-Afghanistan trade takes place through the Spin Boldak crossing point. Additionally, this crossing point is used by over 20,000 people on a daily basis. The crossing helps sustain many Afghan families. It is therefore important that the border is re-opened as soon as possible.

Regarding Turkey’s role, we attach great value to Turkey’s efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan has remained supportive of the Turkish-led initiatives on Afghanistan including the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process.

We will continue to work with the international community including Turkey in the efforts to seek lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

As for the specifics of the security in Afghanistan, it’s for the Afghan parties to decide. The imperative of broader consensus in this regard cannot be overemphasized.

Question: The Spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that China and Pakistan are jointly investigating the Chinese bus incident. Would you share details that any intelligence and security team from China or from Chinese Embassy in Islamabad are investigating the incident or whether they have reached the incident place? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Supplementary Question: The statements from the Chinese side have expressed serious concerns regarding the security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan. The statements hint more at a security angle. How do you comment? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer: The investigation of the incident is underway. All aspects of the incident are being examined without ruling out any possibility.

The government is in close contact with the Chinese side and extending all possible facilitation.

Pakistan attaches great importance to the safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan.

Question: Pakistan has yet again presented evidence of India’s state-sponsorship of terrorism. What concrete actions does Pakistan plan to take in this respect? Will these steps be through bilateral or multilateral channels? (Khalid Azeem, Samaa TV)

Supplementary Question: According to media reports, some Foreign Office official was arrested and presented in court on the charges of spying on CPEC projects. Can you please share details? (Rashida Siyal, Abb Takk TV)

Supplementary Question: India has started a new propaganda campaign against Pakistani drones spotted allegedly over the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and in Jammu. What is so special about Pakistani drones that terrifies the Indians? (Anwer Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Pakistan has been a victim of terrorist attacks, which are planned and orchestrated from across our borders.

We have always highlighted India’s active involvement in terrorism inside Pakistan at international fora and also at bilateral levels. The recent blast in Lahore is yet another example of India’s state sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan.

Despite the double standards of those who conveniently judge other countries, Pakistan will continue to expose India’s destabilizing role in Pakistan.

A number of cases are already registered in various terrorism incidents in Pakistan with concrete proofs of Indian involvement and we have shared that information with international community in the past.

We are confident that prosecution in the latest terrorism incident in Lahore will bring its perpetrators to justice. Our swift actions following the Lahore incident also demonstrate state’s unflinching resolve, complete harmony in the decision making, and enhanced capacity of LEAs and close inter-agency coordination to defeat terrorism, its perpetrators and sponsors.

As for your question on the official charged with spying, the concerned official was on deputation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When the charges against him emerged, he had already been transferred back to his parent department. His trial is underway.

As for the question on drones, India has a kneejerk tendency to assign unilateral blame without evidence.

You would recall India’s obsession with so-called ‘spy pigeons’ in not-so-distant past. Apparently it has evolved into a full-fledged fixation with drones now.

The EU DisinfoLab report provided ample evidence of India’s state-sponsored propaganda against Pakistan at the global level.

Rather than making a mockery of itself and further eroding its credibility, India should focus on eschewing the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, and end its egregious human rights violations in IIOJK.

Question: A document is circulating in which it is mentioned that Pakistanis travelling to UAE will be required to produce a vaccination certificate duly attested by the UAE Embassy in Islamabad. Given these stringent requirements, and the flight difficulties, don’t you think things are being made difficult for Pakistanis? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)

Supplementary Question: Pakistani Travelers intending to go to Saudi Arabia are facing difficulties both in terms of availability of flights and the vaccines accepted by the Saudi authorities. Are any steps being undertaken in this regard? (Raziq Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)

Answer: As for your question on travel to UAE, we have received some new guidelines form the UAE Embassy and are in contact with them on the issue.

As for travel to Saudi Arabia, we are fully cognizant of the difficulties being faced by Pakistani citizens due to COVID-19 related travel restriction. We are in contact with the relevant Saudi authorities to mitigate the difficulties faced by Pakistani nationals in this regard.

As for vaccines, we have proposed inclusion of some of the Chinese vaccines used in Pakistan and approved by World Health Organization (WHO) to the list of vaccines approved by the Saudi authorities.

We are actively pursuing this matter with the Saudi side.

Question: I have two questions.

Firstly, an official in our New York Consulate-General was found spying for agencies of multiple countries. Can you please share details?

Secondly, even those Pakistani travelers who have been vaccinated in Pakistan have to undergo a mandatory quarantine upon entry into the United Kingdom, which is both expensive and inconvenient. Is Foreign Office in contact with the British authorities on the same? (Mazhar Iqbal, Public News)

Supplementary Question: Even Turkey has mandatory quarantine for Pakistani nationals, despite vaccination. Your comments please? (Nuaman Ishfaq Mughal, Daily Parliament Times)

Answer: The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for every country of the world, and hence every State is taking necessary measures based on the advice of their health officials to ensure the safety of their citizens.

The mandatory quarantine by the UK and Turkey are also part of their COVID related health safety measures. These measures are, however, temporary and not specific to Pakistan. Turkey has already reduced the mandatory quarantine duration for Pakistanis from 14 to 10 days. We have also taken up the issue with the UK side and we hope the restrictions will be eased by them also as the situation improves.

As for your question on the official in New York Consulate-General, please share details and we will be happy to revert.

Question: A musical night was arranged at the Foreign Office on the occasion of fifth martyrdom anniversary of Burhan Wani. Was this done by mistake? Was any action taken against anyone for this oversight? Or was it a deliberate message?

Also, Facebook blocks accounts that endorse or mention Burhan Wani. Wasn’t it more appropriate to get the issue resolved on the occasion of his martyrdom anniversary? (Aun Sheerazi, Such TV)

Supplementary Question: Have we shared this problem of suspension of pro-Kashmir accounts with these social media platforms in U.S. has there been any progress? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Supplementary Question: After the martyrdom of Burhan Wani, the Pakistani cabinet on 19 July 2016 decided to observe 8 July as a Black day every year and it was notified in the gazette as well. However this year we saw a cultural diplomacy event. Very specifically, was Black Day observed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this year? Can you please share any details? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: I have seen some media reports referring to the event as a ‘concert’.

Let me clarify, it was not a concert. It was a cultural diplomacy event, which included a book launch, tree plantation and Qawwali performance. A detailed press release was also issued after the event. You may please refer to that.

Regarding Burhan Wani’s martyrdom anniversary, it was observed in Pakistan, in Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control and by Kashmiris and Pakistani diasporas all over the world.

Our position on Burhan Wani is very clear. We believe it was an extra-judicial killing, and the perpetrators of this heinous crime need to be brought to justice.

As for your question on Facebook suspending pro-Kashmir accounts, such matters are appropriately taken up whenever they are reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the concerned department of the Government of Pakistan, which is PTA in this case.

Question: There have been a lot of questions on Afghanistan today; however, there is confusion that with whom does Pakistan stand ? The Taliban or the Afghan Government? The Foreign Minister has also mentioned that Taliban are capable and intelligent people.

Secondly, regarding the Conference, can you please share details of participation? Are the Taliban invited? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: Pakistan has repeatedly called for an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan. We have no favourites in Afghanistan and we stand with the people of Afghanistan.

We are engaged with all sides in Afghanistan as part of our efforts to facilitate the Afghan Peace Process.

As for the participation in the Conference, Taliban are not among the invitees. They have visited Pakistan many times and we’ve had detailed discussions with them on the Afghan Peace Process. The aim of the forthcoming Peace Conference is to engage with and consult all sides on the Afghan Peace Process. We hope that this Conference will provide impetus to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

Question: Pakistan has recently said that we don’t control the Taliban. Can you please share what is the status of our contacts with the Taliban? (Zarghoon Shah, Geo News)

Answer: It is not our policy to control any side. It’s for the Afghans to decide their future. Our role is only that of a facilitator.

We continue to urge all parties to the Afghan conflict to show flexibility and engage meaningfully with each other.

We hope that the Afghans will not miss the opportunity to work out an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

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