Media Briefing|

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

 

Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing at the Foreign Office.

Let me begin with an overview of the recent foreign policy related developments.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a telephone conversation with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov.

The two Ministers discussed bilateral relations and the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia on Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Foreign Minister Qureshi expressed deep concern on the deteriorating security situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and expressed full solidarity with the brotherly nation of Azerbaijan.

Foreign Minister Bayramov appreciated Pakistan’s consistent support to Azerbaijan and briefed on the latest situation in the region.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a meeting with the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Deborah Lyons.

The Foreign Minister highlighted Pakistan’s facilitative role in the Afghan Peace Process, which was duly acknowledged by the international community.

He also underscored the range of steps taken by Pakistan to support Afghanistan in transit trade and movement of people, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic.

Reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment for safe and dignified return of the Afghan refugees to their homeland, the Foreign Minister urged UNAMA to play an active role in helping with time-bound and well-resourced refugee return and their sustainable reintegration in the Afghan society.

In a virtual meeting with the Saudi Minister for Communications and IT, Foreign Minister Qureshi underlined the historic and deep-rooted fraternal ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which form the basis of enhanced cooperation in all fields between the two countries.

The Foreign Minister underscored the wide-ranging scope for further strengthening existing fraternal ties and enhancing cooperation in multiple areas, including Information Technology.

Terming Pakistan as a close brotherly country, the Saudi Minister reciprocated the warm feelings and reiterated the need to enhance cooperation, particularly in the field of Communication and Information Technology.

Leader of Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, along with a delegation, visited Pakistan from 19-21 October 2020.

During his visit, Mr. Hekmatyar called on the Prime Minister and the President and met with the Chairman Senate, Speaker National Assembly, Foreign Minister and other dignitaries.

The visit of Mr. Hekmatyar provided an opportunity for exchange of views on the Afghan Peace Process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations.

In his meeting with Mr. Hekmatyar, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated his long-standing position that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process was the only way forward.

Noting that Intra-Afghan Negotiations provided a historic opportunity for the Afghan leadership to establish lasting peace, the Prime Minister underlined the positive contribution made by Pakistan in facilitating the Afghan Peace Process.

The Prime Minister also warned against the damaging role of ‘spoilers’, within and outside Afghanistan.

Referring to the enormous potential in bilateral trade, the Prime Minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s full support for Afghanistan on the path of reconstruction and economic development and dignified return of Afghan refugees.

Mr. Hekmatyar appreciated Pakistan’s positive role in facilitating the Afghan Peace Process and also thanked Pakistan for its long-standing contribution to the socio-economic development of Afghanistan.

He also thanked Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees for more than four decades.

Speaking at a think-tank in Islamabad, Mr. Hekmatyar condemned the worsening human rights violations and atrocities against innocent people in IIOJK.

He stressed that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute should be resolved as per the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood inaugurated the Center for Middle East and Africa (CMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) in Islamabad.

On the occasion, the Foreign Secretary emphasized the political, economic and strategic importance of the Middle East and Africa.

Recalling Pakistan’s warm and cordial ties with the countries of the region, the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s keen desire to further enhance bilateral ties by deepening and diversifying areas of cooperation with African and Middle Eastern countries.

In this regard, he also apprised the participants of Pakistan’s “Engage Africa” Initiative.

Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the inhuman military siege, brutal oppression, communications blockade and media blackout in IIOJK continue unabated for 444 days since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019.

In brazen manifestation of state terrorism, Indian occupation forces, in the past few days, martyred 5 more innocent Kashmiri youth during the so-called “cordon and search” operations and fake encounters in Anantnag, Shopian and Pulwama areas of IIOJK.

In the month of October alone, 18 unarmed and innocent Kashmiris have been martyred by the Indian occupation troops.

During the same period, over 40 young Kashmiris were severely injured due to unprovoked and indiscriminate use of live ammunition, pellet guns and other military grade weapons.

These illegal Indian actions are a clear violation of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.

The Indian occupation forces also arrested over 60 young Kashmiris on frivolous charges.

Many of those detained are kept at undisclosed locations, away from their families.

The instances of forced disappearances also remain rampant.

Pakistan continues to highlight the grim human rights situation in IIOJK at all relevant international forums, including the United Nations, and the human rights and humanitarian organizations.

While taking part in dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, at the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York, Pakistan urged the international community to demand India to halt its egregious violations of human rights in IIOJK, including their right to self-determination.

Pakistan also called upon India to implement the recommendations of the two reports of the UN Human Rights Commissioner on Kashmir issued in 2018 and 2019.

Pakistan strongly supported the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry and fact-finding missions for territories under foreign occupations to investigate and preserve evidence for ensuring accountability of the perpetrators of grave human right violations.

The continued crackdown against minorities, human rights organizations, media, and independent voices in India is a matter of grave concern.

Voices from around the world continue to condemn the gross human rights violations and unprecedented restrictions in IIOJK and India.

In her recent statement (20 October 2020), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet has once again called the Human Rights credentials of the current RSS-BJP regime into question by expressing concerns over the arrest of hundreds of human rights activists and restriction on the work of human rights bodies.

The High Commissioner stated that more than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested in relation to the protests, with many charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act – a law which has also been widely criticized for its lack of conformity with international human rights standards.

Pakistan has been consistently underscoring the lack of conformity with international human rights standards of other draconian laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Acts (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA).

In continued attempts to muzzle independent media, the Indian authorities have sealed the offices of leading English language dailies, ‘Kashmir Times’, and ‘Kashmir News Service’.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Asia-Pacific has expressed its deep concerns over such kind of intimidation of independent media voices in IIOJK.

In his statement at a recent think tank event, the Indian External Affairs Minister sadly blamed Pakistan for the current state of Pakistan-India relations.

Pakistan strongly condemns the blatantly misrepresentative statement by the Indian Minister.

Such statements make it is immediately obvious that the current Indian leadership has limited its conduct of foreign policy to baseless allegations and belligerent rhetoric.

It is the RSS-BJP regime’s dangerous policies of ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Akhand Bharat’ that continue to create problems with nearly all of India’s neighbours.

India must realize that ‘normal’ relations with its neighbours remain contingent upon India beginning to act normally.

Question: Several Indian media outlets and disinformation accounts started running fake news and propaganda on the recent event in Karachi. How do you see this propaganda and fake news reports in the Indian media? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

Answer: We have seen the malicious and fabricated news reports and propaganda campaign in some sections of the Indian mainstream and social media, planting baseless stories about Pakistan.

Such attempts by the Indian media on the behest of the Pakistan-obsessed BJP-RSS regime are reflective of a particular, though familiar, mindset. Needless to say that Indian media continues to hit new lows.

India cannot wash away the truth about its own gross and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK and unabated anti-minorities policies and actions through peddling fake news and running its propaganda machinery overtime.

The Indian media and the government need to be reminded of the dire situation of freedom of assembly and expression prevalent in India and IIOJK.

Rather than reporting on the humanitarian crisis in IIOJK, the Indian media chooses to spread fake and sensationalist news about Pakistan to detract from core issues.

The Indian government and media are better advised to focus on the protests and unrest currently underway in India, in the aftermath of the RSS-inspired BJP regime’s discriminatory policies deliberately targeting minorities.

Question: Elections have been announced in Gilgit-Baltistan on 15 November. India claims the area to be part of India. Indian Army Chief is on record stating that whenever government gives a go-ahead, Indian army is ready to take AJK and GB. My question is what will be Pakistan’s response in case of any action by India as stated by the Indian Army Chief? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn)

Answer: Any misadventure by India in Gilgit-Baltistan or Azad Jammu and Kashmir will invite a full spectrum response by Pakistan.

The Indian leadership must not underestimate the resolve of Pakistani nation as well as the capacity, professionalism and the level of preparedness of our battle hardened Armed Forces. The entire nation stands absolutely united against any ill designs by India.

There is also a need for the Indian leadership to be mindful of their defense limitations that were so embarrassingly exposed first in Balakot and more recently in Ladakh.

Since you’ve referred to the statements made by the Indian leadership, let me add that it’s ironic that certain senior Indian political and military leaders continue to make a career out of issuing provocative statements against Pakistan at the cost of putting regional peace and security as well as India’s own security at risk.

In response to such belligerent provocative rhetoric, I can only say, that in case of any misadventure by India, Pakistan’s actions will speak louder than India words.

Let me also add that India, like Pakistan, is a developing country with, multiple developmental challenges.

The problem, however, is that India has delusionally conferred upon itself the title of regional hegemon.

Rather than blindly pursuing its dangerous strategic ambitions, India needs to focus on the socio-economic uplift of its people.

Therefore, our advice to India would be to peacefully resolve disputes with the neighbours, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, for lasting peace in South Asia.

Question: Relating to the Indian media reports, I must say that you have responded effectively to those fake stories. However, how would you like to comment on the current situation in Pakistan? In fact, the international community and diplomatic missions based in Pakistan are monitoring these developments vis-à-vis civil military relationship. Do you think that things are under control and calm? (Mateen Haider, GTV)

Secondly, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan visited Pakistan. What were the real objectives and agenda of his visit? Earlier, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman High Council for National Reconciliation, also visited Pakistan. Is Pakistan going to form a strategic alliance with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar?

Answer: Regarding the recent political developments in Pakistan, this is very much part of democratic process.

As for your second question, Pakistan has been pursuing the policy to reach out to all stakeholders with a view to facilitate the Afghan Peace Process. The visit of Leader of Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was a part of this regular engagement with all stakeholders in Afghanistan.

The Intra-Afghan Negotiations have provided a historic opportunity for Afghan leadership to establish lasting peace, and it is now upto the Afghans to seize this unprecedented opportunity. Pakistan has always maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

We continue urging all stakeholders to pursue an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

Question: Would you like to please comment on the latest material published in the Indian media regarding Pakistan’s reactivating Balakot terror camps despite Indian air force strikes? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: We have been repeatedly saying that this is all part of Indian propaganda machinery to malign Pakistan. The Indian propaganda in this regard remains incessant. Such attempts by the Indian media on the behest of the Pakistan-obsessed BJP-RSS regime are reflective of a particular, though familiar, mindset.

Pakistan has consistently pointed out that regurgitation of these allegations and spurious claims by India is aimed at diverting the world’s attention from India’s state-terrorism and grave human rights violations in IIOJK. India also seeks to use these allegations as a pretext for launching false flag operation and deliberately targeting of innocent civilians along the Line of Control (LoC).

Pakistan has been sensitizing the international community about India’s use of false flag operation and possible ill-conceived misadventure. The international community must take cognizance of India’s dangerous designs which are putting regional peace and security at risk.

Question: Today, the Modi Government is inaugurating a museum in Srinagar to show the international community what it is doing for the Kashmiri people in IIOJK. How do you plan to counter this?

Secondly, immediately after the visit of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Mr. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has undertaken his recent visit to Pakistan. Does it not indicate that Hekmatyar has reservations regarding Pakistan’s approach in Afghanistan? (Syed Iqbal Mustafa, Jag Beeti, Times Today)

Answer: Regarding your second question, I have already mentioned that Pakistan has been pursuing the policy of reaching out to all stakeholders with a view to facilitate the Afghan Peace Process. The visit of Mr. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was a part of this regular and broad-based engagement.

Pakistan has fully facilitated the Afghan Peace Process that has led to the initiation on Intra-Afghan Negotiations. Pakistan continues to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, prosperous and sovereign Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbors.

As for India’s inauguration of museum in Srinagar, the international community is very well aware of the inhuman military siege, communication blockade, media blackout and humanitarian crisis in IIOJK since India`s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019.

The international human rights and humanitarian organizations, independent observers, media, parliamentarians from across the globe and the civil society have continuously been raising their voices against arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, collective punishment and extra-judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris by the Indian occupation forces in IIOJK.

So with such diversionary tactics of inauguration of museum, RSS-BJP regime cannot divert attention of the international community from its state-terrorism and grave human rights violations in IIOJK.

Question: As per my understanding, soon after the speech delivered by Pakistani Prime Minister, Indian media started maligning Pakistan. How do you see the role of some elements in maligning Pakistan? (Mazhar Iqbal, Public News)

Answer: I have already responded that the Indian media reports are fabricated and baseless. The malicious propaganda campaign against Pakistan cannot be condemned enough. We have no doubt that the Indian media is being used as a tool by the Indian intelligence agencies and RSS-BJP regime to spread fake and sensationalist news about Pakistan.

The Indian government and media are better advised to focus on the protests and unrest currently underway in India, in the aftermath of the RSS-inspired BJP regime’s discriminatory policies deliberately targeting minorities.

Question: Has there been any agreement between Pakistan and Iran during 8th annual meeting of Pak-Iran Joint Border Trade Committee which took place in Quetta yesterday? (Kausar Lodhi, Prime News)

Answer: I have noted your question and will revert to you.

Question: Please update us on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. What is the status of the appeal?

Secondly, do you think that the current situation in Afghanistan is stable, especially in the backdrop of the announcement of withdrawal of American forces? Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I have already briefed the media on this issue in detail in my previous briefings. To give effect to the ICJ Judgment, the Government of Pakistan had approached the Islamabad High Court. Pakistan remains committed to implementing the judgment of the ICJ.

Our position is consistent that Indian Government should come forward and cooperate with the courts in Pakistan so that full effect could be given to the ICJ judgment.

As for you second question, we believe that the peace process needs perseverance and patience by all stakeholders. Pakistan is keen to see the peace process move forward which would help in reduction in violence and deny space to spoilers. The international community, including Pakistan wants the Afghan stakeholders to pursue an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement leading to durable peace in Afghanistan.

Question: Arms embargo on Iran has expired. Iran has said that this would provide new opportunities to enhance cooperation with other countries, including Pakistan. How do you see this development? (Sheraz Asghar, IRNA)

Answer: Iran and Pakistan enjoy close cooperative bilateral relations that are deeply rooted in historical, cultural and religious commonalities. The two countries are working closely in all areas of mutual interest. Both sides have a desire to further deepen the existing cooperation.

Question: The Government of Pakistan has once again written a letter to the Government of United Kingdom for extradition of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Has the letter been delivered to the UK government by Pakistan High Commission? Secondly, there are reports that many Muslim countries are pressurizing Pakistan to recognize Israel. How do you comment on this? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: There is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on Israel and the Palestine issue. We have repeatedly reiterated it in our earlier press briefings as well.

As for your question regarding former Prime Minister, this Ministry promptly implements the orders of the Honorable Court in the matter. A compliance report is also duly submitted in this regard.

For any further details, you may wish to contact the Ministry of Interior.

Question: Bosnian President’s visit to Pakistan has been postponed. The Turkish Foreign Minister was also supposed to be in Pakistan during this month. Any update about both the visits? (Anwer Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: You might have seen a Press Release from the Bosnian side. Any update regarding both the visits will be duly shared with you.

Question: Gulbuddin Hikmatyar has suggested that Afghan investors should be facilitated by the Government of Pakistan, as they had made investments amounting to millions of dollars in other countries, including Turkey. He also discussed the possibility of a long term visa for Afghan nationals, similar to visa arrangements for Afghan nationals in some European countries; and the option for Afghan nationals to buy property on the basis of their passport. How do you comment? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: Close trade and investment cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is considered critical by both sides. Pakistan has an investment friendly regime for all investors. We have already shared with you information about the new visa policy introduced by Pakistan recently to facilitate our Afghan brothers. The new policy is aimed at further facilitating applicants for family, business, medical, education and other visa categories which include Long Term Visa as well.

Question: There are students who want to return to China, but China has some travel restrictions in place. Are we taking this up with the Chinese Government?

Secondly, on 30th of November, SCO Heads of Government will meet in New Delhi. India being the host has to send out invitations. Has Pakistan received a formal invitation? Will Pakistan be participating in the event? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: The student visa restriction that you talked about is not Pakistan specific; rather it is applicable to applicants from all the countries. We are in close contact with the Government of China and the students in Pakistan.

Regarding your second question, let me say that Pakistan attaches high importance to its membership in SCO, which has emerged as an important trans-regional forum for promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in wide range of sectors.

The SCO Council of Heads of State, also known as SCO Summit, is being hosted by Russia in video conference format on 10 November, 2020.

Pakistan generally participates in the SCO Council of Heads of State at the highest political level. Further details will be shared in due course.

Question: There are a few aspects of yesterday’s unfortunate incident which resulted in loss of human lives near Pakistan Consulate in Jalalabad. Firstly, it shows the significance of Pakistan for the Afghan people, and this negates the Indian propaganda about Pak Afghan relations.

Secondly, this is not the first time such an incident has happened. The security of Pakistan Consulate in Jalalabad is a responsibility of the provincial authorities of Nangarhar. Do you see any assurances coming from the Afghan side regarding foolproof security of Pakistan Missions and Officials posted in Afghanistan? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj TV)

Supplementary Question: Pakistan has already announced facilitation of visa process for Afghan nationals, but it seems that no appropriate steps have taken so far. Your comments please? (Kausar Lodhi, Prime News)

Answer: Firstly, I would like to refer you to the three statements; one issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan; second issued by the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul; and the third one issued by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

We have received with sorrow and grief the news about the loss of precious Afghan lives and injuries in a stampede at a stadium in Jalalabad, several kilometres away from the Consulate General of Pakistan, where applicants for Pakistani visas were being gathered under the arrangements of the provincial Afghan authorities. Our sympathies go out to all those affected by the tragic incident.

While the Embassy of Pakistan and the sub-missions in Afghanistan are committed to extend maximum facilitation to the visa applicants, we would request the understanding and cooperation of the Afghan people as well as the Afghan authorities to ensure better and secure management of the visa applicants.

Question: You have already issued a statement rejecting the false media reports regarding FATF meeting. Can you kindly reemphasize your stance?

Secondly, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar has said that Ashraf Ghani Government wants to remain in power, no matter the cost that Afghan people may have to pay. He also stated that he won’t be a part of any dialogue process that may take place between Afghan Government and the Taliban, and that he would engage in direct talks with Taliban. He further stated that Ashraf Ghani Government has been isolated internationally, evident from the fact that it is only being supported by two countries i.e. Iran and India. Can you kindly comment on this? (Zargoon Shah, Geo TV)

Supplementary Question: I just wanted to ask that in the FATF process, are member states authorized to vote in the listing process? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

Answer: We have already responded in detail to the media report that you are referring to in our Press Release issued today. The reports in question are completely baseless and misleading.

Regarding your question about Afghanistan, Pakistan has always supported the Afghan Peace Process. We believe that in order to be successful, the Intra Afghan Negotiations should be inclusive, broad based and comprehensive. Pakistan on its part will continue to support the Afghan Peace Process.

Question: FATF has stated recently that with regards to the 46 Indian Banks involved in money laundering, any action could only be taken by the relevant authorities. Does Pakistan plan to take any steps in this regard? (Idrees Abbasi, Star News Asia)

Answer: As I have shared earlier, we hope that FATF will take into account all these factors at the time of India’s Mutual Evaluation Review.

Question: It is now official that Australia is going to be a part of Malabar drills expected to take place next month. The Quad countries have openly stated that such actions are a response to China’s growing influence in the region. Considering Pakistan close relations with China, do you see these drills as having any impact on the security situation in the Indian Ocean Region? (Essa Naqvi, Indus News)

Answer: I will revert to you on this question.

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