[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,

 

Today is the 270th day of the continued oppression faced by the innocent people in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Under the garb of so-called cordon-and-search operations, Indian occupation forces in IOJ&K have been particularly targeting Kashmiri youth. In April alone, 29 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred, including 7 since the onset of the holy month of Ramazan. In addition, harassment and intimidation of Kashmiri journalists has further intensified under the notorious “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act” (UAPA), while the Indian occupation forces continue to operate with complete impunity covered under draconian laws such as PSA and AFSPA.

Indian Charge d’Affaires was once again summoned earlier today to register Pakistan’s strong protest over the ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control (LoC) in Rakhchikri Sector on 29thApril, 2020, resulting in shahadats and serious injuries to innocent civilians, including Zobia Bibi and Rasheeda Bibi, who embraced shahadat whereas 10 years old Faizan Hassan and 55 years old Roshna Bibi sustained serious injuries.

In 2020 alone India has committed 919 ceasefire violations and deliberately targeted innocent civilians living close to the LOC in Azad Jammu & Kashmir with artillery fire, heavy-caliber mortars and automatic weapons.

Pakistan once again calls upon India to respect the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding; investigate this and other such incidents of deliberate ceasefire violations and maintain peace along the LoC and the WB. We also urge the Indian side to allow the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play its mandated role as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.

Pakistan also categorically rejects baseless Indian allegations of “infiltration attempts” and unfounded claims of targeting of “launching pads” across the Line of Control (LoC). It is obvious that the Indian propaganda machine is in over-drive.

Pakistan also rejects the provocative statements of the Indian Defence Minister, including his recent preposterous claim that “we are dominating the enemy….” There is nothing new about Mr. Rajnath Singh’s delusions; nor about his belligerent anti-Pakistan rhetoric.Let there be no ambiguity, these repeated Indian allegations have one primary purpose, i.e. to divert world attention from India’s state-terrorism and grave human rights violations in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoJ&K). India also seeks to use these allegations as a pretext for “false flag” operation. Pakistan has been continuously sensitizing the international community about such an eventuality and urging India to desist from any ill-considered action.

Pakistan and the people of IOJK have firmly rejected these Indian machinations in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Our immediate and effective response to India’s Balakot misadventure clearly demonstrated Pakistan’s will, capacity and preparedness. India should not underestimate the resolve of the people and the armed forces of Pakistan to thwart any aggressive design.

In parallel, India has sought to take advantage of the world’s preoccupation with COVID-19 to further push its ‘Hindutva’ agenda in IOJ&K. The changes in the domicile rules represent another opportunistic move by the RSS-BJP dispensation to advance their sinister aim of effecting a demographic change in the occupied territory. In this context, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has addressed letters to the OIC Secretary-General and his counterparts in the OIC. The Foreign Minister sensitized them towards this hate-mongering as part of the RSS-BJP dispensation’s anti-Muslim and anti-minority agenda, based on the extremist “Hindutva” ideology.

The Foreign Minister apprised the OIC Secretary General about the BJP Government’s systematic campaign to demonize Muslims by holding them responsible for the spread of Coronavirus. He has underscored that Indian actions are in contravention of International Conventions and seriously undermine global efforts for religious harmony during these challenging times.

Foreign Minister has also addressed another letter, earlier this month, to the President of the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General, drawing attention towards India’s efforts to change the demographic structure of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K). The letter conveys rejection, of the announcement of a new set of rules by the Indian government in IOJ&K regarding domicile eligibility criteria, underlining that it is in clear violation of UN Security Council Resolutions and international humanitarian law, including the 4th Geneva Convention. The Foreign Minister noted that the timing of India’s actions was designed at taking advantage of the world community’s preoccupation with ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to advance the extremist “Hindutva” agenda.

Among other things, the UNSC has been asked to urge India to: (i) observe ceasefire understanding on the LoC; (ii) immediately release political prisoners; (iii) refrain from taking any illegal and unilateral measures aimed at changing the demographic structure in IOJ&K; (iv) fully respect the fundamental human rights of the Kashmiri people; (v) allow access to the WHO and the UN humanitarian organizations to provide medical relief; and (vi) provide unhindered access to a UN fact-finding mission to visit IOJ&K.

Voices from within India and around the world continue to condemn the increasing wave of BJP-inspired hate crimes against minorities. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its annual report has once again placed India into its list of ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations. The report has highlighted that the Indian government “allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence”. The report also stated inter alia that “mob lynching of persons suspected of cow slaughter or consuming beef continued with most attacks occurring within BJP ruled states”.

Separately, as you know, the Prime Minister’s call for a Global Initiative on Debt Relief has been widely welcomed at the United Nations including by the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. In consultation with the UN and other international institutions, Pakistan will convene a group of interested countries at the UN to commence consultations on further steps that can be taken to evolve a comprehensive solution to the debt challenges of developing countries resulting from the COVID-19. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister would be reaching out to a number of world leaders to discuss the need for a coordinated and comprehensive solution to the debt issue.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Preparedness and Response Plan to combat Covid-19 (PPRP) was virtually launched on 23 April 2020 on a global scale, in collaboration with United Nations (UN), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other global partners and stakeholders. PPRP has been envisioned to enable Pakistan effectively mitigate the incidence of Covid-19 in the country, by strengthening capacity in emergency prevention, response, and relief and building of health systems. The response plan calls upon all partners and stakeholders to utilize their resources and expertise to generate a synergy between Federal and Provincial Covid-19 measures in Pakistan.

In the face of the challenge posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese government and the Chinese people have firmly stood by their Pakistani brethren. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Pakistan, China has extended tremendous support to Pakistan. It has so far provided USD 4 million in cash donations, in addition to 390 ventilators, 330,000 testing kits, 830,000 N95 masks, 5.8 million surgical masks, 42,000 protective suits, and millions of other PPEs.

Pakistan has also received critical medical supplies including a vast quantity of disposable surgical masks, KN-95 masks, testing kits, protective clothing and portable ventilators from People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Three Gorges Corporation. PLA has also sent a medical team to Pakistan to assist us to control Covid-19. It may be recalled that a team of Chinese medical experts had also visited Pakistan earlier on the instructions of President Xi Jinping to assist us to contain the pandemic. The team stayed in Pakistan from 28 March till 17 April and visited various provinces of Pakistan to strengthen their capacity to fight Covid-19. Their experience has greatly helped Pakistani health practitioners to understand and better deal with Covid-19.

In addition to this, the Jack Ma Foundation has provided two batches of medical supplies, over 500,000 face masks including N95 masks and a number of ventilators. Moreover provincial governments, chambers, and private corporations in China have donated vital medical equipment to our provinces and institutions.

China has also helped and facilitated Pakistan in commercial procurement of medical supplies from different Chinese manufactures.

We are immensely grateful to the Government and people of China for extending both moral and material support to Pakistan in the wake of outbreak of Covid-19. The compassion, generosity, and thoughtfulness shown by the Chinese Government and the people will be long remembered by the people of Pakistan.

Notwithstanding the outbreak of Covid-19, both countries are taking relevant measures which will help timely completion of CPEC projects that will be a catalyst for growth and prosperity in the region.

In the wake of Covid-19 outbreak, and as part of the national effort, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Missions abroad continue to provide our overseas communities with relief and assistance wherever required. Food rations are being provided by all Missions abroad to those in need as well as any financial assistance where needed. Repatriation of our nationals back home also continues as per the comprehensive and phased plan developed in coordination with all stakeholders.

In the past few days, as part of the third phase of repatriation plan between 20th -28th April, 251 stranded citizens were brought back from Qatar (24th April Lahore), 70 from Singapore (24th April Karachi), 50 from four European states, including Poland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark (25th April Islamabad), 209 from Australia (26th April, Lahore), 252 from Qatar (28th April Peshawar), 49 from Sri Lanka, and 30 from Frankfurt (27th April). Three flights from Dubai also brought back 524 citizens (28th April; 278 to Multan in 2 flights; 246 to Karachi in 1 flight).

In addition to this, in the last few days, 1,044 Pakistani nationals have been repatriated from Afghanistan via Torkham and Chaman Border Crossing points, on 24th and 25th April.

Altogether, between 21st March and 28th April, 14,330 of our citizens have been repatriated from 32 countries.

In order to strengthen our communication and exchange with all Pakistan Missions abroad and our Diaspora communities spread across the world through the digital medium, the Foreign Minister, held virtual Town Hall meetings with Pakistani community members in the United Kingdom and the United States. Through this virtual outreach the Foreign Minister was able to brief the community members of the efforts being made by the Government to control the spread of the pandemic in Pakistan as well as relief and repatriation services being provided to overseas Pakistanis in different parts of the world. The Foreign Minister also gained first hand information from the community members on the difficulties they faced in the UK and the US. He advised our Heads of Missions and officers to remain responsive and provide timely information and assistance to the community. These virtual town hall meetings with Pakistani communities in different parts of the world will continue to take place regularly.

Question: Can you update us about the exact number of Pakistani pilgrims stranded in Iran and is there any plan to send an aircraft to Iran to repatriate these Pakistanis? (Afzal Reza from Iranian Official News Agency IRNA)

Answer: Government of Pakistan is making all efforts to repatriate Pakistani citizens around the world in an orderly manner and keeping in view the COVID-19 protocols. A significant number of Pakistani Zaireen were also brought back from Iran through the cooperation of the Iranian Government.

Question: The US, NATO, OIC, UNAMA, are calling on the Taliban to declare humanitarian ceasefire amid the Corona pandemic. A latest UN report equally blames all sides for civilian casualties, what is Pakistan position on continuation of fighting despite the Feb 29 Taliban-US agreement? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)

Answer: Pakistan has always supported efforts at building lasting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement provides a historic opportunity that the Afghan leadership should now seize to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. We hope the agreement will be implemented in full by all sides.

Question: Any dates for APAPPS meeting in coming days? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer: The dates are being worked out. Once they are finalized, they will be shared.

Question: Reports earlier suggested President Xi is likely to visit Pakistan in June, any progress? Will the visit take place despite Corona crisis? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)

Answer: Pakistan and China are in close contact with each other regarding the proposed visit and any information in this regard will be shared in due course.

Question: What are the new numbers of deaths of overseas Pakistanis worldwide? (Adeel Warraich, Dunya TV)

Answer: So far, according to one estimate, the number of deaths of Pakistani nationals abroad by COVID-19 is 163.

Question: Does Foreign Office have any data regarding the number of Pakistanis working in Middle East countries? (Shafaat Ali Shah, The Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper Japan)

Answer:

Sr. no. Country No. of Pakistanis
     1. KSA 2.3 million
     2. UAE 1.6 million
     3. Qatar 180,000
     4. Kuwait 105,000
     5. Bahrain More than 100,000
     6. Oman 272,000
Total Around 4.5 million

Question: UAE warned it would review labour ties with countries refusing to take back citizens in the UAE, including those who have lost their jobs or been put on leave. Were there any such warning issued to Pakistan? (Shafaat Ali Shah, The Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper Japan)

Answer: There is no such specific warning for Pakistan. In fact, the UAE lauded the timely efforts of government of Pakistan for repatriation of its nationals.

Question: How many citizens are expected to return from Middle East & is there enough capacity available with the government to quarantine the arriving citizens. (Shafaat Ali Shah, The Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper Japan)

Answer: As per data available with the Foreign Office, more than 50,000 Pakistani Citizens are expected to return in the near future from the Middle East. Regarding capacity available with the government to quarantine the arriving citizens, NCOC and NDMA will be in a better position to provide such details.

Question: Any conditions posed by Middle East countries in case Pakistan fails to repatriate its citizens? Like visa restrictions in future etc. (Shafaat Ali Shah, The Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper Japan)

Answer: No conditions have been imposed by any country in the Middle East.

Question: How many Pakistanis have lost their jobs in the UAE as Pakistani Mission has been registering them? (Adeel Warraich, Dunya TV)

Answer: As per our record, around 13,000 Pakistanis have lost their jobs in the UAE due to the pandemic

Question: The Kuwaiti Cabinet Condemned the attack on the Muslim minority in India. Kuwait becomes first GCC state who officially condemned violence against minorities in India. How does Pakistan see the situation? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: International community is taking cognizance of the hate mongering policies against minorities in India. Pakistan has consistently sensitized and drawn the attention of the world towards this. Recently, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has addressed letters to the OIC Secretary-General and his counterparts in the OIC. The Foreign Minister sensitized them towards this hate-mongering as part of the RSS-BJP dispensation’s anti-Muslim and anti-minority agenda, based on the extremist “Hindutva” ideology.The Foreign Minister apprised the OIC Secretary General about the BJP Government’s systematic campaign to demonize Muslims by holding them responsible for the spread of Coronavirus. He has underscored that Indian actions are in contravention of International Conventions and seriously undermine global efforts for religious harmony during these challenging times.

Question: In the month of holy Ramazan seven (7) innocent Kashmiris have been martyred by the Indian Occupation forces in Kulgham and Khuiratta sectors and the violations of the LOC still going on. What are your comments? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: India is continuously targeting civilian population cross LOC. How do you comment? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer: Pakistan had registered its protest in the strongest terms against the continued violation of ceasefire agreement on the LoC and the deliberate targeting of innocent civilian population. In 2020 alone India has committed 919 ceasefire violations and deliberately targeted innocent civilians living close to the LOC in Azad Jammu & Kashmir with artillery fire, heavy-caliber mortars and automatic weapons.

Pakistan has called upon India to respect the 2003 Ceasefire understanding; investigate this and other such incidents of deliberate ceasefire violations and maintain peace along the LoC and the WB. We also urge the Indian side to allow the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play its mandated role as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.

Question: Do you think the recent SAARC video conferences regarding COVID-19 could pave the way for holding of the long pending summit? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)

Answer: Being the founding member of SAARC, Pakistan attaches great importance to SAARC and remains committed to the principles and objectives of the SAARC Charter. Pakistan has played an important role in efforts aimed at realizing the true potential of SAARC and making it a useful organization for regional cooperation.

The recent organization of SAARC Heath Minister’s video conference on COVID-19 by Pakistan was a reaffirmation of Pakistan’s abiding commitment to the SAARC process.

Pakistan remains committed to the holding of SAARC Summit and will continue playing its constructive role in enhancing regional cooperation in South Asia.

Question: On 26 April 2020, Web page of Hindustan Times published a news item that Jihadi camps are still operating in Pakistan. According to the news, Pakistan plans to send 450 mujahideen to Kashmir from these camps. The news item also claimed that 244 mujahideen belong to Lashker-e-Taiba, 129 belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad and 60 are from Hiz-bul-Mujahideen. What are your comments? (Ishtiaq Ahmed, News One TV)

Answer: Such baseless claims have been an unfortunate ploy for India aimed at diverting world attention from India’s state-terrorism and grave human rights violations in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K). India also seeks to use these allegations as a pretext for “false flag” operations. Pakistan has been continuously sensitizing the international community about such an eventuality and urging India to desist from any ill-considered action.

Question: Are the Indian actions in Kashmir and violence against minorities across India hindering the fight against the coronavirus pandemic? (Shafqat Ali, The Nation)

Answer: Pakistan has consistently maintained that instead of providing the vulnerable segments of its society with much needed relief in this crises, India is seeking to take advantage of the international community’s focus on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to push through the ruling BJP’s sinister Hindutva agenda, which not only encourages, but is practically predicated upon the systematic and institutional marginalization of minorities especially Muslims. Continued restrictions on communication and movement in IOJ&K are preventing unfettered supply of medicines and other essentials to affected Kashmiris, as well as dissemination of information needed to combat the disease which needs to be immediately remedied.

Question: What are your comments on the American Commission Report Regarding Religious Freedom which is based on minorities suffering in India? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: Please comment on American report on religious freedom especially with reference to India? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer: We welcome the recommendation of The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to put India on the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list over the drastic downturn in religious freedoms under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The report acknowledges that the present Indian government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims, most notably, enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The report also refers to India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019, in which the Indian government-imposed security measures, including restricting freedom of movement and assembly, cutting Internet and phone access, and arresting Kashmiri leaders, including religious leaders.

The recommendations of the report are consistent with the facts on ground and Pakistan’s stance that the Modi regime is deliberately discriminating against minorities in pursuit of its extremist right-wing Hindutva agenda. We also condemn New Delhi’s response to the report calling USCIRF an ‘organization of particular concern’, which is testament not only to India’s failure to take responsibility for its own actions but also India’s delusional self-perception.

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