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


Thanks for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.

The Foreign Minister is currently in London, the United Kingdom for the 10th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting. Pakistan is chairing this forum after three decades. Ministers and delegates from 56 Commonwealth nations are participating in this Meeting.

The theme of the Meeting is “Aiming Higher, Delivering More for young people in the Commonwealth”. Ministers are holding discussions on delivering More for Young People through the Power of Tech; meaningful youth engagement; Inclusive and Accessible Education; Sustainable Future; and Exploring Opportunities in Youth Entrepreneurship & Employment. They have also discussed best practices and policy coherence through engagement, education, employment and environment for the Commonwealth Youth.

In his various interventions, the Foreign Minister has presented steps taken by Pakistan in youth development through the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme (PYMP), which prioritizes empowering marginalized youth, including girls, minorities, and those with disabilities. The Foreign Minister has also highlighted Pakistan’s programmes for training and capacity building of the youth and their enhanced involvement in high-tech industries, information and communication technology, and environmental conservation.

Yesterday, the Foreign Minister chaired a Climate Change roundtable as part of the CYMM, where he stressed the urgent need for collective action, underscoring the crucial role of Commonwealth youth in advocating for climate solutions. He highlighted Pakistan’s experiences, emphasizing the need for international support in building climate resilience and achieving sustainable development goals.

On the sidelines, the Foreign Minister has held productive conversations with Ministers and delegations including the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland, the UK’s Minister for Commonwealth Lord Tariq Ahmad, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Roshan Ranasinghe, Rwanda’s Youth Minister Dr Abdallah Utumatwishima, Samoa’s Minister for Women, Community and Social Development Leota Laki Lamositele Sio and Jamaica’s Education and Youth Minister Marsha Smith.

Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Asif Durrani paid a two-day visit to Iran from 11-12 September. He held wide-ranging discussions with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Qomi, the Special Representative and called on the Foreign Minister of Iran, Amir Abdollahian. The visit reflects Pakistan’s commitment to closely work with other neighbouring countries in promoting the shared ideal of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Today I would like to talk about the situation of women in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) where human rights violations continue unabated.

Women in IIOJK have frequently been targets of violence and aggression as a means to punish their families and communities for standing up against illegal and forcible Indian occupation. Abduction and harassment of young women during the so-called “cordon-and-search operations” has been used as a punitive tool by the Indian occupation forces to punish entire communities.

These acts of violence against women are enabled through a pervasive culture of impunity, reinforced by draconian laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that shield the Indian security forces from prosecution for their crimes of sexual violence. The lack of accountability of perpetrators and the absence of justice for victims of rape in the occupied region continue to define India’s deliberate disregard for the rule of law and human rights.

These human rights violations must end so that the women of IIOJK can live in peace and dignity.

Now an upcoming announcement:

Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar will participate in the high-level debate of the 78th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York from 18-23 September 2023. Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani will accompany the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister will address the UN General Assembly on 22 September 2023. He will outline Pakistan’s perspective on a range of regional and global issues of concern including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute which is among the longest standing unresolved items on the UN agenda. The Prime Minister will elaborate on the significant measures being taken by the caretaker government to consolidate Pakistan’s economic recovery and efforts to mobilise domestic and external investment.

The Prime Minister will also participate in a Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other high-level meetings organized under the auspice of the UN General Assembly. These will afford valuable platforms to deliberate on effective measures required at the global level for addressing the most pressing economic and development challenges confronting the Global South in the wake of the COVID pandemic, geo-political contestations and climate change.

On the sidelines of the UNGA session, the Prime Minister will hold bilateral meetings with counterparts from various countries as well as with the Heads of International Organizations, Philanthropic Organizations and corporate leaders. He will also avail of the opportunity to engage with other Heads of State and Government attending the UNGA session during the various activities organized on the sidelines. The Prime Minister will also hold interactions with the international media.

Pakistan sees the United Nations as the most representative and inclusive forum of nation-states. The Prime Minister’s participation in the General Assembly session is a demonstration of Pakistan’s abiding commitment to multilateralism, with the UN playing a pivotal role in international affairs for promoting peace and prosperity worldwide.

I thank you.

Question: First question is on a tweet about the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor in which the Deputy Prime Minister of UAE Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan has shared a video clip which depicts a map of the corridor. The map also shows the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India. So, what are your comments on this particular tweet from a friendly country’s official? Secondly, you announced that the Prime Minister is heading to UNGA. There are reports that on his way to New York the Prime Minister will have a stopover in Saudi Arabia. Is it confirmed or will there be no stopover? (Shabbir Waghra, PTV World)

Answer: Regarding your second question, the details of the flight and the visit programme are still being finalized. We will share more details once these arrangements are finalized. On your first question, I would like to state that the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory whose final disposition is to be made in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people. It is also an established fact that Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, shown in the said Indian map are under Pakistan’s control and part of its official political map pending the final disposition of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. In that backdrop, any map showing the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India is legally untenable and factually incorrect. We hope that our international partners will pay due attention to these facts.

Question:​ At G20 connectivity project has been launched. Pakistan is part of BRI and hosts CPEC. What is your reaction to the G20 connectivity project? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International/ World Echo News)

Answer: Pakistan has always said that connectivity projects are critical for peace and prosperity of our region. And that is why Pakistan has supported the Belt and Road Initiative, of which the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is the flagship project. Pakistan has also seen the recent announcements that you have referred to. The project or the proposal itself is at the stage of conception. So, we will be in a position to comment once this project materializes. We believe that decisions on different connectivity projects should be made on case-to-case basis, keeping in view a number of factors including the implication for other countries.

Question: As China has deployed its Ambassador in Afghanistan and apparently, China is the first country to do so in Afghanistan. How do you see this development? Is there any similar plan of Pakistan in the future? (Mona Khan, Independent News)

Answer: We have seen the recent decision by the Chinese government. Pakistan’s position on our relations with the Afghan Interim Government and the recognition question has not changed.

Question: A lot of concern has been expressed about the Afghan transit trade agreement that continues between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Are we seriously contemplating to revise this agreement or scrap it once for all as the Torkham border remains closed? My second question is about observation of foreign governments being made about the forthcoming elections in Pakistan. State Department spokesperson, even last night, said that election should be held within the timeframe. Yesterday, the British High Commissioner Jane Marriott also met the Chief Election Commissioner. Spontaneously, one of the leading political parties in Pakistan, PTI, formally addressed the Foreign Ministry that they may not know about these developments and their silence is surprising to us. So, if you kindly tell us something about whether you are surprised or they’re surprised? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: So firstly, on your question about the Afghan transit trade, you may have seen the statement that we issued on Monday. Pakistan has been implementing in good faith the agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan with regards to transit trade. We have facilitated our landlocked neighbour in their access to the rest of the world in terms of trade and we will continue to do so. We have also said that there have been some concerns of Pakistan regarding misuse of the transit trade agreement on which we will engage with the Afghan authorities to end these practices. With regard to your first question, we believe that the people of Pakistan are fully capable of overcoming the challenges that we face. We have noted the statements from some governments that they support free and fair elections in Pakistan. There are others who have said that they do not wish to intervene in Pakistani politics. We welcome these statements. At the same time, we expect relevant embassies to reflect on how their activities in Pakistan are being perceived by the Pakistani public and whether such activities can actually contribute to promotion of democracy and the cause of free and fair elections in Pakistan.

Question: President Arif Alvi sent a letter to the ECP proposing 6 November as the date for the next general elections and on this the US State Department Spokesperson Matthew said, “We urge Pakistan to hold free, fair and timely elections.” You said right now that we welcome all these statements from those countries backing or saying that there should be a free and fair election. I think your statement reflects that there could be no free and fair elections in Pakistan. Is it the case? Secondly, can you tell that how it would affect Pakistan’s elections? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: I think I was clear in my statement and I will read it again where I said that Pakistan is fully capable of overcoming the challenges that we face. There have been statements by countries that they support free and fair elections and there are been statements that they do not wish to intervene in Pakistani politics. We welcome those statements. We expect the relevant embassies to reflect on how their activities are being perceived by the Pakistani public and whether the activities that they engage in can actually contribute to the promotion of democracy and the cause of free and fair elections in Pakistan.

Question: There are some reports that an Indian Colonel, Major and a DSP are dead in IIOJK in an encounter. It is being perceived that this will be used as a false flag operation like before. As Modi’s elections are coming soon so, again, will there be a false flag operation against Pakistan? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)

Answer: We have seen the reports about the incident that you have referred to. We are trying to independently verify the veracity of what India has claimed. Secondly, as we have said in the past, India has a habit of dragging Pakistan in its domestic politics and we will not be surprised if India does it again. However, on this particular incident, as I said, we are in the process of independent verification of the reality of Indian claims.

Question: My question is about just the recent visit of the US Ambassador in Pakistan Donald Blome to Gwadar. He was given a briefing on the development activities there. Gwadar is an important link of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor. How you see this visit of the US Ambassador where he has suggested some partnership and trade activity? Do you think this is an indication that the America may join interest in CPEC and other projects? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: Gwadar is an important project under CPEC. We consider it the crown jewel of Pakistan-China cooperation under CPEC. We have welcomed international cooperation under CPEC and investments by third parties. We have also welcomed foreign dignitaries and diplomats to visit Gwadar and see for themselves the potential of Gwadar and how it can be a game changer for prosperity in this region.

Question: Does Afghan government support TTP in Pakistan’s view? Is TTP becoming a threat to the integrity of Pakistan? Secondly, due to the closures of borders, there are some dead bodies and some patients stuck at the border. Will they be sent to Afghanistan on humanitarian basis? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: First, I would like to reiterate what we have said in the past. Pakistan is concerned about the security threat emanating from Afghanistan. There have been recent incidents including in Chitral on the 6 September, as well as the incident on the border on the same day. We believe that such incidents embolden the terrorists and that is why it is important for the Afghan interim authorities to ensure that Afghan territory is not used to threaten Pakistan. With regards to the opening of borders, I must underline that the closure of the border is temporary. And we will make the decision regarding its opening in view of the developments that take place in the coming hours and days.

Question: Two questions. The caretaker Prime Minister has said that a plan has been devised to send back the Afghan refugees who are illegally residing in the country. Can you elaborate more on that? Number two, in a statement by the interim Afghan authorities that was issued on the 7th September, they have alleged that the Pakistani side has been stuffing their trucks unnecessarily. There’s been an incident with regards to a truck that had figs that was going to India but was burned and they alleged that it was burnt at a police check post by the police itself. Would you like to respond to that? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: As I said, just now, we are concerned that the transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan is being misused. It is important for our customs authorities to ensure that any border trade that takes place complies with the understandings and agreements that exist between Pakistan and Afghanistan and that such commercial activities do not contravene Pakistani laws. Secondly, with regard to the trade with Afghanistan, you may know that the trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan is on the rise and this is an established fact. Trade has grown because Pakistan has facilitated trade with Afghanistan. Thirdly, with regard to the statement by the Afghan Foreign Ministry about transit trade with India, we must clarify that transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan does not include overland trade between Afghanistan and India through Wagah via Pakistan. With regards to the refugees and immigrants, as I’ve said in the past, Pakistan has welcomed its Afghan brothers and sisters with open arms and we have hosted them for the last several decades. They have been living here in peace and dignity and have been active participants in the Pakistani economy. At the same time, the Government of Pakistan has to ensure that its laws are respected, that no elements among these Afghan refugees are harboring terrorists or have terror links. So, any action or any decisions which will be taken with respect to the Afghan refugees will be according to Pakistani laws, will be selective, and we will ensure that there are solid cases when any such decisions are made.

Question: You said the Afghan transit trade is being misused. Can you give some details about how this is being misused? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: For details, I would advise you to contact the Ministry of Commerce and the FBR. Our major concern is that sometimes the exports that are meant for Afghanistan are diverted back to Pakistan and the customs duties and taxes are not paid as it should be. So, there are certain concerns of our customs authorities that people are misusing the bilateral provisions that allow for trade with Afghanistan.

Question: Talking about the refugee issue, are all the refugee camps harboring terrorists? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: I didn’t say that. I was referring to those individuals who may have links with terror outfits or who may be harboring terrorists. The laws of Pakistan will prevail, and action will be taken against such individuals.

Question: Two questions, first regarding a huge number of Afghan refugees of which some are illegal. What steps are being taken to register them and what is the mechanism followed by Pakistan in collaboration with UNHCR regarding this? Secondly, our brotherly country Saudi Arabia hosted an Israeli delegation and issued visas to them. They reasoned that it was an international event that’s why the Israeli delegation was hosted. So, will Pakistan do the same in the future? (Syed Faisal Ali, Neo News)

Answer: First of all, I would like to say Pakistan is a sovereign country. We take our decisions according to our own interest and our own priorities. As far as the meeting in Riyadh is concerned I think the meeting was in the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and we have no further comments on that. Regarding Afghan refugees, there is a process of registration of Afghan refugees, which is undertaken by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ office, in consultation with the SAFRON ministry. So, this is the state of play. Those Afghan refugees who are registered, are registered in collaboration with the UNHCR. It is the SAFRON ministry which is in charge of the welfare of refugees in Pakistan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains in regular contact with both UNHCR and with the SAFRON Ministry. The policy with regard to refugees, their continued stay in Pakistan, is developed by the Government of Pakistan.

Question: As you said that there is a process of registration of Afghan refugees. Is the registration process still operational after 2021? Has Pakistan restricted their registration and is issuing temporary registration documents? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News)

Answer: I think for these details you may ask the Ministry of SAFRON. I can just underline that Pakistan has been very clear about its position on the status of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. We believe that their stay is temporary that they are Afghan nationals. And it is a priority for Pakistan that measures are taken for their return to their homeland in honour and dignity. That is why it is important to develop conditions inside Afghanistan that facilitate the early return of refugees to their homeland.

Question: As you talked about Chitral earlier, I want to know that on what level are we in contact with the Afghan authorities? We were expecting the Special Envoy of Pakistan for Afghanistan to visit Afghanistan and talks to be conducted on military to military, intelligence to intelligence and on Foreign Office level but there is no information on such talks. On what level are talks being held? Or is there no communication right now? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer: There are some channels of communication between the two countries which are active and at this stage I have nothing to report regarding the results of any conversation.

Question: What is the reason behind the Foreign Office’s inability to pay the electricity bill worth of 14 crore which is in national interest and every organization have to pay it? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: I must clarify that this Ministry is in a government building and like in case of the Secretariat, the electricity bills of this ministry are paid by the CDA and not by the Ministry itself. Further questions may be referred to the CDA.

Question: This week, there was a visit of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Russia. He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. How do you think this meeting may impact the Korean peninsula and the region? And second question, does Pakistan have any diplomatic links with North Korea and if yes what are they? (Ruslan Bekniyazov, ITAR-TASS News)

Answer: Regarding your first question, we have followed the visit. We hope that any conversations that take place between different leaders contribute to peace for the region and the world. Regarding your second question, Pakistan established its diplomatic ties with the DPRK several decades ago. There is an embassy of DPRK in Pakistan, but Pakistan’s Mission in DPRK is currently closed.

Question: A commander of TTP died in Kabul, Afghanistan on which a statement of ISPR was released. Are there any talks with Afghan government regarding this? Secondly, as we know that Army Chief is on a visit to Türkiye. We can see that he is driving the economy as well as the foreign policy. Please give details of this visit and what is the purpose of this visit? (Abdullah Momand, Dawn News)

Answer: On the visit of the army chief to Türkiye, ISPR has already issued a statement in which it is clearly identified that the visit is part of the high-level exchange of visits by both countries to enhance bilateral ties. During this visit, the COAS has called on the President of Türkiye and met with the Foreign Minister, the Defense Minister, Commander of Turkish General Staff and Commanders of Turkish land and air forces. During these meetings, the focus has been on enhanced defence collaboration between Pakistan and Türkiye. With regards to your first question, Pakistan and Afghanistan have, as I said, channels of communication which includes our respective embassies where all aspects of concern including the security issues are discussed.

Question: You spoke of the Special Envoy on Afghanistan’s visit to Iran. So, my question is does Pakistan contemplate any efforts with the neighboring countries of Afghanistan or other neighboring countries besides Iran, for solution of problems emanating from Afghanistan? (Abdul Hadi, Hum Pashto 1 News)

Answer: Pakistan is part of several mechanisms including neighboring countries of Afghanistan mechanism where we discuss all aspects with respect to peace, security and prosperity of Afghanistan. Our Special Envoy, when he was visiting Iran, discussed these aspects as well. There are other mechanisms too, including the trilateral mechanism between Pakistan, Afghanistan and China, which Pakistan believes is also a very useful platform for improving understanding on matters of mutual interest including security and economic issues.

Question: Does Pakistan still consider Al-Qaeda the second major threat after TTP? And, if we consider Al-Qaeda a major threat, then is this organization in Afghanistan or are their footprints in Pakistan too? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer: You could perhaps address this question to the Ministry of Interior to seek details about the degree of our threat perception. What I can share with you is that Pakistan considers all entities that espouse terrorism and threaten Pakistan as a threat of equal nature and we are committed to fight all of them with full force.

Question: It is being said that some heterogenous factors have been involved in the recent conflict in Gilgit Baltistan to promote sectarian violence. Do you think it is true? Secondly, many slogans in favor of Indians have been raised there. Do you have any information regarding this? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: I would like to refer to the statements which have been made by the Minister for Information and by the Chief Secretary of Gilgit Baltistan, in which they have identified the context of the recent developments and the measures which were taken for security during the Arbaeen holidays. According to the information which has been released by the GB government and by the Ministry of Information, life in Gilgit Baltistan is going on as normal. There are regular flights, schools are open and the people are living their lives as usual.


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