Media Briefing, Press Releases|


[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.

​Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif is at the Pakistan-Iran border today where he will meet President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Seyed Ebrahim Raisi. In their meeting, the two leaders will discuss all aspects of bilateral relations and explore new areas of cooperation to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran ties. They will jointly inaugurate Mand-Pishin Border Sustenance Marketplace and Polan-Gabd Electricity Transmission Line at Mand-Pishin border crossing point.

​The Mand-Pishin Border Sustenance Marketplace is one of the six border markets to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border as agreed under the MoU signed on 21st April 2021. The border markets are envisaged along the Pakistan-Iran border to facilitate the people on both sides of the border with enhanced cross-border trade, fostering economic growth and opening up of new avenues of opportunity for local businesses.

The Polan-Gabd Electricity Transmission Line has been developed in implementation of the agreement signed between the two governments during the visit of Federal Minister for Energy to Iran in July last year. This transmission line will supplement the electricity being purchased from Iran for the border Makran region via the 132 KV Makran Division electricity transmission line. The additional 100 MW electricity via Polan-Gabd will help offset the energy needs of households and businesses in the Balochistan province.

Deputy Minister of Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Dr. Nasir bin Abdulaziz Al-Dawood visited Pakistan on 16 – 17 May 2023. He called on the Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, and the Minister of Narcotics Control. During the visit two sides also signed the Agreement on Road to Makkah Project. Road to Makkah project is a mechanism for shifting immigration and customs clearance process from Saudi Arabia to Islamabad aimed to relieve Hujjaj from the ordeal of immigration and customs clearance on landing at Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The two sides will remain engaged to expand the number of airports in Pakistan to benefit from this facility.

Pakistan has joined the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) as its 107th Member. GFCE is an international, multi-stakeholder platform established in 2015 to promote collaboration and capacity building in cybersecurity. Pakistan’s decision to join the Forum is in line with its longstanding commitment to promoting safe, secure and stable cyberspace for all.

GFCE membership opens doors for international collaboration and partnerships. The Forum will provide a platform for meaningful exchanges with international stakeholders, fostering relationships, and expanding networks in the field of cybersecurity. We hope that such collaboration would lead to joint initiatives, research projects, and knowledge-sharing opportunities, ultimately boosting Pakistan’s expertise in cyber defense and policy-making.

We categorically reject the baseless assertions made about Pakistan in the International Religious Freedom Report released by the U.S. Department of State. Such ill-informed reporting exercises about internal affairs of sovereign states are pointless, irresponsible and counterproductive.

We are proud of our religious diversity and pluralistic social fabric. Pakistan’s Constitution, sets a robust framework for wide-ranging legal, policy and affirmative measures to safeguard and advance the rights and freedoms of all Pakistanis irrespective of their faith. These rights and constitutional guarantees are protected, upheld and reinforced by an independent judiciary.

We strongly believe that each State itself has the primary responsibility to promote and protect religious rights and freedoms of its nationals. With this understanding, Pakistan has always engaged constructively with the international community in promoting mutual understanding on the important question of religious freedom and minority rights. In our interactions, including with the United States, we have raised serious concerns about the steady surge in anti-Muslim hatred, racism and Islamophobia. We hope to work with international partners to counter these pernicious forms of religious intolerance, discrimination and Islamophobia.

Pakistan has been closely following the developments in Gaza and other Occupied Palestinian Territories and is concerned about the impact of violence on the civilian population. We strongly condemn the loss of precious lives of more than 33 Palestinians including women and children over the last several days and pray for the recovery of those injured. We call on Israel to adhere to its international obligations and respect the recent ceasefire agreement, ending days of bloodshed and indiscriminate use of force in Gaza by the Israeli occupation forces.

​Pakistan reaffirms its unstinted support for the Palestinian cause and renews its call for a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State, with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital as the only just, comprehensive and lasting solution of the Palestinian question, in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions.

​Pakistan welcomes the important statement made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Affairs, Dr. Fernand de Varennes, on the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). In this statement, the Special Rapporteur has warned against Indian plans to hold the G-20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar. He has rightly said that India is providing a “veneer of support to a façade of normalcy” at a time when massive human rights violations, illegal and arbitrary arrests, political persecution, restrictions and even suppression of free media and human rights defenders continue to escalate. We agree with the Special Rapporteur that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir should be “decried and condemned, not pushed under the rug and ignored” with the holding of the G-20 meeting. Members of G20 should pay due attention to these observations and sage advice.

​Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari shared similar sentiments in a meeting with a delegation of the Azad Jammu & Kashmir chapter of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) on 11th May. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s continued moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people’s just struggle for their inherent right to self-determination. He also stressed that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute should be resolved in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people. The meeting with APHC’s AJK chapter took place at a time when the entire pro-freedom political leadership in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) remains incarcerated.

​Now on to upcoming events announcements.

​The fourth Round of Bilateral Political Consultations between Pakistan and Ireland will be held in Islamabad on 18 May 2023. The consultations will be co-chaired by Ambassador Muhammad Saleem, Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe) and Ms. Sonja Hyland, Deputy Secretary General, Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland.

The two sides will review the state of bilateral relations and discuss cooperation in political, economic and trade, education, tourism, science and technology, climate change domains. Political Consultations with Ireland provides a forum for better understanding of each other’s perspective on regional and global affairs, and deepening of partnership between Pakistan and Ireland.

I thank you !


Question:​ In the light of present political situation in Pakistan, the U.S. Congressmen have written a letter to US Secretary of State. How does Pakistan view this? Earlier, Zalmay Khalilzad also gave some statements on this matter. What are your comments? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer:​ We have commented on such statements in the past, and I reiterate that Pakistan has the full ability to deal with all domestic challenges in accordance with our laws and constitution.

Question:​ Prime Minister will shortly meet the Iranian President in a border town and we saw your detailed Press Release issued regarding this yesterday. Since this meeting is taking place after recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. How Pakistan feels encouraged for today’s meeting, and any specific proposals or ideas that Prime Minister of Pakistan will be sharing with the Iranian President for further future cooperation between the two countries? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer:​ As I said in my opening remarks, and as explained in our statement yesterday, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif will meet President of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the border between Pakistan and Iran, at the Mand-Pishin Border point. The main purpose of this meeting is the inauguration of the “Mand-Pishin Border Sustenance Marketplace”, and “Polan-Gabd Electricity Transmission Line”. When they meet, the leaders will also discuss bilateral relations and explore new areas of cooperation to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran ties. The main purpose of today’s event, however, remains to be the inauguration of these two important projects.

Question:​ It’s not only that the Chinese Foreign Minister stood here and he talked about reconciliation, it’s not only the 60 odd Congressmen from the United States who have written a letter to the Secretary of State but EU as a group of countries have also spoken earlier this week. When the world is speaking, is it enough to say that we have the capacity to overcome the domestic challenges? How shall we respond to the world? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer:​ First, Pakistan has several channels of communication with friendly governments and through these channels of communications all matters of mutual concern are discussed at length. Second, on all such public statements, I reiterate that Pakistan has the capacity to deal with its domestic matters and to resolve our domestic issues in accordance with our laws and constitution.

Question:​ Pakistan has always raised Kashmir Cause at every forum. Even, a few days ago Army Chief also gave a clear statement on Kashmir issue. But still there is no response or any strong reaction from the international community. Now, India is planning to hold an international conference in IIOJK. Is Pakistan looking forward to hold any special meeting for the Human Rights Violations in IIOJK to share with the world that whatever is India is doing in IIOJK is against the charter of United Nations? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)

Answer:​ For the last seven decades, Pakistan has been a consistent and passionate supporter of the Kashmir cause and the rights of the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir including their right to self-determination as envisioned under the UN Security Council resolutions and promised by the international community several decades ago. We believe that the stunts and gimmicks by India in IIOJK cannot hide the reality that Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute, which remains on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. These activities cannot divert the attention of the international human rights community from the suppression of the people of IIOJK by the Indian occupation forces. Pakistan has been raising our concerns for the Kashmiris and their rights at every possible forum and we will continue to do so.

Question:​ Actually, this is follow up of what you said just now about Jammu and Kashmir. Would you like to enlighten us that what is Pakistan’s policy on IIOJK, keeping in view certain past interviews of Pakistan’s former army chief and certain other leaders that Pakistan compromised its principled position on IIOJK and you said Pakistan will keep on raising this issue at different international fora? So, what is the factual position? Did Pakistan compromise on its principled position on IIOJK? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer:​ I think there should be absolutely no confusion on Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir dispute and our views on the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. I have spoken about it at almost every briefing. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also articulated our position very recently. Pakistan has consistently made its position clear on the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and our principled stance on the Kashmir dispute. Our principled stance is rooted in the UN Security Council Resolutions which call for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute on the basis of the aspirations of the Kashmiri people as determined under a free and fair UN supervised plebiscite and this position has not changed.

Question: Firstly, nearly 60 US Senators wrote a letter and expressed their concerns regarding trials of political workers under the Army Act in Pakistan and have expressed serious concerns on this. Isn’t it an open interference in the internal matters of Pakistan? What is the view of Foreign Office on this?

Secondly, a few days ago President of Pakistan held a meeting with the Ambassador of Qatar and now it is being reported that he held this meeting without taking Foreign Office in the loop. Is it true? Isn’t it against the diplomatic norms? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: Regarding your second question, when our leadership – President or the Prime Minister meets with foreign diplomats, this Ministry is informed and consulted. We have also been informed of recent meetings of our leadership with foreign ambassadors. On your first question, Pakistan is a vibrant democracy and we have mechanisms in place to deal with all issues that arise domestically. It thus has the ability and the will to deal with its domestic matters under our laws and under our Constitution.

Question:​ My question is related to the recent United States Federal Court order to extradite the Tahawar Rana, a Canadian businessman of Pakistani origin to India. Rana is reportedly sought by India for his alleged involvement in 2008 Mumbai attacks. The court approved his extradition under the India – United States extradition treaty and this order is given at a time when just after a month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting United States at the invitation of President Joe Biden. What are your comments, please?​ (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: I have to get more details of this case and the court order you have referred to before making any comments.

Question:​Last week, when we spoke you said that you will get back on the details with regards to the alleged attack on the Chinese national? Can you enlighten on that?

Secondly, while you have rejected from the podium the US Religious Freedom Index report. The recommendations of the report are quite damning and I just quote; “re-designate Pakistan as a country of particular concern, release blasphemy prisoners and other individuals imprisoned for their religion and beliefs and repeal blasphemy and anti ahmadia laws. Would you not think that this is a gross interference in Pakistan’s internal matters by the US Congress, while preparing these reports?

Third question is with regards to another extradition that took place from London to U.S. of Asif Hafiz, a Pakistani national who was allegedly involved in drug trafficking. What are your comments? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer:​ I don’t have information on your third question. If you have specific questions like that, I would appreciate if you could share them in advance so that I have some facts of the case.

Your first question is a follow up from last time. According to our information, the local security personnel foiled an attempt to gain unauthorized entry to a project site in Karachi where some foreign experts were also present and investigation is underway. The Government of Pakistan remains firmly committed to maintaining safety and security of our friends and partners from China and elsewhere.

Now coming to your second question. I think I made our position very clear in our opening remarks and I like to reiterate that we categorically reject the baseless assertions made about Pakistan in the International Religious Freedom Report released by the US Department of State. Such ill-informed reporting exercises about internal affairs of sovereign states are pointless, irresponsible and counterproductive.

Question: ​Don’t you think as a diplomat, whatever is happening on the political front and inside Pakistan is hampering Pakistan’s diplomacy in some way in the world. Our friend has already mentioned, then there was a statement by the EU, we are also reading about the letter written by the Congressmen. So, don’t you think that in some way it’s hampering the diplomacy in the world capitals?

The second question is about a Norwegian Pakistani Atif Qadeer, who’s been arrested a few months back in Gujarat. He has been presented before a local Additional District Magistrate here in Islamabad. So, have we agreed to send him abroad to extradite him back to Norway, as he was allegedly connected to a terrorist attack in Norway?​(Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer:​On your second question, I am not aware about the specifics of this case. Regarding your first question, I can only say that, as Pakistani citizens, we all understand our country is passing through a difficult situation. At the same time we are a confident and optimistic people. We believe that Pakistan has the capacity to persevere in adversity. We have in the past overcome many challenges and we will InshaAllah come out of the current challenging situation with national consensus, will of the people and on the basis of our laws and Constitution.

Question: ​I have a couple of questions. One is related to the unfortunate incidents of 9th May. During these recent violent attacks on sensitive security and military installations, Afghans were also involved in violence, arson and sabotage, whether there will be any consideration by Pakistan to repatriate or to deport all those Afghans involved in such attacks. Also, there are ample reports that Afghan refugees, either they are involved in some terrorist activities or attacks in Pakistan or having involved in protests. So, what would be the ultimate future of those Afghan refugees as recently, Afghan Interim Foreign Minister has categorically said that the situation in Afghanistan is improved and Afghanistan is also economically getting vibrant, how do you see it?

Secondly, on 15th of March 2023 Indian Government gave a land in Kupwara in IIOJK, to an Israeli company, Arava Mines limited to carryout mining of lignite, right at the line of control. So how do you see that perspective? The investments by Israelis those were already involved in intelligence sharing and some of the security assistance within IIOJK and also it has implications on Azad Kashmir and on defense and strategic perspective on Pakistan as well. So how do you see these aspects?​(Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: ​Regarding the report that you have mentioned in your first question, we would invite you to contact the Ministry of Interior for information about any Afghans, who could be involved in such incidents. We have yet to receive these reports in this Ministry. When we receive such reports from our concerned authorities and if we are asked to take up the matter with the Afghan authorities, we will fulfill our responsibility. Regarding the Afghan refugees, we have remained in contact with our Afghan friends and brothers for the return of Afghan refugees in dignity and in safety to their homeland. We hope that the situation in Afghanistan improves and they are able to return home very soon.

On your second question without going into specifics, we have voice our concerns about the exploitative measures that India has taken in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir creating difficulties for the people in the occupied territory. India has been attaching and confiscating properties that belong to the Kashmiri people and giving it to outsiders and changing the demographic structure in IIOJK so that Kashmiris become a disempowered minority in their own land. We condemn these measures and urge India to reverse all such exploitative actions and to ensure that the people of Kashmir have a voice and the right to decide about their future including in the economic domain.

Question: In a statement Foreign Minister said that Prime Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif and the President of Iran Syed Ibrahim Raisi will inaugurate Mand-Pishin Border Sustenance Marketplace and Polan-Gabd Electricity Transmission Line which will benefit us in long terms. Is Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline project also being considered with these projects or in near future? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)

Supplementary Question:​ Pakistan Iran Gas Pipeline issue has also been discussed in Public Accounts Committee and a concerned has been expressed that if Pakistan will not go ahead with the execution of the project, Pakistan may face an $18 billion penalty, and the Chairman Public Account Committee has expressed concern that maybe U.S. should pay this penalty reportedly and Pakistan should take this issue with the United States. Could you comment that whether Pakistan is going to take up this issue with America, because the sanctions on Iran are hindering this project?​(Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer:​ First of all, Pakistan considers the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project as an important project that symbolizes friendship between Pakistan and our neighbor, Iran. We remain committed to this project. Secondly, there are some issues regarding its completion for which both countries are engaged in talks. We will continue to discuss with Iran all aspects of the completion of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Lastly, I would not preempt anything that would take place in future because our consultations and conversations are ongoing and it is premature for me to comment on anything that could happen several months from now.

Question:​ People who travel to the Gulf regions to get jobs in different companies, they are sent back to Pakistan if any accident happens there with them. Is there any mechanism that they could claim their belongings? Recently my family is also facing the same issue. These type cases are mostly being reported in Saudi Arabia. Is there any kind of mechanism to deal with this? (Syed Faisal Ali, NEO TV/Din News)

Answer:​ The Government of Pakistan and our Missions abroad including our Missions in the Middle East are fully committed to facilitating Pakistanis in distress, Pakistanis who may be involved in accidents or who may have other challenges when they are abroad. Our embassies work with the concerned departments of the host governments to ensure that the interests of Pakistanis overseas are protected. At the same time, we respect the laws and regulations of the country concerned and we encourage Pakistani nationals there to respect those laws as well. With respect to specific cases, I would advise you to send a separate inquiry to us so that we can consult our concerned Missions.

Question:​ As you mentioned in your early remarks that whenever our leadership meets foreign diplomats, Foreign Office, this Ministry is always on board. Recently, Pakistan’s Army Chief Asim Munir visited Doha in which bilateral and regional relations were also discussed. So, for this visit, Foreign Office was on board or it was an independent initiative of that specific department? (Abdullah, Dawn TV)

Answer: ​I would reiterate what I have said. Yes, under the Government Rules, whenever Government officials travel abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is consulted and that includes the foreign visits of senior defence officials. Same is the case when senior government officials and our leadership meet with foreign diplomats and leaders. In this context, the visit of the Army Chief to Doha was in pursuance of furthering Pakistan’s defence relations with Qatar and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fully supports defence engagements with Qatar.

Question:​ After the recent incidents of 9th May, a campaign was launched from outside the country on social media regarding a specific department of Pakistan. Is there any action being taken or any policy being made by the Government or Foreign Office in cooperation with its missions abroad against those people who were involved? Because, whenever incidents like 9th May happen, Pakistan is targeted from abroad particularly on social media. (Mohsin Ul Mulk, 24 News)

Answer:​ On social media platforms and activities on social media including the false news that is propagated through social media platforms, PTA is the concerned department. I would, therefore, advise you to contact them. They would be in a better position to brief you how they are responding to the trend that you have referred to.

Question:​ Yesterday, Share Pakistan Portal was inaugurated. As there is a long queue of people outside the Consular Hall on daily basis and people wait there for their turn until next day. How will this portal benefit those people? Similarly, Overseas Pakistanis also facing problems related to the legalization of documents and passports. How will this portal benefit them? (Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination)

Answer:​ There are different portals that this Ministry is working on and developing. The Share Pakistan Portal, which was inaugurated yesterday by the Foreign Minister, focusses on Pakistan’s public diplomacy and cultural outreach activities and it is not related to consular services. For consular services, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is developing a separate project which will be unveiled on completion.

Question:​ Can you please comment on ethnic cleansing in an Indian state, Manipur as many people have been killed there. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer:​ As a principle, we do not comment on the internal affairs of other countries. In the past, however, Pakistan has expressed concerns about the treatment of minorities by India and we hope that India will make efforts to protect its minorities.

Thank you.

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