Media Briefing, Press Releases|

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

Assalam-o-Alaikum,

Thanks for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.

Today, I would like to begin my statement by expressing our deep concerns at the alarming rise in violence against Muslims in today’s India.

On this Ram Navami, anti-Muslim violence was reported in at least eight states of India as extremist outfits organized public rallies to celebrate the festival. A number of mosques and other Muslim-owned buildings were attacked. A seminary was burned down in Nalanda district of Bihar, resulting, inter alia, in burning of around 4500 books, including the Holy Quran.

The terrifying rise in Islamophobic and hateful acts against Muslims in India is a consequence of the pursuit of a majoritarian Hindutva agenda and anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric rife in Indian politics.

We welcome the statement of OIC expressing its concern on rising anti-Muslim incidents in India and urge India to take firm action against the extremists for fomenting communal violence and hatred against Muslims. India must take demonstrable steps to curb the rising tide of Islamophobia, to provide protection to Muslims for practicing their faith and hold to account those responsible for such hateful acts.

We reiterate our concerns about the safety and wellbeing of Kashmiri leaders and human rights defenders who are under incarceration in prisons across IIOJK and India.

We welcome the statement of UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor, endorsed by Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Clément Nyaletsossi Voule.

The Special Rapporteur has highlighted the continuing repression of Kashmiri civil society in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). She has explained how the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is being applied to smear and silence the civil society, media, and human rights defenders. She has urged India to end its crackdown against Kashmiri human rights defenders.

We endorse her statement that India must be held accountable where it violates human rights obligations. We also urge India to bring an end to suppression of journalists and human rights defenders and to its policy of stifling freedom of expression and assembly in the occupied territory.

Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Professor Ahsan Iqbal is on an official visit to China. In China, the Minister attended the Annual Conference of the Boao Forum for Asia and presented Pakistan’s perspective on Belt and Road Initiative and CPEC. He expressed Pakistan’s desire to jointly explore opportunities for shared growth for developing countries with critical investments to fill economic gaps.

The Minister’s meetings with senior government officials focused on high-quality development of CPEC which is marking a decade of its inception. The visit underscores the importance both countries attach to realizing the full potential of CPEC and bilateral development cooperation. The visit concludes today.

On 3 April 2023, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Culture, Engr. Amir Muqam, virtually participated in the SCO Ministers of Culture Meeting hosted by India. He highlighted Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage and underlined the need for promoting cultural exchanges and cooperation under the SCO framework to foster mutual understanding. As an active member of SCO, Pakistan will continue to participate in all SCO activities and continuously contribute to their outcomes.

Lastly, I have an important announcement.

Our High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ambassador Amna Baloch has been appointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union. Ambassador Amna Baloch is a senior Foreign Service officer with vast diplomatic experience in Pakistani Missions in Denmark, Sri Lanka, China and Malaysia. Before her current assignment, she served as Consul General at Chengdu, China. She is expected to take up her assignment shortly.

I thank you

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Question: After India and Afghanistan, attacks on our borders have also started from the Iranian side and 3 to 4 Pakistani brilliant soldiers were martyred in a recent incident. What are your comments on this situation? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)

Answer: I would like to invite your attention to the statement which was issued by ISPR on this unfortunate incident. The Government of Pakistan and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran are in contact to discuss this incident and to resolve the issues that have arisen in this context.

Question:​Since you mentioned that the Government of Pakistan and Iran are in contact on the border incident that took place. What is being done at the diplomatic level? Was Iranian Ambassador to Islamabad summoned, because we’ve previously seen that has been the case?

Secondly, what is Pakistan’s response on India opening its consulate in Kandahar and very interestingly, at a time when Pakistan does not even have a Head of Mission in Kabul and because we’ve seen that in the past when the Ghani administration was there, there have been allegations from Pakistani side that Consulate was being used to harbor and fund terrorism across the border on our side. So what is Pakistan’s take on this development?

Thirdly, on the 26th of March there was the Bangladesh National Day and I happen to have missed your statement or a tweet, which the Foreign Office regularly tweets. Can you please apprise on that? Why was that not issued? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: On your first question, I would like to reiterate that we are in contact with the Iranian Government through all relevant channels of communication, including our respective Embassies.

I do not have visibility with respect to your second question. Will revert.

Lastly, I would invite your attention to the congratulatory message sent by Pakistan on the occasion. Our mission in Dhaka has shared the highlights of the letter of felicitation which was sent.

Question:​On the proposal for opening of Sharda – Peeth Corridor in Azad Kashmir, a resolution was tabled in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. Is Government of Pakistan considering resuming of the bus service and trade between Azad Kashmir and IIOJK?

Secondly, in Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir valley, people are being forced to use medicines made from Cow dung. Have you raised this issue at any platform that use of such medicines must be stopped? ​(Raziq Mehmood Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)

Answer:​First, The Government of Pakistan takes seriously all developments of concern that take place in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. We condemn all acts of repression and raise our concerns at all levels. Secondly, regarding the particular issue that you raised I would like to advise you to recheck with the Assembly of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir. As far as I understand, no such resolution has been adopted. Pakistan’s position on the Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir is clear. India must take effective measures to end suppression of the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, lift the curbs on the media and on individuals to freely practice their religion and enjoy their rights and freedoms including the freedom of speech and assembly. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have a right to exercise their right to self-determination according to their wishes and the UN Security Council resolutions. It is a time that this right is realized.

Question:​India’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar on the current situation of the economy and terrorism has said at an event that Pakistani leadership is short sighted and has created Frankenstein monsters for themselves. What are your comments?

Secondly, on January 25th this year, India has sent a letter to Pakistan asking to start negotiations for the review of Indus Water Treaty. Has Pakistan responded to the Indian letter?​(Hassan Tariq, PTV News)

Answer:​On your first question I would like to say that these remarks reflect Indian leadership’s unhealthy obsession with Pakistan. Having failed in their efforts to malign and isolate Pakistan at the diplomatic front, Indian leaders have now assumed the role of armchair pundits. While focusing on Pakistan they very conveniently overlook the developments in their own country where the social fabric is being ripped apart by the rise of an extremist Hindutva ideology.

On your second question, I can confirm that Pakistan has responded to the Indian letter on the Indus Waters Treaty. Pakistan remains committed to the implementation of the Treaty in good faith and to ensure its water security.

Question:​My question is about the Pakistani journalist who was allegedly deported from Malaysia and following claims were made in the course of the reporting. Syed Fawad Ali Shah maintains that while detained he was allegedly tortured and that while detained he was interrogated by officials who wanted him to reveal the identities of his media sources. Despite being released on bail, Syed Fawad Ali Shah who had refugee status in a third country, is blocked from leaving Pakistan for 10 years, analysts say that this is allegedly another tool of repression. How does Pakistan respond to these claims? Also there’s endless say that Shah’s judicial process, as they claim is likely to be drawn out as a form of punishment. How does Pakistan respond to Mr. Shah’s claims? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer:​This question has been raised in the past and I have responded to that. This issue is now before the courts of Pakistan, and we have full faith in the courts. We would not like to comment on the merits of the case when it is being considered by the courts. We are confident that justice will be done.

Question:​Pakistan is a functional democracy. Why does Pakistan feel shy of standing with those countries which are Democrats, where democracy is flourishing, and they have a strong democracy reflecting will of their people? Why Pakistan consistently boycotts Democracy Summit, why we are shy of it?

Secondly, you must have taken note of the debate on the statement made by British Home Secretary about Pakistani men. The statement is widely being considered as a racist one. How you respond to such a debate or such comments made by the British Home Secretary? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer:​First, regarding your question about the Summit for Democracy, we have already released a statement. I would like to reiterate that Pakistan as a vibrant democracy is deeply committed to democratic values and generations of Pakistanis have upheld their faith in democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We have also said that Pakistan has not been part of the summit process that began in 2021, that required countries to make certain national commitments. We believe that the summit process is now at an advanced stage. Therefore, Pakistan would engage bilaterally with the organizers and the co-hosts of the summit to promote and strengthen democratic principles and values, and work towards advancing human rights and fight against corruption.

On your question regarding the statement by the British Home Secretary, we find these remarks as dangerous, discriminatory, and xenophobic. Her statement paints a highly misleading picture, signaling the intent to target and treat British Pakistanis differently. In making these uncalled-for remarks, the Home Secretary has erroneously branded criminal behavior of some individuals as representation of the entire community. She fails to take note of the systemic racism and ghettoization of communities and omits to recognize the tremendous cultural, economic and political contributions that British Pakistanis continue to make in the British society.

Question:​Last year, on 15 November some Pakistanis were caught in Georgia on the allegation of plotting an attack against an Israeli businessman. A similar case has been reported in Greece on 29th March. Both countries are claiming that these Pakistani people were backed by Iran. Has Pakistan raised this issue with Iranian side? Also, what is the update on the specific incident that happened in Greece on 29th March? (Faisal Ali, Daily State Views)

Answer:​We have been informed of the recent arrests in Greece and we will extend full cooperation and support to Greek authorities in their ongoing investigation. Pakistan remains committed to ensuring that anyone involved in terrorism is brought to justice.

Question:​There are reports that some of the British diplomats are involved in different conversations and having different meetings with the political figures, particularly one leading political party in Pakistan and having some illegal money pumping in from Britain other than the banking sources and there are strong apprehension about this in certain quarters that Britain is unduly involved and interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan How to see that?

Secondly, Kyrgyzstan has just stopped issuance of visit and business visas for Pakistanis. South Korea keep on rejecting Pakistani visas regularly. There are lots of complaints from the business community of Pakistan. So how do you see that particular thing?

Thirdly, one of my colleagues has raised a question related to the Indus Water Treaty. You have rightly replied on that, but there are reports from Indian media that India intends to unilaterally change some of the contours of that treaty and to amend it according to its own needs. So how do you see that particularly? Because India has shown these intentions earlier on as well and at that time, also Pakistan has given a strong response. (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer:​I do not have any information with reference to your first question. Similarly, I am not aware of specific visa related issues you have raised. However, visas are decided by respective embassies according to their own criteria. The Government of Pakistan continues to work with friendly governments to ensure that genuine travelers do not face difficulties in obtaining visas.

Regarding the Indus Waters Treaty, I would not like to add to media speculation. As I have said, we have responded to India. I have nothing further to add.

Question:​On the last question you mentioned that Pakistan has responded to India. Whether Pakistan has responded to India on the point they have raised in the Indus Water Treaty? What is that response which Pakistan has shared with India? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer:​As I have said we have conveyed our response. We have utilized the relevant channel of communication where our Indus Commissioner has sent the letter to his Indian counterpart.

Question:​My question is regarding Arunachal Pradesh. Few days ago, U.S. Senate has accepted India’s right through a resolution. What is Pakistan’s position on this development? Do we consider Arunachal Pradesh as a part of China, a part of India or a disputed territory? (Salman Ali Awan, Public News)

Answer:​There is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on this issue. As a neighbour of both countries, Pakistan hopes to see healthy relations between China and India.

Question:​Today before Fajr prayer Israeli forces entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque and attacked the worshipers as a result of which dozens of them were injured. Please comment on this.

Secondly, when we talk to Iranian side regarding Pak – Iran gas pipeline project, they say that there is no hindrance from their side. Can you please share from where is the hindrance coming from in the execution of this project? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer:​You have raised this question several times and I have advised you to discuss this with the concerned ministry which is the Ministry of Petroleum.

Regarding the unfortunate incident in Jerusalem, Pakistan condemns in the strongest possible terms, the brutal attack by Israeli occupation forces beating Palestinian worshippers in the Al-Qibli prayer hall in the Al Aqsa Mosque last night. The continuing pattern of such oppressive and escalatory actions on the part of Israel in the holy month of Ramadan in recent years not only violates the religious freedom of Palestinian people, but also hurts the religious sentiments of Muslims around the world. Pakistan calls on the international community to fulfill its responsibility in taking immediate action to end such inhumane acts of violence against unarmed and innocent civilians that have been particularly ascendant this year and which are detrimental to regional peace and stability.

Question: Activities of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are ongoing and a few days ago there was a bomb blast in Bannu in which a high ranking and some other officers from police were martyred. Many incidents like this are happening specially in KPK. Minister of Defense Khawaja Asif recently visited Afghanistan and said that everything went well there. He was also very positive when he returned to Pakistan and shared that there were fruitful discussions with the Afghan side. But, the number of terrorist attacks is not reducing. What are your comments on this? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer:​Pakistan has channels of communication with the Afghan interim authorities. We are engaged with them and discuss all matters including the issues relating to terrorism, security and peace along the border and these conversations are ongoing.

Question:​During the previous Government of PML-N a delegation went to Israel for trade. The question was asked here at Foreign Office and FO denied, but later it was proved that a delegation visited Israel, people of that delegation admitted themselves. In current Government of PML-N, a delegation went to Israel and question was again asked at Foreign office and you said that the delegation through an NGO in which expats from U.S. were included and it was also denied. Now recently a plane went from Dubai to Israel which carried goods from Pakistan and it is again being denied. As Quaid-e-Azam said that we are not going to recognize Israel till the creation of a Palestinian state. Also, as it is a terrorist state and is involved in killing of innocent people and particularly children. Considering all this, is Pakistan considering recognizing Israel under the current government? (Sardar Aamir Hussain, Daily Maddar)

Answer:​I think I have made a very categoric statement on this and I would repeat it that Pakistan does not have diplomatic or trade relations with Israel and there is no change in the policy.

Question:​On 30th of March Foreign Minister hosted an Iftar and in a departure from past practice we saw that the Indian chargé d’Affaires was invited, in a first since 2019. In 2020 Pakistan did not host the Iftar for the diplomatic corps, 2021 Shah Mehmood Qureshi the then Foreign Minister hosted an Iftar and the Indian chargé d’Affaires was not invited. 2022 there was political turmoil and therefore there was no Foreign Minister and no Iftar was hosted and 2023 we saw that the Indian chargé d’Affaires was invited to it. So is this a departure from the policy and does it signal that Pakistan is willing to engage in a more cordial manner with India?​ (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: I think you are reading too much into this. It was an interfaith Iftar and the entire diplomatic corps was invited.

Question:​Recently, a letter was written to Pakistan from UAE in which some concerns have been raised by the UAE side. Can you share some details about this?

Secondly, Afghan intelligence and other officials came on a secret visit to Pakistan. Was Foreign office on board? Is there any progress in the context of that visit? (Abdullah Momand, Dawn TV)

Answer:​I have said that several times that any discussions on these matters are sensitive in nature. So, we are not at liberty to share with you details of these talks at this stage.

On your first question, I think I do not even know what you’re referring to. In this Ministry, hundreds of communications are exchanged with foreign governments every day.

Question:​Few days back, Ambassador of Germany wrote a letter to Pakistan’s Federal Minister in which he talked about the stopping of imports of spare parts of two car manufacturing companies and also threatened that if Pakistan will not open their LCs then Pakistan’s GSP+ status will be in danger. Can any foreign Ambassador threaten Pakistani Ministers or Pakistan like this? If not, are there any talks going-on with the concerned Ambassador regarding this issue? ​(Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer:​I do not have particular comments to offer in this particular case. But I would like to highlight that Government of Pakistan is committed to providing the best possible environment for foreign investors in Pakistan. We hope that as we overcome our economic challenges, many of these issues relating to investment will be sorted out.

Question:​There have been reports in international and local media that the Government of Pakistan has sold weapon to Ukraine. What are your comments please? (Muhammad Asad, The Frontier Post)

Answer:​We find these reports as baseless. Pakistan has maintained a consistent, principled and nonpartisan position on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Any defence-related exports by Pakistan are accompanied by strict requirements of end user certificates.

Question:​Is consular office which is located inside the premises of Foreign Office, part of FO? If yes, then who is responsible for black ticketing in its parking and associated post office? Will any legal action be taken if any employee from FO is found involved in such corrupt practices? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer:​First of all you’re right that the Consular Section is part of this Ministry, although it is located outside this building. Secondly, the post office does not specifically come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thirdly, whenever we get reports of any agent or unscrupulous elements operating outside the premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we take this matter seriously and convey to the concerned authorities such as the FIA and other investigating authorities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have policing authorities outside these walls.

Question:​Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and Indian media has highlighted a resolution tabled in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly by member Javed Butt for opening of Sharda – Peeth Corridor in Azad Kashmir on the lines of Kartarpur corridor and it was adopted as well. What are comments of Foreign Office on this?

Secondly, when we ask Ministry of Commerce about the details of commercial attachés posted at various Pakistani Embassies abroad, we are told to get details from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they are not being shared. We need to ask from these commercial attachés the amount of bilateral trade, details of trade agreements and other trade related figures. Since, in many countries these commercial attachés are posted, there is minimal or no trade and there have not been any improvement as well. Can you please share details of these commercial attaches and what have they done to improve Pakistan’s trade? (Rizwan Abbasi, Daily Ausaf)

Answer:​Your first question has already been covered and as I said the Indian media reports you are referring to are neither accurate nor factual. I would advise you to contact the Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and confirm yourself that there is no such resolution on the record.

On your second question, the Ministry of Commerce is the right forum to share with you the policy in terms of Pakistan’s exports and trade. It is the job of commercial attaches to promote and facilitate trade and investment. If you have some specific details we can discuss.

Thank you

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