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


Thank you for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is in Jordan to attend the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein at the invitation of the Royal family of Jordan.

From Jordan, the Foreign Minister will travel to Iraq from 5th to 7th of June at the invitation of the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dr. Fuad Hussein. This is Foreign Minister’s first visit to Iraq.

During the visit, the Foreign Minister will meet the Iraqi leadership. In his meeting with his counterpart, the two sides will discuss a range of issues of common interest and explore avenues of bilateral cooperation.

The Foreign Minister will formally announce the establishment of Pilgrimage Centre in Karbala to facilitate Pakistani Zaireen and perform the ground-breaking of the Embassy Complex. A number of agreements are also expected to be signed related to education sector, cultural cooperation and visa facilitation.

Foreign Minister of the Republic of Belarus, Sergei Aleinik, visited Pakistan on a 2-day official visit. In meetings with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar wide-ranging and substantive talks were held on political, economic, technological, cultural, educational and multilateral cooperation. Two agreements were signed on the occasion — Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for holders of Diplomatic and Service Passports and Agreement between the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad and the Belarus Institute of Strategic Research.

Foreign Secretary Dr. Asad Majeed Khan is on a two-country visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia. He concluded his visit to Azerbaijan yesterday and is now in Georgia.

In Baku, Azerbaijan, the two sides reviewed the multifaceted and historic ties. They agreed to further enhance the frequency of high-level exchanges and optimally utilize the existing institutional mechanisms to strengthen bilateral cooperation in all fields. It was agreed to enhance and diversify bilateral trade and expand cooperation in energy, information technology, labor mobility, agriculture, transport connectivity and education.

The inaugural session of Pakistan-Georgia Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) is being held today in Tbilisi. Foreign Secretary Dr. Asad Majeed Khan and Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Khvtisiashvili are leading the respective sides. Agenda includes discussion on trade & investment, tourism, education and Information Technology (IT) and as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest.

We are deeply concerned over India’s latest move seeking death penalty for prominent Kashmiri leader, Mr. Yasin Malik. Last year, Mr. Malik was awarded life sentence in a contrived case, marked by fabricated charges and denial of fair trial. He is being held in inhumane conditions in the notorious Tihar jail despite his deteriorating health. Mr. Malik is being denied access to family members, privileged access to lawyers and quality health treatment.

India’s latest move is another instance of political vendetta aimed at silencing the Kashmiri leadership and intimidating the Kashmiri people. It is a manifestation of India’s unending and pervasive oppression in IIOJK where political leaders and human rights defenders are routinely incarcerated on trumped up and baseless charges.

We urge the Indian authorities to bring an end to this farce of a trial of Mr. Yasin Malik. He must be provided quality health treatment and allowed to live freely among his people and family. India must also immediately and unconditionally release the Kashmiri leadership and human rights defenders who are being unjustly held in prisons in IIOJK and across India.

I have a couple of upcoming visit announcements:

At the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif will attend the inauguration ceremony of President Erdogan in Ankara on 3rd June 2023.

The Prime Minister’s visit will be a reaffirmation of the deep-rooted fraternal ties between Pakistan and Türkiye. The Prime Minister will convey warm felicitations on behalf of the Government and people of Pakistan to President Erdogan on his re-election as President of Türkiye on 28 May 2023. The Prime Minister will also extend an invitation to President Erdogan to attend the 7th Meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) in Islamabad.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar will undertake official visits to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium from 5th to 13th June 2023.

She will hold meetings at the Ministerial level to discuss political engagement and cooperation in development, trade and climate change. She will also meet lawmakers and local entrepreneurs. In Belgium, she will hold meetings with Members of the European Parliament and senior officials of the European Commission.

In Sweden, the Minister of State will attend the Annual Meeting of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) as a key note speaker. She will present Pakistan’s perspective on issues of regional and global importance and interact with leading European decision-makers, experts, think-tanks and influencers for debates on foreign policy priorities and challenges.

I thank you.


Question: Pakistan has strong diplomatic ties with Georgia. Why Georgia does not open its Embassy here in Islamabad? (Mian Fazal Elahi, Diplomatic Focus)

Answer:​ The decision to open an embassy is a sovereign decision by a country. These decisions are taken in light of factors such as the quantum of bilateral exchanges and bilateral trade. I would also like to share here that Pakistan also does not have a Mission in Georgia at the present time, but Pakistan’s relationship with Georgia is solid and the ongoing visit of the Foreign Secretary to Georgia is a manifestation of the strong ties between Pakistan and Georgia and our desire to further strengthen them.

Question:​ Yesterday, we saw a meeting between the Foreign Minister and the US Ambassador. Can you enlighten more on the background or context of the meeting because there have been a lot of talk with regards to the resumption of the IMF program. The Prime Minister has also reportedly held talks with the IMF chief. So, was this meeting in light of that?

Secondly, we saw a statement coming in from India with regards to the SCO Summit that they say will be held virtually. Any comments that Pakistan has to offer on that? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: ​First, I would like to share with you that it is normal for the Foreign Minister to receive ambassadors from various countries and yesterday he met with the Ambassador of the United States. When such meetings take place, all aspects of bilateral cooperation are discussed and that was the case in this meeting as well.

Regarding your second question, we have received a notice that the Heads of State Meeting will take place in virtual format. We do not have further information to share. We await the details of this online meeting and once received the invitation will be duly considered.

Question: IMF Mission chief in Pakistan, Nathan Porter has given a statement in which he said that Pakistan’s political situation is not good and needs to be improved. State Minister for Finance has responded to that. What does Foreign Ministry have to say about this? (Umar Hayat, Bol News)

Answer:​ The Ministry of Finance is the right forum to respond to any issues, concerns and statements relating to IMF and I have nothing further to add to that.

Question: What are your comments about these meetings taking place between various diplomats and a political leader, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in a very particular situation here in Pakistan? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN News)

Answer: We have seen those reports that some envoys have met with political leaders in Pakistan. We have no comment to offer on that.

Question:​ Various reports suggest that Pakistan is releasing around 200 Indian prisoners. Do you expect that India will also release Pakistani prisoners in their jails? Even in May, probably on 12th of May, Pakistan has already released 198 Indian prisoners. In the same context, there used to be a prisoners committee of ex judges of the higher courts between the two countries and that committee used to take measures or suggest measures for welfare of the prisoners. Whether that committee still exists, has it been revived or it doesn’t exist anymore? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: ​In the recent past Pakistan has released some Indian fishermen and civilians who had completed their sentence. A similar group may be released in coming days. The release of Indian fishermen and civilians demonstrates Pakistan’s consistent policy of not politicizing humanitarian matters. We also hope that India would undertake similar humanitarian gestures and release Pakistani civilians and fishermen as well. With regards to the Judicial Commission that you have referred to, that Commission surely exists and the two sides have remained in contact on the mechanics of such visits which we hope will facilitate the civilians and fishermen who are held in prisons in Pakistan and India.

Question: ​Well, the Ministry of Finance has responded to the IMF, but everyone is speaking now, from Australia on one side of the globe to the United States on the other side of the globe, and all of them are not saying anything against Pakistan but in a friendly gesture that “put your house in order to create a consensus”. So, what is the response from Pakistan to all these voices? Like yesterday, the Australian High Commissioner also tweeted in the same way as the others are saying.​(Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)​

Supplementary Question:​ After the events of 9th May, a group of more than 65 US Congressmen wrote a letter to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, asking him to make sure that Pakistan is fulfilling the commitment of human rights. Recently, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Bob Mendez has also raised this issue. What are your comments? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer:​ We have seen those statements. We do not agree with the characterization that has been made on developments around May 9th and the situation in Pakistan. You may have seen the National Security Committee’s statement, which has clearly spelt out the factual situation around the May 9 events. We believe that Pakistan is fully capable of dealing with all domestic challenges in accordance with our laws and our constitution. We are cognizant of our constitutional obligations to protect the rights and property of all our citizens. We are committed to ensure observance of national law, maintaining public order and respecting the Constitution, and democratic traditions and human rights principles. These constitutional guarantees and fundamental freedoms are underwritten by our judiciary.

Question:​ One Pakistani blogger Waqas Goraya, who is a critic of Pakistan Army, is under exile in Netherland these days. He has been constantly refused by the Foreign Office and Pakistan Embassy Netherlands regarding the power of Attorney, and Pakistan Foreign Office is not issuing him the Power of Attorney. This agenda has also been taken up by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. So, what’s your stance on this? (Abdullah Momin, Dawn News)

Answer: ​I need to get more details of this case before I comment.

Question:​ Usually, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence does not comment on Indian propagandas and you also refer us to them for answers. Two days ago, Minister for Defence was asked that India has confessed regarding BrahMos missile that their relations with Pakistan were damaged because of this incident and they also suffered a big loss. What is Pakistan’s position on this?​ (Syed Faisal Ali, Din News)

Answer:​ Pakistan’s position has been very clear. We have asked India to first of all share the findings of its internal investigations of this dangerous incident that endangered the lives and that endangered peace in the region. We have also asked India to agree to a joint investigation to understand the circumstances under which this incident took place. We have also called upon the international community to hold India to account on this very dangerous incident. India must explain and reassure the world about its command and control mechanisms about the safety of its nuclear program, its nuclear weapons and its missile delivery system.

Question:​ My question is that a mural in the new Indian parliament building depicts ancient India, including parts of current Pakistan. This is in keeping with the concept of Akhand Bharat-of an India which includes parts of its neighboring countries like present day Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. How do you view it? What are your comments please? (Amir Abbasi, Dunya TV)

Answer:​ We have seen the reports about a mural installed at the new parliament building in New Delhi. The mural depicts the so-called ancient India, including areas that now constitute parts of Pakistan and other regional countries. We are appalled by the statements made by some BJP politicians including a Union Minister, linking the mural with ‘Akhand Bharat’ (Unified greater India). The gratuitous assertion of ‘Akhand Bharat’ is a manifestation of a revisionist and expansionist mindset that seeks to subjugate the identity and culture of not only India’s neighboring countries but also its own religious minorities. It is a matter of grave concern that the idea of Akhand Bharat is being increasingly peddled by individuals belonging to the ruling dispensation in India. The Indian politicians are well advised not to indulge in rhetoric against other countries merely to further their divisive and parochial political agenda. Instead of nurturing hegemonic and expansionist ambitions, India should resolve disputes with its neighbors and work with them to build a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.

Question: ​My question is about misuse of facilities given to the diplomats by selling luxury vehicles to the local businessman. Pakistan Custom caught 16 vehicles which caused a loss of 445 million rupees to Pakistan’s revenue. In such cases security of the diplomats is in danger. What action can Foreign Office take about this matter? ​(Sohail Majeed, The Asian Telegraph)

Answer: I do not know the premise of your question, but I can, in general, inform you that Pakistan Foreign Office remains in close contact with the diplomatic community in Islamabad and we have very clear guidelines for sale and purchase of vehicles which are imported duty-free as per the privileges enjoyed by the diplomatic country.

Question:​ You’ve mentioned that the Minister of State will be heading to Sweden to attend the Annual Meeting of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) as a key note speaker. Will she be holding bilateral meetings because the matter of the closure of Swedish Embassy or a technical closure of their consular section is quite a pain for Pakistani nationals seeking to go to Sweden for study or other purposes? So, will that matter be taken up in her interactions?

Secondly, we had the Belarus Foreign Minister visit Pakistan very recently. Was the matter of Russia deploying its nuclear weapons in Belarus considered or discussed in this meeting? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer:​ Your first question was about the Minister of State’s visit to Sweden. Yes, when she visits Sweden, she will also hold the bilateral meetings where all aspects of bilateral cooperation will be discussed including visa related matters.

Regarding your second question, the focus of discussions between the visiting Foreign Minister of Belarus and Pakistani dignitaries including the Foreign Minister was on the bilateral relationship. As such no such issue came up. However, we would like to reiterate Pakistan’s consistent position that all states should abide by their international legal obligations and Non-Proliferation commitments and avoid steps inconsistent with such commitments. The issue of stationing nuclear weapons on territories of NPT non-nuclear weapon states, at present as well as in the past, needs to be carefully examined by all parties to the Treaty as it has serious repercussions for global peace and security.

Question:​ Do you have any comment on the Indian Government’s decision to hold the SCO summit in virtual format?​(Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: ​I think I’ve already answered it, but I can repeat that we have received a notification that the Heads of State Meeting will take place in the virtual format and we are awaiting details from the current chair of SCO with regards to the details of the virtual meeting.

Question:​ In Geneva Donor’s Conference, a commitment of more than $10 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation was made to Pakistan. How many commitments have materialized till now? Can you share some specific country wise details with us, please? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer:​ I cannot give you specific details right now because the Economic Affairs Division and the Planning Ministry are responsible departments in the recovery and rehabilitation phase. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was charged with organizing the Geneva Conference, in seeking commitments and ensuring that our viewpoint is widely heard across the world. As far as the various projects and project commitments are concerned, these are being dealt with by the concerned departments bilaterally.

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