[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
And thank you for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari concluded his visit to Iraq yesterday.
As Foreign Minister’s first visit to Iraq, the visit carried special significance. His programme had three key components – meetings with the political leadership and senior officials in Iraq; engagements with the business community and focus on expansion of bilateral trade; and visits to religious sites and promotion of people-to-people contacts.
The Foreign Minister held meetings with Iraqi leadership and held wide-ranging consultations with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and Minister of Interior Lt. Gen. Abdulamir Kamel Al-Shammari. He met Governor of Karbala, Nassif Al-Khattabi. In Najaf he called on Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Bashir Al-Najafi.
The two sides agreed to further strengthen bilateral relations and explore cooperation in the areas of water management, agriculture, textile, climate change, education, health, defence production, pharmaceutical industry, and labor mobility. The two sides also agreed on establishing sister port cities relations between Basra and Karachi and Gwadar. The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq’s infrastructure.
Three MOUs were signed during the visit. These included MOU on cultural cooperation; MoU on visa abolition on diplomatic and official passports; and an MoU on cooperation between Chambers of commerce of Pakistan and Iraq.
Foreign Minister met local entrepreneurs and addressed the inaugural session of the Pakistan-Iraq Business Forum where he highlighted the potential for cooperation in fields of IT, construction, food security, energy, and medicine. He also announced creation of Pakistan – Iraq Business Council to further augment trade ties between the two countries.
As announced during the visit, Pakistan will establish a Pakistani Pilgrim Centre in Karbala and open its Consulate in Najaf to facilitate Pakistani zaireen and businessmen.
For the first time in history of bilateral relations, the two sides have also agreed on a Joint Statement.
As you are aware, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar is on official visits to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium from 5th to 13th June 2023.
She arrived in Sweden yesterday from Norway. Today she will address the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) Annual Council Meeting 2023 as a keynote speaker. She will present Pakistan’s perspective on challenges to regional and global security, their implications for international political order and Pakistan’s security outlook.
During the course of next week, the Minister of State will be proceeding to Denmark and Belgium.
The Chairman Senate of Pakistan, Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, is leading a delegation of the Senate of Pakistan on a four-day visit to Russia at the invitation of the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Valentina Mativenko.
In Moscow, Chairman Senate has held meetings with the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak and Chairman of the Russian Duma Mr. Volodin. Yesterday, he addressed the members of the Russian Federation Council during the Plenary Session.
During the talks the two sides agreed to further enhance parliamentary exchanges and cooperation, and strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation especially in trade, investment and energy. The two sides will continue cooperation in international forums including UN and SCO.
In his address to the Plenary Session of the Russian Federation Council, Chairman Senate, underscored the positive momentum in Pakistan-Russia relations and mutual desire to expand cooperation in trade, economy, security, defense, culture, education, and people-to-people contacts. He emphasized the vital role of parliamentary cooperation and effective diplomacy in strengthening bilateral relations and resolving regional and global challenges.
The visit constitutes celebrations to commemorate the 75th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Russia.
The first Pakistan-China-Iran Trilateral Consultation Meeting on Counter Terrorism and Security was held at Director General Level yesterday in Beijing. Director General (Counter Terrorism), Abdul Hameed, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Pakistan delegation.
The delegations held detailed discussions on the regional security situation, particularly the threat of terrorism faced by the region. Based on the outcome of these consultations, the three sides have decided to institutionalize the Trilateral Consultations on counter terrorism and security. Further details will be worked out in due course.
A high-level delegation from Turkmenistan, led by Minister of State and Chairman of Turkmen gas, arrived in Pakistan yesterday on a three-day visit. Talks will focus on bilateral cooperation in the energy sector including on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) Power Transmission Line Project. The two sides are expected to finalize the “Joint Implementation Plan (JIP) for the Expedited Implementation of the TAPI Pipeline Project”. By setting milestones to complete the project, the JIP will signal Pakistan’s commitment to the TAPI project and its journey for affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.
The Second Round of Pakistan-U.S. Health Dialogue is being held today in Islamabad. Minister for National Health Services and Regulation, Abdul Qadir Patel, and Deputy Administrator USAID Isabel Coleman, are leading the two delegations.
The two sides will review the progress made since the First round of the Health Dialogue held last year in Washington DC. This year’s agenda includes Pakistan’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Malnutrition, Infectious Diseases and Global Health Security (GHS), Pakistan-U.S. “Green Alliance”: Nexus of Climate Change, Environment and Health. The Pakistan-U.S. Health Dialogue is a manifestation of strong understanding and cooperation between Pakistan and the United States and provides a framework for cooperation in the health domain.
Earlier this week, the International Day for Innocent Children Victims of Aggression was observed on the 4th of June 2023. We are reminded of the plight of the Kashmiri children who continue to suffer because of continued siege and brutal oppression by the Indian forces. An entire generation of Kashmiri children has grown up in a climate of fear, violence and repression. Kashmiri orphans suffer in economic hardship, isolation and psychological trauma. Scores of school children have been injured by pellets, bullets and teargas shells fired by the Indian forces. Many of them have lost their eye sight, fully or partially.
The United Nations has called on India to take preventive measures to protect children, including by ending the use of pellets against children. We urge India to heed this call and to protect the children of Kashmir from violence, displacement and trauma.
Pakistan will continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.
I thank you!
Question: My question is about the plea made by the US State Department Spokesman about provision of Consular Access to the suspect of 9th May, Khadija Shah. Whether the government of Pakistan is willing to provide Consular Access to her and any other person because many dual nationals are involved in the unfortunate incidents of 9th May.
Secondly, many suspects of 9th May either fled the country or are hiding abroad in some unknown places because of being dual nationals. Whether Pakistan is also seeking their custody or any access to those who have fled this country? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: On both your questions, I would like to underline that Pakistan will follow its laws and its international obligations in bringing to justice individuals responsible for the events of 9th May. We have received the requests that you have mentioned, and those requests have been sent from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of Interior, which takes final decision in such cases.
Question: My question is related to Iranian embassy which has been reopened in Riyadh. I would like to have your comments on how Pakistan sees this development. (Saima Shabir, Arab News)
Answer: Opening of the Iranian embassy in Riyadh is a welcome and important development in pursuance of normalization of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Reopening of diplomatic missions by both sides, in our view, forms a tangible confidence building measure. It will not only contribute significantly towards positive relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also have a salutary impact on peace and stability in the region. Pakistan has a history of actively supporting diplomatic and peaceful efforts of bridging gaps between our friends and brotherly countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Question: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s sister met her in jail. Has Pakistan officially raised the issue of her release at any forum or with American authorities? If yes then what was their response? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Supplementary Question:Regarding the meeting with Dr. Aafia Siddiqi, Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan has said multiple times that he visited America on personal expense, and he also thanked the Foreign Office for its efforts. But if he went there on his own what were the efforts of Foreign Office and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in this. What is the role of Government of Pakistan in this matter? (Sardar Awais, Daily Haqeeqat)
Answer: This is an old case and the Government of Pakistan has been seized of this case for several years now. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has played its role in making Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui’s visit to the United States possible. She was facilitated in obtaining the US visa and was extended courtesies on arrival at the airport. We requested the US authorities that Dr. Fowzia should be allowed to meet her sister, even though she is not on Dr. Aafia’s accepted list of visitors. Consequently, Dr. Fowzia was allowed to meet her sister three times when she recently visited the United States. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Missions in Washington and Houston have consistently raised with the US authorities issues relating to the respect for human and legal rights of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Our Consulate General in Houston, United States regularly visits Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to inquire about her well-being.
Question: Being spokesperson of the Foreign Office how would you like to respond to international media and international community regarding human rights situation in Pakistan, which a particular political party is portraying in a negative way? So, what is the situation of human rights situation? Is there is any custodial torture of those who are in the custody of police in connection with 9th May? Also, what is the status of freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of political gathering in Pakistan? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: I think the question that you have asked is more political in nature than a question for the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would like to reiterate what we have said in the past, that Pakistan is a country of laws, it is a country which has constitutionally guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms and we are a democratic setup with free and independent judiciary. The Government of Pakistan will continue to follow its obligations under the law, under the Constitution.
Question: We’ve seen that last week you raised the matter of the controversial mural in the new Parliament of India. Nepal and Bangladesh have officially raised the matter with India. Has Pakistan also raised the matter diplomatically except for making that statement that you made last week? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: We have expressed our concerns on this matter and our statement of last week speaks for itself. Pakistan rejects the revisionist and expansionist vision displayed in the Indian parliament in the form of this mural and the statements by the leaders of the ruling party in India. Such statements reflecting India’s hegemonic ambitions in the region are a concern for countries in South Asia.
Question: My question is related to the reports that discussion is undergoing between Saudi and Pakistani authorities for the renewal of passports of around 250,000 Rohingya who are residing in Saudi Arabia for the last several years. Whether the foreign office is in loop, and could you also please comment when these passports were issued earlier, on what grounds and what conditions were they issued and now what will be the decision of Pakistan when Saudi Arabia has requested for renewal? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)
Supplementary Question: My colleague has just raised an issue related to 0.25 million Rohingya. Some of the reports suggest that Pakistani mission in Riyadh issued passports to those people along with their families. They are residing in Saudi Arabia and the report also suggests that those were issued in 2012 and now after 10 years they are going to be renewed at the request of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So how do you see this?
Secondly, Iranian Naval Chief, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani has proposed an Indian Ocean Naval Alliance including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE and India and Pakistan. So how do you see this development. Whether Pakistan is going to respond to this proposal from Iran? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)
Answer: Regarding your second question, we have seen that statement and we will examine any proposal when it comes to Pakistan. At this stage, we are not in a position to comment on a statement which has been made.
On the question raised by the Voice of America and supplemented by you, I would like to say that this is a complex issue and it has a history. Many of the questions that you have raised are under consideration in the Ministry of Interior. I would advise you to refer your question to the Ministry of Interior, about the exact nature and status of the talks.
Question: Recently India has given an award to Abhinandan, with which they are trying to make him a hero and build a narrative that he destroyed Pakistan’s F-16 in Indian territory and while chasing the other aircraft he entered Pakistani territory where his plane crashed. What is the response from Pakistan on this? (Czechangez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)
Answer: Well. I think I don’t have much to say. He was a pilot who was captured in Pakistan when Indian took an ill-considered action in February 2019 and violated Pakistan’s territorial integrity. His plane was taken down by our valiant Air Force when we acted in self defence. He was returned after Pakistan’s decision to deescalate the situation that had arisen in February 2019 because of India’s imprudence. We do not want to go into details of what India is saying or doing now as we are not following his career path.
Question: You talked about free media but there are purportedly directions to ban telecast of Imran Khan’s name in media. Other than this, has Pakistan contacted France regarding the humiliation faced by Ex-Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in France? Similarly, has Afghan Government made a contact with Pakistan to release Afghans involved in the incident of 9th May? (Allah Noor, Mashriq Tv)
Answer: I shall start from your third question as I have answered that question in the past as well. There are some reports that some Afghan nationals could have been arrested during the events of May 9. These reports are being verified and in case of their involvement in subversive activities, the law of Pakistan will take its course.
With regard to the second question, there is a video has been circulating the media. We have not confirmed the veracity of that video. For any further information ISPR would be the right forum to approach.
Question: General Bajwa’s Kashmir policy is being criticized these days. What was that policy? Secondly, what is Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir? Is it still General Bajwa’s policy or someone else’s? (Luqman Shah, Daily Azkar)
Answer: I think we should be very clear. There is a policy of Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan; there is no policy of any individual on Kashmir. And, we should be very clear about this policy. Pakistan has had a consistent policy for the last 70 years on Kashmir which affirms it as a disputed territory, that states that India is illegally occupying the land of the Kashmiri people. The solution of the Kashmir dispute lies in the UN Security Council resolutions and steps must be taken to resolve this dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and the UN Security Council resolutions.
Question: The Government is prioritizing increase in exports as a policy measure. Commercial Attaches play a vital role in the increase of exports. In how many of Pakistan’s missions abroad are these Commercial Attaches deputed? Secondly, what is the policy of the Foreign Office in deploying them to various countries? (Raheel Nawaz Swati, Daily Awaz-e-Riasat)
Supplementary Question: Currently Pakistan is going through one of the toughest economic times. Successive governments have given targets to the Foreign Office that economic diplomacy must be pursued by all of our foreign missions. Would you like to share the tangible performance of Foreign Office in connection with economic diplomacy? Are these missions following this economic diplomacy? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: Okay, I think both questions are related. Yes, economic diplomacy is a key pillar of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy. In our engagements with countries around the world promotion of economic ties is a priority. You must have seen that even yesterday when the Minister for Foreign Affairs was in Iraq, economic agenda was on the top of his engagements with the Iraqi leadership. Similarly, whenever our leaders undertake foreign visit, economic and trade issues are on the agenda of the talks. Our missions abroad are under clear instructions to promote economic ties and to find opportunities for Pakistan’s exports and investment. Some Missions have, depending on the volume of trade and economic activity, full-fledged commercial officers; while others do not. In such Missions, officers from the Foreign Office are charged with economic diplomacy portfolio. I would like to underline here that economic diplomacy is the collective responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce; as the Ministry of Commerce outlines the commercial policies of Pakistan. In that context, this Ministry remains closely engaged with the Ministry of Commerce, to pursue our foreign policy objectives and to fulfill our economic diplomacy mandate.
Question: What are the developments regarding the visit of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to Iran? Secondly, how much amount is to be paid by NAB to the Pakistani High Commission, London? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Answer: I do not have information regarding your second question. On your first question as I have said in the past at this stage there is no such decision and no dates have been set. Whenever the two sides agree to a visit, it will take place.
Question: For several days, some videos are being highlighted on social media and some channels are also broadcasting these videos showing that some people went from Pakistan to Malaysia legally with E-Visa but they were mistreated at the airport. Cash was taken from them and they were kept in confinement for two to three days. Their families said that they are trying to contact those people and the Foreign Office but are unable to reach them. What is your comment on this? (Isma Shaukat, Public News)
Answer: This issue has been brought to the notice of our High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. It has contacted the local authorities to seek clarification in the matter. The Malaysian authorities have confirmed that there is no discrimination against Pakistanis and that Pakistanis are not being singled out on arrival in Malaysia. Malaysia has a specific policy with regard to E-visas. Malaysian immigration authorities verify on arrival the E-visa that the individuals have. Sometimes during the E-visa issuance process, the applicants are not interviewed. In those cases, the interviews are conducted on arrival. This is their policy and it is not just for Pakistan. They conduct interviews of E-visa holders when they land at the Kuala Lumpur airport; and establish the credentials of the visitors. Those who are unable to satisfy the immigration authorities are declared “not-to-land” or NTL and repatriated by the next available flight. Pakistanis constitute 5% of those NTLs. I would also like to inform here that our Mission in Kuala Lumpur has been raising this issue with the local authorities. It has also been in touch with Pakistani passengers in difficulty and facilitate them at the KL airport. Lastly, we will continue to work with the relevant authorities both in Pakistan and Malaysia to find workable solutions for visitors who travel on E-visa.
Question: Reportedly, last month the Petroleum Minister, Musadik Malik, visited United States to discuss the future of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, because, in case of failure, we will pay $18 billion to Iran. So, what are the updates on this Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project? What is the United States’ opinion on this? Will you comment on this issue? (Abdullah Momin, Dawn TV)
Answer: As we have said in the past, for Pakistan the IP Project is an important project and we remain committed to it. There are certain complications with regards to its implementation. In that context, we remain engaged with both Iran and the United States. Exact details of the meetings that the Minister of State for Petroleum held in the United States may be ascertained from the concerned Ministry.
Last modified: June 9, 2023
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