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

Welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Last week, we had two important incoming visits.
Foreign Minister of the Swiss Confederation, Federal Councillor Mr. Ignazio Cassis visited Pakistan at the invitation of Prime Minister of Pakistan Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif, from 7th to 9th of July. He called on the Prime Minister and held meetings with Minister for Climate Change, Senator Sherry Rehman, and Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

The two sides discussed bilateral cooperation particularly in the areas of climate change, trade and investment, development cooperation, higher education, and vocational training. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in disaster management was signed that aims to reduce the adverse impact of natural disasters on people and the economy.

UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change and the President-designate of COP 28, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber visited Pakistan on 6th of July 2023. He called on the Prime Minister and met with the Minister for Climate Change. The two sides discussed bilateral cooperation especially in energy and climate change; mitigation of global climate challenges; operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund created at COP 27; and cooperation at COP28, where Pakistan will extend full support to the UAE as the hosts and chair of COP 28. An MOU outlining a roadmap for investment in renewable energy projects in Pakistan was also signed.

Earlier this week at the request of Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC Group in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council held an urgent debate to discuss the alarming rise in premeditated and public acts of religious hatred. The debate took place in context of the recurrent acts of desecration of the Holy Quran, which have hurt sentiments of Muslims worldwide.

Addressing the Council virtually, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari strongly condemned these premeditated acts of the desecration of the Holy Quran and underscored that such Islamophobic acts were an attack on the faith of Muslims around the world. The Foreign Minister stressed the need to isolate those who stoked religious hatred, and for prevention, legal deterrence and accountability of such acts.

Following the urgent debate, the Council adopted a historic resolution presented by Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC. The resolution condemns any advocacy of religious hatred, including the recent acts of desecration of the Holy Quran, and underscores the need for holding the perpetrators to account. In follow-up to the resolution, the Council will hold panel discussions of experts at its March 2024 session to identify the drivers, root-causes and human rights impact of the desecration of sacred books, places of worship and religious symbols.

Pakistan shares the disappointment of other OIC countries that despite its balanced and apolitical nature, this important resolution was put to a vote on fallacious grounds, derailing the Council’s consensus. We believe that the Council must speak with one voice on the salient issue of Islamophobia, which affects human rights, fundamental freedoms, dignity and identity of over 2 billion Muslims.

Pakistan will continue to take lead in raising global awareness about the insidious phenomena of Islamophobia and xenophobia and fostering inter-faith dialogue, harmony and peaceful coexistence.

Foreign Secretary, Dr. Asad Majeed Khan, is in Jakarta, Indonesia to attend the 30th Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Foreign Secretary has a packed programme in Jakarta. He has held meetings with his counterpart from Thailand and the Deputy SG of ASEAN. He will call on the President and meet with Foreign Minister and the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs of Indonesia. Foreign Secretary is also expected to meet with the Foreign Ministers of Vietnam and Timor-Leste and the Foreign Secretaries of Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

At the ARF Ministerial meeting tomorrow, the Foreign Secretary will highlight Pakistan’s perspective on political and security issues of concern to Asia-Pacific. He will outline our desire for regional cooperation and dialogue in promoting common solutions and for extended partnerships with ARF and with countries in the region.

The 12th (Special) meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was held on 11 July 2023 in Beijing. Federal Minister for Planning, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal & Vice Chairman, National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, Cong Liang co-chaired the meeting.

The JCC reviewed the progress made under the Joint Working Groups on Energy, Transport Infrastructure, and Gwadar Port and their future plans of action. It highlighted the significance of the key projects for energy and infrastructure development and agreed to strengthen cooperation for smooth development of future renewable energy projects. The two sides will continue to promote major transport infrastructure projects including ML-1 and KCR. They will also enhance cooperation in science & technology, and innovation in bolstering high-quality CPEC; and further B2B collaboration for the next phase of industrial cooperation.

On 10 July 2023, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted Pakistan’s report under its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

The unanimous adoption of Pakistan’s report of the Council concludes Pakistan’s 4th UPR review which began earlier this year. You would recall that Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, had presented Pakistan’s UPR report in January 2023 at the Council. Pakistan has accepted 253 recommendations made by Member States. This puts Pakistan’s acceptance rate at 70 percent, which demonstrates Pakistan’s constructive engagement with the UPR process.

Previously, Pakistan was reviewed under the UPR process in 2008, 2012 and 2017. Our constructive engagement with the Human Rights Council and the wider UN Human Rights Machinery will continue.

The Pakistani nation is today observing the 92nd Youm-e-Shuhada-e-Kashmir (Kashmir Martyrs Day) to commemorate the martyrdom of 22 Kashmiris, who sacrificed their lives while braving the brute and indiscriminate firing of Dogra forces in 1931. We salute their valour which kindled a valiant struggle for the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination and ignited a freedom movement that continues to this day.

On a pattern similar to the Dogra forces, over the last seventy years, the Indian Occupation Forces have killed hundreds of Kashmiris simply for demanding their rights. Since 5 August 2019, over 780 Kashmiris have been martyred by the Indian Occupation Forces in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

India’s unabated repression over the past seven decades has failed to break the will of the Kashmiri people who have continued to strive for their right to self-determination.

Pakistan will continue to support its Kashmiri brothers and sisters in their just struggle against Indian oppression, till the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination; as enshrined in the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

I will conclude with a brief announcement.
Azerbaijan’s Minister for Digital Development and Transport Rashad Nabiyev will undertake a visit to Pakistan from 17-19 July. This visit is taking place in follow up to Prime Minister’s recent visit to Baku. Minister Nabiyev will meet with Pakistani counterparts in the Ministries of Information Technology, Aviation, Communications, Railways, and Maritime Affairs and explore bilateral cooperation in areas of connectivity and information technology.
I thank you.
Question: Do you think that upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Modi to France and expected defense deals could shake balance of power in the region?  (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: We are following the developments pertaining to the visit of Indian Prime Minister to France. I think it would be premature for me to comment on any deals that would be struck during that visit.

Question: It is being projected in media that when the Swiss Foreign Minister paid an official visit to Pakistan recently, the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar were not available. Was it just a coincidence or was there any other reason behind it? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: As announced earlier, the visit took place at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Pakistan who had extended this invitation to the Swiss Councillor for Foreign Affairs at the occasion of the Conference on Resilient Pakistan held in Geneva in January this year. The Swiss Minister was in the region last week and wanted to visit Pakistan on these dates. Since the Prime Minister was available, the visit was finalized. During the visit, he called on the Prime Minister and met with the Minister for Climate Change and with Chairman of NDMA. A Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in disaster management was also signed.

Question: The Afghan Taliban spokesperson, who is also the Information Minister, Zabiullah Mujahid, has rejected the assertions made in an interview by the Pakistan’s Special Representative to Afghanistan saying that the Taliban had been acting against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan who are present on their side of the border. What is Pakistan’s take on the matter? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: On this, we have made our understanding very clear that the responsibility of ensuring that the soil of Afghanistan is not used for terrorism against Pakistan lies with the Afghan authorities. It is their responsibility and they have accepted this responsibility on various occasions, including in the trilateral statement which was issued when the Foreign Minister of China and the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan visited Islamabad in May. They have assured Pakistan that the Afghan soil will not be used for terrorism directed against Pakistan. We expect them to fulfill those promises.

Question: A controversy is here in Pakistan; a political party is being blamed. Israeli has criticized the record of human rights of Pakistan. What has prompted Israel this time, because various government ministers and spokespersons are linking it with a political party here in Pakistan? Especially at a time, when IMF Executive Board was thinking to approve the $3 billion loan for Pakistan. The Israeli lobby has come up against Pakistan. So, the only question is that what prompted Israel as the government claims? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: I do not have any way to guess what prompts another government to undertake a particular position. I can only comment on how Pakistan sees the negative statement made in Geneva. Pakistan believes that Israel’s statement at the UN Human Rights Council during Pakistan’s UPR review process was politically motivated. It was at variance with the otherwise positive tone of the session. We believe that instead of giving unsolicited advice, Israel should reflect on its own human rights record and its suppression of the Palestinian people in occupied Palestinian territories and do course correction.

Question: There are many reports that many former leaders were in contact with Israel and have been visiting Israel, including a former Prime Minister. Please comment on this?  (Ghulam Abbas Jaffer, Daily District News)

Answer: Pakistan does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. According to our record Pakistani Foreign Minister or Pakistani leadership have not visited Israel.

Question:  Is there any travel advisory for the people who travel to Israel? In the past, those who went to Israel did not use a Pakistani passport. They also used airports of third countries instead. Last time some delegations visited Israel. The FIA caught five people and said it was a human trafficking case and some provisions had been imposed on them for misuse of their passports. While people who visited Israel in the past have still not faced retribution. What is Pakistan’s travel advisory on this?  (Syed Faisal Ali Shah, Daily State Views)

Answer:     The advisory of the Government of Pakistan is very clear. It is written in black and white on the Pakistani passport. And, any Pakistani who possesses that passport must respect that advisory because there are laws of Pakistan which prohibit the misuse of Pakistani passport. The recent arrests that you mentioned, were made by FIA and they have given out a statement. In that statement, it has been clarified that these individuals had travelled in violation of Pakistani laws. You can ask for further details from FIA.

Question:  A delegation from 10 countries related to the Buddhist religion is here in Pakistan due to which tourism is being promoted. What does the Foreign Office have to say about its importance? As we have always seen that there are few statements related to travel and tourism from the Foreign Office. What are your remarks on this? (Mohsin Ul Mulk, 24 News)

Answer:     The symposium on Gandhara heritage is an important event and showcases Pakistan’s Buddhist and multicultural heritage. It is Pakistan’s desire to establish and strengthen its links with countries in East Asia and in South Asia. Buddhism is one common connection that has tied all these countries for centuries since the peak of the Gandhara civilization. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has therefore fully supported this event and appreciates the participation of our friends from various faiths, especially from the Buddhist faith, who have come from across the region and attended this event.
Question: Nowshera police have arrested an alleged human trafficker who is wanted by the USA for his network’s role in facilitating the illegal travel of people to America from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Can you comment on this and whether the US has requested Pakistan to extradite Abid Ali Khan? Also, on whether this arrest is linked with these cases registered against him in America where he has been indicted for illegally facilitating people to America. Also, can you confirm whether this is linked to the recent crackdown on the human smugglers related to the recent Greek tragedy, or if it is a separate case at the request of the USA? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: I do not have the details of this case. The Ministry of Interior, FIA, or the local police authorities would be in a better position to brief you on the circumstances of the arrest. What I can share with you is that Pakistan is committed to protecting our people from human smuggling. As we know that there have been several tragedies in the recent past, especially this year where Pakistanis have lost their lives because of unscrupulous individuals who have exploited Pakistanis. The Prime Minister of Pakistan has said that we will not tolerate such actions by human traffickers.

Question: These days Seema Haider is in the spotlight in India. It is being said in India that Seema Haider was sent to Pakistan as a RAW agent from India, and from the Pakistani side it is being said that she travelled to India without a visa. What are your comments on this? (Saqib Ali, Daily Kashmir Times)

Answer: We have seen the news reports and are awaiting details from the Indian authorities.

Question: For the past few days, the Kurrram Agency is under attack. And the locals as well as a few political and religious organizations in Pakistan have made some assertions that missiles from the Afghanistan side have been fired on Pewar and Sadda, 18 missiles in Pewar and one or two in Sadda. And that infiltration from Afghanistan across the border in this area in Pakistan is continuing. So, are we going to raise this issue with Afghan authorities? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer:     First of all, this is a very concerning situation. It is being handled by the local authorities and law enforcement officials. It is a law and order issue and our concerned authorities would be in a better position to share the details. The Government of Pakistan will continue to engage with Afghanistan on all aspects of our cooperation as well as concerns, including issues relating to the terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan.

Question:  My question is regarding the Cricket Team. Is Pakistani Cricket Team going to India or not? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer:     This is of course an important question. It is a question that is of interest to the entire Pakistani nation. As you know, the Prime Minister has established a committee to discuss the circumstances of the participation of the Pakistani cricket team in the World Cup. The Committee will deliberate this question and once we have an outcome we will make an announcement.

Question:  You’ve seen that a few statements have been coming in from different ministers. Yesterday, the Minister for Power Khurram Dastagir, addressed a press conference. Before that, the Adviser on Interior and the Climate Change Minister were alleging something really serious about the former Prime Minister that he’s an Israeli agent. From this podium, is it the state that believes that the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan is an Israeli agent? Would you want to clarify that? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer:     I would not like to respond to a political question. Our reaction on the statement made by the Israeli Permanent Representative in Geneva has been clearly articulated.

Question: Now that there is a clear verdict from the Court of Arbitration, especially on Kishanganga and Ratle reservoirs. If the contracting party, that’s India, does not accept it as a legitimate entity and the Court of Arbitration has to assert that they are the competent authority. What’s the way forward for the resolution of this dispute, especially at a time when there have been tons of floods of water flowing from the Indian side into Pakistan? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: Indus Waters Treaty is a very important treaty that has served both Pakistan and India well. It is a gold standard of bilateral treaties on water sharing. Pakistan is fully committed to its full implementation. And, we hope that India will also remain committed to the Treaty. I would also like to share with you that following the recent extraordinary rainfalls in northern India, and increased water flows into Pakistan especially in the Sutlej River, India has been sharing regular updates and reports on water discharge towards Pakistan, since the 9th of July as expected under the Indus Waters Treaty.

Question: There are reports that the Ukrainian foreign minister will be visiting Pakistan. If yes, when will the visit take place? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)

Answer: You know well, I am not in a position to confirm such news. Once the dates of a visit are firmed up and it is time to announce, we make the announcement.

Question: Recently, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif told the audience that we got a loan from Saudi Arabia due to the vibrant role of COAS Asim Munir. So, it was an independent initiative or the Foreign Office was part of their diplomacy that we got loan from Saudi Arabia? (Abdullah Momin, Dawn)

Answer: I think the Ministry of Finance can better comment on this, because Ministry of Finance has been taking the lead on Pakistan’s financial dealings with IMF as well as friendly countries including Saudi Arabia.

Question: Coming back to Seema Haider’s story, you said earlier in response to a question that you’re waiting for information from India. Seema’s husband, Ghulam Haider has appealed to the Indian Prime Minister to send back his wife and four kids, but has Pakistan formally applied for consular access to Seema Haider to know the exact background of the information? What is Pakistan going to do as her husband is saying that he was legally married and she went to the India illegally and married an Indian national? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: Yes, there are these reports. Pakistan has asked India to authenticate the news and to inform us about her well-being. We have also requested for consular access on immediate basis. We are awaiting an answer from the Indian side.

Question: From different areas of Gilgit-Baltistan people reported that the location they are getting on their phone is that of India. Has India attacked Pakistan’s digital space? Last year, Pakistan’s official Twitter accounts were banned in India. Has Pakistan brought this situation to India’s notice? (Syed Faisal Ali Shah, Daily State Views)

Answer: Actually, on this the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has issued a statement wherein it has said that the Government of Pakistan’s Twitter handle is accessible in Gilgit-Baltistan. I would advise you to seek further details from PTA or the Ministry of Information Technology.

Question: Swiss Foreign Minister visited Pakistan and he was received by the acting Foreign Secretary as our foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was on a visit to America and the Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar was also not available. Why did we downplay such a high-level visit? Swiss Foreign Minister kept meeting Ms. Sherry Rehman and other officials. Usually, these kinds of visits are planned. How do we see this? What were the reasons?   (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Although I’ve answered this question, I can add to what I said earlier. First of all, the visiting dignitary called on the Prime Minister; that is the highest-level meeting that any Foreign Minister can aspire for. The visit took place on the dates when he was in the region and wished to visit Pakistan as well. I must also clarify that in the meeting with Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary Dr. Asad Majeed Khan was present and the Foreign Office was thus adequately represented.

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