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


Thank you for joining us.

I will begin with Prime Minister’s ongoing visit to Azerbaijan. Prime Minister arrived in Baku yesterday on a two-day visit. This morning he will meet President Ilham Aliyev. The two sides will exchange views on diverse areas of bilateral cooperation including in energy, culture, banking, education, defence, information technology, science and technology, trade and investment, labour mobility, agriculture and transport connectivity. Regional and global issues of mutual concern and cooperation in multilateral forums will also be discussed. The two sides are expected to sign a programme of cultural cooperation and an MOU of cooperation between the foreign service academies of Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, has just concluded an official visit to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Belgium. During her visit, she met high-level officials including: Foreign Minister, Anniken Huitfeldt and State Secretary, Erling Rimestad of Norway; Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell; Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy of Denmark, Dan Jørgensen; State Secretary to Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Johanna Sumuvuori; and Belgian Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum Nicole de Moor.

The Minister of State has held meetings with local leaders and parliamentarians in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Belgium including: members of the Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defence of Norway; the Chair of the Pakistan Belgium Parliamentary Friendship Group, Senator Allesia Cleas; and First Deputy Speaker of Swedish Parliament, Kenneth G Forslund.

The Minister of State has held extensive meetings with officials of the European Union including the High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, and European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson. In Strasbourg, she met with the Members of the European Parliament. In these meetings, the two sides discussed Pakistan-EU cooperation in diverse areas including food security, climate change, energy, sustainable development, green economy, agriculture and digital connectivity.

Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy of Denmark, Mr. Dan Jørgensen has arrived in Pakistan on a two-day official visit. This afternoon, he will meet with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. They will discuss bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Denmark in political, trade, economic, investment, agriculture, information technology and energy domains with key focus in the areas of climate change and green transition. They will also exchange the Joint Action Plan on the Green Framework Engagement Agreement, signed in August last year. The Joint Action Plan would pave the way for joint initiatives and projects in renewable energy and green transition driven by technological advancement and collaborative partnerships. It will also contribute towards the realization of Sustainable Development Goals and thus set the foundation for a sustainable future.

We are concerned about the recurring acts of confiscation of properties of Kashmiri activists and human rights defenders in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). India’s National Investigation Agency and the State Investigation Agency (SIA) have moved aggressively to seize immovable properties of several Kashmiri activists. It is concerning that just SIA has attached 124 such properties since its establishment in 2021.

We condemn India’s recent move to confiscate the property of All Parties Hurriyat Conference Spokesperson and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat leader, Ayaz Akbar, in Srinagar. Mr. Akbar remains behind the bars since 2017 on fictitious charges. India must end dispossessing the political leaders and human rights defenders of their rightful properties. Kashmiris are the rightful heirs to their own land. It is unfortunate that non-Kashmiris are being encouraged to buy land and property in the disputed territory while the properties of Kashmiris are being confiscated and destroyed.

Now couple of announcements.

The 12th round of Pakistan -Iran Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) will be held in Tehran on 17-18 June 2023. The Foreign Secretary will lead Pakistani delegation while Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs of Iran, Mr. Ali Bagheri Kani will lead the Iranian side.

While reviewing the progress on implementation of decisions of last session, the BPC will review all aspects of Pakistan-Iran bilateral relations covering political, economic, trade, investment, border security, education, climate change and culture domains. The two sides will also hold discussions on regional situation particularly Afghanistan, Kashmir, resumption of Iran-Saudi Arabia diplomatic ties and regional peace and stability. The two sides will also discuss progress on institutional frameworks to promote ongoing cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.

In Tehran, Foreign Secretary will call on the Iranian Foreign Minister and address the Institute of Political and International Studies. He would also hold meeting with Secretary General of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and Chairman of Pakistan -Iran Parliamentary Friendship Group. The last meeting of BPC was held in Islamabad in October 2021.

The second round of Pakistan-Belgium Bilateral Political Consultations is being held in Islamabad today. Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe) Ambassador Muhammad Saleem will lead the Pakistan side while the Belgium delegation will be led by Ambassador Cooreman, Director General, Bilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgium.

The two sides will review the entire spectrum of Pakistan-Belgium relations and set the agenda for bilateral engagement and cooperation for the next year. The two sides will discuss collaboration at international forums, including at the UN, and important regional and global developments. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Belgium.

Pakistan remains committed to further deepening and broadening its ties with Belgium in the areas of trade, investment, academic and cultural cooperation, tourism and labor mobility.

I thank you.

Question:​ There are reports in Afghan media that Afghan government is ready to shift TTP in the northern part of Afghanistan. Have they communicated this to Pakistan and what are the details if you may share?​(Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer: ​I would not like to go into specifics on this particular issue. We are engaged with the Afghan Interim Government on the serious concerns that Pakistan has about the menace of terrorism. Our regular engagement is an ongoing process. All aspects of countering this menace remain under discussion between the two sides. Besides it is not appropriate for us to make comments on any such media statements. We look forward to working closely with Afghan side to counter the terrorist threat.

Question: ​​My question is regarding the recent Pakistan European Union Readmission Agreement in which the two sides agreed to explore further avenues for collaboration in disaster management and capacity building, what will be its outcome? Will it prove fruitful in sustaining a long-term partnership in terms of countering catastrophes related to climate change? (Naimal Khawaja, Media Today)

Answer: ​I think there are two three aspects of Pakistan European Union cooperation that you have referred to in your question. Pakistan and the European Union have a robust dialogue of cooperation, it is multifaceted and it includes climate change, food security, green technology and sustainable development, and it also includes labor mobility. We are engaged with the European Union to ensure that there are legal pathways for migration and the two sides have developed certain mechanisms under this framework. For further details about these mechanisms, you may contact the Ministry of Interior.

Question: ​Firstly, with regards to the cyclone that is off the coast of Karachi in Pakistan. Was there any coordination between Pakistan and India with regards to data sharing for this cyclone?

Secondly, yesterday the Afghan interim Defence Minister in a statement to Tolo News, their local network, has alleged in an apparent mention with reference to Pakistan that Afghanistan continues to be invaded by the Americans and its neighbors and I want the Americans and our neighbors to back off from our soil. What is your response on that?

Thirdly, the US State Department Spokesperson has raised concerns regarding functioning of the military courts, hoping that the rule of law and constitutionalism will be upheld. What is your take on the matter?​(Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer:​ I would like to reiterate what we have said in the past, that Pakistan is a country of laws and constitution. We remain committed to our constitutional obligations, to protect the rights and property of our citizens, who enjoy constitutional guarantees and fundamental freedoms, which are underwritten by our judiciary. We are also a country of laws and the rule of law must be upheld. Any actions of the Government of Pakistan with regards to the events of May 9 will be in accordance with our laws and constitution.

Regarding the statement by the Afghan Interim Defense Minister, I have not seen the statement and I would hesitate to comment on it before seeing that statement.

On your first question, I would point out that this is a matter on which NDMA is taking the lead and as far as I understand, there have been no contacts with the Indian authorities. You can seek a confirmation from the NDMA.

Question: ​​My first question is that many cases have been registered against Pakistani people who are living abroad and they are continuously writing or speaking against the government or some of the institutions of Pakistan. Regarding the statement made by the Spokesman of the State Department, I draw your attention that he was referring to the protests of May 9. While the Government of Pakistan and our institutions are seeing these events as attacks on military institution; while protest is a right, attack on military institution is a mutiny. Why is there a large cleavage between the world perception and pronouncement by the Government of Pakistan? Whether we are not able to convey our exact context that what has happened on May 9?

Second question is that the State Minister is there in Europe and visited Sweden, Norway, Belgium and other countries. What is the single most important agenda or focus that she is carrying with her? Is it GSP plus and that we want to get it revived or is it something else?​(Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer:​ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs is undertaking this visit to Europe to hold consultations on a range of matters, including the areas that I referred to in my opening statement. And, yes, GSP plus is also part of the agenda of her conversations with the European counterparts.

On your first question, I would reiterate what I have said before, that Pakistan will continue to follow its laws and constitution in holding those responsible for May 9 events to account. In this process, the rule of law, Pakistani laws and the Constitution will be upheld.

Question:​ There was an incident of boat wreck off the coast of Greece in which Pakistanis were also present. Can you share details that till now how many Pakistanis have died in that incident?

Secondly, during operation Zarb-e-Azab in North Waziristan, some people who were living near border shifted to Afghanistan. Now, they are facing lot of difficulties. What efforts are being done by Pakistan to bring them back? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: ​I have to get further details on this particular issue. But I can share with you that all issues that concern Pakistanis in Afghanistan have always remained a high priority for the Government of Pakistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Mission in Kabul. I have to inquire about the details of this particular case.

On your first question about the boat wreck off the coast of Greece, we have seen the reports. Initial reports from our Mission suggest that no Pakistani casualties have been reported. We continue to follow the developments in this case, and will keep the media updated.

Question: I want to know the exact amount which NAB has to pay to Foreign Office regarding the Broadsheet Case? What is the update on this matter? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: ​According to our accounts nothing is outstanding against NAB as far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is concerned. There were some financial transactions that took place between the two departments in the past. At this stage, nothing is outstanding against NAB in financial terms.

Question:​​ Firstly, US Treasury Secretary Yellen has said that United States of America fully supports IMF regarding latest installment for Pakistan. Being Spokesperson of Foreign Office, what do you think are the obstacles that are behind this delay in release of installment to Pakistan by IMF?

Secondly, regarding a Pakistani social activist Major retired Adil Raja, unofficial sources said that he was arrested in UK. Was any sort of request officially sent by Pakistan to London police or some other institution to arrest him? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer:​ On your second question, it would be more appropriate if the details are sought from the UK authorities. If you have further questions with respect to the second part of this question, you can approach the Ministry of Interior that deals with issues pertaining to extradition and law enforcement.

On your first question regarding IMF, I like the way you framed it by putting spokesperson in that question, although you know exactly what my answer would be. Because this is a matter that relates to the Ministry of Finance and the Minister of Finance is taking the lead on these negotiations with IMF. You may contact the Ministry of Finance for further details or comments on the statements by the US Treasury.

Question:​ On the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Russia, the first oil consignment from Russia reached Pakistan. How does Pakistan view this development?

Secondly, there are reports that Pakistan has paid for this oil in Chinese currency. What are your comments on this?​(Syed Faisal Ali, Daily State Views)

Supplementary Question: ​It has also been reported that for this consignment different route was used passing through India and UAE. Can you share whether it beneficial for Pakistan or not? ​(Sohail Majeed, The Asian Telegraph)

Answer:​ First of all, for Pakistan, access to affordable oil imports has been a priority as the country faces a difficult economic situation, energy shortages and high cost of energy due to dependence on imported petroleum. Our process of procuring petroleum from Russia started a while back. After intense negotiations we were able to finalize a deal as a result of which the first shipments have arrived from Russia. This will have high benefits for the Pakistani people. The Ministry of Petroleum has taken a lead in this process. It would, therefore, be more appropriate you contact the Ministry of Petroleum for further details.

Question:​ From the recent visit of Foreign Minister Bilawal to Iraq there were some reports that a Ferry service will be started between Pakistan and Iraq from Gwadar. Secondly, a Pakistani consulate is also going to be opened in Najaf. What are other important things that were agreed during this visit and which will be beneficial for Pakistanis? (Mohsin Ul  Mulk, 24 News)

Answer: ​Foreign Minister had a historic visit to Iraq, where in depth discussion were held on bilateral cooperation in diverse fields. Yes, as I announced in our last briefing, the Government of Iraq has agreed for Pakistan to open a consulate in Najaf for facilitating trade and for facilitating Pakistani Zaireen, who visit there. For ferry service, discussions are underway, and we will make announcements when we have a final outcome.

Question: ​Is Prime Minister going to visit France in coming days and if yes what is the agenda? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer:​ You know my response. We will be making announcements shortly about Prime Minister’s future engagements.

Question:​ Our Prime Minister and Finance Minister have already said that Pakistan has fulfilled all requirements for the revival of IMF deal. Now, the hurdles are at diplomatic and political front, and more importantly, there is no support from influential countries like U.S. for Pakistan and Foreign Office is responsible for getting such support. What is your opinion on this? (Ghulam Abbas Jaffer, Daily District News)

Answer:​ My response is the same that the IMF negotiations are being handled by the Ministry of Finance and I would not like to comment on this question.

Question:​ The Minister of State has just concluded her visit to mostly Nordic countries. She was in Sweden as well and we understand that Sweden has closed its Embassy or consular section precisely since early February this year. A lot of Pakistani students and Pakistani nationals have been facing this hurdle. The last time when we spoke, you said from this podium that the matter will be raised. Was the matter raised in her bilateral interactions, if yes what was the response? Should we expect the consular section to be opened anytime soon? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: ​As you know, the visit has just concluded yesterday and I do not have a complete readout of all the meetings that took place. Once we have that, will be able to make a comment.

Question: ​Can you please share if there is any discussion going on between Pakistan and Russia regarding opening of Russian Consulate in Pakistan? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: ​I do not have any information on this.

Thank you.

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