Media Briefing|

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

Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Welcome to Weekly Press Briefing at the Foreign Office,

I wish you all and your families a very happy new year.

May this be a year of peace and progress for Pakistan, for our region and for the world.

The year 2020 presented unprecedented challenges at the national, regional and international level.

The foremost challenge faced by the world was the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted every aspect of our lives.

Due to effective policies and timely interventions by the Government, Pakistan did well, particularly during the first wave of the pandemic.

Our handling of the COVID-19, based on the “whole of Government approach”, “smart lockdowns” and the maintenance of “balance between lives and livelihood”, earned Pakistan global recognition.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with other stakeholders, undertook the largest repatriation operation in the history of the country, bringing back stranded Pakistanis from more than 70 countries around the world.

Moving forward, the Government remains engaged with multiple sources of COVID-19 vaccine, for timely procurement of most effective and affordable vaccine.

During 2020, high frequency of leadership level exchanges was witnessed with many important countries, despite the pandemic.

The President of Pakistan and the Foreign Minister were amongst the first foreign dignitaries to visit China as the COVID situation started to improve there.

These visits played an important role in further reinforcing time tested and deep-rooted “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership” between the two countries.

Despite Covid-19, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) entered the new phase of high-quality development.

The two sides will continue to firmly advance CPEC, ensuring timely completion of the projects under construction, and focus on economic and social development.

On the invitation of his Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Malaysia.

The visit contributed to further strengthening of fraternal ties with Malaysia.

The Prime Minister also visited Qatar to meet the Amir of the State of Qatar.

The focus of the visit was on strengthening bilateral cooperation and exchanging views on regional developments.

On the invitation of President Ashraf Ghani, Prime Minister Imran Khan undertook his maiden visit to Afghanistan.

The “Shared Vision” document issued during the visit, laid the foundation for a forward-looking comprehensive bilateral partnership.

We also had some important visits to Pakistan during 2020.

At the highest level, President of Turkey; Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia & Herzegovina; Secretary General of the United Nations; Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) of Afghanistan; President-elect of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly; Speaker of Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga; Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Defence; Foreign Minister of Iran; Commerce Minister of Afghanistan; Minister for Transport of Uzbekistan; President of the Parliament of Djibouti; and President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) visited Pakistan.

These visits are reflective of our active engagement with the global community.

During 2020, Pakistan also pursued a robust diplomatic engagement at the regional and international fora.

Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly.

He effectively shared Pakistan’s perspective on all major regional and international issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic; debt relief initiative for developing countries; Jammu and Kashmir dispute; treatment of minorities in India; Palestine issue; Afghan Peace Process; Illicit financial flows; climate change; Islamophobia; and the UN reform.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

He shared Pakistan’s vision and achievements in the areas of economy, peace & stability, and trade & investment.

The Prime Minister also participated in the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organization – Council of the Heads of State (SCO-CHS).

He reaffirmed Pakistan’s abiding commitment to the principles and objectives of the SCO.

Let me also share with you some of the globally recognized initiatives of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was among the first world leaders to draw attention to the link between unsustainable debt and Covid-19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister launched his “Global Initiative for Debt Relief” for the developing countries.

The idea has resonated globally.

A Practical manifestation is the IMF emergency package, the debt relief by G-20 and relief by the IMF and the World Bank.

Prime Minister Imran khan remained the most vocal advocate of the need for combating and confronting the rising tide of Islamophobia.

At the Prime Minister’s initiative, it has been proposed to declare 15 March as annual International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

Pakistan also remained at the forefront of global campaign against climate change.

The Prime Minister was amongst the top 10 global leaders, chosen to showcase climate action at the high-level Climate Ambition Summit 2020, held on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Consistent with the Prime Minister’s vision, Pakistan spearheaded efforts to counter illicit financial flows at the international level.

Despite Covid-19 pandemic, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi remained engaged with his counterparts and interlocutors around the world.

The Foreign Minister visited Iran, Saudi Arabia, US and Qatar as part of our efforts to diffuse tensions and promote peace in the Middle East.

The Foreign Minister held virtual meetings and telephone conversations with his counterparts from more than 50 countries.

The Foreign Minister also met with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the State Minister of the UAE on the sidelines of 47th Session of OIC-CFM in Niamey Niger.

The Foreign Minister also called on the President of Niger.

During these meetings, important matters pertaining to bilateral relationship and regional cooperation came under discussion.

As part of our strategic engagement with the European Union, the 5th round of the EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue was held between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell.

The two sides discussed the growing momentum of the Pakistan-EU relations and agreed to make efforts towards its comprehensive implementation in all areas of cooperation.

The Foreign Minister recently undertook a successful visit to the UAE.

During his meetings with the UAE leadership, they discussed whole range of issues including trade and investment and the welfare of Pakistani Diaspora in the UAE.

Let me also share with you some of the key initiatives of the Foreign Minister to meet the contemporary challenges and to further modernize and enhance efficacy of Pakistan’s diplomatic apparatus in the fields of digital, public and economic diplomacy.

Advancing Pakistan’s economic interests through economic diplomacy remained a high priority of the Foreign Office. The Foreign Minister hosted Envoys Conferences focusing exclusively on Economic Diplomacy.

Together with the Ministry of Commerce, Foreign Minister launched the Engage Africa Initiative aimed at deepening economic and commercial engagement with the African Continent.

As part of our “Engage Africa initiative”, the Foreign Minister co-led Pakistan delegation to the first ever Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference in Kenya, inaugurated by the Kenyan President.

The Foreign Minister also held interactive sessions with the members of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and Business community.

The Foreign Minister established a dedicated Public Diplomacy Consultative Group to bring focused attention to the key area of public policy.

He also set up Digital Diplomacy Group to augment our outreach in the digital domain.

An Annual Foreign Minister’s Honours List was launched to recognize the contribution and achievements of overseas Pakistanis.

In the wake of COVID-19, a permanent Crisis Management Unit (CMU) has been established at the Foreign Office, under the supervision of the Foreign Minister.

In the two yearly review of the Prime Minister’s ‘Pakistan Citizen Portal’, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stood out as the most responsive towards complaints registered on the portal.

Public satisfaction of this Ministry’s performance is a matter of immense pride for the Foreign Office family.

Some of the other key diplomatic successes for Pakistan during 2020 were:

Pakistan’s re-election to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), with an overwhelming majority.

Pakistan’s election as the President of the UN Economic and Social Council.

Pakistan’s election to the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Hosting of an International Conference to mark ‘40 years of Afghan Refugees’ Presence in Pakistan.

Unanimous adoption of the Pakistan sponsored resolution, “Universal Realization of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination” by the UN General Assembly.

Decision at the 47th Session of the CFM in Niamey, that Pakistan will host the 48th Session of CFM in 2021.

Pakistan continued its full support to the ongoing Afghan Peace Process during 2020.

Pakistan played an important role in facilitating (a) the U.S. Taliban Peace Agreement signed in February 2020; (b) the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations on 12 September 2020; and (c) the agreement on Rules and Procedures between the Afghan parties in Doha in December 2020.

Pakistan is the only country that has consistently maintained that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that dialogue and a political settlement was the only way forward for lasting peace and stability.

It is gratifying that the world has come around to this view and sees political settlement as the only way forward.

Since 5th August 2019, Pakistan has forcefully raised issue of Jammu and Kashmir dispute at all levels.

We have effectively highlighted the legal, human rights, and peace and security dimensions of the dispute.

Owing to Pakistan’s efforts, the United Nations Security Council has discussed the Jammu & Kashmir dispute three times since 5th August 2019.

The UN Secretary General, during his visit to Pakistan, expressed “deep concern” over the disputed region of Jammu & Kashmir and called for India to respect “human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

During his visit to Pakistan, the OIC Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Jammu and Kashmir, emphasized that Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine remained the top most items of the OIC agenda.

On Pakistan’s call, three meetings of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu & Kashmir were held since 5th August 2019.

World leaders, parliamentarians, international human rights organizations as well as the media have been unanimous in their condemnation of India’s illegal and inhuman actions in IIOJK.

In a major diplomatic success for our Kashmir diplomacy, the OIC reaffirmed its unequivocal support on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute during the 47th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) held in Niamey, Niger.

The “Niamey Declaration” explicitly reiterated the OIC’s principled position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute for a “peaceful settlement in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

The CFM resolution on Jammu and Kashmir condemned in the strongest possible terms human rights violations being perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces in IIOJK.

The Resolution urged the international community to review their engagement with India.

To expose India as a state sponsor of terrorism, we released a Dossier, providing irrefutable evidence of India’s active planning, promoting, aiding, abetting, financing and executing terrorist activities in Pakistan.

The Publication of the recent report by EU DisinfoLab about India’s global disinformation campaign against Pakistan has further corroborated Pakistan’s position about Indian evil designs against Pakistan.

As for the situation in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) during 2020, the Indian brutalization and oppression of innocent Kashmiris continued unabated throughout the year.

The military siege, communications blockade, media blackout, incarceration of Kashmiri leadership, and every possible violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people continue for 515 days since Indian’s illegal and inhuman actions of 5th August 2019.

In their brazen acts of state terrorism, the Indian occupation forces martyred more than 300 innocent Kashmiris, including women and children, in “fake encounters” and staged “cordon-and-search” operations.

During the same period, 750 Kashmiris were critically injured, while 2,770 innocent Kashmiris were arbitrarily detained and 922 houses destroyed as part of collective punishment inflicted on the Kashmiri communities.

In pursuit of its agenda to convert the Muslim majority of IIOJK into a minority, the Indian government has issued more than 2 million fake domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris under the so called “Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules, 2020”.

Pakistan reiterates its call for a UN Commission of Inquiry, as recommended by the OHCHR in its two reports in 2018 and 2019.

The Commission should thoroughly investigate the Indian crimes against the Kashmiri people during the past three decades.

I wish to also reiterate Pakistan’s deep concern over the health condition and continued incarceration of Kashmiri leadership, including founding leader of Kashmiri organization “Dukhtaran-i-Millat” and the “Iron Lady of Kashmir”, Ms. Asiya Andrabi; leader and founder of the Jammu & Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party, Mr. Shabbir Ahmed Shah; and prominent leaders such as Mr. Yasin Malik; MasaratAlam Bhat; Mohammad Ashraf Sehraie, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Pakistan has approached the UN Secretary General and the UN Human Rights Commissioner, particularly highlighting the inhuman and illegal treatment of Ms. Andrabi.

To divert attention from its internal failings and the situation in IIOOJK, India continued to escalate tensions along the Line of Control (LOC).

During 2020 alone, Indian occupation troops made 3,097 ceasefire violations, deliberately targeting the civilian populated areas.

In these unprovoked Indian violations, 28 innocent civilians embraced shahadat, while 257 sustained serious injuries.

In the end, let me once again remind the Indian Government that despite all its illegal and inhuman actions, India has failed and will continue to fail in breaking the will of the Kashmiri people.

The brutalization of innocent Kashmiris at the hands of Indian occupation troops, will only further strengthen their resolve for freedom from illegal Indian occupation.

I wish to reassure our Kashmiri brothers and sisters that they are not alone in their rightful struggle.

Pakistan will continue to stand with them till the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination.

With this, I thank you and am happy to take any questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.

Question: We have seen that even after the downgrading of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and India since Indian illegal actions of 5th August 2019, the exchange of nuclear installations and facilities list between the two countries is taking place. What other bilateral engagements are there between Pakistan and India? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: The decision to downgrade the diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Indian was taken in response to India’s inhuman, illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019 and the brutalization of Kashmiris. Since the issue of prisoners is a humanitarian issue, we feel that it should be resolved on humanitarian grounds through the existing mechanisms.

Additionally, the list of nuclear installations and facilities between Pakistan and India also takes place regularly in accordance with the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between the two countries in the interest of peace and security.

These lists are exchanged regularly. Accordingly, both these lists were officially exchanged today, simultaneously in Islamabad and New Delhi.

Question: Has there been any response to the Dossier shared by Pakistan regarding India’s subversive activities in Pakistan that were shared with P5 countries? (Khalid Azeem, Samaa TV)

Answer: As you are aware, Pakistan has released a comprehensive Dossier, providing irrefutable evidence on India’s state sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan. We have shared this Dossier with the international community including the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, United Nations Secretary General, and President of the UNSC. The findings and contents of the Dossier have left no doubt about Indian sponsorship of terrorism. The contents of the Dossier have been taken seriously and are being examined by various parties with whom we have shared it.

Furthermore, due to the report by EU DisinfoLab on India’s disinformation network, India’s credibility in the international community has been severely damaged. For far too long, India has masqueraded itself as victim of terrorism. It is time that world saw the reality of India as a state sponsor of terrorism and a purveyor of anti- Pakistan propaganda globally.

Question: On this occasion of New Year, what message does Pakistan want to convey to the International community, particularly India, regarding Kashmir, Palestine and other foreign policy matters? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: Pakistan’s message is clear and consistent. We want peace and desire cordial relations with all our neighbours. Pakistan believes that India’s irresponsible actions and belligerent statements are imperilling regional peace and security. It is India that has vitiated the atmosphere with its illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019 in IIOJK and with continuous belligerent rhetoric. Pakistan has repeatedly been saying that the onus is on India to create an enabling environment by rescinding its illegal and unilateral actions, ending its state-terrorism against the Kashmiri people, and agreeing to resolve the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the people of Kashmir

Question: Regarding the kidnapping of merchant belonging to Gilgit Baltistan, Mr. Ali Safdar Shah, who was kidnapped from D.I. Khan, his relatives are receiving calls for ransom from Afghanistan. What will the Foreign Office do in this situation?

Secondly, you mentioned the exchange of lists of prisoner and nuclear installation between Pakistan and India. However, we have seen that both India and Pakistan have shown indifference toward the issue of divided families across the LoC. Does Pakistan have any suggestions regarding the divided families across the line of control? (Fida Hussain, Radio News Network)

Answer: Regarding your first question, I will get the required information and revert.

On your second question, Pakistan is fully cognizant of the problem of the divided families across the LoC. For Pakistan the struggle and rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are of utmost importance. As for facilitating the divided families around the LoC, for any mechanism to be workable it is important that India creates enabling environment.

Question: Earlier this week, the Pakistani High Commission in London got into a controversy which involved a Washington-based firm and National Accountability Bureau. The UK High Court has ordered a debit of 28.7 Million $ from the accounts of the Pakistani High Commission and failure of which can lead to seizure of the accounts of Pakistani High Commission in London, What is Pakistan’s position on that?

Secondly, on the conclusion of Prime Minister’s Imran Khan visit to Saudi Arabia on the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince, on 23rd October, 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement and I quote “It was also agreed that a one-year deferred payment facility for import of oil, up to USD 3 Billion, will be provided by Saudi Arabia. This arrangement will be in place for three years, which will be reviewed thereafter. ” As per reports and the statements by Foreign Minster himself, there are issues regarding the deferred oil payment. Does that signal the deterioration of relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: For your first question, I would like to refer you to the office of the Attorney General.

For your second question, we firmly reject any insinuations regarding deterioration in Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations as baseless and misleading. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong fraternal ties and the two countries have always cooperated with each other on all matters of bilateral, regional and international importance. Pakistan greatly values its relations with Saudi Arabia.

As for details of deferred payment facility for import of oil, I would refer you to the Ministry of Finance.

Question: As you mentioned that in the two year review of Prime Minister’s ‘Pakistan Citizen Portal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stood out as the most responsive towards complaints registered on the portal. Would you please share the nature of complaints received the most? And how many of them were addressed? (Hassan Riaz, JNN)

Answer: Most of the complaints were from Pakistani Diaspora regarding consular services and other assistance required abroad. Our Missions abroad have been very responsive to the public service delivery. The largest repatriation operation in the history of the country from more than 70 countries around the world is a manifestation of our Missions’ efforts during the testing time of Covid-19. However, there is always room for improvement and Foreign Office along with all our Missions abroad will continue to endeavour to improve the public service delivery. In line with the Prime Minister’s vision, every possible effort would be made to facilitate the Pakistani diaspora.

Question: Today, Pakistan has handed over the list of prisoners including that of civilian and fishermen to the Indian side. Would you please let us know in which category Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav has been placed in?

Secondly, reportedly a trans-Afghan railway line project is being pursued by Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan. Has Pakistan approached any international donors for financing the project? Have we also approached China to make it part of its BRI? (Muhammad Asad, Frontier Post)

Answer: Commander Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav is neither a fisherman nor a civilian. He was a serving Indian naval officer, when apprehended from Balochistan, Pakistan. He is a spy responsible for multiple deaths and terrorist acts in Pakistan.

Regarding the second question, the project is not a part of the CPEC. Pakistan is committed to regional connectivity and integration as it believes that the future of the region lies in greater connectivity and enhanced regional trade. We consider it important to enhance regional connectivity, trade and people-to-people contacts for increased prosperity and progress of the region.

Question: Is there any progress regarding the investigation being carried out by the United Nations on the attack of UNMOGIP vehicle and Observers by the Indian forces? Has the Observer Group completed its investigation and shared its report?

Secondly, how you see the resolution of Afghan conflict in 2021? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: Let me answer your second question first. Pakistan has continued to emphasize that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and political settlement is the only way forward. It is gratifying that the world has come around to this view and sees political settlement as the only way forward.

Towards this end, Pakistan has been engaged in serious efforts to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process. During 2020, our long-held position was vindicated and Pakistan’s serious efforts facilitated important breakthroughs in the peace process, including: (a) U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement of 29 February; (b) commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations on 12 September; and (c) agreement among Afghan parties on the Rules and Procedures on 2 December 2020.

Pakistan desires and continues to support a peaceful, stable, united, independent, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan. It is important that Afghans seize this historic opportunity for reaching an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement to bring an end to the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan.

As for your question regarding the targeting of UMOGIP vehicle, the investigation is ongoing. I will be happy update you on further progress in due course.

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