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

Assalam-o-Alaikum, and welcome to our Briefing.

Let me begin by Prime Minister’s official visit to Turkey.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif undertook his first official visit to Turkey from 31 May to 2 June. The visit depicts the importance attached to our strong bilateral ties with Turkey, rooted in shared history, and manifest in cultural affinity, people-to-people linkages and steadfast support on all issues.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, members of cabinet, SAPMs and senior officials.

During the visit, the Prime Minister had tête-à-tête with President Erdoğan, followed by delegation-level talks. Besides the entire gamut of bilateral relations, the two leaders exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.

During the visit, 6 MOUs were signed between the two countries in the following areas:

1. Public Debt Management,
2. Cooperation between credit guarantee institutions for SME financing,
3. Housing,
4. Public private partnership models especially in transportation and health,
5. Knowledge Sharing in economic and social policy planning, and
6. Technical cooperation in highway engineering.

A Joint Ministerial Statement on Developing Bilateral Trade and Economic Relations was also signed on the occasion, in which the two sides resolved to achieve 5 billion dollars bilateral trade volume in three years.

The Turkish Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Health also called on the Prime Minister.

A Pakistani business delegation comprising representatives of leading companies travelled separately to Turkey for business engagements. Along with this delegation, the Prime Minister had extensive interaction with leading Turkish businessmen and potential investors from diverse sectors.

On 31 May, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was hosted over dinner by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara. The two Foreign Ministers had a comprehensive exchange of views on a range of subjects including ongoing cooperation in various fields.

During the visit, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Turkish President also unveiled a joint logo marking the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

As we speak, the Prime Minister is in Gwadar for the inauguration of East-Bay Expressway – yet another milestone in the context of Pak-China friendship and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. It is the only expressway connecting Gwadar and the N-10 Makran Costal Highway. It also organically connects the South and North Free Zones of Gwadar Port and provides necessary land transportation support for the distribution, import and export of the goods in Gwadar.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 27 May, H.E. Mr. Mitsuhiro Wada, Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan, called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at the Prime Minister’s Office. Views were exchanged on further strengthening the bilateral relationship. The Prime Minister extended a cordial invitation to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to visit Pakistan.

On 30 May, Prime Minister Sharif had a telephone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Prime Minister Johnson renewed felicitations to Prime Minister Sharif on his assumption of office, and underlined UK’s desire to further enhance the bilateral relationship with Pakistan. Prime Minister Sharif extended felicitations to UK on platinum jubilee celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen’s coronation.

During the week, the Uzbek, Qatari and Turkmen Ambassadors called on Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar. The Minister of State also received a telephone call from Lord Tariq, UK MOS for Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Affairs. They discussed a range of bilateral & regional issues of interest.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 118th meeting of the Pakistan-India Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was held in New Delhi from 30-31 May 2022. A wide range of water-related issues between Pakistan and India were discussed which included the advance sharing of flood information, the program of tours/inspections and signing of the report of the Permanent Indus Commission for the year ending March 31, 2022. Pakistan also highlighted its objections on India’s hydroelectric projects on the Western rivers. Both sides reiterated their commitment to implement the Indus Waters Treaty in its true spirit and expressed the hope that the next meeting of the Commission would be held at an early date in Pakistan.

Yesterday, Pakistan dispatched 2nd tranche of 15 tons of humanitarian assistance for the people of Ukraine, comprising medicines, blankets and ration, by two special C130 flights. MOS Khar handed over the items to the Ukrainian Ambassador at the airport.

Ladies and Gentlemen

28 May 2022 marked the twenty-fourth anniversary of Pakistan’s nuclear tests conducted in 1998 in response to testing of nuclear weapons by India. The tests not only demonstrated the resolve of the Pakistani nation to safeguard Pakistan’s territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty, but also the desire to preserve strategic balance in South Asia.

On 29 May, Pakistan joined the international community in celebrating the “International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers”. As one of the top troop-contributing countries, Pakistan deeply values the vital role played by “blue helmets” in maintaining international peace and security in many conflict-ridden areas around the world. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in a message also paid tribute to the contributions, professionalism and sacrifices of the Pakistani peacekeepers serving under the UN umbrella. Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a ‘Twitter Space’ to highlight Pakistan’s role and contribution to UN peacekeeping since 1960.

In a public diplomacy exercise, the Ministry and the British High Commission jointly participated in a symbolic beacon lighting event to celebrate Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in a ceremony on June 2.

Coming over to the Situation in IIOJK

Pakistan strongly condemns extra-judicial killing of ten more Kashmiri youth in staged “cordon-and-search” operation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) during the past week.

Indian Occupation Forces have stepped up extra-judicial killings of Kashmiris, particularly targeting Kashmiri youth, following the malafide conviction and sentencing of Hurriyat leader Mr. Yasin Malik in a grossly suspicious and contrived case.

Pakistan reiterates its call on the international community to hold India accountable for its gross and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in IIOJK.

Pakistan also urges the international community to play its role in facilitating a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people, for durable peace and stability in South Asia.

Let me also update you that the Foreign Minister has addressed a letter to UN Secretary General on the worsening situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, particularly highlighting the case of Mr. Yasin Malik.

I thank you and am ready take questions.

Question: Since coming into office the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have under taken a number of visits to friendly countries. During the recent visit to Turkey the Prime Minister held meeting with the President Erdogan and number of MOUs signed. What is the outcome of these visits? Have any of these countries assured Pakistan of economic assistance given our economic difficulties?

Recently there has been surge in terrorist activities against Pakistan Arm Forces. A number of check posts have been targeted by terrorists from across the border. Does Pakistan think that there is any involvement of foreign agencies in these attacks? (Khawja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I think we need to have the correct perspective about the official foreign visits of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.

I would not tend to see the purpose of these visits in any sense to go out and seek assistance. The purpose of these visits is always broader, it is strategic, it is about reaching out to our friends in the international community specially our close partners, to exchange views with them on a host of issues including bilateral issues, regional issues, and of course in the context of economic cooperation – trade and investment are in particular focus. Now, if you have a look at the visits that have been undertaken, there are substantive takeaways and outcomes from those visits – Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, the visit of the Foreign Minister to New York and Davos, and the most recent visit of the Prime Minister to Turkey. I think you will agree that in all these visits, substantive discussions and engagements have taken place that have enabled Pakistan to reach out to its close friends to exchange views, to develop and strengthen commonalities on many issues, and to take our bilateral cooperation forward including on the economic side.

On your second question, I believe in recent days, there is a downturn in this. But yes, you are right, in past weeks, there have been these incidents, and we have expressed our serious concerns about them. We believe that it is in the interest of the neighboring countries to have peaceful and stable borders. Counter-terrorism is also a shared responsibility and as far as the threat of terrorism and cross-border attacks are concerned, it is very clear, quite evident that Pakistan has consistently raised this issue and has conveyed our concerns to the Afghan interim authorities. We believe that they take it seriously and are taking steps to address these concerns. This, as I said, is in the mutual interest of both countries.

Question: According to media reports there are ongoing back door diplomacy/ back channel talks between Pakistan and India. Can you verify the news? If yes at what level these talks are being held and what is the expected outcome? (Muhammad Zulqernain Haider, ARY)

Answer: On this, I do not have anything to share with you.

Question: There are ongoing talks between a Pakistani delegation and TTP. The Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced an “indefinite ceasefire” in view of the “substantial progress” made in talks with the government during a round of meetings in Kabul. Reportedly TTP only agreed to further negotiate if we agreed to undo the incorporation of FATA into KP; withdraw Pak Army from FATA and to TTP forces in FATA remaining armed and other like terms. How would you comment on this? What is the composition of the Pakistani delegation? (Naveed Iqbal Siddique, Dawn TV)

Answer: While it is not for me to share details, but you are aware there is a process which is there, whose objective is peace, and we hope that it leads to an outcome that ends violence by these groups. We hope that any progress that takes place would lead to fulfillment of that objective.

Question: A Tribal delegation is visiting Kabul to hold talks with TTP. On whose instruction this delegation is visiting Kabul?

There is a trend “NO MORE TALIBAN” being run on social media by the FATA people. The people of FATA are concerned and worried, they think the control of FATA is again being handed over to Taliban. What is your message to the people of FATA? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: I think I just gave my message and it is a broader message, very straightforward message that we are taking steps and we will continue to take steps, this also includes engagement with the Afghan interim authorities and others and the objective, basically, is to have peace and stability. That is the key objective and any steps are to be in accordance with that, and under the ambit of Pakistan’s law and Constitution.

Question: There is a delegation led by Indian Joint Secretary JP Singh visiting Kabul and reports are there that Indians are going to open their Embassy in Afghanistan. What is your point of view?

Secondly, the delegation that visited Israel included a Pakistani Jew named Fishal Benkhald. Reports are there that he was issued a special passport without inscription that “the passport is not valid for Israel”. How do you see these reports and ID documents? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: On your second question, I don’t have that information or details and as it relates to some passport, I would refer you to the Ministry of Interior it being their domain. You would have also seen our press release on the subject visit.

On the first question, what I can say is that our views about India’s role in Afghanistan historically are well known, and I need not repeat that here. In recent past you have seen that, especially in the context of the humanitarian needs in Afghanistan, Pakistan has allowed as a special gesture, the transportation of Indian wheat on the request of the Afghan interim authorities. I think what we desire and aspire for is a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. And we would not like to see anyone playing a role that is negative in any sense, or the role of a spoiler, in this overall context.

Question: After the conviction of Yasin Malik, a statement was issued that the Foreign Minister will take this issue to the International Court of Justice ICJ. Will the matter be taken up with the ICJ? Is there any update? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)

Answer: There are a number of steps that we have taken in the wake of the illegal sentencing of Yasin Malik, as I also informed in the last briefing. That includes reaching out to the OIC Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and as I said, the Foreign Minister has also written to the UN Secretary General. We are reaching out diplomatically to countries, raising the matter in bilateral engagements and other fora. We will be taking additional steps and utilize all avenues that are there through which this issue can be raised and agitated. I am not aware of the specific statement being referred by you but as I said there are a number of steps that we are taking and we are committed to persist in this effort.

Question: Chairman NADRA held a meeting with the Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar. A number of steps were taken to facilitate overseas Pakistanis in Iran and in various other Pakistani missions. If you can share any details on this? (Czechangez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)

Answer: I was not in that meeting, but I have the sense and I think it is in the overall context of the importance that the government attaches to overseas Pakistani community and I would say, this is you know, same priority for every government. The previous government also took a number of steps which were appreciated by the overseas community, and the governments before that, and the current government is also deeply committed to this. So over a period of years, we have been taking steps to reach out to the overseas Pakistanis, to provide them with more facilities, to engage them in a better way, to improve the consular services and in that regard, many steps have been taken including through digitization, and greater and easier access to the Missions, including resolution of their problems and issues through various mechanisms. So I think this is an ongoing effort that you know, this Ministry also through its missions, continues to carry forward.

Question: You just mentioned about the Indus water Treaty (IWT) meeting recently held in New Delhi. Pakistan has raised its concerns about the Hydro Power Project that is being constructed on the River Chenab by India. There are reports that the Indian side has avoided any talk on this issue. If you can verify these reports as the Dam is being constructed on the tributary of River Chenab in Occupied Kashmir? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: Well, I think you can sense that in any such forum, there are positions that are taken by either side. We think that we have valid and justified positions on certain issues and we raised them forcefully and with conviction in this meeting and that is the purpose of this meeting. And it is our expectation that, whatever objections or observations that have been brought forward by the Pakistani side in the context of the Permanent Indus Commission, in the correct spirit of the treaty, and the working of this Commission, we expect that India would be forthcoming in responding genuinely, so that the purpose of the Commission and its meetings is fulfilled.

Question: In view of the internal situation and turmoil in Afghanistan, what role Pakistan has and does the Taliban regime or the Authorities that are in power in Afghanistan acknowledge the role of Pakistan? (Khawja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: Well you are talking about the internal situation or developments in Afghanistan. There isn’t a role for Pakistan in those internal considerations. We do have an interest, yes, and that interest is in a peaceful, stable, prosperous and sovereign Afghanistan. And whatever we do is in pursuance of that overall objective, so our engagement, I can say, throughout, and especially in the current phase has been positive and constructive. We have tried to help, assist, tried to engage and advocate the engagement of the international community, considering the various humanitarian, economic and other challenges faced by the Afghan people. So I think it is in that context that Pakistan has a role and an interest and will continue to play that role. Thank you.

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