Media Briefing|

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


Good Afternoon and welcome to our Weekly Press Briefing.

As you would have been following, Prime Minister Imran Khan, accompanied by a high-level delegation, arrived in Beijing yesterday for a visit from 3-6 February at the special invitation of the Chinese leadership, and will be attending the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics later tonight. During the visit, the Prime Minister will hold bilateral meetings with H.E. President Xi Jinping and H.E. Premier Li Keqiang. The leaders will review the entire gamut of bilateral relations, with a particular focus on stronger trade and economic cooperation including CPEC. They will also have wide-ranging exchange of views on major regional and international issues. The Prime Minister would also meet prominent business leaders of China and representatives of leading Chinese think-tanks, academia and the media. A number of MoUs and Agreements would be concluded during the visit. There will be other bilateral interactions on the sidelines.

On 2 February the Prime Minister had a telephone call with Crown Prince HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and strongly condemned the recent attempted missile attack by Houthis against the UAE and expressed abiding solidarity with the UAE.

On 28 January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) organized an event for the official launch of the Customized Practical Guide on Requesting Evidence Across Border. The Guide will assist Law Enforcement Agencies in Pakistan to access critical electronic evidence from foreign jurisdictions and investigate and prosecute terrorism offenses.

Continuing his diplomatic outreach at the start of the year, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held telephonic conversations during the week with his counterparts – H.E. Abdulaziz Khafizovich Kamilov, Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, H.E. Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Ruslan Kazakbaev, Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan and H.E. Professor Robert Dussey, Foreign Minister of Togo. The talks covered the entire spectrum of bilateral cooperation, with a special focus on trade, economic relations, and connectivity.

On 1st February the Foreign Minister also received a telephone call from the Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister of The Netherlands, H.E. Mr. Wopke Hoekstra. Foreign Minister Qureshi congratulated his Dutch counterpart on assuming the office as Foreign Minister and renewed the invitation to him to visit Pakistan. The two sides expressed satisfaction over the level of bilateral cooperation in diverse areas, particularly in the fields of trade and investment.

Pakistan and Turkey held Bilateral Political Consultations on 1st February. Pakistan side was led by Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, while the Turkish delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal. It was an opportunity to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, and opportunities to further strengthen cooperation in diverse areas including trade, investments and economic cooperation. Regional issues including Afghanistan, and the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir also came under discussion.

Ambassador Sedat Önal also called on the Foreign Minister. Noting the excellent bilateral relationship, the Foreign Minister said that the forthcoming 7th Session of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) would further strengthen the strategic partnership between Pakistan and Turkey.

Also on 1st February, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood received the Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan H.E. Vepa Hajiev. Expressing satisfaction at the positive trajectory of bilateral relationship, the need for stronger economic, trade and transit linkages particularly through regional connectivity projects was mutually emphasized.

Coming over to Jammu and Kashmir,

Pakistan remains deeply concerned about the worsening human rights and security situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), which continues to be under military and police siege.

Extra-judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris continue with impunity. Hardly a day passes without any news of a fake encounter or a so-called cordon-and-search operation by the Indian occupation forces. Since 1 January, at least 24 Kashmiris have been martyred in this unabated reign of terror.

The international community must act to stop the wanton oppression and persecution of the besieged Kashmiris under illegal occupation.

Pakistan salutes the resilience of the Kashmiri people who continue to stand firm in their just and peaceful struggle for their legitimate right to self-determination as pledged to them by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The Jammu and Kashmir issue is an internationally recognized dispute on the agenda of the UN Security Council whose numerous resolutions stipulate that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.

Tomorrow, 5th February – Kashmir Solidarity Day will be observed in Pakistan, Kashmir and world over, to reiterate our resolve to stand by our Kashmiri brothers and sisters and to continue to extend all possible support to them till the realization of their right to self-determination. The Foreign Minister has also addressed a letter to the President of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General, and we have also briefed the P-5 countries’ Diplomatic Missions here in Islamabad on the grave situation in IIOJK, drawing attention to the special responsibility of the UNSC towards a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with its own resolutions.

The international community must take cognizance of the plight of Kashmiris, hold India to account for its widespread brutalities and human rights violations in IIOJK, and play its due role for resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

I thank you and am ready to take questions on these or other foreign policy matters.

Question: The Pakistani pilgrims visiting Syria have to undergo COVID PCR test. In a group of fifteen, five people are declared Covid positive and are asked for bribe, if they do not pay they are asked to opt for three days quarantine and charged US $ 100 for the PCR test. What steps have been taken by the Foreign Office to resolve this issue with the Syrian authorities? (Syed Yaseen Hashmi, Daily Urdu Times)

Answer: This has been brought to our attention and we are checking on the facts, and if this is true this is unacceptable, we will take prompt action.

Question: Indian Occupation forces have been committing Human Rights violations since long, the United Nations, European Union, and the Human Rights institutions are silent over these violations. How would you comment on this? (Shakeel Kalyana, Daily Dunya Numa News)

Answer: In my opening statement, I referred to the human rights violations in IIOJK, the point you have raised. The impression that these violations are not being noticed is incorrect. International community along with the international main stream media is watching and reporting on the situation in IIOJK. For the past two and a half years in particular, ever since India’s illegal actions of August 2019, there has been a special focus on highlighting the human rights violations that have been escalating in IIOJK by the Indian occupation forces. As for the United Nations you would have seen the recent statement by the UN Secretary General, who has on various occasions expressed concerns over the human rights situation in IIOJK and has reaffirmed UN’s position on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also been expressing serious concerns – there are two Kashmir Reports from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that have recommended an independent international inquiry into the human rights violations in Kashmir. Besides, there are several joint communiqués by UN Special Rapporteurs/Procedures which have been sent to the Indian government, which India has not responded to so far for obvious reasons.

OIC has also condemned the illegal measures and human rights violations by Indian occupation in IIOJK. This issue has also been raised in various parliaments of the world including US, UK and EU. The civil society is also taking note of these violations and has been highlighting and criticizing the measures taken by the Indian government. Kashmiri and Pakistani Diaspora have also been very active in highlighting the Kashmir cause. The Russell Tribunal on Kashmir held in Sarajevo and the recent filing of an application by Stocks White with the British Police, are also noteworthy.

Question: Given that the Daesh has its foot prints in Afghanistan even, the Chief of Daesh has been reportedly killed in Syria. How Pakistan perceives this scenario? Whether such an incident will get the world rid of terrorism?

My second question is, the Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army said that the LOC cease fire negotiations were done from the position of strength by India. Although we have a response from ISPR but being the head of South Asia from diplomatic perspective do you feel that either they are trying to revisit this understanding that was reached in February 2021 or it’s just because of the forthcoming elections in certain key states in India? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: For your first question, we have also seen news about the killing of Daesh leader in Syria. I think this issue of terrorism and the entities that continue to operate in different parts of the world pose a threat to international peace and security. As a matter of policy, Pakistan has been in the front line in the fight against terrorism and we will continue our counter-terrorism efforts in cooperation with our partners.

On your second question, as you have also pointed out that ISPR has already responded to the Indian General’s statement – that statement as you can see did not make any sense. This was an agreement reached by the two sides in last February and no one could logically argue that it was negotiated by some side from position of strength. It does not make much sense, but you can understand the motives behind such statements in the overall context of India’s malicious approach with regard to issues related to Pakistan and Kashmir, and specially in the context of the ongoing electoral exercises in India, where we often see politically motivated statements and assertions. But I think our position on this has been clear, and our main concern with regard to the LoC ceasefire violations mostly committed by India was about the safety and security of the Kashmiris on both sides, and we continue to take that concern seriously.

Question: There are reports that terrorist incidents in Balochistan are being conducted from Afghanistan with the assistance being provided from India. What is the stance of the Taliban Government in Afghanistan over these incident? Is the Pakistan in contact with Afghan authorities?

There are also other reports that they are being operated from Iran. Is the same network as the Kulbhushan Jadhav? (Ghulam Abbas Jaffer, Daily District News)

Supplementary Question: There are reports that these terrorist activities are being conducting from Iran. Secondly, a number of journalist in India were asked to leave the country are there any Pakistani journalist who were asked the same?

Thirdly, during the 17th Extra Ordinary Session of the OIC there was an announcement for opening of a bank account for Afghanistan. What is the update on that decision? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Daily Maddar)

Supplementary Question: In the recent months there have been increase in number of terrorist incidents. Military posts and vehicles are targeted. Does Pakistan consider that the Afghanistan territory is being used against Pakistan? What is Pakistan’s stance on this? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: You would have followed the statements that have been issued by the country’s leadership both civil and military about the recent terrorist incidents. Pakistan and the Pakistani people have confronted terrorism in the past resolutely and successfully. We salute the courage and bravery and sacrifice of our security personnel. We are very committed and resolute in effectively tackling this and actions are been taken to track down these elements, the terrorists. There is evidence, as per initial investigations, of intercepts of communications between the terrorists and their handlers in India and Afghanistan. The relevant authorities can share more information at the right point of time.

On your other question, let me clarify that the OIC decision was not to establish a bank account but a humanitarian trust fund. On that there is ongoing progress. The OIC Special Envoy for Afghanistan and the Secretary-General are engaged on that, and that will be a mechanism under the auspices of the Islamic Development Bank, and it is likely to be in place in a couple of weeks.

Question: Mian Mansha said that India and Pakistan are engaged in a back channel diplomacy that could result in Indian Premier’s visit to Pakistan. Could you share further details?

Secondly, although you have issued a statement regarding Ambassador Masood Khan’s Agrément process is still on. Still there are reports in Indian Media that the US has rejected the proposed appointment of Ambassador Masood Khan.

Thirdly, Mr. Rahul Ghandi made a statement in the Indian Parliament and he said that due to the strategic blunders and the Foreign Policy blunders of Narendra Modi’s government India is surrounded, it is isolated in the region. Pakistan and China are more close, he also said that Modi Government has also created strategic blunder in IIOJK. This question was put to the Spokesperson of the US State Department Ned Price, although he did not agree on this but he also said that Pakistan and the United States are strategic partners. Then he said that they value this partnership with Pakistan so that Pakistan is not pressurized to pick sides between China and the United States. I need your comment on these. (Essa Naqvi, Independent)

Answer: On the statement by Mr. Mansha reported in the media, I do not have any information to share.

Regarding Ambassador Masood Khan’s Agrément, we have clarified the matter already. It is being processed in the US system. You referred again to new reports in Indian media, and that proves our point, that all of this was part of their propaganda against Pakistan.

On your third question about the statement of Mr. Rahul Gandhi, and as you know there was a response to it by the Indian External Affairs Minister as well. We see it as part of internal Indian politics. I would not like to go into details of this, but I can say that Pakistan rejects what the Indian External Affairs Minister said, and that was I think clear propaganda seeking to raise the Pakistan-China bogey to divert public attention from BJP government’s domestic and external failures. Those remarks were reflective of the BJP-RSS combine’s compulsive behavior to drag Pakistan into their domestic politics.

As a country that continues to be in illegal occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir for over seven decades against the wishes of the Kashmiri people, India has no moral, political or legal locus standi to make any gratuitous comment or baseless claims about Shaksgam or Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The most important history lesson that India is feigning to have forgotten is that its leaders made a commitment to the United Nations and the Kashmiri people that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir would be decided by the people of Kashmir through a free and fair plebiscite under the UN auspices in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

The Indian Minister would do well by letting know his public and the international community as to when is India going to vacate its illegal occupation of IIOJK and letting the oppressed people of Kashmir exercise their right to self-determination.

Pakistan and China are all-weather strategic partners, with a relationship that is a force for good and an anchor of peace, stability and economic development in the region. Rather than fear-mongering, India should learn from Pakistan-China friendship as a model of mutually beneficial relations and win-win cooperation.

You also referred to the remarks by the US State Department Spokesperson, which I think were very positive, rightly noting US and Pakistan as strategic partners. So that was an important point that was highlighted.

Question: with regards to the recent ongoing tension on the Ukrainian border what is the official stance of Pakistan? Does Pakistan support Russian security concerns or does it support the western stance? (Nouman Ishfaq Mughal, Daily Parliament Times)

Answer: I have responded to such question earlier. We have been following the situation closely and we think that engagement, interaction and dialogue should continue for a diplomatic solution.

Question: The Interior Minister has said that RAW is operating from Afghanistan and is carrying out terrorist activities against Pakistan. Has the Pakistan taken up the issue with Afghan Authorities?

Secondly, the Prime Minister is visiting China, is there any meeting planned with the leadership of another country on the sidelines? (Malik Saeed Awan, Bol News)

Answer: I think you are referring to the statement of the Interior Minister and more details can be obtained from the relevant quarters. As for the risk and threat of terrorism from across the border, it has been a long-standing concern that we continue to raise with the new Afghan authorities as well, and there is a clear expectation that these concerns would be effectively addressed.

With regard to your second question, yes there are other world leaders, who are present in the Beijing. We need to understand that all visiting delegations are there under COVID closed loop arrangements, so it is somewhat different from normal occasions. Nevertheless there are meetings with other leaders that will take place and you will come to know about that.

Question: When we speak of NDS and RAW nexus, is this nexus still operational as there is a government in Afghanistan which has good relations with Pakistan. Are we still unable to end this nexus?

Secondly, the Interior Ministry has said that this current wave of terrorism has linked this to India and Afghanistan. Are we thinking of taking up this issue once again with the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: It is not a question of just raising again. As I said before, we have been raising this matter consistently and we will continue to do that. We expect our concerns to be addressed.

Question: Last week we saw a comment from the Indian External Affairs Ministry which said that “Pakistan should stop human rights violations in Balochistan” . How would you comment on this statement by the Indian External Affairs Ministry, which is entirely an internal matter of Pakistan?

Secondly, with regards to the CTD writing to the Iranian authorities seeking custody of three suspects namely Ali Mustehsan, Raza Imam and Syed Waqar, who were wanted in the murder of Saudi Diplomat Hasan Qahtani a decade ago. Can you share some details? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: I do not have anything to share with regard to your second question.

Regarding your first observation, you rightly noted yourself, this was an unwarranted statement from the Indian Spokesperson. There are no human rights violations in Balochistan. India has no locus standi to comment on internal affairs of Pakistan. In fact India must refrain from sponsoring and supporting terrorist activities in Pakistan. It is very evident that India does not have anything to say with regards to their illegal actions and human rights violations in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK), and in order to cover that up and deflect attention from that, from time to time they resort to such baseless allegations which are totally rejected by Pakistan.

Question: On 25th November a fourteen years boy from AJK mistakenly crossed LOC into Indian side. For the last two months he is Indian custody. How would you comment on this? (Syed Faisal Ali, Daily State Views)

Answer: If I am not mistaken, the matter was taken up with the Indian side and is being followed up.


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