Media Briefing|

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


Welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.

Let me begin by underlining Pakistan’s position on the latest developments in Afghanistan.

We continue to closely follow the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

We have noted the latest announcement about formation of interim political set-up in Kabul, which would address the requirement of a governance structure to meet the urgent needs of the people of Afghanistan. We hope that the new political dispensation will ensure coordinated efforts for peace, security and stability in Afghanistan as well as work towards taking care of humanitarian and development needs of the Afghan people.

Pakistan reaffirms its abiding commitment to a peaceful, stable, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

In pursuance of the above position and in continuation of our constructive role and engagement, primarily keeping the interest of the Afghan people upfront, the Government of Pakistan has decided to dispatch humanitarian assistance comprising food and medicines for the people of Afghanistan. First flight carrying such assistance reached Kabul yesterday, and another arrived in Kandahar today. Another flight is expected. Further supplies would continue through land routes. This is a practical manifestation of our commitment to assist our Afghan brothers and sisters.

We also expect the international community would play its due role in helping address the urgent needs of the Afghan people in order to avert a humanitarian crisis.

As you know, Pakistan’s diplomatic missions in Afghanistan continue to function. In the days leading up to the completion of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan provided critical support to the multinational evacuation effort from Afghanistan both from Kabul airport, and across the land border.

On the larger plane, Pakistan has continued proactive diplomacy in recent weeks, interacting with a host of partners in the region and beyond. The objective – to exchange views and coordinate positions on the best way forward to help ensure sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan, which is a shared objective of the international community.

Just to give you a glimpse of these activities –

Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken to 13 world leaders since 15 August, the most recent interactions being with the Emir of Qatar, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and the Crown Prince of UAE, besides the UN Secretary General.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has had 25 telephonic conversations with his counterparts since 15 August. This includes Foreign Ministers of Austria, Slovenia, Iran, Poland and Romania and the Kenyan Defence Minister since my last briefing.

And we have had 6 visits of Foreign Ministers in recent days – Starting with Germany, we had the Dutch, British, Italian, Qatari Ministers, and the Spanish FM earlier today. These visits provided an opportunity to renew bilateral contacts, and coordinate positions on regional issues. Pakistan’s support for evacuation efforts and overall constructive role on Afghanistan – as a key stabilizing and positive factor – were appreciated during these interactions.

A particular focus of our diplomatic outreach and engagement has been with the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, who naturally have important stakes in the situation and a common desire for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

Following the Foreign Minister’s visit to the region last month, a meeting of the Special Representatives and Envoys of the six neighbouring countries convened by Pakistan was held virtually on 5th September.

Building on that, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi chaired the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Afghan Issue Among the Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan via video link on 8 September, which was attended by his counterparts from China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The meeting reviewed the evolving situation in Afghanistan to address common challenges and realize emerging opportunities to ensure regional stability and prosperity. A Joint Statement was issued as the outcome of the Ministerial Meeting. It was agreed to continue meetings of the Foreign Ministers of countries neighbouring Afghanistan on a rotating basis, with the next meeting to be held in Tehran, and was also agreed to set up a mechanism of regular consultations of their Special Envoys (Special Representatives) for Afghanistan.

Also on 8th September, Foreign Minister Qureshi participated in the Ministerial Coordination Session hosted by Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Maas and shared Pakistan’s perspective.

As the situation in Afghanistan is at a critical juncture, and responsible members of the international community are engaged in deliberating the best way forward, it is extremely deplorable that certain spoilers and detractors, the same known actors, remain busy in peddling false narratives and disinformation, which by the way already stood busted and discredited by various sources.

Motivated stories recently carried by certain segments in the international media, alluding to Pakistan’s “involvement” in Panjshir are categorically rejected. These allegations are part of a mischievous propaganda campaign, led by Indian media’s fake news that has been thoroughly exposed. These malicious allegations were part of a desperate attempt to malign Pakistan and to mislead the international community. But they will not succeed. Pakistan has repeatedly alerted the international community about the negative and harmful role of such spoilers.

Let me once again reiterate that right now all energies must be focused on ensuring lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. That requires continued positive engagement of the international community.

Let me now turn to the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

We condemn in the strongest possible terms, Indian Occupation Forces’ continued harassment of Syed Ali Geelani’s family.

The registration of cases against the grieving family members of the iconic Kashmiri leader is yet another reprehensible act by the Indian Occupation Forces.

It contravenes all standards of morality and ethics.

The Foreign Minister has addressed letters to the UN Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Indian Charge d’ Affaires was also summoned to the Foreign Office and was conveyed Pakistan’s strong demarche on Indian Occupation Forces’ shameless, callous and inhuman handling of the mortal remains of Syed Ali Geelani in blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law and all tenets of civil and human rights.

India was further asked to refrain from any missteps that might further jeopardize regional peace, and was reminded of Pakistan’s consistent stance that Government of India must immediately lift the illegal military siege in IIOJK, desist from measures to change the demographic structure of the Occupied territory, withdraw its over 900,000 occupation troops and cease all human rights violations in the IIOJK forthwith.

The unprecedented military siege, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions including of political leaders, curbs on fundamental freedoms of the Kashmiri people and intimidation and harassment of journalists unfortunately continue.

But it must be sufficiently evident to India that its continued egregious human rights violations will not be able to subjugate the Kashmiris and stop them from the just struggle for their inalienable right to self-determination.

The international community must take serious notice of the systematic and grave human rights violations and trampling of fundamental rights in IIOJK and hold India to account for its inhuman and illegal actions and violations of international law.

Pakistan will continue to provide all possible support to the people of IIOJK in their just struggle for self-determination. We have also reiterated support for the new APHC leadership.

Pakistan will also continue to sensitize and inform the international community about the dire state of human rights in IIOJK resulting from India’s war crimes and systematic persecution and violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people.

I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related issues.

Question: Taliban are being accused of arresting and torturing Afghan journalists, who covered women’s protest rally at Kabul. Your comments, please. (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: We have not seen any verified reports to that effect.

It is important to understand that there is an ongoing misinformation campaign going around. Numerous misleading clips and doctored images are circulating online, which have also been debunked by multiple outlets.

As for human rights, as a matter of policy, Pakistan believes in universal upholding and safeguarding of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

Question: Has Taliban extended any invitation to Pakistan to attend the swearing in ceremony, which is to be held tomorrow. If so, who is attending from the Pakistan side?

Secondly, there was no mention of recognition of interim Government by Pakistan in the statement issued by MoFA yesterday? You would recall that Pakistan was the first country to recognize the Taliban in the 90’s, why Pakistan is so cautious this time in doing so? (Naveed Siddique, Dawn)

Supplementary Question: The Foreign Minister has repeatedly emphasized the need for recognition of new realities in Afghanistan by the international community. However, Pakistan itself has not recognized the interim Government openly. What is your take on that?

Secondly, the newly announced interim Government by the Taliban lacks women representation, what are your views in this regard? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk)

Answer: We have also seen some media reports referring to inauguration ceremony; however, we have not received any official intimation or invitation in that regard.

The bigger question and the need of the hour is continued and positive engagement by the international community for working towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan and in the immediate term to avert a humanitarian crisis. That is what the Foreign Minister has been underlining during his various engagements with other countries as well as with the media.

As for the representation of women, the question should be posed to the Afghans. We believe that there were and there are expectations by the world community with regards to the question of inclusion and women representation. It is our understanding that the setup that has been announced is ‘interim’, so it remains to be seen what shape it would take in future.

Question: I have two questions.

Firstly, we have seen a flurry of engagements by Pakistan regarding the situation in Afghanistan. The Foreign Ministers visited four countries, whereas Foreign Minister of six countries visited Pakistan.

What is Pakistan’s fundamental agenda during these engagements that the international community is not coming around to? Why has Pakistan not been able to convince the international community to lift sanctions before the recognition of new Taliban Administration?

Secondly, Foreign Minister and the Foreign Office both have repeatedly highlighted the role of ‘spoilers’ in the Afghanistan situation. Can you narrowly define what groups and countries are undertaking the role of spoilers? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: As for your first question, there is no ambiguity about Pakistan’s messaging regarding Afghanistan. We are also listening to the perspective of our international partners; in other words, it is a consultative process. The meeting of the six Foreign Ministers was also an effort in that spirit. While there are different perspectives, there are also a number of commonalities and convergences in these interactions, as you have also followed in various joint press stakeouts in recent days. The key elements of this commonality are: a shared desire for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan; and the immediate concern of avoiding a humanitarian crisis there. We have also emphasized that there should be no conditions attached to humanitarian assistance.

As for your second question on spoilers, it is evident that the main spoiler vis-à-vis Afghanistan, acting from inside and outside Afghanistan, has been India. India has for long misused its presence in Afghanistan to create an infrastructure of terrorism that was directed against Pakistan. We have been repeatedly sensitizing the international community in this regard, with incontrovertible evidence. It is also clear that India was and remains a spoiler for peace efforts in Afghanistan. It tried to undermine the Afghan peace process, and also misled the international community on the actual situation and issues confronting Afghanistan.

Question: What conditions is Pakistan setting for Taliban and the international community to recognize the new Government in Afghanistan? (Manahil Ahmed, Indus News)

Answer: We have consistently supported the need for Afghan led and owned process. It is something for the Afghans to decide.

It is not about conditions but expectations, and engagement, as I said before. Some of these exceptions are also spelt out in the joint statement of the Ministerial meeting. Let me reiterate that the overarching shared desire is that the situation does not deteriorate leading to a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which will have severe implications, particularly for the regional countries.

Question: I have three questions.

Firstly, in the interaction between the Honourable Foreign Minister and his Spanish counterpart, a Donors’ Conference to be held in Geneva was mentioned. When will this conference take place and what specific plans does Pakistan have to help the new Afghan government in this regard? Is Pakistan coming with a joint plan with regional countries in this regard?

Secondly, you have mentioned that the second regional meeting at the level of envoys will be held in Iran. When the first one was held, an interim government in Afghanistan had not been announced. Will Afghanistan be a party in the upcoming conference as the interim set up has been announced now?

Thirdly, time and again Pakistan has insisted that Afghan soil shouldn’t be used against Pakistan. However, unfortunately, it is happening even after 15 August, despite the assurances by the Taliban. Your views please? (Faisal Raza, 92 News)

Answer: As for your first question, I understand the international conference convened by the UN is to be held next week in Geneva. This is a welcome initiative as also noted by the Foreign Minister; and is in line with Pakistan’s position about the need for continued engagement by the international community vis-à-vis Afghanistan in order to address its humanitarian needs.

Pakistan will be a part of it, and as you are aware Pakistan is already providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. And we have a long history of supporting Afghanistan in the humanitarian domain, and we still continue to support over 4 million Afghan refugees.

As for the next meeting of the six regional countries, the question of inclusion of the new political dispensation in Afghanistan remains under discussion.

As for the question about terrorism and incidents taking place from across the border, yes it remains a concern. We have been sharing these concerns with previous governments in Afghanistan, and are also taking it up with the new authorities for appropriate action.

Question: Recognizing Taliban Government is a challenge, however do you think the regional players including Pakistan, Russia and China will work together to avert that humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan until US and the European Union come up with the final decision in this regard? (Zaheer, SAMAA)

Answer: Countries both within and outside the region have convergence on the need to avert a humanitarian crisis. Russia and China are active and important players. Pakistan-led initiative of the six countries, as well as the meeting convened by the U.S. and Germany, underlined the need for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. We hope that the international community remains engaged around this consensus.

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