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 the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.

I wish to begin with the seventh edition of the multinational maritime exercise ‘AMAN’-2021 being held in Pakistan (North Arabian Sea) from 11 to 16 February 2021.

AMAN is a major multinational exercise, organized by Pakistan Navy, every two years since 2007.

The exercise aims at:

  • Collectively working against human trafficking, smuggling of narcotics and weapons, and terrorism in the region.
  • Intensifying operational drills and maneuvers countering non-traditional threats.
  • Improving upon joint operations at sea through effective Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).
  • Enhancing operational skills and interoperability in a diverse maritime environment.
  • Discussing development of Blue Economy under a secure and sustainable environment, and
  • Highlighting the significance of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar port.

Over 45 countries participating, the exercise will help foster shared vision for peace and prosperity in the Western Indian Ocean Region.

Coming to the high level engagements during the week, Prime Minister Imran Khan held a telephone conversation with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,.

The two leaders reaffirmed the existing close fraternal ties between Pakistan and the UAE and reiterated the resolve to further solidify and strengthen bilateral cooperation.

They also exchanged views on COVID-19 pandemic and the regional as well as international issues of mutual interest.

The Foreign Ministers of Iceland and Chile called Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi with regard to their two mountaineers who went missing during the K-2 expedition.

The Foreign Minister apprised his counterparts on the efforts being made by Pakistan to locate the missing Icelander and Chilean mountaineers.

These efforts include a number of search flights by Pakistan Army Aviation helicopters amid challenging weather conditions over a treacherous terrain.

The Foreign Minister reassured that no effort will be spared and all possible support will be extended in search and rescue operation.

The efforts made by the Government of Pakistan were acknowledged and appreciated by the Foreign Ministers of Chile and Iceland.

During the calls, bilateral relations were also discussed and it was agreed to remain engaged to enhance cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral fora.

As part of the Government’s economic outreach initiative, the fourth virtual Envoys Meeting on Economic Diplomacy was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The meeting, chaired by the Foreign Minister, focused on Europe.

Emphasizing the growing importance of geo-economics in international politics, the Foreign Minister highlighted Economic Diplomacy as a key component of modern diplomatic practice.

Highlighting the government’s continued efforts to attract foreign direct investment, the Foreign Minister noted that in the last two years Pakistan had climbed 39 positions in the Ease of Doing Business ranking.

The UN has recently issued 27th Report of its Analytical and Monitoring Team.

The Report vindicates Pakistan’s longstanding stance on threats posed to Pakistan and the region by groups like the TTP, JuA, HuA and their affiliates, based in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, in the past, has drawn attention of the international community to the support provided to TTP and its affiliates by the hostile intelligence agencies.

Pakistan has also raised the issue of cross border attacks carried out by the TTP on security forces deployed on its side of the border.

Pakistan acknowledges UN Monitoring Team’s efforts in exposing the hostile agencies’ sponsored collusion of anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan.

Pakistan expects that a dedicated effort will be launched by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to neutralize this threat emanating from Afghanistan.

Pakistan stands firm in its resolve to partner with the international community against the menace of terrorism.

Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the Kashmiris continue to remain under the inhuman military siege for over 18 months.

Extra-judicial killings of young Kashmiris in fake encounters and staged cordon and search operations is becoming a new normal in IIOJK.

Even the bodies of Kashmiri shuhda are not handed over to their families for proper burial in violation of all humanitarian norms.

In a new low, India has started charging the family members asking for dead bodies of their loved ones.

Pakistan strongly condemns registration of a case under draconian laws against the father demanding the dead body of his son, Athar Mushtaq Wani, who was martyred, along with two others during a fake encounter in Lawaypora area of Srinagar on December 30, 2020.

As part of Pakistan’s sustained diplomatic outreach, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi has once again approached the President of the United Nations Security Council and the UN Secretary General to apprise them of India’s continuing gross and systematic violations of human rights in IIOJK.

The Foreign Minister underscored India’s unlawful campaign to colonize the occupied territory and its belligerent and hostile actions against Pakistan, including persistent ceasefire violations, which pose a serious threat to peace and security.

He also highlighted India’s state sponsorship of terrorism and its global disinformation campaign against Pakistan.

The Foreign Minister has called upon the Security Council to urge India to:

(i) Immediately lift the continuing military siege and rescind the illegal and unilateral actions in IIOJK;

(ii) Remove restrictions on fundamental freedoms including movement and peaceful assembly;

(iii) Immediately release incarcerated Kashmiri political leaders and allow them to express the wishes of the Kashmiri people;

(iv) Free all arbitrarily and illegally detained Kashmiri youth;

(v) Freeze and reverse the new domicile rules and property laws designed to change the demographic structure of IIOJK;

(vi) Remove the draconian laws enabling Indian occupation forces to continue human rights violations with impunity, including extrajudicial killings in fake encounters; and

(vii) Allow access to the occupied territory to the UN observers, international human rights and humanitarian organizations, observers and the international media.

Like every year, 5th February was observed all over the world to express solidarity with the Kashmiri people in their just struggle for the right to self-determination.

To express solidarity with our Kashmiri brothers and sisters, Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Kotli, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and addressed a public gathering.

The Prime Minister urged the international community to hold India accountable for its crimes against humanity in IIOJK and take steps to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolution.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed that Pakistan would remain unshakable in its solidarity with the Kashmiri people until they realize their inalienable right to self-determination, in accordance with the relevant UNSC Resolutions.

President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi also visited AJK and addressed a session of the Azad State of Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly in Muzaffarabad.

Addressing the Assembly, the President reiterated that Pakistan will always stand with the Kashmiris and will never leave them alone in their struggle against Indian oppression.

The President also led a solidarity walk alongside AJK PM Raja Farooq Haider and AJK President Sardar Masood Khan.

To mark the Kashmir Solidarity Day, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi led a huge rally from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Chairman Senate, the Speaker National Assembly, Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federal Ministers, Parliamentarian, officers and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and people from all walks of life joined the rally.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also held a photography and culture exhibition to express solidarity with the Kashmiris and pay tribute to their resilience in their just struggle for self-determination.

The event showcased the photographic works of internationally acclaimed photographers.

The exhibits focused on various key themes including: Indian atrocities in IIOJK; landscapes and the distinct culture and identity of the Kashmiri populace.

Pakistan Missions around the world also organized seminars, photo-exhibitions, webinars, and engaged with the media, think tanks, parliamentarians and policy influencers to highlight the egregious human rights violations in IIOJK.

An important development in this regard was the legislative resolution passed by the New York State Assembly to make New York the first state in US to recognize 5th February 2021 as “Kashmir American Day.”

The ambassadors of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu & Kashmir also met in New York on 5 February 2021 to commemorate the Kashmir Solidarity Day.

In his keynote address to the OIC Contact Group Ambassadors, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi thanked the OIC for effectively articulating the voice of the Islamic Ummah in solidarity and support with the Kashmiris.

The OIC Contact Group Ambassadors reiterated OIC’s unwavering support to the just cause of the Kashmiri people.

Let me conclude this briefing by extending our warmest felicitations to the leadership, the Government and the people of our “all-weather friend and strategic cooperative partner” China on the occasion of the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year.

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

Question: Recently, the Houthi Militants had attacked on Abha International Air port in Saudi Arabia. What is Pakistan’s policy position on this? (Sardar Hameed, News One)

Supplementary Question: What is the update regarding the appointment Major General Bilal Akbar as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk News)

Answer: Regarding Houthi Militants’ drone attacks on Abha International Airport in the Kingdom Saudi Arabia, we have already issued a detailed Press Release condemning the attack on 10 February 2021. I would like refer you to see our Press Release for further detail.

As for the appointment of Major General Bilal Akbar, it is an administrative matter on which I cannot comment.

Question: Pakistani and Kashmiri people across the world observed Kashmir solidarity day on 5th February 2021. Has this brought any change in Indian attitude or policy regarding the situation in IIOJK?

Secondly, former President of the United States Donald Trump offered mediation on Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Are we expecting similar offer from the Biden Administration? What are Pakistan’s expectations from the new US Administration on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: The Jammu and Kashmir dispute is one of the oldest items on the Agenda of the United Nations Security Council, which remains unresolved because of India’s intransigence and unwillingness to implement the relevant UNSC resolutions and its own solemn commitments made to Pakistan, the Kashmiris and the international community.

We have continued highlighting the legal, human rights, and peace and security dimensions of the dispute at the UN, HRC, OIC, IPU and on many others platforms.

World leaders, international human rights organizations as well as the media have been unanimous in their condemnation of the ongoing Indian atrocities and restrictions by the Indian occupation forces in IIOJK.

People of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) have suffered more than seven decades of ruthless repression by India. We continue to sensitize the international community, including the United States, about India’s continued defiance of the international law, UN Charter and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The international community, including the United States must urge India to stop its consistent and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK–including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, incarceration of political leaders, ongoing efforts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory, extra-judicial killings of Kashmiris in fake “encounters”, and staged cordon-and-search operations — and take genuine steps to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions.

Question: Pakistan had shared the Dossier containing irrefutable evidence against India’s state sponsorship of terrorism with the UN Secretary General and the UNSC. Is there any update on this? (Adeel Warraich, Foreign Affairs News Diplomacy)

Answer: As you mentioned, we have shared a Dossier, extensively documenting India’s active planning, promoting, aiding, abetting, financing and execution of terrorist activities against Pakistan with the UN Secretary General, the UNSC and with other relevant forums.

The irrefutable evidence provided in the Dossier has left no doubt about Indian state-sponsorship of terrorism. The contents of the Dossier have been taken seriously and are being examined by various parties with whom we have shared the document.

Question: The FATF review is going to take place. How do you see things proceed at the FATF and how hopeful you are? (Khalid Azeem, Samaa TV)

Answer: FATF had assessed Pakistan to have completed 21 of the 27 Action Items under the current Action Plan. In the remaining six partially addressed items, significant progress has been made by Pakistan, which is duly acknowledged by the wider FATF Membership. Pakistan remains committed to completing its FATF Action Plan.

Question: Has Foreign Office been approached by the Election Commission with regard to investigations in the Foreign Funding case, and what are the steps being undertaken by the Foreign Office in this regard? (Aun Sheerazi, Such TV)

Answer: I don’t have any information to share on this.

Question: Reportedly, Prime Minister Imran Khan will be visiting Sri Lanka on 22 and 23 February. Can you kindly confirm and share details of his key engagements in Colombo? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa had extended an invitation to Prime Minister Imran khan to visit Sri Lanka which the later had accepted.

Accordingly, the Prime Minister will be undertaking an official visit to Sri Lanka later this month. Further details will be shared in due course.

Question: US State Departments has tweeted regarding the resumption of 4G mobile internet in IIOJK, in which the reference to Jammu and Kashmir is inconsistent with UNSC resolutions. How do you comment on this? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

We have already issued a detailed press release on this. We are disappointed to note the reference to Jammu and Kashmir in the U.S. Department of State’s tweet regarding the resumption of 4G mobile internet in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). The reference is inconsistent with the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir as recognized by numerous United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and the international community.

Jammu and Kashmir is one of the oldest items on the agenda of the UNSC, which remains unresolved because of India’s intransigence and unwillingness to implement the relevant UNSC resolutions and its own solemn commitments made to Pakistan, the Kashmiris and the international community.

The political and economic progress of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is inextricably linked to the realization of their desire for exercising the right to self-determination.

The international community, including the United States, must urge India to stop its consistent and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK–including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, incarceration of political leaders, ongoing efforts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory, extra-judicial killings of Kashmiris in fake “encounters”, and staged cordon-and-search operations — and take genuine steps to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions.

Question: What are the updates on the committee that was to be formed by the Government on ascertaining the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)?

Secondly, Can you share any details regarding the trader from GB who was reportedly kidnapped from Afghanistan? (Fida Hussain, Radio News Network)

Answer: Regarding these, we will revert to you.

Question: Reportedly, a child was killed in Bajaur due to a rocket fired from Afghanistan. Last week, Afghanistan also reported such rocket attacks from Pakistan. Is Islamabad in contact with the relevant Afghan authorities? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA Urdu)

Answer: On 2 February, 2021, 15 rockets were fired from Afghan territory inside Pakistan’s Bajaur district by terrorist targeting Pakistan’s security forces and civilians causing material damage.

Again on 11 February, terrorists fired 5 rockets form inside Afghanistan in Lagharai sector and Sarakai top Bajaur. A 5 year old child embraced shahadat, while 7 other minors including a girl got injured.

Frequent attacks from Afghan soil targeting Pakistan military personnel and civilians are strongly condemned.

Such unprovoked incidents are against the spirit of mutual cooperation and are viewed with grave concern.

We have taken up the issue with the Afghan side through the relevant diplomatic and military channels.

Pakistan has always underscored the need to use existing mechanisms, including Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Security (APAPPS) to address all issues.

Question: Regarding China-India standoff in Ladakh, the Indian Defense Minister has stated in the Indian Parliament that an agreement has been reached with the Chinese side. Your comments please? (Ali Furqan, VOA Urdu)

Answer: India’s hegemonic and expansionist designs coupled with irresponsible actions are imperiling regional peace and security. India has troubled relations with its neighbours. India needs a serious course correction for peace and security in the region.

Regarding the China-India standoff, we hope that the issue will be resolved as per the agreed understandings and available mechanism.

Question: You mentioned about India’s actions imperiling regional peace and security. We have seen that during the recent phone call between President Biden and Prime Minister Modi, the two sides talked about the engagements of ‘Quad’. Don’t you think that this alliance itself and the upcoming Quad summit also have the potential to imperil regional peace and security, since the focus of Quad is anti-China and Anti-Pakistan? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk News)

Answer: We are aware of the developments taking place in the region. As a responsible state, Pakistan remains firmly committed to peace in the region and beyond.

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