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

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin with the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where our Kashmiri brothers and sisters continue to be tormented by a brutal military siege for over 26 months now.

India’s naked state terrorism in IIOJK has exposed its real face to the world. In an environment of complete impunity, communication blackout and absence of international access, systematic violations of human rights are taking place, with increasing number of arbitrary arrests and detentions and extrajudicial killings.

During the last week alone, 10 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred in fake encounters and so-called “cordon-and-search-operations”. A Kashmiri civilian was taken into custody and then brutally murdered in a fake encounter in Bandipora.

It is reprehensible that even mortal remains are not being returned to families, and proper burials are being denied. Kashmiri youth are the main target of India’s repression. We have strongly condemned the arrest of over 1400 Kashmiris on false charges in one of the biggest ever crackdowns in IIOJK. This is a serious concern for the international community.

India has simultaneously stepped up its nefarious smear campaign against Pakistan and Kashmiris. For example, the baseless allegations of so-called ‘infiltrations’ across the LOC and fake arms recovery operations. Also allegations surrounding the arrest of alleged Pakistanis in IIOJK and India have no takers, as these are part of India’s well-known efforts to divert the world’s attention from its egregious human rights violations and illegal actions in IIOJK, and well-documented oppression of Muslims and other minorities in India.

India would be well advised to stop peddling falsehood, and change its behaviour that could otherwise further undermine regional peace and security. A case in point is the recent irresponsible and provocative statement reportedly made by Indian Home Minister threatening so-called “surgical strikes”. As you are aware, we have condemned this delusional statement that only goes to further demonstrate the BJP-RSS combine’s propensity to stoke regional tensions for both ideological reasons and political expediency, based on enmity towards Pakistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly drawn the attention of the international community to India’s sinister designs of staging “false flag” operations to implicate Pakistan and Kashmiris.

Let me reiterate that while Pakistan is a peace-loving country, we will spare no effort in resolutely thwarting any aggressive Indian designs, as was evident from Pakistan’s swift response to India’s Balakot misadventure in 2019, including the downing of Indian combat aircraft and capture of Indian Air Force pilot.

Pakistan continues to urge the international community to hold India accountable for its egregious human rights violations in IIOJK, and its persecution of minorities elsewhere. We welcome the recent statements by the OIC General Secretariat on the treatment of Muslims in Assam, and the IPHRC’s call for accountability for increasing Islamophobia, and systematic and targeted violence and mob attacks against Muslims in India.

Let me reiterate that Pakistan will continue to provide all possible support to the Kashmiri people in their legitimate struggle for self-determination. Pakistan’s principled position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute remains anchored in the relevant UN Security Council’s Resolutions. We are firmly committed to the resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute through free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices as enshrined in the UNSC Resolutions.

Coming to the situation in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly underlined its commitment to a peaceful, stable and sovereign Afghanistan, that is also in the best interest of the region and the world as a whole. Peace in Afghanistan is also critical for reaping the dividends of regional connectivity that is in line with Pakistan’s renewed focus on geo-economics and economic security.

Continued, constructive engagement of the international community with Afghanistan is crucial for addressing the immediate humanitarian needs, ensuring economic stability, and durable peace.

We note the recent international engagements with Afghanistan as positive steps.

On its part, Pakistan stands with the people of Afghanistan. We are continuing our humanitarian assistance. Over 900 Afghan students enrolled in Pakistan are being facilitated to travel to Pakistan to resume their studies.

Talking about our focus on geo-economics, you would have followed the overwhelming response to the Pakistan Pavilion in Dubai Expo 2020, which is a wonderful projection of soft image and rich cultural heritage of Pakistan.

President Arif Alvi visited UAE to inaugurate the Pakistan Pavilion. The President also met Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, attended the launch event of Roshan Apna Ghar in the UAE, an investment conference organized by Pakistan Special Technology Zones Authority, besides interacting with media and the Pakistani community.

The visit was instrumental in refreshing leadership-level contacts with the UAE. Promotion of trade and investment, and focus on tourism and technology were amongst major goals of the visit.

Pakistan’s focus on geo-economics was also underlined by the Foreign Minister at the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) through a video statement.

The Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of forging development partnerships and enhancing regional connectivity, and highlighted the need to bring the Asian continent at par with other, more integrated regions of the world.

The Foreign Minister also delivered a video statement at the High-Level Commemorative Meeting to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), wherein he shared Pakistan’s perspective on contemporary global issues, and the need for collective response. Both in NAM, and CICA, the Foreign Minister also raised the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Let me also recall that this year we are celebrating anniversaries of establishment of 70 years of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and various countries, including China, Argentina, Spain, Germany and Thailand. In this regard, you would have followed the logo-reveal ceremony with Thailand last week. We also had a gala reception last evening celebrating the establishment of 70 years of diplomatic relations with Germany.

Let me stop here and take your questions on these or other foreign policy related matters.

Question:   You would be aware that the minority rights are being blatantly violated in India. OIC-IPHRC (Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission) has also condemned the situation. How do you comment? (Nimra Sohail, PTV News)

Answer:      As I have mentioned in my opening statement and we have been observing for quite some time that there is this grave situation of human rights in IIOJK. We have seen a progression since 2014, since the coming into power of the BJP-RSS regime in India, an upward trend in human rights violations and atrocities across India against minorities and vulnerable groups including Christians, Dalits and particularly Muslims.

We also note that the deteriorating situation of human rights in India has increasingly gained attention of the international community, and various international organizations, governments and parliamentarians have raised concerns. It is pertinent to mention the reports by OHCHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch among others in this regard. India’s stature as the so-called largest ‘democracy’ has come under scrutiny, as India has suffered a huge reputational cost.

We appreciate the fact that there is this attention on part of the international community with regard to the rapid escalation of human rights violations in India.

In this context, we welcome the recent statements by the OIC, both by the OIC General Secretariat about the situation in Assam, and the detailed statement by OIC-IPHRC that has strongly condemned lack of accountability against increasing systematic and targeted violence, mob attacks, public lynching and dehumanizing political tirade against Muslims in India and calls on the Indian government to protect its Muslim minority in line with international obligations. There is an entire list of concerns that the IPHRC has raised including Islamophobia, hate speech and hate crimes motivated by the Hindutva ideology, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and rights violations of various kinds. This is very much required, and this kind of international scrutiny must continue. With the Gujrat pogrom, the Delhi pogrom, the dire situation in Assam, not to forget IIOJK, the international community must keep a close watch.

Question:   I have two questions.

Firstly, how do you see the talks between U.S. and Taliban in Doha?

Secondly, can you please enlighten us about the significance of the visit by US Deputy Secretary of State to Pakistan? You might have seen that the Indian propaganda machinery was very active in undermining the visit? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer:      Pakistan supports continued engagement of the international community with the Afghan authorities. U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha are important in that regard. A sustained engagement will help achieve desired objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

As for your question on the visit of Deputy Secretary of State’s visit to Pakistan, the significance of Pakistan-U.S. ties, and the machinations by certain quarters, let me say that Pakistan and U.S. have a long and rich history of mutually beneficial partnership.

Deputy Secretary Sherman during her recent visit to Pakistan underscored the importance of long-standing relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. There were wide ranging discussions that touched on various areas of bilateral cooperation. State Department’s read outs and Deputy Secretary’s own tweets about the meetings confirm the broad nature of those discussions.

It was agreed to continue close communication and coordination on the situation in Afghanistan, security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, climate change, economic cooperation, and regional connectivity.

Beyond Afghanistan, our relationship is progressing in a healthy manner. We are focusing on building a stand-alone and comprehensive partnership that taps the inherent merits and benefits of a broad-based relationship between our two countries, which as you know, has also been mutually beneficial in the past and has helped advance our shared interests.

As you have noted, there are deliberate attempts by certain quarters to undermine this relationship, and they have often tried to do this through misrepresentation and twisting of facts. For instance, during Mr. Modi’s recent visit to Washington, the Indian Foreign Secretary attributed certain remarks to the U.S. Vice President with regard to Pakistan, which we checked with the U.S. side, and were given to understand that it was not the case.

Question:   I have two questions.

Firstly, there is a protest in IIOJK demanding the United Nations to investigate the issue of extra-judicial killings. Is Pakistan helping in this regard?

Secondly, PIA flights to Kabul have been suspended. What are the reasons due to which we are curtailing our contact?    (Ghulam Abbas, Daily Zakawat)

Supplementary Question:      Reportedly, some of the PIA staff was held hostage by Taliban. It has also been reported that the Taliban government has written a letter to the Government of Pakistan, copying it to OIA, demanding that the fares be reduced. Can you please confirm? (Naveed Siddique, Dawn TV)

Answer:      As for your question on the latest developments in IIOJK, obviously that is a natural response to the kind of situation that has developed there. The Kashmiris have had enough – of the atrocities and the scale of human rights violations that are being committed there, and as you are aware we have raised this issue on a consistent basis and in a very concerted manner at all levels; here in Islamabad, bilaterally with our international partners in world capitals, at the UN both in New York and Geneva, and other fora.

Question:   I have two questions.

Firstly, there is a protest in IIOJK demanding the United Nations to investigate the issue of extra-judicial killings. Is Pakistan helping in this regard? 1

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