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.

Let me begin by Prime Minister’s successful visit to China from 3-6 February 2022. The visit was undertaken on the invitation of the Chinese leadership to attend the opening ceremony of Beijing Winter Olympics.

During the visit, the Prime Minister held face-to-face meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang which covered the entire gamut of bilateral relations and exchange of views on regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also held a meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. A comprehensive joint statement was issued at the conclusion of the visit. 14 Agreements/MoUs and other outcomes were also concluded. The Joint Statement and list of agreements has been posted on the website of the Ministry.

The visit had an important economic component. In order to exchange views on high-quality development of CPEC, fast-track progress of its Phase-II, and industrial development, the Prime Minister virtually met the Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission. A Framework Agreement on Industrial Cooperation was signed during the meeting, which would pave the way for Chinese support for industrialization, and investments in CPEC SEZs.

The Prime Minister also held meetings with heads of 20 top Chinese enterprises covering a broad array of investment interest. SAPM on CPEC Affairs has given a detailed media briefing on these meetings.

On the sidelines, the Prime Minister met President of Uzbekistan and held interactions with other world leaders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 9 February Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held telephonic conversation with the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Foreign Minister of Chad, H.E. Cherif Mahamat Zene. The conversation focused on deepening historic ties between the two countries and strengthening bilateral cooperation.

Ambassador of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Tarek Dahroug, called on the Foreign Minister on 10 February. Expressing satisfaction at the growing cooperation between Pakistan and Egypt, the Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of enhanced interactions at leadership level, greater people-to-people contacts, and increased institutional engagements.

On 16 February, the Foreign Minister inaugurated the 8th meeting of the Istanbul Process, themed “10th anniversary of UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18: Looking Back and Moving Forward.”, that was hosted by Pakistan from Geneva.

The 9th Round of Pakistan-Netherlands Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) was held on 10 February. Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and Mr. Paul Huijts, Secretary General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, led the respective sides. The two sides reviewed bilateral cooperation in a range of areas including political, economic, trade and investment, climate change, education and culture.

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood also met with German State Secretary for Economic Cooperation and Development Jochen Flasbarth on 14 February. During the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on bilateral relations as well as regional issues

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood on 16 February received outgoing Kenyan High Commissioner to Pakistan Prof. Bitok for a farewell call. The Foreign Secretary appreciated the High Commissioner’s efforts for promotion of bilateral ties and reaffirmed our commitment to further deepen the relations in all fields.

The same day, the Foreign Secretary also attended the launching ceremony of Pakistan-Germany commemorative coin to mark 70th anniversary of establishment of Pakistan-Germany diplomatic relations.

On 16 February, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with Digital Media Wing, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, organized a ‘Twitter for Diplomacy’ virtual training session. 130 Pakistani diplomats spread over 100 Pakistan Missions abroad participated in the session which aimed at imparting training to Missions Abroad for effective engagement through “Twitter” and increasing outreach to global audiences.

Continuing in the context of public diplomacy, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi undertook a visit to UAE from 16-18 February 2022. He visited the Pakistan Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 and held a media interaction appreciating the vision and zeal that has made the Pakistan Pavilion a ‘must-visit’ site for all guests, making it one of the top 5 most frequently visited Pavilions at the Expo – indeed a resounding success. The Foreign Minister also visited and appreciated the Pavilions of KSA, UAE, China and Turkey.

At the OIC Pavilion, the Foreign Minister extended a symbolic invite to Ministers of Foreign Affairs of all OIC countries to attend the 48th Session of OIC CFM to be held in Islamabad from 22-23 March 2022. It may be noted that formal invites have already been issued to all countries and further details regarding the 48th OIC CFM in Pakistan will be shared in due course.

Coming over to Situation in IIOJK

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. In their separate messages the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister paid homage to the supreme sacrifices of our brothers and sisters in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and reiterated our unflinching and complete support for their just struggle. This will continue till the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination. Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi also addressed a letter to the President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the United Nations Secretary General to apprise them of the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and the continuing threat to peace and security.

As part of the Kashmir Solidarity Day activities, an art exhibition to honor the valiant struggle of Kashmiris for their right to self-determination and to highlight the widespread human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) was also held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 10 February. Young artists from the National College of Arts Rawalpindi, COMSATS University Islamabad and Rawalpindi Women University participated in the exhibition.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today marks fifteen (15) years of the Delhi-Lahore Samjhauta Express train blasts that resulted in the tragic deaths of 68 passengers, including 44 Pakistani nationals. To this day, our hearts mourn their untimely demise. It is extremely unfortunate that despite the availability of clear evidence, the families of the victims of Samjhauta Express terrorist attack continue to await justice. India’s continuing failure to provide justice to the victims of this horrendous terror attack is a reconfirmation of the culture of impunity that the perpetrators of terrorist attacks enjoy in India. The families of the victims long for the day when the terrorists responsible for the cold-blooded attack will be apprehended and made to face the full force of law. However, the reality of today’s India is awash with injustice, inequality, and unabashedly rampant state-sponsored terrorism.

Indian Charge d’Affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office this morning to convey Pakistan’s strong protest, that despite 15 years having elapsed, India is yet to bring to justice the terrorists behind the 18/2 Samjhauta Terror Attack. We further conveyed our alarm that the Hindutva extremism and ‘Saffron terror’ that had motivated the inhuman attack 15 years ago has intensified manifolds under the current regime in India.

The Government of India is advised to put an end to state patronage of terrorism and bring to trial the terrorists behind the Samjhauta Express blasts. Pakistan also calls upon India to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, and faithfully comply with its obligations under international legal regime governing terrorism.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Pakistan is deeply concerned and condemns reprehensible act of banning Muslim girl students from wearing hijab (headscarf) in the Indian state of Karnataka. In this context, on 9th February the Indian Charge d’Affaires was demarched and urged to convey to the Government of India, Pakistan’s extreme concern over the anti-hijab campaign, being spearheaded by RSS-BJP combine in Karnataka, which is part of its larger exclusionist and majoritarian agenda aimed at dehumanizing and demonizing Muslim women.

Pakistan categorically rejects the unwarranted and preposterous comments made by the Spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on the Pakistan-China Joint Statement of 6 February. We also strongly reject India’s persistent propaganda against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan has shared irrefutable evidence of India’s sinister campaign to sabotage CPEC. There is strong evidence of Indian involvement in recent sinister attempts to stir up unrest in Balochistan by supporting anti-state elements.

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

Question: I have question regarding the Samjhauta Express, had any information or development been shared from Indian side with Pakistan over the last fifteen years? How has Pakistan handled this case and is there any information that can be shared with media? Is there any credible information based on which the families of the affectees who are awaiting justice for so long can be satisfied? (Sumaira Khan, Samaa News)

Answer: I think it is not a question of lack of information or evidence, it is a question of lack of commitment for due process of law and political will on part of the Indian government, and that is very evident from the way the trial was held and you are well aware of the shameless way they acquitted the accused including Swami Aseemanand who had publicly confessed of being the mastermind of the attack. So you are aware of how things transpired, and how terrorists enjoy impunity in India. And that is the reason Pakistan is demanding a fair trial to bring those responsible to justice. We will be happy to share more information with you in a separate background briefing.

Question: There had been news of the involvement of the neighbouring countries including India, Iran and Afghanistan in the recent terrorist attacks in Balochistan. Has the issue been officially taken up with these countries? (Khalid Mehmood, Express TV)

Supplementary Question: Interior Minister of Iran recently visited Pakistan, more than 13 people were arrested in Karachi from different areas for their alleged linkages with terror financing with Iranian rackets and Iranian Intelligence agencies. Has Pakistani government and officials taken up this issue with Iranian officials? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)

Answer: On your first question, I think we have said on various occasions and this is our consistent policy and position that terrorism is an international phenomenon. It is a problem that is being faced by many countries in the world. Pakistan is one of them. Pakistan in fact has been one of the biggest victims of terrorism over the years. We have faced the brunt of terrorism and we are very committed to, as you have seen in the past, in confronting this menace with a lot of courage, sacrifice and success. I can assure that all the necessary steps that are required, are being taken by the government of Pakistan with regard to preventing the threat of terrorism including that from across the borders, and those who are involved such as India. There is a track record of terrorists getting support from abroad and we are fully aware of that and we will take all necessary steps to bring this cross-border terrorism to stop. We also remain in touch with the authorities of the Afghan interim government.

The visit of the Iranian Interior Minister had a wide agenda, there were useful consultations, high-level meetings and I think it was part of the ongoing very constructive and fruitful dialogue and engagement of Pakistan with Iran. We will continue that engagement with Iran, including in the relevant mechanisms, as Iran is a close friend and partner of Pakistan.

Question: Pakistan is being kept in FATF grey list despite Pakistan fulfilling all the requirements. Do you consider this a conspiracy against Pakistan to hamper its economy? However, big countries with questionable track record are not placed in any list?

Secondly, how would you comment on the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine specifically in view of the upcoming visit of the Prime Minster? Can you share details of Prime Minister’s visit to Russia? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: Has any advisory been issued on the situation in Ukraine? (Zulqernain Haider, ARY News)

Answer: Your first question is basically with regards to FATF. As a responsible country, we do not publicly comment on the processes of FATF, but I think it is known that there are issues of politicization by some countries, and that remains a problem. Having said that, I think Pakistan is a strong and important country, we know how to defend our interests. In the context of FATF, we have faithfully complied with and completed all technical requirements and hope that the outcome would be in the positive direction.

With regard to Ukraine, as we have said before, we continue to follow the developments closely. We hope, and there are strong expectations, that continued engagement and dialogue will lead to a diplomatic solution. I think that is the right way to go. As far as Pak community in Ukraine is concerned, we remain in touch with our Embassy there. Our Mission is in close contact with the community, especially the students. They are taking care of their welfare and they are also, from time to time, issuing necessary advice and guidance to them keeping in view the evolving situation.

The Prime Minister is expected to visit the Russian Federation during next week on the invitation of the Russian leadership, and the visit is being prepared and we will share more details formally later today. Pakistan attaches great importance to its multi-faceted and strong relationship with Russia.

Question: Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been placed on 11th position in the performance report being issued. Being the Spokesperson of the Foreign Office, in your opinion where did the Ministry was unable to perform? And what are the reasons that your Ministry was not in the list of top ten Ministries? (Rashida Siyal, Abb Takk)

Answer: I think it is not for me to respond to that question – you would have noted nevertheless the Foreign Minister’s comments on this issue. There is nothing for me to add. The Foreign Ministry’s performance has been and will remain top notch.

Question: My question is related to Pakistani a woman who is in Indian detention she waited for quite some time for confirmation of her citizenship. Have the Pakistan High commission in India been advised to issue her necessary travel documents?

Secondly, why did this process takes so much time? Like Sumaira, how many Pakistanis’ are in detention centers in similar cases? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA, Urdu)

Answer: As you would know that for Pakistani citizens in Indian jails or detention centers and vice versa, one of the requirement and essential step is the nationality verification. In this case our Mission had requested for nationality verification which has now been confirmed by the concerned authorities. We have already shared it with the Indian side in New Delhi and our High Commission is also in contact with the concerned officials in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and we are hopeful that she will be able to travel to Pakistan soon.

Question: From the previous response I understand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is satisfied with their performance however, the question is did the Foreign Office receive any response from SAPM Shahzad Arbab on the letter written by the Foreign Minister? If any response have been received, what reasons has been reflected due to which the Ministry in not among the top then Ministries? (Aun Sherazi, Such TV)

Answer: As I have already said before, I have nothing to comment on this.

Question: There are over 200 students both in the scholarship and the self funded category awaiting visa issuance despite their admissions for Graduation and Post graduation in various universities in South Korea. However, students from other countries have reached Korea as the classes are starting on 3rd March. Korean Embassy in Islamabad receives the documents, charge the fee and provide acceptance certificates but after one month the case is rejected and the documents are returned. (Syed Yaseen Hashmi, Daily Urdu Times)

Supplementary Question: Sir, like wise there are few students from Peshawar who are awaiting Italian visa. How would you comment on this? (Shakeel Kalyana, Daily Relation News)

Answer: I have no information about the specific or individual cases as they vary from country to country; there is no denying the fact that still because of COVID related travel restrictions there are delays in many countries. As far as Republic of Korea is concerned, as per our information, the students with government sponsored scholarships are not facing any issue related to visas. However, others are facing some issues, and that is not anything specific to Pakistan, and we have taken that up with the Korean authorities on multiple occasions and we hope to get it addressed.

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