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 Press Briefing.

This has been a period of intense diplomatic activity on various fronts. Let me highlight some of the significant aspects here.

First, as you know, Pakistan is hosting the 48th Session of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on 22-23 March, coinciding with the 75th anniversary celebrations of our independence.

We are ready in all respects to receive the participating Foreign Ministers and delegations as our honoured guests.

The Foreign Ministers will also join us at the Pakistan Day Parade as guests of honour, in a show of solidarity with Pakistan and its people.

The administrative and security arrangements for the Conference and other events are flawless and in place.

You would have followed the Presser by the Foreign Minister on 15 March wherein he outlined the importance and key objectives of the Conference, and the singular honour it brings to Pakistan, once again, as the CFM Chair for the next one year.

The Theme of the Session – “Partnering for Unity, Justice, and Development” – represents our commitment to foster unity within the Ummah, advance the cause of justice for all Muslim peoples, and promote prosperity and sustainable development for OIC Member States.

We will seek to build partnerships and bridges of cooperation across the Islamic world to address the myriad of challenges confronting us and to seize the multiple opportunities that present themselves to promote the collective interests of the Ummah.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will make keynote address at the Inaugural Session. Apart from addressing the core issues on the agenda, particularly Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir, the Conference discussions will focus on key priorities such as countering Islamophobia, recovery from COVID-19 pandemic, and diverse matters of peace and security, economic development, cultural and scientific cooperation and revitalizing the role of the OIC. The follow-up of the Extra-ordinary Session on Afghanistan will also be reviewed. Over 100 resolutions likely to be adopted by the Session, will articulate OIC’s perspective on major contemporary issues.

We will be sharing more details with your in the separate briefing after this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now let me turn to a significant achievement of Pakistan’s diplomacy under the guidance of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

On 15 March, the United Nations General Assembly has unanimously adopted a landmark resolution introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC countries proclaiming 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

The resolution reflects the sentiments of more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. This is the first time ever that the UN has adopted a resolution specifically recognizing Islamophobia as a contemporary form of discrimination.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first Muslim leader to raise the issue of Islamophobia at the UN – in his first address to the UNGA in September 2019. In his several addresses since, at various international forums, the Prime Minister has continued to forcefully advocate the need to effectively combat the scourge of Islamophobia. The Prime Minister has rallied the Muslim world for collective and effective action against Islamophobia.

It may be recalled that at the Niamey OIC CFM in November 2020, Pakistan had initiated a resolution calling for the designation of 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, which was unanimously adopted by the OIC.

Subsequently, we brought the discussion to New York, where, working together with other OIC partners, we pursued extensive diplomacy and constructive engagement with UN Member States, leading to consensus adoption of the resolution by the UN General Assembly.

The commemoration of the ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia’ will:

• Send a clear message against contemporary challenges of racism, discrimination and violence against Muslims

• Raise international awareness about increasing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred

• Promote the message of tolerance, peaceful co-existence and interfaith and cultural harmony

Let me state that Pakistan has been a bridge builder on this issue. We want to promote respect for all religions and beliefs and we continue to advocate global dialogue among civilizations under the ambit of the UN to promote interfaith harmony and understanding.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sure you would have followed Pakistan’s continuing proactive diplomatic outreach and engagement with our friends and partners in recent days.

The Prime Minister spoke to the EU Council President Charles Michel.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, accompanied by as strong business delegation, is in Pakistan. We had the delegation level talks and the joint press stake out by the two Foreign Ministers yesterday. He also called on the Prime Minister.

On 17 March, the Foreign Minister also received H.E. Major General (Rtd.) Bashir Salihi Magashi, Minister for Defense of Nigeria. The Minister also called on the Prime Minister.

Earlier on 10 March, the Foreign Minister met Ms. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Foreign Minister underscored Pakistan’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The situation in Afghanistan came under discussion. The Foreign Minister also briefed the High Commissioner on the grave human rights situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Over the last two weeks, Foreign Minister Qureshi has had a number of telephonic interactions including with:

• Mr. Josep Borrell, Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

• State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of the People’s Republic of China

• Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Mr. Sergey Lavrov

• Mr. Péter Szijjártó, Foreign Minister of Hungary

• H.E. Hissein Brahim Taha, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

• Ms. Retno Marsudi, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Indonesia

• YB DATO’ SRI Saifuddin Abdulla Foreign Minister of Malaysia

• Abdisaid M. Ali, Foreign Minister of Somalia

• Ms. Annalena Baerbock, Foreign Minister of Germany

• Dr. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Foreign Minister of Iran

• Nasser Bourita, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco and

• Mr.Vladimir Makei, Foreign Minister of Belarus.

Separately, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood received Ambassador Tarig Ali Bakheet, Special Envoy of the OIC Secretary General on Afghanistan, and Mr. Gasper Wieck, Germany’s Special Representative.

Let me note that in these interactions, apart from bilateral cooperation, various regional and global issues of common interest came under discussion.

The situation in Ukraine was one of them. We have emphasized that Pakistan’s position on the issue was driven by the imperative of protecting the country’s vital interests. Pakistan has taken a principled decision not to be part of bloc politics. We have underlined that Pakistan will only be a partner in peace, not in conflict.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had alerted about the adverse consequences of conflict for every one especially the developing countries, and that is clearly evident today.

Pakistan has also consistently emphasized the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, including self-determination of peoples, non-use or threat of use of force, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, pacific settlement of disputes and equal security for all. We believe these principles should be applied consistently and universally.

Pakistan remains deeply concerned over the continuing military conflict. We are calling for immediate cessation of hostilities, establishment of humanitarian corridors and provision of humanitarian assistance, and continuation of talks between Ukraine and Russia and persistent efforts for a diplomatic solution.

We have engaged both Ukraine and Russia, the neighbouring countries, key partners in Europe and others, and are willing to make all possible contribution to reinforce efforts for a diplomatic solution. We have put ourselves in a position to communicate with both sides and we continue to make our contribution. As you are aware, Pakistan has also dispatched humanitarian assistance for the Ukrainian people, in keeping with our close relations with Ukraine.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sure you have followed closely the grave incident of unprovoked and flagrant violation of Pakistan’s airspace by an Indian supersonic missile that fell to ground near Mian Channu causing damage to civilian property on 9 March 2022.

The flight path of the missile also endangered many international and domestic commercial flights both in Indian and Pakistani airspace as well as human life and property on ground.

You are aware of the briefing by DG ISPR and DGPR PAF of 10 March, and the summoning of the Indian Charge d’Affaires (Cd’A) on 10th March to convey our strong protest. On 11 March, Indian Press Information Bureau’s Defence Wing issued a statement admitting that a missile was ‘accidently’ launched from India due to ‘technical malfunction’ during the course of a ‘routine maintenance’. Taking note of that statement, the Ministry issued a Press Release on 12 March in which questions were raised regarding India’s security protocols and technical safeguards against accidental or unauthorized launch of missiles in a nuclearized environment. The Indian CdA was again called in that day and formally conveyed the Government of Pakistan’s serious concerns on the Indian press statement. A demarche was also handed over.

The grave nature of the incident raises several fundamental questions regarding security protocols and technical safeguards against accidental or unauthorized launch of missiles in a nuclearized environment.

Therefore such a serious matter cannot be addressed with simplistic explanations proffered by the Indian authorities.

Some of the questions that need to be answered include:

• India must explain the measures and procedures in place to prevent accidental missile launches and the particular circumstances of this incident.

• India needs to clearly explain the type and specifications of the missile that fell in Pakistani territory.

• India also needs to explain the flight path/trajectory of the accidently launched missile and how it ultimately turned and entered into Pakistan?

• Was the missile equipped with self-destruct mechanism? Why did it fail to actualize?

• Are Indian missiles kept primed for launch even under routine maintenance?

• Why did India fail to immediately inform Pakistan about accidental launch of the missile and waited to acknowledge till after Pakistan announced the incident and sought clarification?

• Given the profound level of incompetence, India needs to explain if the missile was indeed handled by its armed forces or some rogue elements?

We believe that the whole incident indicates many loopholes and technical lapses of serious nature in Indian handling of strategic weapons. Indian decision to hold an internal court of inquiry is not sufficient since the missile ended up in Pakistani territory. Pakistan has demanded a joint probe to accurately establish the facts surrounding the incident.

Given the short distances and response times, any misinterpretation by the other side could lead to counter measures in self-defence with grave consequences. Pakistan, therefore, calls upon the international community to take serious notice of this incident of grave nature in a nuclearized environment and play its due role in upholding and promoting strategic stability in the region.

Let me inform that Pakistan has briefed the P-5, European and other countries on this matter. The Foreign Minister has also spoken to UN Secretary-General and also addressed a letter to the President of the UN Security Council and the Secretary-General on 14th March on this incident.

The letter also draws attention to India’s persistent aggressive and irresponsible actions, its massive arms build-up as well as its offensive military doctrines and force postures, which pose an ever-present threat to peace, security and stability in South Asia. It also calls upon the Security Council to demand from the Government of India to: (a) hold a joint investigation into the missile incident along with Pakistan to accurately establish the facts surrounding the incident; (b) desist from any further actions that would jeopardize regional peace and security; and (c) take measures to provide reassurances to Pakistan and the world community about the security and safety of India’s weapons systems and the credibility of its command and control systems.

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

Question: As you have mentioned that Pakistan has demanded a joint probe for the missile incident and raised certain questions regarding the incident. Has Pakistan received any response from Indian?

Secondly, does Pakistan believe that it was an accidental fire? And it was not a tactical move from Indian side to check Pakistan’s anti missile defence system?

Thirdly, would Pakistan raise this issue with OIC Member states during upcoming OIC Session next week and demand condemnation of this aggression from India towards Pakistan? (Shabir Wahgra, PTV World)

Answer: You would have followed our press statements and the summoning of the Indian Charge d’Affaires who was conveyed strong protest and serious concern on the incident. You have seen the Indian Press statement that I mentioned, and subsequently there was also the statement by the Indian Defence Minister in the Parliament. We have made it clear that their response and statements so far, the way they have tried to explain the incident, is not at all satisfactory or sufficient. It does not address the serious concerns we have raised and the specific questions that we have posed, to which they have not yet come up with a response. I think, not only for Pakistan, it is also important for the members of the international community to know the answers to those critical questions. A joint probe is also essential from that perspective.

On your question about the forthcoming OIC session, I believe that given the serious nature of this incident and that it has taken place only recently in the run-up to the Conference, so we can expect that there will be some discussion about this, and members might like to comment on this, to express their views – it would be logical if there is discussion.

Question: How many Kashmiri leaders have been invited to attend the upcoming OIC Session, and how many have confirmed their attendance?

Secondly, The Foreign Minister in his presser mentioned that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad is trying its best to sabotage the OIC Session. Would you please highlight on what types of activities they are conducting to do so? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)

Answer: You have seen our press statement and that was necessitated because India objected to the invitations that were extended by the OIC Secretary General to the Kashmiri leadership, and India also repeated their baseless position and claim on the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK), which as you know is a disputed territory. Our statement has clarified that OIC has a principled position on the question of Jammu and Kashmir, in fact OIC supports a solution in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions that stipulate that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be decided in accordance with the will of the people to be expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite to be held under the auspices of the United Nations. That is precisely what Pakistan calls for, and it is supported by the OIC as an Organization, that is representing the Islamic world. In the context of the OIC’s discussions on Jammu and Kashmir, there is the Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, to which the true representatives of the Kashmiri people are traditionally invited by the OIC – but as you are aware India is not allowing them to participate. Main leadership remains in detention by the way. I can share with you subsequently the names of the true representatives who have been invited to the OIC Session.

On your second question, I do not think I need to elaborate what the Foreign Minister said. You are aware, there is this continuing effort on part of India to undermine Pakistan’s interests and they will avail any opportunity to do that, so you have to see it in that context. And this is not the forum to divulge details.

Question: As per the historic background of our country whenever there is political instability in country, the foreign diplomats start to play an active role and meet with different political leaders. It sometimes gives an indication that the government is going to be changed soon. Does this come under the diplomatic norms? (Khalid Mehmood, Express News TV)

Supplementary Question: Government, Ministers and MNAs are indicating that Pakistan is moving towards a regime change and a number of countries are involved in the anti-government plot. The Foreign Minister also pointed towards the similar direction in his presser. Can you name the countries who are involved in this anti-government movement? (Mr.Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News Agency)

Answer: I think it is not for me to comment on that. What I can say, however, is that yes, there are diplomatic norms that need to be followed and respected and that we convey that repeatedly and clearly to the diplomatic corps in Islamabad.

Question: There is a lot of ongoing discussion on foreign policy these days; Foreign Ministers in all his speeches mentioned the independent foreign policy of Pakistan. In the past Pakistan has always been asked to “do more”. At present, is there any Foreign Policy related pressure on Pakistan?

Secondly, Mr. Khurram Dastigir Khan held a press talks focusing completely on the foreign policy. Does foreign office agree or disagree with his remarks? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: We would not comment on individual statements, whether from political leaders or others. On your other question, I think it has been clear time and again that Pakistan was one such country, within our region and globally, that has taken positions which are based on principles, and as I also said in my opening remarks, it is our endeavor to take positions and to have foreign policy decisions which are primarily intended to safeguard and promote Pakistan’s core national interests. I think it is in that context that we formulate policies and take decisions.

Question: What is the prime objective of Pakistan which it is going to pursue in the forthcoming OIC conference? (Muhammad Asad, Frontier Post)

Answer: As I said in my opening remarks, building around the theme of the Session i.e. “Partnering for Unity, Justice, and Development”, we shall work to foster unity within the Ummah, advance the cause of justice for all Muslim peoples, and promote prosperity and sustainable development for OIC Member States. I also informed that among key areas of focus of this Conference will be the Palestinian question, the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, and in the current context the issue of Islamophobia, how the OIC countries can cooperate and collaborate to promote our collective economic and development objectives and post-COVID recovery, how we can cooperate to strengthen scientific, cultural and other cooperation, the question of Afghanistan, and many other peace and security situations in the Islamic world, all of these issues are on the agenda. Apart from the political and security issues, the social, economic and cultural side and a lot of other issues will be taken up by the Council. The OIC will pronounce its position on a host of issues through more than one hundred resolutions.

Question: The Foreign Minister during his presser mentioned that over 48 Islamic countries will be represented in OIC Session of Council of Foreign Ministers. Would you like to clarify further regarding the participation of countries, if there are some countries who have expressed their unavailability to participate in this conference? (Zargoon Shah, Geo News)

Answer: On the participation status, let me say that it is being updated naturally on daily basis as we keep receiving new information and confirmations. And yes, that was the number mentioned, and that relates to Ministerial level participation, that means Foreign Minister/Minister of State/Deputy Minister, this number keeps on evolving. Let me also say that all members are expected to participate, irrespective of the level of representation.

Question: My question is regarding the missile incident, is Pakistan resorting to some legal measure against India particularly when we are talking about the Hague code of conduct on ballistic missiles proliferation whether Pakistan is taking any sort of legal action on this incident?

Secondly, Pakistan is insisting for the joint inquiry of this incident, whether Pakistan has approached Delhi to get their consent or has India given any consent for joint investigations? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: I have already responded to a similar question, the Indian side has not so far responded to the specific questions we have posed and to our demand for joint investigation. Yes, it has been conveyed to them formally, that this is what we want. We have also taken this up with the UN Security Council, as I have informed in our letter, we have called on the Security Council to demand from the Indian government to hold a joint investigation with Pakistan to establish the facts surrounding the incident.

On your other question, all aspects of this incident and that includes apart from the peace and security and strategic stability dimensions, the legal questions – so the lawfare aspect has to be carefully reviewed also, and I believe we will take all possible actions about this incident.

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