Media Briefing|

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

Assalam-o-Alaikum, and welcome to our Briefing.
Let me begin by extending deepest condolences and sympathies over the loss of precious lives and damage to property caused by the tragic earthquake in Paktika province of Afghanistan and its adjoining areas, and torrential floods in various provinces across the country. Yesterday, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif held a telephonic conversation with Acting Prime Minister of the Interim Afghan Government, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund to offer condolences and prayers for the departed souls and wished speedy recovery for the injured.

On directions of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan has dispatched relief goods to Afghanistan on 22 June 2022. Government and people of Pakistan stand ready to extend all possible support to ameliorate the suffering of our Afghan brethren in this difficult time.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Yesterday Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari virtually addressed the First Meeting of Group of Friends on Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms held at the United Nations, New York. Noting that like many other countries Pakistan had been victim of targeted campaigns of disinformation, the Foreign Minister urged that this pandemic of disinformation should be confronted, countered and defeated at national and international level by:
• Enhancing public awareness
• Enhancing capacity of governments
• Minimizing negative impact of disinformation on human rights, and its highlighting by UN human rights mechanisms
• Developing rules, standards and regulations for adherence
• Creating an Inter-Agency Task Force on Disinformation and appoint a Focal Point, for regular and on-going interactions
• Opening a comprehensive dialogue to develop a coherent consensus on international cooperation to combat disinformation.

This meeting was a follow-up to the initiative that Pakistan, together with several like-minded countries, took last year in the UN General Assembly leading to the adoption of landmark UNGA resolution No. 76/227 on “Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”.
The “Group of Friends” has been established to promote the implementation of that resolution.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, is on an official visit to Kigali, Rwanda to lead Pakistan’s delegation to the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on 24-25 June 2022. Yesterday, she also attended the Pre-CHOGM Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM).

The Minister of State will present Pakistan’s perspective at the plenary. She will also hold several bilateral meetings on the sidelines of CHOGM.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you have followed, at its plenary meeting last week in Berlin, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) acknowledged the completion of Pakistan’s Action Plans of 2018 and 2021 covering 34 items, especially the early completion of the 2021 Action Plan in a record timeframe, and also authorized an onsite visit to Pakistan, as a final step to exit from the grey list. Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar led Pakistan’s delegation to the FATF Plenary, and had a detailed press interaction on return.
In their statements, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister welcomed the development and commended the hard work and dedicated efforts of Pakistan’s FATF team that led to the successful completion of all technical requirements of both FATF Action Plans. They acknowledged the concerted national efforts and complete harmony of interests by all stakeholders and reaffirmed the Government of Pakistan’s commitment to continue this positive trajectory of reforming the financial sector as part of its larger strategic objective of strengthening Pakistan’s economy. They also expressed hope for a successful on-site visit and early culmination of the process leading to Pakistan’s exit from the grey list.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 18 & 19 June 2022, Pakistan joined the international community in commemorating the International Day for Countering Hate Speech & International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict respectively. Pakistan has been advocating for an international framework against hate speech, disinformation and balanced approach between fundamental freedoms and responsibilities. On these days, Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to the universality of all human rights and their equal application in conflict areas and areas under occupation.

World Refugee Day was commemorated on 20 June 2022. While observing this Day, we expressed our solidarity with refugees all around the world. It may be recalled that Pakistan has shouldered the responsibility of one of the largest and most protracted refugee situations in the world for over four decades. Pakistan continues to host more than 3 million Afghans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 17 June 2022, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi issued 495 visas to Sikh pilgrims from India to attend the rituals related to the annual Death Anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh from 21-30 June 2022. During the visit, the pilgrims would, inter-alia, go to Panja Sahib, Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib.
On 20 June, the Government of Pakistan has released 20 Indian fishermen prisoners upon completion of their sentences. These fishermen have been repatriated via Wagah Border to India.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 20 June, the first batch of 90 Pakistani students have returned to China on a special chartered flight to continue their on-campus studies. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had made a special request for the return of students to China for on-campus studies during his meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in China on 22 May. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training, HEC and the Embassy of Pakistan in Beijing have been actively engaged in efforts for facilitating the return of the students. It is expected that the successful arrival of the first batch would pave the way for return of all Pakistani students to China for on-campus studies.

Coming over to the Situation in IIOJK

Pakistan strongly condemns extra-judicial killing of eleven more Kashmiris in fresh acts of state-sponsored terrorism by Indian occupation forces in Pulwama and Baramulla Districts of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

Since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019, more than 636 Kashmiris have embraced martyrdom in fake ‘encounters’ and so-called ‘cordon-and-search operations. This year alone, 113 extra-judicial killings of Kashmiris have been recorded.
India must realize that use of brutal force against the Kashmiri people, extra-judicial killings, custodial torture & deaths, forced disappearances, incarceration of Kashmiri leadership & youth and other methods of subjugation have failed in the past and will not succeed in the future.

Pakistan also urges the international community to hold India responsible for its brazen suppression of innocent Kashmiris and play its due role in ensuring a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

I thank you and am ready to take your questions.


Question: After the two gestures by Pakistan, one by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif while he was responding to the letter by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then last Thursday speech by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval gave an interview to an ANI on Tuesday, he said and I quote “we would like to have normal relations but tolerance threshold for terrorism is very low. Can’t have peace and war at choice of our adversary we will decide when, with whom and what terms”. So this is what he said about Pakistan.
Secondly, Chinese President Xi Jinping while addressing a business forum ahead of BRICS summit, decried Western and specially US sanctions on Russia, saying that they are weaponizing the economy and this is a double edged sword, which affects everyone. Now Pakistan, which is also being affected by this oil crisis, how do we view Western sanctions? We cannot purchase oil from Iran, our western neighbor. Venezuela cannot produce more oil because of US sanctions. So either a country goes bankrupt or if it transfers the impact on people, they will be pushed into poverty and millions of millions will be rendered as poor people. So how do you view Western Sanctions? (Essa Naqvi, Independent)
Answer: Thank you. I think it’s not for me to comment on the statement of the Chinese leadership. It’s for the Chinese Foreign Ministry to comment. In principle, our historic position on sanctions is well known. We believe that if this instrument has to be used, it should be used through the mechanisms that are internationally available that is through the UN. And so I’m not going to go into details on that. What I can say is that on the situation in Ukraine we have clarified our position from the beginning and it remains the same. The situation is unfortunate and it has led to many consequences, which have serious impact on the international community, including particularly the developing countries, and as you said on countries like Pakistan and others who are facing the consequences of the situation. And perhaps these consequences are further aggravated and complicated by the sanctions that come into play.
Regarding your first observation, I think it’s nothing new. Our position vis-à-vis the importance of friendly cooperative relations with neighbors including India, the need for dialogue, a dialogue which is a result oriented and a meaningful dialogue which can lead to progress on outstanding issues including particularly the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, is very clear. We have said that the environment for such dialogue is not there, this is what the Foreign Minister also said recently. The environment has been vitiated by Indian actions, and the onus is therefore on India to take necessary steps to create an environment which will be conducive for dialogue. Now what the Indians have been saying all along, this bogey of terrorism, it’s an old repeated, parroted position, it has no locus standi, especially coming from India which itself is a state sponsor of terrorism, involved in supporting, financing, perpetrating terrorism and sabotage in Pakistan over the years, including in the past through its presence in Afghanistan. India also uses the ploy of terrorism to undermine the legitimate struggle for self-determination of the Kashmiri people and to divert the attention of the international community from its widespread atrocities and human rights violations in IIOJK. So, our position on that is quite clear.


Question: My question is regarding Group of Friends event. What is the Importance of event group of Friends for countering disinformation? Did Pakistan raise the issue of disinformation campaign by Indian channels against Pakistan with our participating countries? (Zeeshan bhatti, PTV)

Answer: You’re referring to the New York event. Okay, so, I think I referred to that in my opening remarks also. This meeting yesterday was quite significant. The event was attended by a large number of member states and United Nations entities. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari delivered the Keynote Address and you would have followed that.. This meeting was a sequel to the initiative that Pakistan took last year together with like-minded countries that led to the consensus adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly on the issue of countering disinformation for promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Already during that process a number of countries had come along, they recognize the importance of this issue, and they joined hands with Pakistan for the adoption of that resolution. And now what we’re working on is to see how we can have the provisions of this resolution implemented. So it is in that context that this meeting took place.

What I can say is that this group of friends would focus on global approaches to countering disinformation, especially the legal and normative aspects of countering disinformation; the role and impact of policy measures and the range of tools that need to be employed, including awareness-raising campaigns at the international level. It would also deliberate on how multilateral institutions can assist member states in countering disinformation and developing a consensus-based global response to counter disinformation, including the UN Secretary General’s proposal in Our Common Agenda report to develop a global code of conduct that promotes integrity in public information and social media regulations.

I think all of these points are, they must be, of great concern and interest to all of you, being from the media and journalist community. The Group of Friends will provide a valuable platform to develop an international policy and normative framework for effectively combating the growing phenomenon of disinformation. Pakistan has assumed a leadership role on this issue in the United Nations, driven by our own experience of facing a state-sponsored disinformation campaign, which you would recall was globally exposed by the EU DisinfoLab Report and others.

The speakers at the event appreciated Pakistan’s initiative and the way forward proposed by the Foreign Minister. Let me add that this is the first formal effort at the United Nations to develop an agreed international response to the scourge of disinformation through dialogue, engagement and collaboration.


Question: Has the foreign officer taken up the issue of Canadian parliamentarian comments regarding our military leadership? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY News)

Supplementary Question: Sir, in what context the Canadian High Commissioner was summoned yesterday? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)

Answer: Okay, so the context is the remarks that were made in the Canadian Parliament recently by a member. We have taken up this issue with the Canadian government. We have underlined that freedom of expression entails responsibility, and that Pakistan takes serious exception to the baseless and unsubstantiated remarks that have been made. Pakistan and Canada have a multifaceted relationship and we wish to deepen our bilateral ties based on mutual respect and trust and such incidents are not helpful in that context.


Question: While the National Security Committee took up the issue of talks with TTP being a domestic agenda, but certainly a non recognized foreign government is also involved in facilitating these talks and Pakistan has also been fighting against terrorism as a partner with the international community. Whether any concerns have been raised by any government on these talks, that are taking place in Kabul or wherever? Whether they are condoning this step by the Government of Pakistan? (Shoukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: Well, the details of the briefing that was given were made public, so I don’t need to go into that. I think this was a question that was being asked for quite some time so it’s useful that it was shared.
With regard to your specific question, it’s not in my knowledge if any country has raised questions or concerns with regard to this process.

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