Media Briefing|

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

Assalam-o-Alaikum. Thank you for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a moment of great challenge and adversity for Pakistan, as unprecedented rains and floods have caused massive devastation in various parts of the country especially in Sindh and Balochistan. The Government has announced a state of emergency owing to huge loss of life, property, infrastructure, livestock and livelihoods. Millions of people have been upended from their homes. Around 33 million people have been affected. Close to 1000 lives have been lost. Rescue and relief operations are facing difficulties due to washed away infrastructure.

The Government – Federal and Provincial Governments and various departments and agencies including NDMA and PDMAs, civil administration and armed forces – are leading a coordinated humanitarian response, for which all available resources and capacities are being deployed and mobilized. A National Emergency Operations Center is operating, and a National Relief Coordination Committee constituted by the Prime Minister is working under the chair of the Minister for Planning.

The Prime Minister is himself steering the overall effort. As you would have been following, the Prime Minister was in Sukhar a while ago visiting the flood hit areas, along with FM Bilawal and other Ministers and senior officials. Earlier this morning the Prime Minister met a group of Ambassadors to sensitize them of the scale of human tragedy.

As always, the Government’s efforts are being complemented and supported by the entire Pakistani nation, with people, civil society and humanitarian organizations stepping forward in big numbers for relief work in the spirit of generosity and solidarity with the affected brothers and sisters.

As you can see, the scale of the disaster is so huge that it requires urgent cooperation and support from the international community. We are grateful to the UN, IFIs, and a host of our partners and friendly countries who are stepping forward with assistance. A UN Flash Appeal is also going to be launched on Tuesday 30 August simultaneously from Geneva and Islamabad.

Millions of our overseas Pakistanis are also ever ready and willing to contribute to this effort. As you are aware the Government has also established the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2022. The Fund shall is accepting donations / contributions both from home and abroad. Our Missions around the world are reaching out to Pakistani communities to facilitate and mobilize flood relief activities.

It is my appeal to all media colleagues to spread this message far and wide and raise awareness about this dire situation.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with our compatriots affected by the floods. May Allah Almighty help the nation in facing this challenge with strength, resilience, and characteristic Pakistani patriotic and philanthropic spirit. Amen.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sure you would have followed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s official visit to Qatar from 23-24 August, on invitation of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Amir of the State of Qatar.

During the visit, the Prime Minister held in-depth consultations with the Qatari leadership. The Prime Minister met the Amir of Qatar, the Qatari Prime Minister, Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Investment Authority and a delegation of Qatar Business Association.

During various meetings, both countries agreed to increase institutional coordination besides enhancing cooperation in agriculture, food and energy sectors. Leaderships from both sides also agreed to encourage Qatar’s investment in the fields of renewable energy, tourism and hospitality sectors. Prime Minister Sharif thanked His Highness Amir of State of Qatar for Qatar Investment Authority’s readiness to invest USD 3 billion in various commercial and investment sectors in Pakistan.

The Prime Minister addressed a Pakistan-Qatar Trade and Investment Roundtable that was attended by top Qatari business and corporate heads and Pakistani business community. He also visited FIFA World Cup Stadium where he appreciated the sports facilities as well as the unique building design. The Prime Minister Sharif expressed good wishes for the Qatari leadership and people for hosting the mega sporting event.

We take great pride in that the official football for FIFA 2022 ‘Al-Rihla’ is manufactured in Pakistan, known for its world-class football-manufacturing prowess.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me also share various other important high-level engagements during the week.

Last week the Prime Minister received the new Australian High Commissioner and also met a delegation of students from Harvard University. Earlier this week, Ms. Ulla – Maija Rantapuska, Investment Manager, Finnfund, Finland, accompanied by the Honorary Consul General of Pakistan for Finland called on the Prime Minister. During his visit growing opportunities for investment in Pakistan including in the IT, energy, agriculture, industries and e-commerce sectors came under discussion.

Yesterday, there was a telephone call between Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. Foreign Minister Bilawal expressed gratitude to his Saudi counterpart for additional one-billion-dollar investment in Pakistan. The Foreign Minister also informed the Saudi Foreign Minister about the devastation caused by the unusual floods in Pakistan and appreciated Saudi Arabia’s assurance of taking all possible steps to help the flood victims. Both leaders also discussed promotion of bilateral relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We continue to be deeply concerned over the gravely disturbing developments and increasing intolerance in India.

Let me reiterate Pakistan’s strong condemnation of sacrilegious remarks against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) made by another BJP official. This is the second time in the last three months that a senior BJP leader has made disrespectful comments towards our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) denoting the worrying yet unmistakable slide of today’s India towards Islamophobia.

Pakistan demands the Indian government to take immediate and decisive action against the BJP members habitually involved in attacking Islam and targeting the dignity of beloved Prophet (PBUH). Pakistan also calls on the international community to take urgent cognizance of the aggravating situation of Islamophobia and overt espousal of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam agenda of the BJP-RSS combine.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would also like to invite your attention to the recent spate of false terrorism-related assertions made by India in which some detached alleged incidents are being distorted and presented as a so-called ‘terror’ plot against India. Pakistan firmly rejects such allegations.

Pakistan also urges the international community to take immediate cognizance of the fact that India is yet again resorting to classic ‘false flag’ methods to advance its sinister designs and that this could have serious implications for peace and security in the region. The international community must urge India to act responsibly.

Talking about India’s irresponsible posturing.

You would have seen our statement on India’s announcement of the findings of an internal Court of Inquiry regarding the incident of firing of a rogue supersonic missile into Pakistani territory on 9th March 2022, and their decision to terminate the services of three Indian Air Force (IAF) officers reportedly found responsible for the reckless incident. Pakistan categorically rejects India’s purported closure of the highly irresponsible incident and reiterates its demand for a joint probe. The measures taken by India in the aftermath of the incident and the subsequent findings and punishments handed by the so-called internal Court of Inquiry are totally unsatisfactory, deficient and inadequate. India must immediately provide specific responses to the questions raised by Pakistan regarding the command and control system in place in India, the safety and security protocols and the reasons for India’s delayed admission of the missile launch.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan also remains seriously concerned over the release of 11 convicted criminals serving life sentence for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano, a five months’ pregnant woman, and the murder of her 7 family members, including a three-year-old child, in the infamous 2002 Gujarat riots.

It is beyond reason how and why these criminals have been allowed to walk away without the completion of their life sentence. This miscarriage of justice is painful for the family of the victims as well as for the Muslim community in India as a whole. It clearly shows how the Indian legal system has been compromised to serve and protect the interests of the ruling BJP-RSS nexus. There has been outcry against this decision within India, particularly among Muslims, legal fraternity and women rights groups.

Coming over to the situation in IIOJK.

You must have followed that the Indian Charge d’Affaires in Islamabad was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today and a strong protest was lodged on the extra-judicial killing of a Pakistani prisoner, Muhammad Ali Hussain, by Indian Occupation Forces in a fake encounter that took place in Arnia, IIOJK.

Muhammad Ali Hussain had been jailed in Kot Bhalwal Prison in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) since 2006.

The Indian diplomat was told that Mr. Hussain’s death under mysterious circumstances at a location away from the prison, has once again substantiated Pakistan’s long-standing position that Indian Occupation Forces in the IIOJK are routinely involved in undertaking staged, choreographed attacks and extrajudicial killings of Pakistani and Kashmiri prisoners. He was also reminded of the case of Zia Mustafa, another Pakistani prisoner, who was murdered by Indian authorities in a similar fake encounter last year.

We also strongly condemn the martyring of two youth in Rajouri by the Indian occupation forces. Just yesterday, Indian troops martyred three innocent young Kashmiris in cold-blood in a village of Uri, Baramulla district.
It is worrying that Indian troops, paramilitary and police personnel have stepped up fake encounters, cordon and search operations and house raids to suppress the Kashmiris’ ongoing freedom movement.

We denounce such undemocratic, and blatantly illegal acts of Indian occupation forces in IIOJK.

We reiterate our demand for release of all illegally detained political prisoners and Hurriyat leaders, particularly Yasin Malik, who are languishing in different jails of IIOJK and India.

We also condemn India’s continued detention of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who was not allowed to deliver Friday sermons today.

Pakistan also reiterates its call to the international community to hold India accountable for its gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian law and ensure that Pakistani and Kashmiri prisoners under Indian custody are not expended as cannon fodder in the execution of India’s nefarious designs in the IIOJK.

Pakistan rejects Indian occupation authorities’ sinister move to grant voting rights to Indian citizens in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir that reeks of the sinister designs of institutionalizing ‘settler colonialism’.

The realization of sustainable peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia remains contingent upon peaceful resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

It is the responsibility of the international community to come together and demand India’s compliance with its international obligations within the agreed legal framework espoused by the comity of civilized nations and in keeping with numerous Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir.

Before concluding, let me also share that OIC Secretary General HE Hissein Brahim Taha is scheduled to visit Pakistan from 30th to 31st August 2022. This will be OIC SG’s first bilateral country visit to Pakistan. You would recall that he was in Pakistan twice earlier for the OIC Extraordinary Session on Afghanistan in December 2021 and the 48th Session of OIC CFM in March 2022. This is a very important visit. The SG will have various high level engagements. We will be sharing further details of the visit in due course.

I thank you and am ready to take your questions.

Question: You said it rightly about the rain and flood situation in the country that it is getting really worse. Don’t you think that the International Donor Conference for floods should have been done up till now, which is still in the pipeline?

Secondly, our largest donor is United Nations. There are many small organizations which claim to be working with UN and collect funds on their behalf. These funds never reach the real floods affectees. What is the government doing in this regard to organize International Donor Conference and also to put an end to activities of such fake organizations. (Changez Khan jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)

Answer: I think if you have been following closely the developments – the efforts and response of the Government. You would note that since late July and early August, the efforts are being mobilized. And, the Emergency Operations Center and the Relief Coordination Committee that I mentioned have been working overnight and the NDMA has been engaged as a central focal point for the relief activities. You would have also noticed that in many of these meetings, the government has engaged, realizing the scale of the disaster, it is very clear that this level of devastation which is approaching, by some estimates it has gone beyond the damages caused by the 2010 floods, so the capacities are really stretched. And the government has deployed all possible resources and capacities to deal with the challenge but it is obvious that we do require international assistance to complement the national effort. So, in that that context, you will note that in many of the meetings and briefings that have been held, our development partners, friendly countries have been engaged, they have been attending these meetings. Just to let you know there was a donor’s conference yesterday at the Economic Affairs Division, in which a number of UN Agencies and many resident diplomatic missions were represented, and the Prime Minister himself participated. This morning as I told you, the Prime Minister interacted with a group of Ambassadors. We have engaged the UN system right from the beginning. The UN Resident Coordinator and his team, they have been working on this issue for many days now, visiting the flood hit areas, making assessments, working with the NDMA to produce this joint assessment, the document that will be presented, on the basis of which the flash appeal will be launched. This obviously takes some time. But please rest assured that they are fully engaged and once again, I would like to inform you that the UN flash appeal which is very significant, and it will trigger the international community’s response as well as bilateral assistance from other countries. It’s (Flash Appeal) going to take place – things are ready for that – on Tuesday simultaneously from Geneva and Islamabad.

I don’t know which organizations you are talking about who are allegedly working in the name of the UN. I think everyone knows UN’s agencies and their programs. All I can say is that we should remain vigilant about the kind of organizations you are referring to.

Question: I know that you do not respond to the statements made by the political leaders. But, since a federal former Federal Minister has directly asked a question from Your Excellency. As you mentioned Prime Minister’s visit to Doha, the point raised by Dr. Shireen Mazari is that, along with the plane of Prime Minister, Mian Shehbaz Sharif, an Israeli plane was also parked for nine hours side by side and there is a question from Dr. Shireen Mazari that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif or state officials from Pakistan could meet in those one or the second planes with the Israeli officials. Do you ascertain the authenticity of such a claim or question? Thank you, sir.

My second question is, when three Indian Air Force officials have been dismissed for negligence or deviation from the SOPs, as the Court of inquiry has established in India. Why Pakistan is insisting for a joint probe with India. Thank you, (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: On your first question, yes we have seen that query or comment and related media queries also, in a way casting aspersions on the coincidence of the timings of the visit of Israeli delegation with the visit of the Prime Minister to Qatar. We categorically reject such aspersions as baseless. Such speculations are totally unfounded.
And let me also state that Pakistan’s position on the Arab Israeli dispute and the Palestinian question has been clear and consistent, totally unambiguous. Pakistan steadfastly supports the Palestinian peoples’ inalienable right to self-determination and we believe that for just and lasting peace in the Middle East, it is imperative to have a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital in accordance with the relevant UN and OIC resolutions.
On your second question, if you read our statement, our response to the actions that have been taken and announced by the Indian side after that internal court of inquiry, I think we have specified very clearly as to why this is not acceptable. This is not sufficient. This is not adequate. They have not reverted to us, they have not responded to our specific questions. There were serious concerns that Pakistan had, and also other members of the international community had about this incident, which had really threatened at that time, regional peace and security. So it is for those reasons very clearly enunciated in our statement, that we have rejected.

Question: We are seeing that in India the incidents regarding Islamophobia are increasing day by day. After the killing of Muslims, now the incidents of blasphemy particularly by the BJP leadership are also on the rise. Does Pakistan have any plans to coordinate with other Muslim countries and raise these issues particularly in OIC and at various other forums to take actions against such actions? (Ghazala Noureen, Suno TV)

Answer: You would have followed that over the last two, three years, Pakistan has led a concerted campaign to raise awareness about the perils of Islamophobia and we have particularly pointed out that this is a significant problem in our immediate neighborhood in India. And you would have seen, you know, the kind of steps that Pakistan has taken, we have led the discussion on this within the OIC, we took it to the UN, you are aware of 15th March that was proclaimed as International Day to Combat Islamophobia. We continue these efforts. I think large majority of our friends in the international community are very sensitive to this. They agree that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. We will continue to work with them and we will continue to expose and call out the deplorable behavior in India particularly by members of the BJP leadership, which is totally unacceptable.

Question: Two weeks back we heard from you that Pakistan will be taking part in the SCO RATS exercise and that level of participation will be announced at an appropriate time. Now, yesterday at his weekly briefing, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson stated and I quote, “Pakistan is only coming as an observer for the meeting at the closing ceremony. We too did the same when the SCO RATS meeting was held in Pakistan”. Now my question is that can you confirm that Pakistan is only participating in the closing ceremony as an observer or is it sending a full-fledged contingent for the exercises? Thank you. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: The Indian participation was also at the same level, so that’s how our participation was expected to be.

Question: Sir, although the part of this question has already been answered, but I would want you to tell us about Pakistan’s principled position on torture under custody by the Indian illegally occupied forces in Jammu and Kashmir, the harsh treatment meted out with the Kashmiri youth, blockage of internet occasionally, the restrictions on media and the use of state machinery to convert the majority into minority. Thank you. (Essa Naqvi, Independent News)

Supplementary Question: As my colleague has asked, still in occupied Kashmir there is another drive to suppress Kashmiris by offering domiciles to the Indian occupied forces and to settle them in Kashmir, besides making barracks and permanent residents and all others, including to giving the right of vote to the Indian occupied forces. So, how do you respond to this because nine lakh forces are there in occupied Kashmir, and if such a drive is going to be, it would be unprecedented? How do you see that? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: Yes, for both questions I would like to recall and you have been following what Pakistan has been saying and it’s not recent, we have been saying for many years we have been raising this alarm, we have been trying to create this awareness amongst the international community with regard to India’s behaviour, the serious situation of human rights in IIOJK. And coupled with that, you mentioned 900,000 plus occupying forces, this is the most militarized zone in the world, and these forces were reinforced in the run up to 5th of August, and the kind of atrocities and violations of international humanitarian law that have taken place under occupation. This is a situation that really requires the attention of the international community. There are various kinds of human rights violations that are taking place and torture, as you mentioned in custody is one of them. And you would have noted that the UN Human Rights machinery has been following closely this situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, there are UN Special Procedures/Rapporteurs who are focusing on different aspects of human rights violations. And if you look at the two reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of 2018 and 2019, there is a detailed account of the kind of human rights violations that are taking place in the occupied territory. We have also contributed to this effort to create awareness and to share information as to the gravity of the human rights situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by sharing evidence, concrete information, you would recall the dossier that was unveiled by Pakistan in September last year had detailed information about the widespread human rights violations and violations of IHL by Indian occupying forces in IIOJK.

You also mentioned about the efforts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory. Our statements, I would refer you again there are many statements at every stage, at every action, illegal and unilateral action that has been taken by India. In that context, we have rejected, we understand and believe, and this is the UN’s position also that all such illegal and unilateral actions, they are ipso facto null and void. They are in complete violation of the international law, UN Security Council resolutions and particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention. So, all these recent steps, and there are specific statements that we have issued to reject those steps, including the issuance of over 4 million domiciles, all illegal, and this drive to include in the voters list, about 2.5 million unlawful and fraudulent voters. These are all illegal steps that have no standing whatsoever.

About the Internet services, communications blackout, we’ve always expressed our concern. I think, not only us, the international community, the mainstream international media, human rights organization and others, they have joined in raising this voice. You would recall in the midst of the communications blackout in IIOJK, for example, there was this campaign by Amnesty International “Let Kashmir Speak” that was also in that context. Communications blackout and lockdowns continue to pose severe hardships for Kashmiris in IIOJK.

Question: It has been recently revealed that Indian officials were recruited in Twitter to hack and block those accounts, which were supporting the Kashmir and Palestine cause. What are your comments on this?

Secondly, it is being reported that India is trying to improve its relations with Afghanistan. Recently, few interactions have also been reported and new Consulates are also being opened, because previously India has been involved in anti Pakistan activities from inside Afghanistan? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: Thank you very much. I think your remarks about their role that has been exposed and it’s not the first time that you know that the world has come to know what they do behind the scenes, the nefarious activities that have been exposed. You’re aware of the EU Disinfo Lab report as well. I think it’s the responsibility of the major international social media companies like Twitter, Facebook and others to be very vigilant on this and also to be very fair and objective and not allow their organizations or forums to be misused.

Regarding India and Afghanistan, traditionally we do not offer comments or objection with regard to relations between third countries as long as there is nothing against Pakistan’s interests. Having said that, you are also aware of India’s traditional role in Afghanistan over the years that has not been positive and has not been constructive. They have always played the role of a spoiler with regard to the efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and you are also aware of our concerns with regard to India’s activities directed against Pakistan from their presence in Afghanistan. I’m sure the Afghan interim authorities are fully aware of that background also.

Question: Taliban finally came up with their investigation statement that they did not find body of Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, as claimed by the United States that he was killed. Since Pakistan is closely monitoring developments in Afghanistan, including security and there have been strong cooperation with US and Afghanistan, in counterterrorism. What information Pakistan has shared as far as killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri is concerned. Did US share any information with Pakistan because over the last many weeks Pakistani and US officials have been closely in touch and CENTCOM chief also visited?

Secondly, there is growing instability in Afghanistan as there is pressure on Mullah Akhund to step down. There are two reasons, first it might be aging and second that there is pressure within Taliban that he should step down. Any reports with you, any comment would you like to make? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: On your first question or comment, I have no specific information with regard to the investigation you are referring to.
On your second question, I’m not here to comment on the internal maters. All we want and all that we have wanted throughout is a peaceful, prosperous and stable Afghanistan, and that continues to be our policy and desire. This is very important to understand.

Question: Is it correct that next month Pakistan and India both are going to have backdoor parlays in Middle East? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer: Am not aware of that.

Question: Pakistan is a sovereign country and strictly obeys the policy of non-interference. But, recently in New York the spokesman of the UNSG have criticized the actions of Pakistani government. When a representative of Al-Jazeera asked a planted question, to which the spokesman replied while reading a written answer criticizing Pakistani government, institutions and judiciary regarding cases being registered against the leader of a party which was previously in government. Do you think that this is interference in the internal issues of Pakistan and will you protest against these actions in the United Nations as UN is an institution which should remain impartial in such matters? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)

Supplementary Question: Sir, in the similar context many international observers on social media are criticizing that Pakistan talks about human rights violation and war crimes in Jammu and Kashmir, similar human rights violations are today being witnessed inside Pakistan. Such as opposition party and journalists are being suppressed and tortured. What is your response on this? (Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News Agency)

Answer: I don’t see a relation between the two questions. And there is no comparison whatsoever, as the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir arises out of the dispute between India and Pakistan. It is an occupied territory in which the Indian occupying forces are committing those serious crimes and violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.

All fundamental and constitutional rights are fully respected in Pakistan.
As for your first question, we have seen those comments.

Question: In Pakistan Embassy, Madrid, Spain an agreement was done with a cleaning company which was later ended. But, the invoices amounting to 1675 Euros per month are being charged and amount is also being withdrawn. Another woman from Philippines is being paid 900 Euros per month. I have her salary slip and cheques for withdrawing the money as well. This is being done since last 9 years and the total sum amounts to 78,000 Euros which is allegedly being transferred to the accounts of the officers of the Missions from the government funds. Pakistan is not receiving any VAT on this because the agreement is not with a company but a woman. This has also being mentioned in various audit reports. What are your comments on this?

Secondly, how many cases have been registered against the officers of the foreign office for misconduct and making fake invoices? What are their names and what is the position of these cases? (Aun Sherazi, Such TV)

Answer: You are referring to some case from 2012. I am not a repository of the entire knowledge about foreign office and missions standing here right away. I have no information to respond to your question and comment. I would also say that, you know, this is also not a very useful utilization of our time at the press briefing, to be engaging in these kinds of questions. If there are any administrative issues on which you have questions, you can send those to us to have a look.

Question: Saudi Arabia has announced an assistance of 1 billion $ for Pakistan. What details can you share about the various areas in which this amount will be invested? Can you share some details?

Secondly, there have been talks of interactions between Israeli and Pakistani officials, but there has been no statement or announcement of financial support from Israel in the wake of current situation of floods in Pakistan. What are your comments on this? (Anwar Abbas, BOL News)

Answer: Don’t think your second question merits a response considering what I have said earlier.

On your first question, I can say that this is a welcome step. And Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always been interested in forging close economic cooperation, trade and investment. So this is another step in that direction, which we appreciate, and I’m sure you will have more information as this was only disclosed yesterday during the conversation of the Foreign Ministers.

Question: India has requested Pakistan to extend the deadline for the transportation of remaining 15,000 metric ton wheat to Afghanistan.

Secondly, there are reports that Pakistan has been requested by the Qatari authorities to provide security for the FIFA World Cup. Your comments please. Thank you. (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn)

Answer: On your first question, you would recall that you know, for this transportation of Indian wheat overland, Pakistan had given its approval on an exceptional basis on humanitarian grounds and when we gave this approval, you will also recall that it was decided that this entire process would be completed in a given timeframe, within 30 days of the first consignment, which unfortunately, has not been followed. Still, Pakistan has shown a lot of flexibility and understanding on this issue. We have on numerous occasions extended the timeline, and I’m sure in order to enable this to be completed, this is being considered.

On the second question, well, I can say that as is evident from the PM’s visit also, Pakistan and Qatar enjoy strong bilateral ties. We maintain close cooperation in various fields and this also includes security and defense. Pakistanis have made important contributions in building the World Cup infrastructure in Qatar.

Question: 15th August completes one year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan and in this regard various ceremonies were held inside Afghanistan. Similarly, a ceremony was held in Afghan Embassy Islamabad where Afghan flag was hoisted in that ceremony which was a flag of the current Taliban government in Afghanistan. Up till now neither Pakistan has recognized the Taliban government nor has any other country in the world. What is Pakistan’s position on this flag hoisting? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: I think what they do inside the diplomatic compound, it’s up to them. I understand this was a national day celebration (19 August) a day that they have been commemorating for many many years.

Question: The West wanted to kill Osama bin Ladin and they conducted an operation inside Pakistan. Similarly, they wanted to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri and they conducted an operation in Afghanistan. Why has the entire Islamic world not been able to adopt a clear policy on handing over of criminal like Salman Rushdie. What efforts have been done by Pakistan in this regard? (Luqman Shah, Daily Azkar)

Answer: I understand a part of your question, but don’t see the correlation. So I don’t know how to respond to that. As regards Islamophobia and the serious issue of blasphemy and disrespect towards our Holy Prophet, our position is very clear, consistent, and we were just talking about that earlier. And we feel, we believe that this is the common responsibility of the international community to really seriously look into these matters and not allow any such incidents or any such individuals to create discord and disharmony.

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