Media Briefing|

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

Assalam-o-Alaikum, Good afternoon and welcome to our Briefing.

Let me begin by reiterating Pakistan’s strongest condemnation and rejection of the mala fide conviction and sentencing of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik in a grossly suspicious and contrived case registered under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) dating back to 2017.

The Indian Charge d’Affaires (Cd’A) in Islamabad was called to the Foreign Office on 25 May and was conveyed Government of Pakistan’s strong indignation over the highly reprehensible sentencing of Mr. Yasin Malik after his conviction on fabricated charges, denial of fair trial, and inhuman incarceration despite his deteriorating health, in complete defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Earlier in the week, in a strong statement Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned Indian court’s fallacious conviction of Yasin Malik and demanded his urgent and immediate release.

The Foreign Minister has also written letters to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bache let and OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha, apprising them about the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). In particular, the Foreign Minister expressed grave concern over the sham conviction of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik.

India must harbor no delusions. Pakistan will continue to raise its voice to express its concerns and highlight the gross excesses that India continues to commit with unchecked impunity against the Kashmiri people and their political leadership in IIOJK. The entire nation is united in support and solidarity with the Kashmiris as also manifested by the unanimous resolutions passed by the joint session of the Parliament. We shall continue to agitate all political, diplomatic and other avenues in this regard.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Coming over to the diplomatic engagements during an active past week.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited Davos, Switzerland, to attend World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting from 23-26 May 2022. He was accompanied by MOS Hina Rabbani Khar.

This year the Forum was organized under the theme, “History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies.” Both the Foreign Minister and the Minister of State participated in several WEF events on contemporary global and regional issues. The Ministers shared Pakistan’s perspective on the economic and social impacts of the evolving geopolitical developments as well as the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, food and energy security, and climate change.

On the sidelines, the Foreign Minister accompanied by Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman and Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar held bilateral meetings with:

• Her Majesty Queen Máxima of The Netherlands in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development,
• Foreign Minister of Finland, Mr. Pekka Haavisto,
• Romanian Foreign Minister, Mr. Bogdan Aurescu,
• Dr. Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),
• His Highness Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
• Austrian Foreign Minister, Mr. Alexander Schallenberg, and the
• Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr Hossein Amir Abdollahian.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Prior to Davos, at the special invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited China on 21-22 May. This was his first bilateral visit abroad since assuming office last month. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and senior officials were part of the Foreign Minister’s delegation.

You would have seen the Joint Statement adopted at the conclusion of the visit. The two Ministers held extensive consultations and reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations, with a particular focus on stronger trade and economic cooperation. Fast-tracked progress on the transformational China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s visionary Belt and Road Initiative, also featured prominently in the discussions.

The visit coincided with the 71st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China, wherein both countries reaffirmed their commitment to the ‘Iron Brotherhood’ and the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During the week, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood received several high-level delegations including:

• Dr. Jasper Wieck, Germany’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and
• James Heappey, Minister for Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

On 20th May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also hosted a briefing on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for resident diplomatic missions of ASEAN member countries.

The 3rd rounds of Policy Planning Dialogue, as well as the Bilateral Consultative Forum between Pakistan and Indonesia were held in Bali during the week, providing an opportunity for a comprehensive overview of bilateral relations and ways of strengthening cooperation in diverse fields.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 25th May, together with our African friends, Pakistan celebrated the “Africa Day”, by organizing a virtual event in collaboration with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). Over 500 guests from 35 African countries participated with representation from the African Union Commission and three Regional Economic Communities namely the East Africa Community (EAC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).

In his opening address, FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to enhance outreach and cooperation with the African Continent through the “Engage Africa” initiative, particularly in the economic and trade domains.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Yesterday, 6 Pakistani peacekeepers were posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal in a solemn ceremony at the UN Headquarters in New York marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers. The Government and people of Pakistan join the international community in paying tribute to all peacekeepers from around the world who have made the ultimate sacrifice for safeguarding the ideals of international peace and security.

I would also take this opportunity to convey sincere gratitude on behalf of government and people of Pakistan to Government of Iran for sending Ilyushin Il-76 to help put out fires ravaging the forests in Balochistan, at our request. The timely aid helped control the fires that had been raging for 2 weeks, saved precious lives and also averted further spread of the devastating fire. This gesture is a testimony to the strong bond of brotherhood and solidarity between our two countries.

Coming over to IIOJK.

We remain deeply concerned at the continuing repression and human rights violations by the Indian occupation forces. We strongly condemn the extra-judicial killing of 4 innocent Kashmiri youth in Srinagar and Pulwama today. Earlier during the week, 4 Kashmiris were martyred in so-called cordon and search operations in Baramulla and Kupwara.

On 21st May, the Government and people of Pakistan paid homage to Shaheed Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Farooq and Shaheed Abdul Ghani Lone who were martyred by Indian occupation forces on 21 May 1990 and 21 May 2002 respectively. Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) commemorated the significant contributions of the two iconic Kashmiri leaders to the struggle for self-determination.

Let me state clearly, India’s designs to silence the Kashmiris and their leadership through oppression, wanton use of force and sham trials will never succeed. As the popular reaction in IIOJK on the sentencing of Yasin Malik proves, this will provide further momentum to their legitimate struggle.

Pakistan once again urges India to halt its state terrorism, immediately cease human rights violations, release all Kashmiri leaders detained on trumped-up charges, and lift the inhumane military siege of IIOJK.

We also call upon the international community, international human rights organizations and particularly the United Nations and its human rights machinery to take cognizance of the dire humanitarian situation in IIOJK, hold India accountable for its shameless violations of international law and norms, and to play their role in ensuring a just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

With this I will conclude my remarks and am ready to take your questions.

Question: Sir, this conviction of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik, is of course a very, very serious development. And what do you think other than writing letter to OIC and international human rights organization, what else Pakistan can do to build pressure on India. As if this is the first step, in future more leaders, more Kashmiri leaders could be implicated into the false terrorism cases and would be punished. So if this series of punishments or severe sentences to Hurriyat leader continues, then definitely they will be very serious negative impact on the independence struggle of Kashmiri people. What do you think what extraordinary steps Pakistan can take to keep this moment alive and to again declare this punishment given to Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik as null and void? What diplomatic political moral steps and initiatives we can take? Thank you so much. (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: I think I have a different view. I don’t think that such illegal actions by the Indian government, the occupation authorities in IIOJK, can dampen or weaken the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people, I think, to the contrary and as we have seen the kind of reaction that was there in IIOJK, the kind of sentiment that was there across Pakistan, also demonstrated by the Joint Resolution of the Parliament, it is very clear that such steps by India that they have been taking especially since 5th August 2019, we have seen that the resistance, the voice of the Kashmiris, it has only gained strength. So I can say and I think you would agree that the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination which is a just struggle against an illegal occupation is going to continue and gain momentum, and it is not going to be affected at all by such steps.

At the same time, as you have said, we cannot let such illegal actions and atrocities go unnoticed and un-responded. So we have mounted an effort, which is across the board. We are reaching out diplomatically to major countries and other friends in the international community. We have already approached the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the OIC. The Foreign Minister is going to write to the UN Secretary-General as well. He discussed this matter with the UNSG during the visit to New York as well.

We are going to utilize all forums, be it at the UN in New York, the General Assembly, the Security Council, as you would have noticed the most recent Security Council debate in which this issue was forcefully raised and the international community was sensitized. We will do this in the forthcoming sessions of the Human Rights Council, and we will consider all possible measures including legal ways and pressing the human rights dimension, to mount a comprehensive response to this unjust sentencing of Mr. Yasin Malik.

Question: India has recently reduced the prices of oil due to the import of oil at reduced price from Russia. Keeping in view National Interest of Pakistan, will Pakistan look towards Russia or Ukraine, particularly Russia, for import of oil and food products?

Secondly, In view of the human rights violations that are committed against Muslims particularly in IIOJK, Rohingia, and Palestine. Do you consider that the International human rights bodies or and the developed countries have biased attitude towards human rights violations against Muslims populations? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I think on the on your first question. Our policy is clear, you know in terms of expanding economic and trade relations, we have an open policy, driven by national interest – wherever we see there is national benefit we pursue those options and avenues.

You are aware of this ongoing food security crisis in the world. It was discussed at length in New York also recently. And there is a shortage of food grain in Pakistan. And there is a decision also to import a certain quantity of wheat utilizing various options, international bidding and G2G options. In this regard, the government is in touch with friends and partners, and we are also in consultation with the Russian side with on this subject. As for oil, I understand the Minister of State for Petroleum is right now in a press conference, I think you will have more information from there on the matter.

Your other question, I would term it as an observation. It is a long-standing issue and very correctly portrayed by you. The human rights across the world, although everyone acknowledges that these are universal and have to be universally respected and upheld, but because of politicization, double standards and duplicitous positions, they are not respected universally and consistently. Pakistan has been calling throughout along with many other countries, in fact a large majority of countries call for universal respect for human rights without any discrimination, and I think it is in the interest of the international community that human rights be universally respected. And the international community must join hands to protect and safeguard the rights of those people who are being persecuted and oppressed, especially people under illegal occupation – and the case of Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine are the two prime examples I would say in this regard.

Question: Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik’s wife seems to be complaining in press conferences that my daughter and myself are not being allowed to meet Yasin Malik. Did Mushaal Hussein Mullick contact the Foreign Office for a meeting? Or did the Foreign Ministry make any effort at the diplomatic level to reunite Yasin Malik with his wife and innocent daughter? (Saqib Ali, daily Kashmir times)

Answer: Yeah, this is an issue that has been there for many years. The family has not been allowed to meet Yasin Malik. This is totally unacceptable. The issue has been raised on number of occasions by Pakistan at various fora including with the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We will continue to agitate this and we will extend all possible support and take all possible actions to make this happen.

Question: Sir. I have two questions. One is regarding Russia. There is a debate that and there have been certain statements from certain political leaders that Pakistan was actually not in consultations with the Government of Russia for imports of petroleum products or energy products from Russia. We know from certain and several of your press releases since Sergey Lavrov’s visit last year in the first week of April that Pakistan is talking about energy cooperation with Russia. So what’s the actual status? Did the last government approach Russia for import of petroleum products or not?

Secondly, we know that Pakistan had held a position after 5th August 2019. The actions taken by the Indian government in the illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, there reversion is a prerequisite from the Government of Pakistan for initiation of dialogue. Any dialogue with India is dependent upon reversal of the actions that were taken on 5th August. What’s Pakistan’s current government’s position regarding any such dialogue with the Government of India? Thank you. (Essa Naqvi, Independent)

Answer: On your second question, our position remains the same it has been stated on various occasions very clearly. On your first question, this is what I mentioned right now. There is a press conference by the Minister of State for Petroleum. I think you would be able to find answers to your queries from that forum.

Question: Recently, Karachi has witnessed a few terrorist attacks and after latest attack, CTD in its official report stated that Iranian soil has been used for planning of these attacks. Has Foreign Office officially contacted Iran for this purpose, as we have seen that Iranian embassy also responded to such allegations? (Shabbir wagra, PTV World)

Answer: You would recall that I responded to this question, similar question, in my last briefing. Iran is a friendly brotherly country. With all neighbors we share common concerns with regard to terrorism. There are established mechanisms of dialogue and consultations. We continue to engage the neighboring countries through those forums.

Question: Global Security Initiative President proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping reflects the shared security needs of the international community and the new circumstances and provides an important and refined plan for global security governance. So what’s Pakistan’s stance on it?

(Mr.Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News Agency)

Answer: Thank you for the question. I think you would have seen the Pakistan China Joint statement issued at the conclusion of the Foreign Minister’s recent visit to China and there is a mention of several initiatives of China, specifically the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative and also the recent one which is the Global Security Initiative.

This is to be welcomed because this initiative derives you know its core from the UN principles. It carries a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. The Initiative is a timely call to action, in our view, in the face of contemporary global realities, where the interplay of traditional and non-traditional threats necessitates holistic approaches towards international and regional security.
I should also note that recognizing the need for international partnerships to address the common challenges of climate change, public health, water, energy and food security, this Initiative advocates cooperative and synergy driven approaches replacing the zero sum, Cold War mindset of maximization of security through power contestation and arms race.

Moreover, this initiative emphasizes the need for regulating global commons, such as outer space, cyberspace, polar regions, which run the risk of becoming new theatres of conflict. Pakistan has been for long a voice for ongoing multilateral efforts in this regard.

Furthermore, as I noted in the beginning, the Global Security Initiative is underpinned by principles which Pakistan has always held dear. These include the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, multilateralism, peaceful resolution of disputes and equality of countries in terms of the security interests. The GSI rightly underscores the special responsibility of the major powers in resolving international and regional hotspot issues by encouraging dialogue and facilitating peace processes through good offices and mediation.

Question: Yesterday, the Secretary of State in Antony Blinken talked about China policy and said that China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it. So if such is the competing spirit over there, and we are partnering with China on CPEC, what implications this policy does have for Pakistan?

Secondly, Foreign Minister in his interview to New York Times also talked about Pak-US relations and stressed on the new avenues for promotion. What new avenues this government is particularly pointing towards? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: Thank you. I think our position is clear. It has been explained and stated on many occasions.

We want objective and balanced and broad-based relations with major powers and this includes the US and China and others, and we will continue to pursue that policy. So it is in that context, you see that we engage closely with China. We are strategic partners, BRI, CPEC, and other initiatives are there, and the recent contacts with the United States, the engagement between the two Foreign Ministers is also indicative of the same desire of Pakistan and I would say of both our two countries to expand our relations on those lines – broad based, mutually beneficial, of mutual interest and based on mutual respect, and I believe we will continue this policy, we think that this is in the best interest of Pakistan. And in principle, we always encourage major powers to adopt policies that are cooperative rather than confrontational.

Question: What is the update on the return of Pakistani students to China who want to resume their studies there? (Namra Sohail, PTV News)

Answer: I think this has been raised several times and we have been providing updates. You know, basically you would recall that in the wake of the surging COVID-19 pandemic, globally in mid 2020, the Chinese universities adopted the policy of online classes for all foreign students, including from Pakistan. The return of Pakistani students to resume on campus studies in China has featured in our high-level bilateral contacts with the government of China. The Chinese authorities are now considering gradual and phased return of foreign students for on campus studies. And during the meeting between Foreign Minister Bilawal and State Councilor Wang Yi on 22nd May in China, the Chinese side again assured that efforts would be made for safe and secure return of Pakistani students in a phased manner.

This was also reflected in the joint statement issued at the conclusion of the visit. The Chinese authorities have selected the first batch of 251 priority students for return to China. These students are receiving their visas and completing their pre-departure formalities. The Government is considering a special charter flight for their return. Gradual opening up of Chinese universities would allow for return of more Pakistani students in the coming months.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Pakistan Embassy in Beijing will continue coordination with Chinese authorities for return of all students.

Question: Thank you so much, spokesperson. Two questions. Firstly, there are reports that the Prime Minister is due to visit Turkey in the coming week. Can you confirm these reports?

Secondly, German Foreign Office has confirmed that it is investigating Germany’s top diplomat in Karachi, the Consul General Mr. Holger Ziegeler, after being alleged that he groped a woman while being drunk at a Queer event that Germany sponsored last year in November in Karachi. Now there are two parts of this question. Firstly, is any country allowed to go or interfere or go beyond the structural cultural norms of another country and sponsor such events number one, and number two, will the Pakistani Foreign Office be taking this case up, given that a Pakistani woman was groped by the German diplomat? Thank you. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV )

Answer: Thank you. On your first question, yes the Prime Minister would be visiting Turkey next week, and we would be sharing with you more details containing elements, specific elements and engagements envisaged during this visit.

On your second question, I am afraid I don’t have the details, we’ll have to check. But as a general statement, yes it is expected that diplomats posted in other countries they are required and expected to respect the local cultural norms.

Question: Some foreigners have been abducted in Sudan, including a Pakistani national, who has called on the Pakistani government to intervene. What is the situation in this regard? Has the government of Pakistan negotiated with their Government?

Secondly, Saira Ali, a Grade-20 officer, had filed a harassment case against Ambassador Nadeem Riyaz, former Ambassador from Pakistan to Italy. What is the status of that case? (Czechangez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)

Answer: Thank you. I think your first question is maybe related to the incident in Nigeria. And so basically, yes, you’re right. It is in the news. Also, I have shared individually with some of your colleagues in response to some questions that were directed to us yesterday.

Very briefly, I can share that end of March, the Boko Haram terrorists attacked a train in Nigeria, as a consequence of which dozens of passengers died and an estimated 60 were taken hostage or abducted and among those abducted, unfortunately, was also a Pakistani citizen from Multan Mr. Abuzar Mohammad Afzal. He is a PhD Doctor employed as a manager in a local company, which is owned by his extended family in Kaduna city, Nigeria.

Governments of Pakistan and Nigeria are coordinating closely on the matter.

The High Commission of Pakistan in Abuja is in contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria and other relevant quarters, including security agencies of Nigeria, and they are maintaining close contact with the family members of Dr. Abuzar in Nigeria and in Pakistan.

The Ministry, including our senior officials are also in touch with the Nigerian High Commission in Islamabad for urgent and safe release of Dr. Abuzar, and you know, the message from our leadership has also been conveyed to them in this regard.

Regarding your other question, I don’t have the details, but I would say that, you know, administrative procedures would take course when this matter is received by the Ministry.

Question: Wife of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik has requested during a Press Conference to the government of Pakistan to include her name in the delegation which will attend the International Human Rights Conference in Geneva. Has there been any discussion or consideration in this regard at the Foreign Office, so she can raise her voice against the human rights violations that are being committed against her husband?

Secondly, a ministerial level meeting of ECO will be held in Tehran. Will the Foreign Minister be part of the delegation attending the session? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: On your second question, whenever details or specific information are available with regard to any forthcoming meetings or visits, we share with you and we will do so in this case as well.
On your other question, and I responded partly to this already, as I said, we are going to raise the issue, the sentencing of Mr. Yasin Malik at all fora and I think the Human Rights Council is one of the most relevant forums and we will do that and the session starts in June. And, you know, any suggestions with regard to the delegation will be taken into consideration.

Obviously, I would say that, and I think this is a tribute to the courage and determination of Mrs. Mishal Malik. She has stood up to this injustice and continuing detention and torture that her husband has suffered at the hands of the Indian occupation, and I would say, mental and psychological torture that she herself and their young daughter have suffered in not being allowed to meet Mr. Malik for all those years. I think all of us pay great tribute to her courage and bravery and determination. She is a great voice not only for the welfare and safety of her husband, but a great voice and a great advocate for the overall cause of Kashmir. And Pakistan has supported her all along and we will continue to do that.

Question: Sahibzada Jehangir, Britain based Pakistani National and a close friend of former Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Pakistan High Commission in London and harassed the Officials in the High Commission and threatened them of getting them posted at far off stations when the PTI will be in government. Is there any complaint that has been received by Foreign Office from High Commission in this regard? (Aun Sherazi, Such TV)

Answer: Not being in picture on this matter, I am not in a position to comment at this point of time.


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