Media Briefing|

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

Assalam-o-Alaikum. Welcome to the Briefing.
Yesterday, Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar and officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs bid farewell to outgoing Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood. It was an occasion to pay tribute to his stellar diplomatic career, sagacity, foresight on foreign policy and his humane and humble nature. His leadership and deep sense of commitment to the country are going to be a strong legacy in Foreign Service of Pakistan.
The Prime Minister visited New York from 19 to 23 September to attend the high-level segment of the 77th UNGA Session. The Foreign Minister and other members of the Cabinet accompanied him.
The Prime Minister attended several high-level meetings and events, held bilateral meetings with Heads of State/Government of key countries, including France, Iran, European Union, Japan, Spain, Austria, Belgium and others, attended a reception hosted by President Biden and met the UN Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, as well as the Managing Director of the IMF and President of the World Bank.
A key objective of the visit was to highlight the colossal damage caused by the floods in Pakistan. The Prime Minister drew attention of the international community to this calamity in his address to the UN General Assembly and urged mobilization of resources for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction in Pakistan. He underlined that this disaster was the impact of climate change to which Pakistan has contributed minimally.
Prime Minister conveyed the same message in all his interactions and advocated the need for global action to halt climate change and to compensate developing countries for loss and damage from climate impact.
There were very positive responses from several of the Prime Minister’s interlocutors including the French President, UN Secretary-General, the Managing Director of IMF, and the President of the World Bank and some other key leaders, including US Special Envoy for Climate Change, Mr. John Kerry. They all agreed to help Pakistan mobilize international support.
An international conference focusing on sustainable re-building, rehabilitation and reconstruction will be convened once the damage and needs assessment and a comprehensive plan are prepared.
During his address to the General Assembly and in other interactions, the Prime Minister also outlined Pakistan’s perspective on a number of other issues of concern to Pakistan and the wider international community.
He drew attention to the grave situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the fact that this dispute was the main source of tension between Pakistan and India. To resume a dialogue and ease tensions, India should reverse its illegal and unilateral actions taken since 5 August 2019. The PM invited India to work for peace and allow both countries to focus on the alleviation of poverty, disease and hunger.
The Foreign Minister also had an extensive program. You would have noticed he attended various high-level meetings and events including the Closed-Door Leaders’ Roundtable on COP-27, the Food Security Summit co-organized by the EU, AU and the US, the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, OIC Contact Group on Muslims in Europe, the OIC Committee of Six on Palestine, the Ministerial Meeting of the UN Group of Friends of Mediation, and the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative (GDI).
The Foreign Minister also chaired the Annual Coordination Meeting (ACM) of the OIC Foreign Ministers, as well as the G-77 and China Annual Meeting of Foreign Ministers, as you know Pakistan is chairing both the forums, and hosted a meeting of Young Foreign Ministers, and a High-Level Event on ‘Loss & Damage: New and Additional Financing’ organized by Pakistan.
The Foreign Minister also held bilateral meetings with a number of his counterparts, and had extensive media and think-tank interactions.
The Minister of State also had various bilateral interactions, besides participating in several events including on “Feminist Foreign Policy”, hosted by the German Foreign Minister, Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and High-Level meeting on UN Peacekeeping that was hosted by the Irish Foreign Minister.
Later Foreign Minister Bilawal embarked on a four-day trip to Washington D.C. accompanied by Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar. During the visit, the Foreign Minister had a very productive meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during which U.S. announced additional $10 million for Pakistan’s flood relief efforts bringing the total contribution to $66.1 million. Foreign Minister Bilawal also delivered a talk at Wilson Center. The Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also called on Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator James Risch, Ranking Member Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar also met US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To recall briefly, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif led the Pakistan delegation to the Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Samarkand on 15-16 September. All eight Heads of State/Government of SCO member states attended the Summit meeting in person.
The Prime Minister’s statement at the Summit conveyed Pakistan’s vision for the strategic direction of SCO in the face of global political and economic transformation. The Prime Minister presented a compelling case for collective action by SCO countries to combat the ravages of climate change.
You would also recall that at the invitation of the British government, the Prime Minister represented Pakistan at the State Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in London on 19 September.
Yesterday, Prime Minister received a telephone call from the Egyptian President, H.E. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. The Egyptian President offered condolences to the people of Pakistan over the loss of precious lives and devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan and also announced relief assistance from the Egypt. Prime Minister thanked the brotherly people of Egypt and also took the opportunity to assure Pakistan’s support to the Egyptian Presidency of COP-27 for a successful Conference.
It is matter of grave concern that the Indian occupation forces have martyred five more Kashmiri youth in extra-judicial killings and fake encounters in Kulgam and Kupwara areas in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir in the past week.
We also continue to draw attention of the international community to the deteriorating situation particularly the heath of Kashmiri political prisoners including Hurriyet leaders languishing in different jails of India and in IIOJK and we demand their immediate release.
We also condemn India’s illegal and unprovoked, literally unjustified economic assault on IIOJK manifested by the recent halting of fresh fruit laden trucks from Kashmir valley by Indian occupation forces, this is kind of an undeclared economic blockade of Kashmiri fruit growers, and a deliberate attempt in our view to destroy the economy of occupied Jammu and Kashmir and to punish the Kashmiri people for their struggle for right to self-determination.
On the floods and the ongoing international assistance and relief efforts, we keep on updating you. As we transition from rescue and relief phase of response to this unprecedented climate catastrophe, to the more challenging rehabilitation and reconstruction phase that is upcoming, we are also grateful to the unparalleled generosity and resilience of the Pakistanis who have contributed in cash and kind to help their brethren.
We are also thankful to international friends and partners for sending 133 relief flights, besides ships, trucks, and goodness trains to help the flood victims.
We are determined to overcome this adversity with determination, grit, perseverance, and mobilization of national and international efforts.
I thank you and am ready to take your questions.

Question: Pakistan has effectively presented its case regarding Kashmir in SCO-CHS meeting and at UNGA. U.S. and UN have also advised Pakistan to improve its relations with India. India has also been awarded the status of Chair for SCO. Is there any back-door diplomacy going-on with India to improve relations with India? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International/ World Eco News)

Answer: As I have said also in my statement, the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir is a key dispute between India and Pakistan. It is a major impediment to development of friendly relations and sustainable peace and development in this region. It has been our policy and consistent position that this core dispute needs to be resolved and addressed in accordance with international legitimacy and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. This is something that we have been advocating forcefully and consistently. I think many of our international partners recognize the importance of resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. You know the position of the UN. It is very consistent and is in support of the UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir and a solution that is consistent with the UN Charter and the relevant UNSC resolutions. So we continue to push for peaceful resolution of this dispute. I think it is very evident that the problem is from the other side. India is not cooperating and is in fact openly flouting and violating the international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. So there is this dilemma on how to move forward on this issue. We know that our partners and friends, they also keep on advising the Indian side on the need to address this issue, which is in the best interest of both countries. As far as SCO’s chairmanship is concerned, it is something that takes place on the basis of rotation.
Question: ​We recently saw a statement from the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Abbas Stanikzai and it wasn’t just a statement but it was a derogatory remark on Pakistan’s Prime Minister who spoke as an advocate at UNGA. What is Pakistan’s stance right now, what Pakistan is thinking and how we are going to react to that? (Sumaira Khan, Samaa News)
Answer: This is very unfortunate and unacceptable. We have noted with concern, these recent remarks. We consider such statements as against the spirit of friendly relations between our two brotherly countries. Pakistan’s role in facilitating peace in Afghanistan, and our efforts to strengthen bilateral ties are well known, and they are acknowledged widely. We believe that for the success of positive engagement, it is important that the interim Afghan authorities take necessary steps to address international expectations and concerns. For its part, Pakistan will continue to pursue positive engagement with Afghanistan for peace, prosperity, and progress of the two countries and the wider region.
Q. What do you say about accusation of interference?
Obviously there is no interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. To the contrary, our Afghan friends are well aware of Pakistan’s support and advocacy for Afghanistan, for the international community to engage positively and constructively with Afghanistan, given the serious challenges, the economic situation and the humanitarian situation that is faced by the Afghan people.
I think it is very clear that it is in the interest of the people of Afghanistan that Pakistan has been advocating constructive international engagement. We have played our role in this regard. You will recall the extraordinary session of the OIC that Pakistan convened in December last year. This is all part of those efforts and positive engagement that has been there from Pakistan to assist our Afghan brothers and sisters.

Question: During Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto’s recent meeting with US counterpart Mr. Blinken criticized Pakistan-China cooperation. Chinese Foreign Minister has replied that the while U.S. is passing un-warranted criticism against China Pakistan cooperation, China is doing real and beneficial efforts for the people of Pakistan including government donations of goods more than 20 billion rupees, Chinese ambassador visited flood ridden areas and the Chinese companies helping to fix roads and bridges broken by the flood and so on. So what is your comment on this? (Cheng Shijie, People’s Daily China)

Answer: I do not wish to comment on others’ statements. I think it needs to be understood that we are in a pretty challenging situation that has arisen in the wake of the unprecedented floods and the devastation that has been caused by this calamity. We have seen a natural and logical response from the international community, because it was clear that the challenge was huge and beyond our national resources and capacities which have been fully deployed. That is why we see, there is spontaneity, and there is the stream of international assistance that is coming to Pakistan from many of our friends and partners. I think the Chinese and the U.S. they are leading this effort, when we see the enormous assistance, and the sincerity with which this is being provided.
I referred to the U.S. assistance earlier.
China was amongst the first countries to mobilize relief assistance in the wake of the floods. In addition to the messages of sympathies and condolences by its leadership, the Government of China announced RMB 400 million assistance package and another RMB 100 million by PLA. China has already delivered more than 10,000 family tents, and 15,000 tents are about to arrive. China Red Cross Society, friendship associations and enterprises have also generously contributed to rescue and relief efforts. We are deeply touched by this outpouring of support and solidarity.
From our perspective, we appreciate all of this assistance and support coming in from all over the world. We appreciate the understanding that the international community has shown towards Pakistan, I think, the best way for us to be able to cope with this situation is going to be through enhanced understanding and cooperation of our partners.
Question:​How much flood relief assistance has been received so far in form of cash and how much of it has been distributed to the flood affectees.

Secondly, in his meeting with President Putin on the sidelines of SCO-CHS, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif discussed Pakistan-Russia collaboration on gas pipeline. What is the current status of this project? (Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Daily Media)

Answer: On the second question, I think on the follow up to that discussion between the two leaders, you will have to refer it to the relevant Ministries who are dealing with those particular areas of cooperation.
On your other question about the assistance, we have been sharing this information, and I think consolidated data would be available from the Economic Affairs Division as well. If you put together the assistance that has been pledged in the form of cash and in-kind assistance, it exceeds about $330 million, and when I say this, I’m not talking about the other contribution, for example, that came from the World Bank that was repurposing of about $370 million, that is separate. We have noted earlier that it is somewhat complex to specifically categorize the assistance because of the different ways it is being offered and deployed, for example at time it goes through the UN agencies, and there is other assistance that comes in through the development agencies of the contributing countries. Then there is direct cash assistance and in-kind contribution as well.
Also for your information, the UN Flash Appeal that was launched on 30th of August, we are going to revise it together with the UN and this is going to be presented to partners this coming Tuesday 4th of October, it will be in Geneva, and you will see a considerable up-scaling of the initial figure that was USD 160 million and let me also note that out of the initial USD160 million appeal, more than that has been pledged already, and about 60 million of that has been actualized.

Question: After his meeting with Foreign Minister Bilawal, US Secretary of State said that he has discussed with Foreign Minister Bilawal “managing a responsible relationship with India”. He did not say the same about his meeting with Indian Foreign Minister. So, what does he mean by when he says a responsible relationship with India, how would you define this responsible relationship. What is being asked from Pakistan?
Secondly, he also said that he urged Pakistan to seek debt relief from China and restructure, which primarily means that he is asking us to renegotiate different agreements, loans and soft loans which we have with China, which means that he is interfering in bilateral agreements between two sovereign states. How do you view these two statements? (Essa Naqvi, Independent)
Answer: It is not for me to comment or interpret statements of the leadership of other countries. But on your first, this is what we have been saying also ourselves, I mean, we want a relationship with India, which is a normal kind of relationship in which we recognize the issues between us, in which there is a willingness to move forward on the basis of mutual respect, taking into account the interests of the people of our two countries. But how to do that is the real challenge, and that’s where, when we see, the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, and the very fact that the situation in IIOJK has been deteriorating significantly since 5th of August 2019, now that is something which has really vitiated the environment, it has escalated tensions and it has led to a situation, an environment, in which this normal kind of relationship, a constructive dialogue, the space for that is not there, and that is what our leadership has been saying. That’s what the Prime Minister has been saying, that’s what the Foreign Minister says that India has to take steps, I would say, ‘responsible’ steps that they need to take with regard to the situation in IIOJK, only which can lead to an environment in which a normal relationship and constructive dialogue can take place.
On the second, I think this has popped up in the past also, and there are certain misunderstandings with regard to Pakistan’s total debt and what is owed to China, and it is often portrayed disproportionately. Anyway, the overall issue of debt is important, especially in the current economic context, in the context of the situation that has arisen in the wake of the floods. That is something that the Ministry of Finance would be looking into. I think these are issues that require a lot of careful consideration, and a well-considered position on how the Government would like to move on these.
Question: In a statement, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome has rejected allegations raised by former Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding the cypher. In recent audio leaks former Prime Minister also mentioned Foreign Office. What are you comments on this?

Secondly, according to some media reports some prisoners have been released which include some Americans as well. In the light of recent improvements in Pak-U.S. relations what is the status of Aafia Siddiqui case?

Thirdly, India has deprived religious tourists from attending the annual Urs of Hazrat Mujaddid Alf Sani Rahmatullah Alaih (RA) and declined to issue visas to Pakistani pilgrims along with organizers. What are your comments on that? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I am not here to comment on any audio leaks, that is not my job. The main thing on this issue from the Foreign Ministry’s perspective is that, we have said already what we needed to say, and that was said on record, in the meetings at the highest level including the NSC. I don’t think there is anything that I need to add to that at this point of time.
On the Aafia Siddiqui case, you would be following proceedings in the court also. I think this is an issue which is close to the heart of many Pakistanis. It is a sentimental, human issue also; we continue to engage with the U.S. side on this to see how this can be addressed.
On the restrictions by the Indian side and non-issuance of visas for the delegation that had to proceed to India for the Urs of Hazrat Mujaddid Alf Sani. This is something that has been recurring. You would have seen the statement from the Ministry of Religious Affairs also. I think this is unfortunate because this is in violation of the bilateral agreement and understanding between our two countries. While Pakistan facilitates the religious pilgrims coming-in from India, this is not being reciprocated. The Urs of Hazrat Mujaddid Alf Sani (RA) was scheduled to be held from 19 – 26 September, 2022. As per the approved programme, 194 Zaireen and 05 officials/conducting officers were to cross the Wagah-Attari Border on 19 September 2022 under the 1974 Bilateral Protocol for Visits to Religious Shrines. However, the group could not travel on the scheduled date due to non-issuance of pilgrimage visas to 05 officials/conducting officers from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and 39 other Zaireen. No reasons were given for non-issuance of visas to these 44 intending pilgrims. Remaining 155 Zaireen were issued visas, with the condition of ‘individual police reporting’, which is a deviation from convention and past practice under the Protocol. Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad and Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi registered a strong protest with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi respectively, in this regard.
Question: You rightly said and we can recall that you already responded to the question of cypher. But since information is leaking out and we really want the truth to be known. Can you share that as a standing practice whenever the question of foreign policy is discussed, whether the minutes are shared with Foreign Office and the minutes that have been shared with foreign office were tampered or they were in the original form when they were shared? (Shaukat Piracha, Aaj News)
Answer: I have no information about that, and am not in a position to comment.
Question: What is follow up on Donors Conference which has been a suggestion and recommendation of the UN Security General? Are preparations underway, has the venue been selected and which country will be hosting this Donors conference?
Second, since Foreign Secretary is retiring, we wanted to listen from you, who has been appointed as new Foreign Secretary? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: On the international conference, you can call it a donor’s conference or pledging conference, there has been discussion, and some related developments. You would recall, the Secretary-General was already committed to work with Pakistan for such a conference, which will focus on the longer-term rehabilitation and reconstruction. During the engagements in the UNGA, as I also noted in my initial remarks, there was also this offer by the French President to host such a conference bringing together all relevant partners. You would have seen the joint press statement by Pakistan and France on that. Preparations are underway, since this is a top priority, a very important issue, there are discussions already on preparing for it in a proper manner, the damage and needs assessment and a comprehensive plan, as soon as they are ready, will be taken to the international community, the World Bank, IMF and other development partners, and obviously, the venue and date will be announced accordingly.
On the other question, as you know, the Foreign secretary retired last evening. An administrative process is underway, according to practice, for the nomination of his replacement. At the moment, the senior most Special Secretary is looking after the affairs as the Acting Foreign Secretary.
Question: ​According to some media reports Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be visiting in November. Can you share some details regarding this visit?
When the Prime Minister was visiting Turkiye in May this year, the readout mentioned about the HLSCC meeting will take place in September in Islamabad Can you share some details on that because we are entering October now? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: On your first question we will share details in due course as things are finalized. As you know we normally would officially inform whenever there is confirmation about any important incoming or outgoing visit. Regarding the important HLSCC meeting, new schedule is under consideration.

Question: Foreign Office has been directed to submit a report by the Islamabad High Court on the matter of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Can you share that what new aspect of this case will be taken up with the U.S. side? (Anwar Abbass, Bol News)

Answer: This has been before the court, the relevant officers from the Ministry have been reporting as to in what ways we can facilitate. As I said earlier, our effort is to see how we can address this issue. We will continue to do that.
Question: ​After India’s unilateral measures in IIOJK regarding Article 370 it was said that this is part of some global agenda. Similarly, it is being said that a constitutional amendment is being made to change status of Gilgit Baltistan and make it a province of Pakistan. From this, can we deduce that Pakistan is abandoning its stance based on UN Security Council resolutions regarding Kashmir? What are your comments on this? (Sardar Awais Ashraf, Daily Haqeeqat)
Answer: I think we’ve clarified this many times, whatever actions or positions Pakistan has taken in the past or might envisage in future, let me reassure you that they will always be consistent with the UN Security Council resolutions. This is the key difference between our position and the Indian position. So there should be no doubt about that. Pakistan remains committed to the UN Security Council resolutions on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir and all our efforts will always be in the spirit of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Question: ​Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto has warned of dangerous outcomes if the Taliban government in Afghanistan is completely abandoned. How has Pakistan supported the Taliban government till now? Also, before 2021 the entire world considered Taliban as terrorists. What are your comments on this?

Secondly, due to anti-American narrative of previous Prime Minister Imran Khan on the issue of cypher, Pakistan – U.S. relations greatly deteriorated. What efforts have been undertaken by the current government to improve relations with US and how effective they have proved to be? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: On your second question, I have shared numerous times that there is this desire on part of both countries to take the relationship forward in a positive and constructive, mutually beneficial manner. And we are doing that. You see the engagement and multi-dimensional interactions, meetings, visits that have been taking place. It is all being done in a very constructive manner. We want an objective, broad based relationship with the US and we are on the right track.
On your other question, Pakistan’s role and contribution for peace and stability in Afghanistan over past many decades has been very clear – from hosting millions of refugees, supporting the Doha peace process, contribution to help the Afghans make progress in national reconciliation, our consistent constructive engagement has been visible, and I need not go into details here. Our position on Afghanistan has been driven entirely and consistently by our desire to have a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. Our efforts have been geared in this direction. You are all aware of the kind of engagement Pakistan had post August 2021; not only we engaged with providing economic and humanitarian assistance, but also mobilized the international community in this regard. We organized the 17th Extraordinary Session of OIC CFM in December 2021, and advocated engagement of the international community with Afghanistan including through regional processes. The consequences of abandoning Afghanistan are clear. I think Pakistan’s initiatives have produced positive results; there are many who are now engaging with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s key focus has been to assist the Afghan people who are facing a very challenging situation.

Question: ​Foreign Minister’s visit to US was very lengthy. Was it planned earlier or it was extended during the course of the visit?
Secondly, PIA briefed the Standing Committee on Aviation regarding Hotel Roosevelt that this is a sensitive issue and an in-camera briefing will be given on this. Earlier it was thought that Hotel Roosevelt is property of Foreign Office. Can you share what is so sensitive about details of Hotel Roosevelt? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)
Answer: On your second question, Roosevelt hotel is not a property of the Foreign Office.
On your first question about the visit, it was obviously scheduled in advance. These things cannot be done at the spur of the moment. They are properly planned.

Question: ​A court in Gilgit Baltistan ordered release of two IIOJK residents, but they have not been released. Can you share some details?
Secondly, two innocent individuals have been martyred and two scholars who are authors of seven books were also arrested by Indian Occupation forces in IIOJK. Who should the Kashmiri people look up to for justice as UNSG has said that India is not ready to listen to United Nations on IIOJK. (Saqib Ali, Daily Kashmir Times)
Answer: I responded to first question earlier as well. This needs to be checked from the relevant authorities, and that would be Ministry of Interior in this instance.
Your second question is very serious and thought provoking. Some people say that we are repetitive in our briefings here at the Ministry because in every briefing we talk about deteriorating situation in IIOJK, the extrajudicial killings of Kashmiris and the crackdown on innocent civilians; unspeakable atrocities being perpetrated on them. Keeping this in view, we have an obligation to highlight this situation and bring it to the attention of the international community. We are fully cognizant of this responsibility and we will continue to raise our voice for innocent Kashmiris. Accordingly, even today I have mentioned the unjustified killings of Kashmiris in the past week. We have also expressed our serious concern and condemned the arrest of the Kashmiri religious leaders; I am sure you would have seen the press release on the matter that we issued on the eve of UNGA.
When our friends say that this issue needs to be resolved; when they tell us that they advise India to look into this more seriously; when the UN Secretary General says that this issue needs to be resolved in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions or when he offers his good offices; all this is in favor of Pakistan’s stance.
If India is refusing to accept these offers, it is very clear where does the problem lie. Hence, such discussion is very useful because it informs the international community that there is a dispute, there is an international legal framework in the form of UN Security Council resolutions, which provides for how this dispute needs to be resolved. Moreover, it highlights that there is one party to this dispute, which is willing to move forward but there is the other party, which is obstinate, and is consistently refusing to cooperate. So it is quite evident where the problem lies and I think that’s where the pressure needs to go.

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