Media Briefing|

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

Good Afternoon and welcome to our Weekly Press Briefing.

Let me begin by commending the outstanding performance of Pakistan’s cricket team at the T20 World Cup. While being a bit unlucky in the semi-final, on the whole, our young team earned acclaim and won the hearts of Pakistanis and cricket lovers around the world for their humility, skill and sportsman spirit. Well done. You brought us joy and made us so proud. And our congratulations as well to the Aussies – good game of cricket it was.

Moving from the cricket field to the diplomatic field – this has been a pretty busy week marked by a number of important engagements.

Beginning with Afghanistan – the meeting of the Troika Plus was held in Islamabad with participation of Special Representatives and Envoys for Afghanistan from China, Russian Federation, United States and Pakistan. Inaugurating the meeting, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi underlined the need to help prevent an imminent humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan through continued and enhanced engagement of the international community as a collective and shared responsibility. A comprehensive joint statement was adopted as an outcome of the Meeting – with consolidation of peace and stability in Afghanistan being the overall objective.

In parallel, as you are aware we are having the visit of Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi who is leading a high-level delegation including Acting Ministers for Industry and Commerce, Finance and Deputy Minister of Aviation. Delegation level talks were held last evening with the Pakistan side led by Foreign Minister Qureshi, who was accompanied by the Minister of Aviation, Advisers on Finance and Commerce and other senior officials.

The Foreign Minister highlighted Pakistan’s efforts for facilitating humanitarian assistance and economic support to Afghanistan and reaffirmed our resolve to strengthen relations with Afghanistan in all areas. The talks focused on facilitation of transit trade, cross-border movement, land and aviation links and people-to-people contacts.

Earlier in the day, working groups on Trade, Transit and Commerce; Finance; and Aviation met under chairmanship of the respective Ministers. Outcomes of these discussions focusing on strengthening bilateral and transit trade regime and facilitating movement of people by land and air were shared in the delegation level talks. Pakistan also offered technical assistance in a number of areas. It was agreed to continue discussions with a view to strengthen existing ties and identify new areas of cooperation.

Earlier, Acting Foreign Minister Muttaqi also interacted with the Special Representatives/Envoys under the Troika Plus format.

This morning the Afghan delegation called on the Prime Minister.

The SRs/Envoys of Troika Plus also collectively called on the Prime Minister today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the bilateral side, let me note that 4th Round of Bilateral Political Consultations between Pakistan and Canada was held on 7 November, and the 7th Session of Senior Officials Talks between Pakistan and Australia was held on 10 November – enabling us to review the entire spectrum of bilateral cooperation with these two important partners of Pakistan.

Let me turn now to a major highlight of this week. OIC’s Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs & Special Envoy for Jammu and Kashmir, Ambassador Yousef Al-dobeay, accompanied by a high-level delegation including ASG for Humanitarian Affairs, Ambassador Tarig Bakhit and other senior officials visited Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir from 7-12 November. Details of this visit have been shared with you, also in yesterday’s press engagement by the Foreign Minister and the Special Envoy.

The Special Envoy called on the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, Minister of Human Rights and the Foreign Secretary. The delegation also met the SAPM on Health and interacted with the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir and True Representatives of the Kashmiri people.

In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the delegation visited the LOC, Thotha Refugee Camp, interacted with refugees who have fled Indian atrocities in IIOJK, met United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) and called on the President and Prime Minister of AJK besides meetings with AJK Legislative Assembly, and representatives of various political parties.

Let me highlight some of the key takeaways from this visit:

First, it was part of OIC’s sustained and comprehensive engagement on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Second, the visit clearly demonstrated Pakistan’s confidence and openness in providing access to international organizations in stark contrast with India’s denial for fact-finding and independent assessment of the situation in IIOJK.

Third, from the visit to AJK and LOC including interaction with victims of targeted shelling by Indian occupation forces, the delegation gathered first hand information on continuing human rights and humanitarian crisis in IIOJK as mandated by the Council of Foreign Ministers in Niamey.

Fourth, interactive engagements with civil society and think tanks, afforded the delegation clearer understanding of various aspects particularly the legal facets of Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Fifth, in all engagements, the two Assistant-Secretary Generals reiterated OIC’s consistent and unwavering support for Pakistan and the Kashmiri people and rejected the series of illegal actions taken by India since 5 August 2019.

Let me add that OIC’s support is indispensable for Pakistan’s principled position of a just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This week our Hindu community celebrated Diwali – the festival of lights, with traditional zeal and fervor. We also commemorated the second anniversary of the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor-dubbed the ‘Corridor of Hope’ by the UN Secretary General. Inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019, the Corridor is a shining example of our efforts to promote interfaith harmony, and is reflective of the primacy Pakistan accords to religious minorities in the country. The Corridor is open from the Pakistan side since June 2020. We expect that India, in the same spirit, will allow pilgrims to avail the Corridor to visit Kartarpur Sahib. Meanwhile, we are all set to welcome thousands of devotees from India and around the world coming to Pakistan for the upcoming birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak from 17-26 November for which elaborate arrangements have been put in place.

As the minorities in Pakistan celebrate their religious festivities and enjoy freedom of religion, we note with growing concern how minorities in India, particularly Muslims, are being systematically persecuted and ostracized under the Hindutva driven ideology of the BJP-RSS combine. It is reprehensible that targeting of Muslims, their properties and houses of worship is continuing since last month. Extent of impunity and state complicity is such that draconian laws are being slapped against those drawing attention to the ongoing blatant violations. Besides closing its eyes to radical mobs, the Indian authorities are also pursuing anti-Muslim citizenship related policies and actions, including the mischievous NRC scheme aimed at disenfranchising millions of Muslims.

In the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), notwithstanding India’s theatrics and portrayal of false sense of normalcy, there are increasing concerns about the deteriorating security situation and escalating violations of human rights and international humanitarian law – all to the detriment of ordinary Kashmiris.

We strongly condemn killing of two more Kashmiris by Indian occupation forces yesterday. Since 1st October, 21 Kashmiris have been martyred in fake encounters and so-called “cordon and search operations”.

In this context a matter of deep concern is the deployment of thousands of additional Indian occupation troops in IIOJK, which is already the world’s most militarized zone with over 900,000 occupation forces. It is clearly designed to further brutalize the oppressed Kashmiri people through the barrel of the gun. However, it is also evident that this cannot deter the Kashmiri people from their legitimate struggle for self-determination. Kashmiris are increasingly alienated from India and its illegal occupation whose barbarity is more than evident to the world. It is time for India to realize the futility of the military approach. Jammu and Kashmir dispute must be resolved in line with international legitimacy and in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.

With this is I conclude and am ready to take your questions on these or other foreign policy related matters.

Question: Indian media reports were criticizing acquittal of UN designated persons by Lahore high court. How do you comment? (Zeeshan Bhatti, 24 News) Answer: We saw some of these reports few days back. I think this is not the first time that the Indian media has tried to sensationalize the legal proceedings of UN designated persons and this is basically designed to serve a vested agenda. Pakistan’s criminal justice system is grounded on the principle of due process and rule of law. It allows even the convicted individuals, fundamental right to exhaust all legal means that are available to them. The cases reported by Indian media have not reached finality. UN designated persons related to this case continue to be interned after being convicted in multiple other cases. The Indian media reports are trying to twist the facts and that has already been clarified by the relevant law enforcement agency in Pakistan through media.

Question: On one hand the international organizations/institutions are warning the world that a severe humanitarian crisis is looming over Afghanistan. On the other hand, Afghanistan’s foreign currency accounts have been seized. Now that the high profile meetings are being held in Pakistan, earlier there were meetings by the European Union and the Moscow format. How do you see this dual standard by the international community? Does Pakistan raise this point with the international community? Secondly what is the update on the negotiation/peace agreement with TTP? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: There is no doubt that the weather conditions in Afghanistan vis-à-vis political conditions are not good. As the winter season is approaching, there is shortage of food supplies. Will Pakistan approach international community regarding this? Are there any updates on the financial support & oil supplies from KSA? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: On your last observation regarding KSA, the announcement of support was in public knowledge. As for any modalities, the Ministry of Finance would be better placed to inform.

On the frozen assets of Afghanistan, especially in the context of the humanitarian crisis that is looming large, and which can worsen very quickly, this is an aspect, as you know and I am sure you would have followed the entire series of diplomatic engagements that Pakistan has conducted over the last months – led by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and in various formats, six neigbouring countries meetings initiated by Pakistan, Moscow format, bilateral and multilateral engagements, including the recent Troika Plus meeting, this is one of the fundamental questions that has been consistently raised by Pakistan. We have sensitized all incoming high-level delegations and all our interlocutors in the engagements abroad, including the very intensive outreach by the Foreign Minister. Pakistan has been able to rally members of the international community including the regional countries that this aspect needs to be addressed on priority. The issue has also been raised in the Troika Plus meeting, as was reflected in the joint statement. The international community seems to be increasingly conscious of this imminent challenge confronting Afghanistan. We continue with our efforts.

On the question regarding TTP, there are statements by the Government. I have nothing to add.

Question: Foreign Minister admitted that the Foreign Office was not taken on board on the issuance of over flight permission to India. In this regard should the Minister of Aviation be sacked? What is the status of the inquiry? (Sardar Hameed, Neo TV)

Answer: As I also said last time, there are various aspects including technical aspects to this issue. The relevant authorities are seized of the matter. As you are aware, the permission has been denied.

Question: Recently, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that US will support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the UN system. What is Pakistan’s stand in this regard? (Cheng Shijie, People’s Daily China)

Answer: I would not wish to comment on what others might have said. But Pakistan’s position is clear. Pakistan firmly adheres to the One-China Policy. The affairs related to Taiwan are China’s internal matter. We oppose any notion of “Taiwan Independence” or “One China, One Taiwan”. There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is part of China. The issue of lawful representation of the Chinese people at the UN has been settled 50 years ago, as you know.

Question: Few days back a Pakistani prisoner in India was killed outside the jail. Have the issue been taken with the Indian side? Are there any updates? (Sardar Amir, Daily Maddar/ Royal News)

Answer: We did take it up with India, and we have raised it again and reminded them of their obligations. We are pursuing this matter very seriously with the Indian side which is yet to respond formally.

Question: Many people believe that the humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan cannot be resolved unless the issue of recognition is not resolved. When will Pakistan and the international community recognize the Taliban Government in Afghanistan? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: This question of recognition has been raised time and again, we have responded to that. It has been made abundantly clear by numerous statements by Pakistan including at the leadership level that the situation in Afghanistan has direct implications for Pakistan. We are working with regional partners and others to encourage engagement with Afghanistan, to find best ways forward on so many issues that Afghanistan faces today, and this includes the humanitarian crisis, economic difficulties, and other concerns. There are expectations such as with regard to an inclusive set-up, respect for human rights, and the issue of terrorism. So, while this issue of recognition is out there somewhere, in the larger picture and immediate context the priority is on engagement to address the imminent issues. Pakistan remains very much engaged and as the Foreign Minister has noted on many occasions, we are desirous of proceeding in close consultation and coordination, especially with the neighboring countries, and that also explains the emphasis on the regional approach.

Question: I draw your attention to Para 13 of the joint statement issued by the Troika Plus. They urged Taliban to have a friendly approach towards neighboring countries, are there any issues of Taliban with its neighbors that Troika plus needed them to realize? Secondly, we have been hearing for the last 15-20 years from this fora or other fora that the TTP is funded by India or the western countries. Now that the talks are confirmed and the ceasefire has been confirmed by the Ministry of Information, is there any concern or reservation from any country that we used to blame or leveled allegations against? (Shaukat Piracha, Aaj News)

Answer: On your first question, I think it does not have much to do with the interim Afghan Government policies. It is a general statement and is part of the expectations that the international community has, including Pakistan. Amicable relations and a friendly neighbourhood are desirable everywhere.

About the observations regarding TTP, I have already responded and there is nothing to add.

Question: What is the update on the negotiation on GSP Plus status? Is there any progress in this regard? (Abid Siddique Chaudhry, Daily Capital Mail)

Answer: I responded to that in an earlier briefing also. The current GSP+ regime expires in December 2023. The European Commission, we understand is reviewing the framework under which the scheme will be renewed beyond January 2024, and that would be relevant to all beneficiary countries. For the current cycle review, Pakistan is very confident about a positive outcome.

Question: Afghan delegation is in Pakistan. Any update on the meetings being held by the delegation? In addition to the announcement made earlier, has Pakistan further announced provision of any other assistance to Afghanistan? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Supplementary Question: During the dialogues were the issue of the return of four million refugees and issue regarding damaging of fence along the border taken up? (Czechangez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)

Answer: Details of the visit of the Afghan Delegation have been shared. You would have also seen our press releases and media interaction by the Foreign Minister. Delegation level talks were held last evening with the Pakistan side led by Foreign Minister Qureshi. And as I informed, there have been detailed substantive discussions, including in the three working groups on Trade, Transit and Commerce; Finance; and Aviation that met under the chairmanship of the respective Ministers. And outcomes of these discussions were subsequently shared in the delegation level talks. Many aspects about assistance and bilateral cooperation were discussed. You are aware of the 5 billion Rs. assistance announced earlier, and the food/medicines supplies that have gone out. Pakistan has also offered technical assistance in a number of areas. Health and education are also among priority sectors. And yes, the matters pertaining to smooth and organized movement across border were also discussed. The refugee issue also came up. The Afghan side reiterated their appreciation for Pakistan having hosted millions of refugees over the years.

Question: There is a trend around the world that the individuals holding important portfolios write books after their retirement. In our country although this trend is there but to gather the attention of audience the officials disclose such information that is either political or creates problem for the state. Recently Ex- Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhary has published a book wherein he has narrated the story of the Ex Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi meeting with the US Vice President. Earlier Tasneem Aslam has also given an interview targeting some political party. Should the government official who has served on important portfolios indulge into / disclose such information. Are there any rules pertaining to this like ISPR has? (Aun Sheerazi, Such TV)

Answer: This does not pertain to my area of responsibility but I can say that former officials are generally cognizant of rules and responsibilities. I am not in a position to comment on the particular assertion you made.

Question: Pakistan recently hosted Troika plus meeting with regards to Afghanistan, Is there any progress/hope for the betterment of the situation in Afghanistan? (Zaheer Ali Khan, Samaa TV)

Answer: The Troika Plus meeting in itself was a significant event, involving the participation of China, Russia and the US along with Pakistan. It was a forum for substantive exchange among key actors. With the new dispensation in Afghanistan, the holding of this meeting and the interaction with the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan are of great importance. These are all efforts to coordinate positions and synergize efforts to help address the problems facing Afghanistan.

Question: In your opening remarks you appreciated Pakistani team for their performance in T20 however, in India people were targeted / victimized and removed from the service for celebrating victory of Pakistan. How would you comment on this? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I also commented on this before and do not wish to belabor the point. This concern is valid and has been shared by many others with regard to whatever happened in India in the wake of Pakistan-India match. It is regrettable that we saw reprisals and threats and harassment. Not only Kashmiris and Muslims but many others including even Captain Virat Kohli have been senselessly targeted. It was a sad reflection of the regressive extremist tendencies that have taken hold in India.

Close Search Window