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.

At the outset, I would like to extend best wishes to all of you for a blessed Ramadan – a period of prayers, self-reflection and rejuvenation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are having this briefing after a gap during which a peaceful, democratic political transition has taken place in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan. Having been elected by the National Assembly, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has assumed Office as the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan on 11 April.

The Prime Minister has received messages of felicitation from leaders of a large number of countries, including Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, UAE, Iran, Bahrain, United Kingdom, India, Malaysia, Jordan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and others. The Prime Minster also received a felicitation call from President of the European Union Ursula von der Leyen.

In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister laid particular emphasis on stabilizing the economy, and noted the positive trend in economic indicators in the wake of his assumption of Office.

Highlighting the foreign policy priorities of the new Government, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed commitment to reinvigorate relations with major partners. He underscored determination to speed up CPEC projects, terming China as Pakistan’s most reliable friend. The Prime Minister thanked the Saudi leadership for always standing by Pakistan, and appreciated Turkey’s steadfast support on Kashmir. He underscored the special importance attached to Pakistan’s ties with UAE and other Gulf countries, Iran, European Union, and the UK. He stated that Pakistan’s relations with the US should be on the basis of equality. On Afghanistan, the Prime Minister stressed the imperative of peace and increased humanitarian assistance. He reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

While noting the desire for good relations with India, the Prime Minister underlined that durable peace cannot be achieved without a just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to the Kashmiri people in their legitimate struggle and the commitment to raise the Kashmir issue at all forums. Prime Minister Sharif counseled the Indian Prime Minister to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people. This, he said, would enable the two countries to focus on the development challenges.

As guided by the Prime Minister, Pakistan will continue to proactively advance our diplomacy and partnerships in all bilateral and multilateral domains to effectively safeguard our national interests and play our role in promoting peace and development in the region and beyond.

Let me inform here that the Prime Minister, accompanied by a high level delegation, will be undertaking an official visit to Saudi Arabia later during the week. More details will be shared subsequently.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar has assumed charge from 19 April 2022.

On 20th April, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar called on the MOS. Importance of Pak-US relations, developments in Afghanistan and deteriorating human rights situation in IIOJK came under discussion.

The Congresswoman was on a 4-day visit to Pakistan. During her visit, the US Congresswoman held meetings in Islamabad with the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the National Assembly. She also visited AJK where she met the President AJK. She also visited Lahore where she undertook a visit to the walled city. She expressed her gratitude for the hospitality extended to her during the visit. She also hoped that her visit will further solidify Pak-US bilateral ties.” She offered to forcefully raise the Kashmir issue in the Congress.

Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar received calls from Emirati Foreign Minister HH Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahraini FM HE Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. The Minister of State thanked them for felicitation calls and for their historic and consistent support to Pakistan. Issues of common interest came under discussion. The Ministers agreed to work closely to strengthen fraternal bilateral relations.

On 23 April, British High Commissioner Christian Turner called on the MOS and congratulated her on assuming office. Besides bilateral relations, evolving geopolitical situation & ways to mitigate humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan were discussed.

Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar also held an interaction with the officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood on behalf of all officers accorded a warm welcome to the MOS. The MOS expressed her full confidence in their professional conduct and motivated them to continue working with professional ethos.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You would have seen our statement containing strong condemnation of the recent abhorrent act of desecration of the Holy Quran during rallies in Sweden, and the offensive remarks made by a Dutch politician, attacking Islam and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Pakistan’s concerns have also been conveyed to the authorities in Sweden and The Netherlands.

We call on the international community to come together to counter Islamophobia and to demonstrate solidarity and commitment to the ideals of building peaceful and harmonious societies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the eve of Baisakhi celebrations, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi issued over 2200 visas to Sikh pilgrims from India to participate in the annual festival held in Pakistan from 12-21 April 2022. The visas issued from New Delhi were in addition to the visas granted to Sikh pilgrims participating in these events from other countries.

The pilgrims visited revered sites like Panja Sahib, Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib. Pakistan takes immense pride in preserving sacred religious places and providing necessary facilitation to the visitors. Marking the occasion, the Prime Minister accorded a warm welcome to the Sikh pilgrims and a spiritually fulfilling yatra.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan has welcomed the establishment of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, upon the successful conclusion of the GCC hosted intra-Yemeni dialogue in Riyadh, and the UN Special Envoy’s announcement of a truce in Yemen. Pakistan considers this an important step in the right direction that will help promote comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan expresses deep concern over the recent spate of terrorist attacks in various parts of Afghanistan over the last few days. The heinous attacks include bomb blasts at mosques in Mazar-e-Sharif and IED blasts in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kunduz and other places. The Government and the people of Pakistan extend deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of those who have lost lives in these terrorist attacks and pray for speedy recovery of those injured. The people of Pakistan stand in strong solidarity with their Afghan brethren in this time of grief.

The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is of grave concern. Pakistan strongly condemns the raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the assault on worshippers, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. This is an egregious violation of all humanitarian norms and human rights laws. In recent weeks, Israeli forces have killed dozens and injured countless Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem and other areas. We pray for the earliest recovery of those injured. Pakistan also calls upon the international community to take urgent steps to protect innocent Palestinian lives, and uphold international law and principles of the UN Charter. The Extra-ordinary Meeting of the OIC Executive Committee is being held in Jeddah today to discuss the ongoing Israeli aggression. Pakistan is participating in the meeting as current chair of OIC-CFM.

From one situation of occupation to another, we are also keeping a close watch on the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

You have seen our statement rejecting Indian Prime Minister’s staged visit to IIOJK on 24 April that was yet another ploy to project fake ‘normalcy’ in the occupied territory.

Since 5 August 2019, the international community has witnessed many such desperate attempts by India to divert attention from the actual underlying issues in IIOJK including Indian state-sponsored terrorism as well as widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

It is not surprising, therefore, that while the Indian Prime Minister was on his brief visit to Jammu under a heavy security cover, the people of IIOJK were observing a ‘black day’ as an expression of their rejection of India’s mischief and illegal policies. You have also seen protests and demonstrations in AJK and other places.

Pakistan has also strongly condemned the laying of foundation stones for the construction of the Rattle and Kwar Hydroelectric Projects (HEP) on Chenab River in IIOJK, and has called upon India to fulfill its obligations under the Indus Waters Treaty and refrain from taking any such steps which are detrimental to the IWT framework.

Pakistan will continue to extend all possible support to the Kashmiris in their just struggle for the right to self-determination as pledged to them by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Pakistan salutes the Kashmiris as they remain undaunted in their determination to stand against India’s oppressive occupation.

Extra-judicial killings continue unabated in IIOJK. During last week, in staged cordon and search operations, seven (7) more Kashmiri youth embraced martyrdom in Shopian and Baramullah districts.

Regretfully, 3 more innocent Kashmiri lives have been taken in Pulwama just yesterday.

For the international community, it is extremely alarming that more than 580 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred by the Indian occupation forces since August 2019.

This streak of armed Hindutva majoritarianism is also spreading fast inside India, particularly during the Holy month of Ramadan.

This is exemplified by:

– the senseless vandalization and burning of more than 40 houses of Muslim community in Karauli, Rajasthan

– Bulldozing of Muslim-owned properties in Jahangirpuri, New Delhi

– attempts to hoist the saffron flag & undertake derogatory, provocative sloganeering at the Jamia Masjid

– brandishing of weapons by the procession of Hanuman Shobha Yatra and the

– Ram Navami riots across Madhya Pradesh and Gujrat.

These despicable incidents have re-ignited the horrific memories of the Delhi Pogrom of February 2020 that was aimed to discriminate, dispossess and dehumanize the Muslim community.

These incidents also reveal the gravity of the state-sanctioned hysteria and hatred in India against Muslims.

Pakistan calls upon the international community to take immediate notice of the worrying level of Islamophobia in India and impress upon India to prevent systematic human rights violations against minorities particularly Muslims.

Pakistan also categorically rejects the malicious Indian propaganda regarding the alleged use of the Kartarpur Corridor for business meetings. It is obvious that this concoction is part of India’s deliberate smear campaign seeking to undermine Pakistan’s historic initiative of opening the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for Sikh pilgrims from India and around the world.

In concluding, let me note that in keeping with Pakistan’s robust and proactive engagement at the multilateral fora, Pakistan has been re-elected earlier during the month to the United Nations’ Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) for the 7th time in New York.

I thank you and am ready to take questions on these or other foreign policy matters.


Question: After the NSC Meeting there were a lot of rumors making attributions to Ambassador Asad Majeed. Thereafter, a clarification tweet was also issued by the Ambassador. Was there any pressure/demand on him from some side? Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has also said that the cable was edited by the former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. What is the real situation? Can you share the details of the cable? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Supplementary Question: If there was no foreign intervention/conspiracy why was the US C’dA summoned? (Rashida Sial, AbbTakk TV)

Answer: I would like to briefly share the facts. I think it is important to recall that the matter has been discussed in two meetings of the National Security Committee (NSC). And the Communiqués of the two meetings complement each other. Let me recall that the 22ndApril NSC Meeting discussed the telegram received from Pakistan Embassy in Washington. Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US briefed the Committee on the context and content of his telegram. The NSC after examining the contents of the communication, reaffirmed the decisions of the last NSC meeting. The NSC was again informed by the premier security agencies that they have found no evidence of any conspiracy. Therefore, the NSC after reviewing the contents of the Communication, the assessments received, and the conclusions presented by the security agencies, concluded that there has been no foreign conspiracy.

That is the most authentic reference to the entire matter, from the relevant and competent governmental forum. I have nothing to add to that. The communiqués of the NSC meetings speak for themselves.

I think you mentioned about some media speculations or rumors about some statements attributed to Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan. They are baseless and totally incorrect. And there was no pressure of any kind on the Ambassador at any time. And there is no possibility of any editing of the communication. You also asked about the demarches that were made, and let me recall again that these were in accordance with the decision of NSC Meeting of 31st March which having deliberated the matter directed that Demarches be made through proper channel in keeping with diplomatic norms.

Question: Please clarify difference between ‘interference’ and ‘conspiracy’? Are they not the same? Please also clarify whether in this instance, it was ‘interference’ or ‘conspiracy’? (Mona Khan, Independent News)

Supplementary Question: It is being alleged that the Cypher was received on 7th March and till 27th March the Foreign Minister was not aware of it. It is being reported that a senior officer from the Ministry informed the former Foreign Minister about it. Who was that senior officer? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn News)

Supplementary Question: It is being reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not inform the former Foreign Minister about the cypher and held back its details.

Secondly, in the past the details of the demarches being issued by the Ministry were shared with the media. Can you share what was communicated to the US official in the demarche? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN)

Answer: ‘Interference’ or ‘conspiracy’ – I think it is not for me to get into the meaning and semantics of these terms. It is quite clear the matter has been adequately and sufficiently discussed and addressed in the meetings of the NSC.

As for the action, as soon as the directions were received from the leadership, appropriate action was taken immediately.

Questions have been posed about the communication being withheld, etc. Let me state categorically that such assertions are unfounded. There is no question or possibility of hiding or holding back something like that. It was a Cypher Telegram, which is an accountable and classified document, whose handling and access are strictly in accordance with relevant cypher instructions and procedures. The Telegram was duly received at the Foreign Office and immediately distributed to the relevant authorities.

As for the exact contents of the demarche, I think it is not appropriate to mention that publically. It was decided by the NSC that demarches be made in keeping with diplomatic norms.

Question: Has the US side officially clarified their position on this issue? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: You would have followed the various statements that have been issued by the US Officials. I don’t need to interpret those statements as they are before you.

Question: In the present situation, is there any threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan? Secondly, with this type of political narrative that is being propagated in the media these days, can the national interest of Pakistan be affected? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: Pakistan has the full capability to defend and take care of its interests and ensure its stability and security. I think there is an element of trust and confidentiality which is central to conducting effective diplomacy. Such episodes carry potential of undermining our diplomacy and complicating our external relations. Therefore, we feel that the categorical statements from the National Security Committee, based on assessments from all stakeholders, where conspiracy has been ruled out, should put this matter to rest. We think that it is time to move on so that we get back to conducting diplomacy and concentrating on our important relationships in the best interest of Pakistan.

Question: During the recent visit of Prime Minister Borris Johnson to India there are many defense deals which have been signed between the two countries. This includes deals in the nuclear domain and equipment which is going to be provided to India. Is this a matter of concern for Pakistan and how will it destabilize the equilibrium in the region? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)

Answer: We are reviewing the various agreements and details. As a matter of principal we do not comment on bilateral relations between third countries specifically as long as any agreement concluded is not detrimental to Pakistan’s interests. Any agreement that would exacerbate the situation or create an imbalance with regards to the strategic stability in the region, obviously that would be a point of concern.

Question: Can you clarify whether Ambassador Asad Majeed ‘briefed’ the National Security Committee or was there any enquiry?

Secondly, will the Ambassador continue his job? If yes, when will he assume the charge in his next place of posting? (Khalid Mehmood, Express News)

Answer: As it was evident from the communiqué of the NSC meeting, the ambassador briefed the committee. There is no question of enquiry. He briefed the Committee and provided his assessment.

As you know the Ambassador was routinely transferred after completion of his tenure in Washington and the decision about his transfer had been taken earlier towards the end of last year. His Agreement has already been received and appointment notified and he will be proceeding to Brussels accordingly.

Question: In the NSC Meeting communiqué it has been stated that there has been no conspiracy against Pakistan. Earlier, DGISPR has stated that there was ‘interference’ not ‘conspiracy’. What is the real issue at hand? Can you clarify with specific information?

Secondly, there has been an increase in terrorist activities in Pakistan from the Afghan side. A number of Pakistani soldiers have also embraced martyrdom. With the interim afghan government in place, it was expected that relations between the two countries would improve and such incidents would decrease in frequency. How would you comment? Has Pakistan registered its protest with the Afghan side regarding the martyrdom of the Pakistani soldiers? (Allah Noor, Mashqir TV)

Answer: On the second question, you would have seen our statement of 17th April. Pakistan and Afghanistan have been in regular touch on these issues. Pakistan and Afghanistan are brotherly countries. The governments and people of both countries regard terrorism as a serious threat and have suffered from this scourge for long time. We have felt the pain of Afghan people from a series of terrorist attacks in last few days. Therefore, it is important that our two countries engage in a meaningful manner through relevant institutional channels to cooperate in countering cross border terrorism and taking actions against terrorist groups on their soil including TTP as well as any other groups. We look forward to continued close engagement with Afghanistan for long term peace and stability in Afghanistan and to create an environment conducive for regional economic cooperation and connectivity.

Coming back to your other question, as I have earlier explained, this matter, the most authoritative determination of this matter, is before us in the form of two communiqués resulting from the meetings of the NSC. It is clear, based on that discussion, based on the assessment, and information provided by the premier security agencies that no evidence of any conspiracy was found.

Question: From an academic perspective, how does the Ministry differentiate between foreign interference and foreign conspiracy?

Secondly, the NSC, the government and yourself are reiterating that there was no conspiracy. Please clarify whether the Ministry would invite former Prime Minister, former Foreign Minister, former Information Minister and others to a briefing to make them understand that there is no element of conspiracy in the ouster of their government from power? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: You are stretching it a bit too much, and this is not an academic forum and I am not here to engage in academic discussion. What I have stated is not anything that I have said from myself – rather that is the result of the outcome of the two meetings of the NSC held on 31st March and 22nd April, and after an exhaustive discussion, briefings and assessment, the conclusion is before us. I do not have anything to add to that.

Question: Minister of State Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar in a televised comment to Shahzeb Khanzada in a program has said that Ambassador Asad Majeed in his telegram had written that a demarche should be issued and US side be asked to clarify their position as to whether the comments were made by the official concerned in his personal or official capacity. Why was the demarche delayed to 31st of March from 7 March? Was it a political or an administrative decision?

Secondly, yesterday we saw comments from Mullah Yaqoob the Taliban Defense Minister regarding alleged attacks by Pakistan, in Kunar. Do you have any comment? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: On your second one, I have already responded to a related question earlier and don’t think there is a need to repeat.

On the first question, as I have said before, as soon as the directions were received from the leadership, appropriate actions were undertaken immediately.

Question: To what extent has the conspiracy and intervention narrative impacted Pakistan’s relations with the United States?

Secondly, where do these relations stand today? (Zargoon Shah, Geo News )

Answer: In responding to some earlier questions, I noted that such episodes do carry the positional of undermining our diplomacy and complicating our external relations. I also said that after the categorical statements from the NSC based on assessment of all stakeholders and briefings that were provided and where the conspiracy has been ruled out, should put this matter to rest. It is time for us to move on and get back to our core work that is conducting diplomacy and concentrating on our relationships with our partners. And the US is one of our key partners. Both sides are keen to build on the long-standing relationships between our two countries and to further strengthen and diversify this relationship.

Question: Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal in a public gathering commented that we do not want Pakistan to be Cuba or North Korea, we want to take path of South Korea, Malaysia and China. These comments were not taken well by the Cuban Ambassador to Pakistan who termed them disrespectful. How would you comment? (Jaleel Akhtar, Voa, Urdu )

Answer: I have not read the full statement and not aware of the context, am not in a position to comment on that. With Cuba, Pakistan has strong and friendly relations and we value these relations very much.

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