Media Briefing|

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

Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Welcome to Weekly Press Briefing at the Foreign Office,

Let me begin with the 47th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Niamey, Niger on 27-28 November 2020.

During the two-day session, the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers discussed a wide range of issues confronting the Muslim world with particular focus on combating Islamophobia, Palestine and the Jammu & Kashmir dispute.

The Council of Foreign Ministers unanimously adopted a Resolution on Jammu and Kashmir reaffirming the OIC’s consistent and principled stance on the dispute.

Through the comprehensive and strongly worded Resolution, the OIC:

  • Rejected the illegal and unilateral actions by India on August 5, 2019 and demanded that India rescind its illegal steps;
  • Deplored the state-sponsored terrorism and crimes against humanity by Indian occupation forces against the people of IIOJK;
    Denounced the renewed use of pellet guns by Indian occupation forces against innocent civilians;
  • Urged India to adhere to its international human rights obligations and allow the OIC Special Representative on Jammu and Kashmir and the OIC fact-finding mission to visit IIOJK;
  • Strongly urged India to implement recommendations of the two Reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Jammu & Kashmir;
  • Urged international community to review their engagements with India, the occupying power, as it is violating and disregarding international law and international resolutions;
  • Emphasized that the question of Jammu and Kashmir is of utmost importance for the Muslim Ummah;
  • Reaffirmed that the final disposition of the State of Jammu & Kashmir will be in accordance with the will of the people, expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite, conducted under the auspices of the United Nations;

The Niamey Declaration, adopted at the conclusion of the CFM, also explicitly reiterated “the OIC’s principled position on the Jammu and Kashmir for a peaceful resolution of the dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.”

Inclusion of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in the Niamey Declaration – being an important part of the CFM’s outcome documents – is yet another manifestation of OIC’s consistent support to the Kashmir Cause.

The Council of Foreign Ministers also unanimously adopted the Pakistan-sponsored resolution regarding Islamophobia.

The Resolution expresses deep concern at the recent incidents of desecration of the Holy Quran and reprinting of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H.), which hurt sentiments of more than 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.

The Resolution has also decided to designate 15th March as the “International Day to Combat Islamophobia” each year.

Pakistan also welcomes adoption of other resolutions by the CFM, including Resolution on Destruction of the Babri Masjid in India and Protection of Islamic Holy Places; Resolution on Safeguarding the Rights of Muslim Communities and Minorities in non-OIC States; and Resolution on Maintenance and Promotion of Regional Peace and Security in South Asia.

At the 47th Session of the CFM it was also decided that Pakistan will host the 48th Session of CFM in 2021.

As the prospective CFM Chair, Pakistan stands ready to constructively engage with the entire OIC membership to promote unity, peace and prosperity among the Muslim Ummah.

Unnerved by its continuing international condemnation, India has barefacedly raised objection on the OIC Resolution on Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan strongly rejects the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ statement in this regard as untenable and uncalled-for.

The OIC Resolution is yet another forceful repudiation of India’s completely flimsy and legally flawed contention that Jammu and Kashmir is its ‘internal’ matter.

The Resolution is further proof that India can neither hide its gross and systemic violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people nor can it escape international censure of its egregious behavior.

Rather than dismissing the international community’s concerns as reflected in the OIC Resolution, India would be well-advised to stop its state-terrorism in IIOJK and take concrete steps towards resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

As part of our regular high-level engagement with China, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Defence, General Wei Fenghe, accompanied by a high level delegation, paid a three day official visit to Pakistan.

The visit was aimed at further solidifying and expanding Pakistan-China cooperation, particularly in the fields of defense and security.

During the visit, General Wei called on the Prime Minister and the President and held meetings with the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Army Staff.

Welcoming the Defence Minister’s visit to Pakistan, the Prime Minister stressed that the two countries were bound by ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership’ based on mutual trust, understanding and commonality of views.

The Prime Minister deeply appreciated China’s principled support on Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of India’s unilateral and illegal actions of 5 August 2019.

General Wei Fenghe underlined that Pakistan was China’s close friend, good neighbor and ‘iron brother’.

Underscoring the depth and breadth of China-Pakistan ties, he conveyed Chinese leadership’s firm commitment to further strengthening China-Pakistan ties in a host of areas.

General Wei underlined that the South Asia and Arabian Sea Region needed peace, stability and economic development and appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in advancing those goals.

During his meeting with the Chief of Army Staff, matters of mutual interest, regional security and enhanced bilateral defence collaboration were discussed.

General Wei acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan Army’s sincere efforts for regional peace and provision of secure environment for CPEC projects.

An MoU for enhancement of defence cooperation between both the Armies was also signed.

Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Andleeb Abbas, represented Pakistan at the 19th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO-CHG), held virtually.

Highlighting the importance of SCO for Pakistan in achieving regional peace and stability, and development of closer ties with regional partners, the Parliamentary Secretary underscored the imperative of creating a safe and secure neighborhood.

Pakistan condemns the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran.

We extend sincere condolences to the family members of Mr. Fakhrizadeh and to the Iranian people.

Pakistan strongly urges all sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions in the region.

Pakistan welcomes the announcement regarding the agreement reached on rules and procedures by the Afghan parties in Doha. This is another significant step forward.

The agreement reflects a common resolve of the parties to secure a negotiated settlement.

It is an important development contributing towards a successful outcome of the Intra-Afghan Negotiations.

Pakistan will continue to support Intra-Afghan Negotiations, culminating in an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political solution paving the way for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

At the invitation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan has joined the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) as a founding member.

DCO would offer a platform to promote the global digital agenda in the scientific, health, educational, commercial, social, agricultural, investment and security spheres.

Coming to the situation in IIOJK, the Kashmiris have been continuously subjected to a brutal military siege and inhuman restrictions for an unprecedented 486 days since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019.

In further acts of unabated state terrorism, the Indian occupation forces martyred 15 more Kashmiris, in “fake encounters” and staged “cordon-and-search” operations during the month of November.

During the same period, 97 Kashmiri youth were critically injured due to the use of brute force, while 31 innocent Kashmiris were arbitrarily detained, and many houses were destroyed to inflict collective punishment on the Kashmiri communities.

The cold-blooded murders and brutalization of innocent Kashmiris are a clear manifestation of the state terrorism to which unarmed Kashmiris have been subjected to for the past seven decades.

We continue to call upon the international community, including the United Nations, the human rights organizations and the global media to take cognizance of brutal suppression of the Kashmiri people’s rights and freedoms in utter violation of international laws and conventions.

The world community must use all tools at its disposal to hold India accountable for its serious crimes against the Kashmiri people.

Let me also draw attention to the despicable spike in Indian propaganda against Pakistan following the presentation of incontrovertible evidence by Pakistan of India’s active planning, promoting, aiding, abetting, financing and execution of terrorist activities in Pakistan.

We wish to reiterate our call to the international community, particularly the United Nations counter-terrorism mechanisms to act on the Pakistani Dossier providing irrefutable evidence of Indian state sponsorship of terrorism.

I thank you for your attention and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.

Question: Keeping in view the current situation in Afghanistan and the past history, should we expect durable peace and stability in Afghanistan in future?

Secondly, during the second wave, Covid-19 cases are increasing rapidly in Pakistan. Would you please inform us that which countries have committed to provide us Covid-19 vaccine to cope with this situation? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: There are reports that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister are scheduled to address the UNGA on Covid-19. Would you please provide us details? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj TV)

Answer: Regarding Afghanistan, Pakistan has consistently emphasized the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, which is important for peace and stability in the region and beyond. The Afghan Peace Process has reached a critical stage. We believe intra-Afghan Negotiations have provided a historic opportunity for Afghan leadership to establish lasting peace. It is now up to the Afghan people to seize this unprecedented opportunity.

Pakistan also welcomes the announcement regarding the agreement reached on rules and procedures by the Afghan parties in Doha. This is another significant step forward. The agreement reflects a common resolve of the parties to secure a negotiated settlement.

Pakistan will continue to support Intra-Afghan Negotiations, culminating in an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political solution paving the way for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

Regarding procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, Pakistan remains in contact with its partners, including China and a number of other countries in this regard. However, for the exact details regarding procurement of the vaccine, I would like to refer you to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.

As for your question regarding UNGA Session on Covid-19, I will revert.

Question: Three weeks ago an agreement was signed between the Government and TLP, saying that Pakistan would not appoint its Ambassador to France and it will also send back the French Ambassador based in Islamabad. In this regard, the Federal Cabinet was scheduled to take decision in its meeting on Tuesday. Would you please update us in this regard? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: We do not have further information to share with you in this regard.

Question: The inauguration ceremony of President-elect of the United States is going to take place next month. Would you please inform us who will represent Pakistan in the inauguration ceremony? Have we received any invitation in this regard?

Secondly, what are Pakistan’s expectations from the Biden administration regarding Pakistan-USA relations and USA’s role in the region, especially in the context of close relations between Prime Minister Imran Khan and outgoing President of the United States? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: Pakistan attaches great importance to its partnership with the U.S. that has been a factor for peace and stability in the region. We look forward to working with the new administration to further strengthen our bilateral ties and continue our partnership to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We would also welcome resumption of structured dialogue with the US.

We expect that the new US administration would also take notice of the ongoing grave humanitarian situation and willful defiance of international law, democratic norms and human rights obligations by India in IIOJK.

Regarding Pakistan’s participation in the inauguration ceremony, I will be happy to share any information in this regard as it becomes available.

Question: The Federal Government has issued special permits to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and two other members of the Saudi ruling family to hunt houbara bustards during the hunting season 2020-21, regardless of the fact that the bird remains internationally protected. Your comments? (Saima Shabir, Arab News)

Supplementary Question: During his meeting with the State Minister of the UAE on the sidelines of OIC-CFM in Nigeria, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan raised the issue of suspension of visas of Pakistani citizens by the UAE. Have we got any update or response from the UAE side?

Secondly, would you please confirm that how many members of royal family of UAE are in Pakistan for houbara bustard hunting? Are we also planning to suspend their visas and sending them back? (Essa Naqvi, Indus News)

Answer: Regarding the hunting of houbara bustards, I will check and revert.

As for the issue of suspension of visas, let me reiterate that Pakistan has strong and fraternal ties with the UAE. As we have said earlier, there is no official announcement regarding suspension of visas for Pakistani citizens by the Government of the UAE.

However, we are cognizant of the fact that our nationals are facing visa restrictions. We understand that these restrictions only apply to visit visas and not to renewal of existing visas. We are in touch with UAE authorities both in Abu Dhabi and Islamabad.

The Foreign Minister met UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation on the sidelines of the 47th OIC CFM and raised this issue. The Ministry is making concerted efforts to address the situation.

Question: Israel is constructing new settlements in the Palestinian territories. What is Pakistan’s stance on that? (Amjad Ali, PTV News)

Supplementary Question: Regarding the Palestine issue, Pakistan now believes in a two-state solution, whereas, in the past, Pakistan always supported the cause of independent Palestine. Would you please elucidate? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: As for the first question, we have noted with serious concern Israel’s opening of the bidding process for construction of new settlement units in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Pakistan condemns the Israeli decision which is illegal under international law and the relevant UN Resolutions.

Pakistan steadfastly supports the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and reiterates its consistent, clear and unambiguous position – for just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

It is imperative to have a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions, with the pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State.

Question: In the wake of second wave of Covid-19, I would you like to suggest the honourable Foreign Minister to wear a mask during his meetings. Secondly, BBC has interviewed former Finance Minister of Pakistan who is an absconder as per the laws of Pakistan. The former Minister used the platform to malign Pakistan and its armed forces. Has Pakistan diplomatically taken this issue with the British authorities? (Aun Sheerazi, Such TV)

Supplementary Question: Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he would talk to his British counterpart, if necessary, to bring convicted Pakistanis back to the country. Would you please update us? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I would like to refer you to the relevant Ministry for a response in this regard.

Question: You have condemned the assassination of Iranian Scientist in your opening statement. However, Iran has accused Israel for its alleged role in this assassination. There has also been an exchange of strongly worded statements between Riyadh and Tehran on this issue. Pakistan has been maintaining all along that it is ready to play a mediatory role between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, this assassination has raised the temperature in an already tense regional security situation. Is Pakistan in contact with both of these countries? Are there any diplomatic efforts being made to reduce these tensions? (Jalil Akhtar, VoA)

Answer: You might have noticed that my response in the opening statement to this question had two elements: First, an outright condemnation of this assassination; and second, urging all parties to reduce tensions by resorting to dialogue. We believe that reduction in tensions is essential for regional peace and security.

Pakistan has always played a role in reducing these tensions, evident from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer of provision of his good offices for reducing tensions and amicable resolution of regional issues. We remain committed to peace in the region, and we will continue to play any role that leads to de-escalation of tensions in the region.

Question: Last week, we saw a meeting taking place between Pakistan’s Consul General in Barcelona with the Catalonian Foreign Minister. Pakistan has historically aligned with the Spanish Government’s stance on Catalonia, so does this meeting indicate a change in this policy?

Secondly, in September this year, with regards to its posting and transfer policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs had released a statement maintaining that the postings and transfers were done on merit. Day before yesterday, the MoFA Additional Secretary (Admin) gave a written statement to the Islamabad High Court saying that MoFA will abide by the policy, after the Court pointed out that there were multiple violations in the recent posting plan. My question is, did MoFA deliberately issue a misleading statement back in September? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: Let me respond to your second question first. The disposal of the petitions by the honorable Islamabad High Court vindicates our position that the decisions regarding postings and transfers were based on merit, following strictly objective criteria. I would be in a better position to respond to your question upon receipt of the detailed judgment of the court.

I would, however, like to reiterate that Foreign Office is a national institution that takes immense pride in its professionalism and upholding meritocracy.

Regarding your first question, the meeting that you are referring to did not have anything to do with accepting Catalonia as a separate political entity. There is no shift in Pakistan’s already stated policy on the matter.

Question: My first question relates to the condemnation of assassination of Iranian Scientist in your opening statement. How do you see this recent escalation in light of the normalization deals between Israel and Arab States?

Secondly, Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech in GB yesterday, announced creation of a new committee on the provisional provincial status of GB. What in your opinion were the hurdles in implementing the recommendations of the Sartaj Aziz Committee? Also Federal Government had filed a review petition against the decision of Supreme Court on 17th January, 2017. Is there any update with regards to that review petition? (Fida Hussain, Radio News Network)

Answer: As far as your first question is concerned, as a principle we do not comment on bilateral relations between two sovereign states.

Responding to your second question, the Gilgit Baltistan reforms are an ongoing process that includes political, administrative and economic reforms. Such reforms have been a long-standing demand of the people of Gilgit Baltistan. These reforms will continue in line with the needs and demands of the people of Gilgit Baltistan.

As far as our principled position on Jammu and Kashmir dispute is concerned, it is imbedded in the UNSC resolutions; the sanctity of these resolutions is of primal importance, which will be preserved. The purpose of GB reforms is economic, political, and social empowerment of the people of Gilgit and Baltistan, for which the Government of Pakistan will continue to make consistent efforts.

Question: Iranian Parliament passed a resolution calling for suspension of inspections by IAEA at its nuclear facilities. What is Pakistan’s reaction to this development?

Secondly, there has been a recent interview of Pakistan’s former ISI Chief Lt. General Asad Durrani with BBC Urdu. The ex-spy chief highlighted a few important issues; first relates to Jammu and Kashmir: second it was also stated in the interview that provisional provincial statutes to GB would affect the Jammu and Kashmir cause. What are your comments? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: Responding to your second question, I will not comment on what General Durrani has said. However, I would like to reiterate that Pakistan will not take any step which may undermine our principled stance on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

As for your first question, Pakistan believes in the policy of engagement. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) represented a good example of mutually agreed and negotiated settlement of complex issues through diplomatic engagement at the international level. We believe that all parties to the Agreement must adhere to their respective commitments.

Question: How many countries have you approached for procurement of Covid vaccine apart from China?

Secondly, Iran has alleged that the name of Mohsin Fakhrizadeh was disclosed to the Israeli officials by virtue of its presence on some UN lists, which led to this assassination. Has Pakistan given any such list to the UN agencies, which could potentially lead to the disclosure of identities of Pakistani nuclear scientists? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Supplementary Question: Pfizer has announced its plans to roll out its Covid-19 vaccine. However, reportedly it had refused to provide Pakistan with vaccine in the initial stages when it was contacted by the Pakistan Embassy in D.C. Will Pakistan look for other options, or will we be relying on WHO and other International bodies for the vaccine? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj TV)

Supplementary Question: My question is about the assassination of Mohsin Fakhrizadeh. Analysts are suggesting that a strategic partnership between India and Israel could be potentially destabilizing for Pakistan, as there could be a chance of similar assassination attempts on prominent Pakistani scientists. What are your comments? (Aijaz Ahmed GNN)

Answer: If I link your question about this recent assassination with Pakistan’s internal security mechanisms, let me assure you that Pakistan is fully capable and prepared to thwart any misadventure. No one should be mistaken about our capability, will and national resolve. Our defense capabilities were amply manifested during our befitting response on 27 February 2019 to the Indian misadventure.

Regarding your question about vaccine procurement, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination is the concerned body in this regard. However, I can assure you that we are in contact with multiple pharmaceutical companies for procurement of most effective vaccine at the best available prices. The Government of Pakistan is fully cognizant of its responsibility in this regard. The earmarking of $150 million for procurement of vaccine is an indication of these concerted efforts by the Government.

Question: Islamabad High Court has again given time to the Indian side to appoint a counsel in the case of Kalbhushan Jadhav. However, the Indian side is reluctant to respond. Has there been any contact with the Indian side in this regard? (Adeel Warraich, Foreign Affairs News Diplomacy)

Answer: India has so far been evasive and been looking for a pretext to somehow frustrate Pakistan efforts to implement the ICJ judgment. The Indian side has also been making incongruous demands of allowing an Indian Lawyer to represent Commander Jadhav. We have repeatedly informed the Indian side that only those lawyers can represent Commander Jadhav in the court who have valid license to practice law in Pakistan.

India has not yet availed Pakistan’s offer of the 3rd consular access to Commander Jadhav despite repeated reminders by the Government of Pakistan.

The latest hearing of Kulbhushan Jadhav case took place in Islamabad High Court on 01 December 2020, in which the honorable court gave yet another chance to the Indian government to appoint a lawyer for Commander Jadhav. However, it seems that the Indian Government is more interested in political point scoring.

Let me reiterate our position that Pakistan remains fully committed to the implementation of the ICJ judgment. The Indian government should come forward and cooperate with the courts in Pakistan so that full effect could be given to the ICJ judgment.

Question: The Indian media has been widely reporting the recently inked defence MoU between Pakistan and China during the visit of the Chinese Defence Minister. According to the reports, the pact will change the military dynamics in South Asia. Would you please share the details of the MoU and comment in this regard? (Essa Naqvi, Indus News)

Supplementary Question: During the recent visit of the Chinese Defence Minister, there was also a discussion regarding the purchase of F-17 from China. What is an update on this? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Pakistan and China are “All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partners”. Over the years, our partnership has become truly multifaceted and multi-dimensional. The recent visit of State Councilor and Minister of Defense of China, General Wei Fenghe, was aimed at further solidifying and expanding Pakistan-China cooperation, particularly in the fields of defense and security. The cooperation between Pakistan and China is an anchor for regional peace and stability.

The MoU signed between Pakistan and China is for enhancement of cooperation between both the armies. For further details, regarding the MoU, I would like to refer you to the Ministry of Defence.

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