Media Briefing|

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


Assalam-o-Alaikum and welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.

Let me begin with the just concluded visit of President of Tajikistan, H.E. Emomali Rahmon to Pakistan at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

During his two-day official visit, President Rahmon met with the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also called on President Rahmon.

During these meetings, the two sides exchanged views on deepening bilateral cooperation in diverse areas — including political, economic, trade, investment, energy, security, defence, culture, education and regional connectivity.

The two sides also discussed the regional situation in detail.

A number of Agreements and MoUs in the areas of Education, Trade & Commerce, Anti-Corruption, Prevention of Emergency Situation, Art & Culture and Connectivity were also signed during the visit.

Pakistan and Tajikistan share common views on major regional and international issues and cooperate closely at various multilateral fora including the UN, OIC and SCO, of which Tajikistan is the current chair.

Both Pakistan and Tajikistan are part of the CASA-1000 Transmission line Project along with Kyrgyz Republic and Afghanistan.

The visit of the Tajik President is in line with Pakistan’s vision of enhancing strategic partnership with the Central Asian States, for regional connectivity and integration.

We believe that the visit by President Rahmon, his 8th since 1994, will help further strengthen brotherly ties between Pakistan and Tajikistan.

President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA), Volkan Bozkir visited Pakistan from 26 – 28 May 2021.

Mr. Bozkir held detailed talks with the Foreign Minister and called on the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

During these meetings, a wide range of issues were discussed pertaining to regional and international peace and security, sustainable development, economic recovery efforts in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, and key items on the UN agenda such as:

• Palestine;
• Jammu and Kashmir dispute;
• Afghan peace process;
• Illicit financial flows from proceeds of crime, corruption and bribery; and
• UN reforms

President Dr. Arif Alvi also conferred upon the President of the UN General Assembly, the award of Hilal-e-Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan participated in the Nikkei’s 26th Conference on the Future of Asia as a keynote speaker.

The theme of the Conference was “Shaping the Post-COVID Era: Asia’s Role in the Global Recovery.”

In his address, the Prime Minister underlined the challenges as well as the opportunities presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He underscored the need to act collectively to ensure the availability of vaccines for everyone, everywhere, and as soon as possible.

The Prime Minister also reiterated the call to provide low income countries, and others in financial distress, with the fiscal space and liquidity, to respond to the impact of the pandemic, and revive growth and stability.

At the invitation of his Iraqi counterpart, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited the Republic of Iraq from 28 – 30 May.

During the visit, the two sides held detailed discussions on a number of issues including bilateral relations as well as global and regional issues of mutual interest.

Both sides also reviewed cooperation in multilateral organizations, particularly the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Foreign Minister Qureshi also called on the President of Iraq and held meetings with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Defence of Iraq.

During his meetings, Foreign Minister Qureshi particularly discussed issues pertaining to the management and well-being of thousands of Pakistani Zaireen visiting Iraq, every year.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi received the Speaker of Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga, Mir Rahman Rahmani.

The Foreign Minister highlighted Pakistan’s constructive efforts for facilitating the Afghan peace process and reaffirmed its support for a peaceful, stable, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

The Foreign Minister underlined the need to be vigilant about the role of “spoilers”, both within and outside Afghanistan.

He also stressed the need to utilize the available forums including Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) to address all issues.

The 4th Session of China – Afghanistan – Pakistan Foreign Minister’s Dialogue is scheduled to be held today in a virtual format.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi and Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Muhammad Haneef Atmar will participate in the session.

The trilateral mechanism was established in 2017 to foster closer cooperation among the three countries regarding the Afghan peace process and provide assistance to Afghanistan for reconstruction and development.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) of the European Parliament (EP) at the invitation of its Chair MEP David McAllister, on 26 May.

He underscored the importance of regular parliamentary exchanges between Pakistan and the EU.

In his remarks, Foreign Minister Qureshi dilated upon various aspects of Pakistan-EU relations, regional and international developments.

He stated that the Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) had ushered in a new phase in the partnership by providing a solid foundation and framework for multidimensional cooperation between the two sides.

In line with our Engage Africa initiative, the Foreign Minister led Africa Day celebrations in Pakistan.

The Foreign Minister offered his congratulations to the Chairperson of the African Union, and the member countries.

He reiterated Pakistan’s desire to enhance economic and diplomatic engagement with Africa.

In the same spirit, Pakistan has opened 5 new Ambassadorial Missions in Africa.

The year 2021 marks the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and China.

To commemorate the 70 years of brotherly relations between the two countries, number of events are being organized in Islamabad and Beijing.

A joint virtual reception was held in this regard on 21 May 2021.

The reception was attended by President Dr. Arif Alvi, Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), Federal Ministers, Foreign Secretary and other senior officials.

In the same regard, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood also participated in the Book Launching Ceremony of “Higher than Karakoram” at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.

The Foreign Secretary appreciated that over the past seven decades; Pakistan-China relations had grown from strength to strength, unaffected by the vicissitudes of time and changes in the regional and global environment.

On 28 May, Rashakai Special Economic Zone under the transformational China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The tremendous progress made in the CPEC projects signals the shared commitment of Pakistan and China.

In a short span of time, we have completed 19 projects, 28 are under construction, while 41 are in the pipeline.

Over the past seven years, CPEC projects have created more than 26,000 jobs and have boosted local power industry.

In addition, CPEC motorway projects have created over 50,000 jobs.

Both Pakistan and China remain committed to the CPEC for quality economic growth and enhanced regional connectivity.

Coming to the situation in Palestine:

While the ceasefire announced on 21st May in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a welcome development, we once again reiterate the need for permanent resolution of the Palestine issue.

Pakistan believes that a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian state based on internationally agreed parameters with the pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital is the only way forward to the Palestine issue.

Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC, had requested to convene a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which was held on 27 May.

The Council’s session led to the adoption of a resolution to establish a standing international Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the human rights violations by Israel.

The resolution represents global resolve to end systemic impunity and injustice and begin a process of meaningful accountability.

Coming to the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK).

It has been 22 months since the unprecedented military siege, communications blockade and suspension of fundamental freedoms in IIOJK.

The lives and livelihoods of the Kashmiri people have been severely affected in the aftermath of India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019.

India also continues with its design to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory in clear violation of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.

India has already issued over 3.4 million fake domicile certificates.

The martyrdom anniversary of the two slain women of Shopain, Aasiya and Neelofar, was observed throughout IIOJK.

Once again, an impartial probe was demanded into the rape and murder of the two at the hands of the Indian occupation forces in Shopian, 12 years ago.

India continues to employ rape, torture, degrading treatment and killings of Kashmiri women as instruments of state terrorism in the occupied territory.

India’s gross and systematic violations of human rights in the occupied territory and lack of accountability of the perpetrators have been widely documented by a number of independent Commissions, human rights organizations, global media and civil society organizations, including the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The continuing Indian crimes against the Kashmiri people must serve as a solemn reminder to the international community of its collective responsibility to hold India accountable.

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

Question: Are we expecting any breakthrough in the next round of Afghan talks? Do you think that after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan the Afghan forces have the capability to fill the security vacuum that will be created post withdrawal?

Recently, a group of Indian diplomats crossed over to Pakistan through Wagha border, after which, one of the passenger tested positive on arrival. I wanted to ask if the movement of diplomats still taking place through Wagha border? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)

Supplementary Question: Keeping in view the worsening situation in Afghanistan, there is general fear of civil war in the country. What is the Pakistan’s strategy to stop bloodshed and what has Pakistan decided for repatriation of Afghan refugees? (Kausar Lodhi, Prime News)

Supplementary Question: What is Pakistan’s strategy to deal with post International forces withdrawal? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: Pakistan has consistently maintained that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict in Afghanistan and that a negotiated political settlement was the only way forward.

Pakistan has played a constructive role in the Afghan peace process. We have facilitated the signing of US-Taliban Peace agreement (29 February 2020); the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations (12 September 2020) and the Agreement on Rules and Procedures between the Afghan parties (Doha, 02 December 2020). We have also repeated underscored the need for reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire.

As for the withdrawal of troops, we believe that there should be an ‘orderly’ and ‘responsible’ troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving no security vacuum that could be exploited by spoilers. In addition, the withdrawal of US forces must coincide with the overall progress achieved in the peace process. In this regard, we have been in contact with all the relevant stakeholders.

As the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan continues, we reemphasize the importance of progress in the Afghan peace process. We believe that all parties to the Afghan conflict must remain committed to the ongoing efforts for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

Regarding the detection of COVID in a family member of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, I can share that a group of 12 officials and family members of the Indian High Commission (IHC) in Islamabad crossed over to Pakistan through Wagah border on 22 May 2021. As per the laid down COVID related health and safety protocols, all passengers carried negative PCR reports with them.

However, upon arrival, the spouse of an official of the Indian High Commission tested positive on Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), conducted by Pakistani health officials.

The National Command and Control Center (NCOC), being the competent forum, after reviewing the case, advised all passengers and the driver of the vehicle to undergo mandatory quarantine.

The Indian High Commission was accordingly advised to strictly follow the guidelines provided by the NCOC.

Question: Pakistan has consistently maintained that India must reconsider its actions of August 05, 2019. Do you see the possibility of India agreeing to Pakistan’s demands? What is the way forward for Pakistan if India continues its aggressive policies towards Kashmiris?

It has been widely reported that US wants to keep its air bases in the region. What is Pakistan’s stance on that? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: Although Pakistan has clearly stated that there will be no US military bases in Pakistan, however, could you confirm if the agreement that was signed during President Musharraf’s era in 2001 regarding the use of Pakistani bases still valid?

Afghan nationals have recently attacked the Pakistan’s High Commission in London. Has Pakistan taken up the issue with the UK authorities? If yes, could you please share response? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)

Answer: With regards to Pakistan’s position on the situation in Indian illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, there is absolutely no change in Pakistan’s position.

In this regard, you must have recently seen the statements made by Pakistani leadership, clearly stipulating Pakistan’s principled position on the issue.

Regarding the presence of any military or air bases in Pakistan, there is no US air or military base in Pakistan; nor is any such proposal envisaged.

Pakistan and the US have the framework of cooperation in terms of Air Lines of Communication (ALOC) and Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) in place since 2001. No new agreement has been made in this regard.

As for the incident outside the High Commission for Pakistan in London, the matter has been taken up with the relevant UK authorities and we await their response.

Question: Tomorrow, the 4th of June will mark the 100 days of the reiteration of the ceasefire understanding between Pakistan and India. Are there more such ventures that can possibly take place between Pakistan and India?

The former Israeli War Minister showed a Pakistani hospital as Hamas headquarters in Gaza. How do you comment? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Supplementary Question: Given the situation in Palestine and Pakistan’s serious concerns over it, how do you see the use of Pakistani hospital as Hamas Headquarters by the former Israeli War Minister, who is also being considered to become Israeli Prime Minister? (Shabbir Wahgra, PTV World)

Answer: We have seen the statement by Israel’s former war minister and we believe that it is casual misjudgment at best, and deliberate misrepresentation at worst.

We also take serious exception to the fact that a Pakistani building was misquoted in the statement.

Regarding the 100 days of the reiteration of ceasefire understanding of 2003, we believe that it has helped bring peace and tranquility along the Line of Control (LOC), providing some relief to the Kashmiris living along both sides of the LOC.

As for any further developments in this regard, we believe that India must create an enabling environment for a ‘meaning’ and ‘result oriented’ engagement.

We have consistently maintained that the Jammu & Kashmir dispute remains the core issue between India and Pakistan that needs resolution as per the UN Resolutions and in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

Question: What is the update on the case of two Pakistanis diplomats who were caught stealing in Seoul? (Abid Siddique Chaudhry, Daily Capital Mail)

Answer: We have seen the media reports. Our mission in Seoul is in contact with the host authorities to ascertain facts of the reported incidents.

Any details will be shared, once received.

Question: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his CNN interview stated that Pakistan and China are talking to each other through diplomatic channels on the human rights issues in Xinjiang. Can you please share details? Do we agree that there are human rights abuses in Xinjiang? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY)

Answer: I have repeatedly addressed this question previously. Our policy on Xinjiang is consistent and clear. We believe that affairs related to Xinjiang are an internal matter of China.

China has taken important measures to combat terrorism and radicalization along its western region. Besides, China has undertaken massive development measures in the region. China has also organized visits of our and other representatives to Xinjiang for first-hand information and knowledge about the situation.

China is also engaged with the OIC with regard to Xinjiang.

The relationship between Pakistan and China is based on mutual trust and understanding. Our comprehensive engagement covers all aspects of our relations.

Question: Despite the excellent relationship between Pakistan and Turkey, Pakistan has been placed in the list of countries to undergo mandatory quarantine of 14 days on arrival in Turkey, whereas the passengers from various other countries do not have to fulfill any such requirements. How do you comment? (Nauman Ishfaq Mughal, Daily Parliament Times)

Answer: The Covid pandemic has imposed unprecedented challenges for every country of the world, and hence every State is taking strict measures to ensure the safety of their citizens.

Similarly, Turkish Government has also put in place a number of regulations for several countries, including Pakistan.

We have taken up the matter with the Turkish authorities and have also updated them on the improvement of Covid situation in Pakistan. We hope that the Turkish side will review its COVID related advisory for Pakistan, in view of the improving Covid situation, in due course.

For those Pakistanis, who had gotten stranded at Istanbul after the announcement of Turkish decision, at the intervention by the Embassy of Pakistan in Ankara, the Turkish authorities had granted exemption and they were allowed entry into Turkey after a negative PCR test was conducted at the airport.

The Embassy of Pakistan in Ankara and the Consulate General of Pakistan in Istanbul would continue to remain in close contact with the Turkish authorities.

Question: Recently, the Interior Minister visited Kuwait and the 10-year ban on Kuwaiti visas for Pakistanis was lifted. Has there been any progress on UAE Visas for Pakistanis? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Supplementary Question: As you would know, a large number of Pakistanis have been inoculated with the Chinese vaccine. However, Saudi Arabia does not have these vaccines in this their approved list for entry into Saudi Arabia. Is Ministry of Foreign Affairs in touch with the Saudi authorities? Has there been any progress? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)

Answer: As for the issue of UAE visas, the Foreign Minister has repeatedly addressed this issue in his media interactions. This issue has already been discussed numerous times in my media briefings as well. Any further development in this regard will be shared.

As for the issue of vaccines, Pakistan has taken up with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the issue of vaccines which are mandatory for travel to Saudi Arabia for visit, Umrah and Hajj.

We have proposed inclusion of some of the Chinese vaccines used in Pakistan in the list of vaccines approved by the Saudi authorities.

The Ministry is actively pursuing this matter with the Saudi side.

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