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 our Briefing.

At the outset, I would like to extend best wishes to all of you for a blessed Zil Haj and a blissful and spiritually rewarding Eid-ul-Adha. May Allah Almighty accept our prayers and sacrifices.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In recent days, you have seen significant diplomatic activity and engagement including particularly with China and the United States.

Let me begin by the visit to Pakistan from 29-30 June of His Excellency Mr. Yang Jiechi Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Director of the Central Commission on Foreign Affairs of the CPC. During the visit, Director Yang held delegation level talks with the Foreign Minister, called on the Prime Minister and had a meeting with the Chief of Army Staff.

The various meetings
• Highlighted economic cooperation as a mainstay of the wide-ranging Pakistan-China partnership.
• Underlined that as a flagship of the visionary Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), CPEC had transformed Pakistan’s economic base and strengthened capacity for self-development.
• Reaffirmed the Government’s resolve to accelerate the pace and complete CPEC projects at the earliest.
• Expressed satisfaction at the expanding defence and security cooperation between Pakistan and China that was a factor contributing to regional peace and stability.
During the visit, Pakistan extended a note of thanks to China for:
• Renewal of the RMB 15 billion (US $ 2.3 billion) syndicate facility.
• Support and assistance to Pakistan’s efforts towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic by providing millions of vaccine doses as well as protective and medical equipment.
• Facilitating return of Pakistani students to resume their on-campus studies.

The two sides concluded several Protocols and MoUs. The Chinese side announced the roll-over of $2 billion SAFE deposits. It was also conveyed that China would export 200,000 MT of urea fertilizer to Pakistan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yesterday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had a telephone call with US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. You would have seen our detailed PR on it. The Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State reaffirmed their mutual desire to further strengthen bilateral ties by expanding engagement in trade, energy, health and security, to deepen Pak-US ties marking 75 years Anniversary of our diplomatic relations and appreciated importance of frequent high-level exchanges in sustaining positive momentum in bilateral ties. In this regard, the Foreign Minister appreciated the ongoing visit of US Special Representative on Business and Commercial Affairs, Dilawar Syed. Foreign Minister also took the opportunity to request US to ease issuance of visas for Pakistani nationals including students, businesspersons and professionals. On the regional situation, they discussed the need for continuous engagement with Interim Afghan government to deal with the dire humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The two leaders agreed to maintain sustained engagement in future.

Earlier, on 1st July 2022, the US Special Representative on Business and Commercial Affairs Mr. Dilawar Syed called on the Foreign Minister.
The Special Representative’s visit is a manifestation of the importance that both countries attached to improving trade and commercial relations The Foreign Minister acknowledged his role in improving business contacts between the two sides, and emphasized the importance of visits in deepening and expanding the relationship, in particular trade and commercial ties.

Also on 1st July, FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari virtually addressed members of US Congress. FM thanked them for their support towards Pakistan and invited them to visit Pakistan. The Foreign Minister lauded the recent momentum in bilateral engagement on climate change, energy, health, security and trade. He expressed desire to further deepen bilateral ties particularly through economic cooperation. He stressed the need for more people-to-people, business-to-business and parliamentary engagements between the two countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 30th June, EU GSP+ Monitoring Mission called on FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. During the meeting the Foreign Minister highlighted that:
• GSP+ as a mutually beneficial undertaking has helped expand Pakistan-EU trade.
• Pakistan remained committed to 27 GSP+ related Conventions & hoped for successful completion of the 4th biennial review.

On 30th June Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari received a telephone call from UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed bin Al Nayhan, who offered condolences on the passing away of the Foreign Ministers’ grandmother.

During the week, the outgoing German Ambassador Bernhard Schlagheck paid farewell calls on the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

The UK High Commissioner, Ambassador-designate of Turkiye, Ambassador of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the US Ambassador called on the Minister of State, Hina Rabbani Khar during the week.

FS Sohail Mahmood also received Ambassador-designate of Turkiye, Australia and Bhutan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 1st July, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with Serena Hotels and Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Association organized a Mango Festival at Serena Hotel. The event showcased Pakistan’s superior and diverse quality of mango production, its place as a leading exporter of Mangoes around the world and the sheer number and variety of culinary delicacies that can be crafted using Mango as a lead ingredient. The event was widely attended and appreciated. It was organized under Ministry’s Public Diplomacy initiative and was a part of the series of activities and events being organized throughout the year to celebrate 75 years of Pakistan’s Independence.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari graced the event as Guest of Honour. Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Islamabad participated in the event. In his remarks, the Foreign Minister highlighted the significance of the festival as part of the events celebrating the 75th anniversary of Pakistan’s Independence. The Foreign Minister underscored the fact that ‘Pakistani mangoes are the best in the world’ and are popular due to superior quality as well as the diverse varieties being grown in Pakistan. It was highlighted that Pakistan’s missions abroad were organizing mango tasting festivals in their host countries and showcasing the variety and richness of the Pakistani mangoes abroad as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 1st July, the Indian Charge d’ Affaires (Cd’A) in Islamabad was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a strong demarche was made on the Indian government’s blocking of access to content of 80 accounts on Twitter including withholding accounts of Pakistan’s diplomatic Missions in Iran, Turkey, Egypt, UN-New York and the national broadcaster Radio Pakistan, by activating geo-blocking and deplorable internet censorship laws.

The Cd’A was conveyed that these Indian actions were against international standards, obligations, norms, and framework of flow of information and reflected the alarming pace of shrinking space for pluralistic voices and curbing of fundamental freedoms including expression and speech in India.

It is ironic that the world’s so-called largest democracy was exercising censorship, central controls and legalization of majoritarian politics at the expense of democratic ideals like freedom, choice and access to information.

We call upon the Indian government to stall this slide towards totalitarianism and act responsibly in the comity of nations. We also call upon the people of India to demand accountability of the blatant majoritarianism exercised by their government as an instrument of state policy.

The international community must prevail upon India to reverse its actions that curb free speech and fly in the face of sacred principles enshrined in the UN Charter for the good of humanity. Moreover, social media platforms need to demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding fundamental freedoms of speech and expression and abide by international norms and standards that ensure continuing integrity of the digital communication interface. Twitter is also urged to reverse the withholding of our 4 official, verified digital assets that are not in contravention of any local or international laws.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Coming over to the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

It is no surprise that during the week a dozen Kashmiri youth were arrested in continuing cordon and search operations. India must realize that despite applying all tools of oppression and using state terrorism as a policy, it has failed to subjugate the will of the Kashmiri people.

We once again call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations and human rights organizations, to investigate the persistent extra-judicial killings of Kashmiris by Indian Occupation Forces and bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice.

Pakistan will continue to support the Kashmiri people in their just struggle against Indian occupation till the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination as promised to them by the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

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



Question: So, one question basically, which has two parts. Yesterday we saw a press conference in Karachi by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials claiming that they have arrested the alleged mastermind of the Karachi University blast on the Chinese It has been stated that he came from a neighboring foreign country. Provincial Minister Sharjeel Memon said and I quote, that he is not going to name the neighboring foreign country, as it goes against diplomatic norms, if he names it, and will leave it to the Foreign Office. So can you please elaborate on this arrest? And what neighboring country was he referring to? Is this arrest some sort of link with the recent visit of the Chinese delegation because there is recent spate of attacks that have been happening against Chinese nationals? So was the issue of terrorism against Chinese nationals discussed in the recent high level visit? Thank you. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: The investigations into the Karachi terrorist incident have been ongoing. There is complete political consensus and full backing of the government into this investigation, which is being carried out as a top priority, and which is being expedited according to the norms, standards and relevant laws of the Government of Pakistan. So this is an ongoing process, and there are continuing discussions with the Chinese side on the safety and security of Chinese nationals to which the government is fully committed.
On your first observation, we are yet to see anything communicated officially from the CTD and so when that is done, we would be in a position to comment.

Question: You mentioned the telephone conversation between Foreign Minister and Secretary of State. Secondly, Ambassador Donald Blome also visited Foreign Office, yesterday and held a meeting with Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar. What was so special that two diplomatic contacts took place the same day? When Mr. Bilawal Bhutto mentioned that there were talks about enhancing security relation and security partnership. What specific area of security that the two countries want to engage with? Thank you. (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: As I said, in recent days you would have witnessed intense diplomatic activity – there was this high level visit from China and these engagements with the US. They indicate the desire on part of Pakistan to promote and strengthen our relationships with both of these countries, which are our long-standing partners. We look forward to broaden this relationship, to take it forward in a balanced, objective and mutually beneficial manner.
So it was in this context that the contacts have been made with the U.S., as you would have also noticed from the press release, and from the outcomes of the earlier interactions that have taken place in recent weeks with the US side, I think the objective is to work for a partnership which is broad based and is comprehensive – which is focused on economic and political relations, trade and investment, and many other areas like climate change, energy, health and obviously there is this security and defence aspect, which is part of this collaboration.
Pakistan and U.S. have been collaborating over the years in the field of security and defence. We have had long-standing cooperation in the context of counter-terrorism and I think it is in the interest of our two countries that we continue to take this relationship, this partnership in the security and defence side forward in the context of our overall expansion and promotion of relations with the U.S.

Question: Sir, in your opening statement, you talked about Mr. Yang Jiechi’s visit to Pakistan. And you said that the various meetings underlying that as a flagship of the visionary Belt and Road Initiative CPEC had transformed Pakistan’s economic base and strengthened capacity for self development. We know the importance Pakistan attaches to CPEC. And we consider our economic lifeline and Pakistan’s economic future is linked with CPEC. That’s what is said by the government or successive governments. Last week on Monday there was a meeting of G7 leaders at Bavarian Alps in Germany. The details that came out showed that the G7 has launched a $600 billion infrastructure project to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative which technically is going to counter Pakistan’s flagship China Pakistan Economic Corridor. So a country which Pakistan claims the United States of America as our strategic partner is launching a project against our other strategic partner, which is China. How do you comment on that in a highly polarized world? (Essa Naqvi, Independent)

Answer: I think we will have to examine that proposal or project that you refer to in detail before we can comment on that. But I think the catch phrase in all of this – the statement of yours – is what you said in the end – the increasing polarization. And this is something that we have been saying very consistently, including recently, that we want to see an environment, regionally and globally, in which the development objectives of countries and regions can be promoted through a cooperative rather than confrontational approach. So this is our view, this is our desire, in principle. And I think our understanding and appreciation of the Belt and Road Initiative and CPEC being its flagship project, is that it is a major development initiative. It is an initiative that has evoked and attracted the interest of over 100 countries in all regions of the world. That shows the legitimacy and the importance of this global initiative, which is designed to promote development, connectivity and cooperation in so many fields, that’s how we perceive BRI and CPEC as part of that. So we think that any schemes or initiatives that could be launched by other countries or group of countries that provide similar opportunities for development, for connectivity and for enhanced cooperation among countries and regions, and that are inclusive in nature – that would be welcome. And I think we have said consistently that we are open to initiatives and programs in which Pakistan can participate to promote our development objectives.

Question: My question is regarding the peace dialogue with TTP. A meeting was held two days ago, during which it was mentioned that the interim Afghan regime will act as a guarantor of talks between Pakistan and TTP. What is the exact role of the Afghan Taliban in these talks, Are they the guarantors or the facilitators?

Secondly, there are no ongoing structured dialogues between the two sides, they are passing messages through the facilitators. What red lines have been passed to TTP as they were demanding for imposition of Sharia Law and to revoke the merger of FATA? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: It is a sensitive issue and that is why considering the importance of this issue, a full-fledged briefing has been given to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and this was attended by members of some other Parliamentary Committees, political party representatives and others. There is a handout that emerged from that briefing, which in reasonable detail, informs what was briefed and discussed and what are the expectations, what is the framework under which these talks were being facilitated, and the framework under which we expect it would lead to an outcome that results in peace and stability in the region. So I think those parameters are clearly defined – within the Constitution of Pakistan – and with the Parliamentary oversight now that has also been agreed, so I think, to a reasonable extent, details have been provided, and it is not for me to go beyond what has been made public at this point of time while this process is underway.

Question: India has blocked the official twitter accounts of several Pakistani missions. What is the FO doing to get them unblocked? (Zulqernain Haider, ARY News)

Answer: You are referring to withholding of Twitter accounts of our Missions in UN New York, Iran, Egypt, and Turkey by the platform in response to a request received from Government of India.
I have referred to that in some detail in my opening remarks. You must have also seen our Press Release after a demarche was made to Indian Charge d’Affaires registering Pakistan’s strong rejection of India’s recent move to curb freedom of speech and expression and curtail its citizen’s fundamental right of access to information.
It is a matter of grave concern that India has slid into an oppressive, intolerant, totalitarian state where room for plurality of people’s beliefs, opinions and voices is shrinking at an alarming rate.
Regarding this particular incident, we have registered our concern officially to the platform via Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
Specifically, we have asked for:
• Provision of exact reasons for withholding our select 4 accounts
• Clarity on why official, verified handles have been withheld in an unprecedented move
• Enhanced vigilance by the platform in protecting fundamental freedoms of speech and expression
• Unblocking of our geo-blocked accounts in India.

You would have followed news reports from international media including BBC and New York Times, that Twitter has filed a legal petition against Indian government orders to take down specific content and withhold/block accounts on no clear pretext other than political whims. These accounts include official, verified accounts such as those of our Missions abroad. We believe this legal accountability is a step in the right direction and we hope the Indian legal system passes this test of their integrity and character.

We would also like to appeal to our media, and through our media, international organizations that are guardians of free speech and expression to hold Indian digital dictatorship to account and prevail upon the Government of India to reverse its actions.

Question: In the recent days frustration can be seen among the Afghan Taliban Officials, as we have seen that the Minister of Mines and Petroleum has ridiculed Pakistan’s economy. Do you consider this frustration is because of Pakistan’s delay in recognizing Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan? (Zargoon Shah, Geo News)

Answer: No, I don’t think that it could be a case, but any way, your comment about the statement reportedly by the Interim Minister of Mines and Petroleum, I think it was in an interview to a media channel. It has, according to our information, been misreported. Our Embassy in Kabul is engaged with the Afghan authorities on this matter and on the whole, we remain engaged with the Afghan side at various levels. And I think it goes without saying that it is in our interest and in the interest of two countries that this engagement between Pakistan and the Afghan interim authorities continues in a positive, constructive manner. Peace and stability in our region is very much dependent on this positive framework in which our two countries can collaborate. We are very much cognizant of the severe challenges that the Afghan interim authorities and the Afghan people are facing in terms of economic hardships, in terms of recent natural disasters, the earthquake, so you know the challenges are immense and we think that it is through engagement with the wider international community that these challenges can be overcome.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, what we are trying to focus in particular is to move on matters like movement of people, trade, transit, business interaction, elements like connectivity, etc. I think these are areas apart from you know, the political aspects of the relationship, these are areas that can bring tangible benefit to the ordinary people and to the overall relationship.

Question: Foreign Minister held Telephonic conversation with US Secretary of State and then there was meeting with Donald Blome, US Ambassador in Pakistan with Minister of State. During these engagements are there any China and CPEC related talks?

Secondly, after peace talks with TTP, will Ehsan Ullah Ehsan be allowed to contest elections as an independent citizen? (Anwar Abbas, BOL News)

Answer: No comment at the moment on your second question.
On your first question, the importance of this engagement with the US, I have deliberated on that before in response to an earlier question. This is in interest of both our countries. And you can understand that whenever interaction at such levels takes place, the discussion is broad. It is focused on how we can enhance our bilateral relations. It also covers our common interests regionally and globally and you know, all of these issues were the subject and focus of the conversation between the two Ministers.
With regard to your observations about China and CPEC, I think on a couple of occasions, also recently, the US has itself said that they don’t want to and they don’t look at their own relationship with Pakistan in the context of Pakistan’s relationship with China. I think that’s a healthy sign that allows Pakistan to take forward our relations with both US and China on parallel tracks.

Question: There are a lot of ongoing talks on Peace dialogue with TTP. There is fear among the people of the Tribal Area as one of the major demands of TTP is to revoke merger of FATA. What message will you give to the people of tribal area on this? What will be the course of action by Pakistan if the dialogues with TTP fail?

Secondly, people of Jammu and Kashmir and Azad Kashmir are although living very close to each other and have family ties but are not allowed to meet each other. What steps Pakistan has taken in this regard? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: On your first question about the talks, I think in a way I have responded to that, and there is not much to add to that. The briefing has been given in the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. Information has been shared publicly. Some of your questions are speculative. I don’t want to go into that. I can say once again, that it is very clear that the framework under which this process is taking place is directly linked to the Constitution and the laws and the governance structures of Pakistan. So obviously, you know, there can’t be any compromise on that, in the context of this process.
On your observation about Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) and there have been, you know, CBMs in the past, but this entire thing is stalled because of the Indian attitude in recent years, the situation having particularly exacerbated by the illegal and unilateral actions that India has taken since August 2019 and even before that, and some of the CBMs that were in place, they are not operational. Pakistan’s desire always has been that the Kashmiris on both sides, they should have the opportunities to interact and I think this can take place in a better manner when there is an environment of peace and stability. So that’s why we continue to urge India to take steps that would lead to such an environment in which such CBMs can be implemented and in which a constructive and result oriented dialogue between the two countries can also take place that can focus on how the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir can be a peacefully addressed.

Question: With regards to India’s announcement of Jammu and Kashmir as the venue of G 20 Summit. The good news from China is that they have said that such forum should not be used to do politics. Has Pakistan approached any other country of G 20, particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkiye to convey our concerns on Indian decision of holding G 20 Summit in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. (Nuaman Ishfaq Mughal, Daily Parliament Times)

Answer: You would have seen our statement on this issue. And then some of the countries have already commented on that – you referred to the statement by the Chinese side, which is a very clear and objective statement of fact. We have also been reaching out to other members of the G20. We have shared our perspective, our concerns and I think there is, in the responses that we are getting, lot of understanding that we see on part of those countries who realize the sensitivity of this issue, who understand Pakistan’s perspective and who also appreciate that Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory. So we continue our outreach on this issue.

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