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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would begin with the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

As you would have followed, Pakistan has categorically rejected the report of the so-called ‘Delimitation Commission’.

Pakistan’s position is unambiguous and crystal clear.

India’s unilateral and illegal actions of 5 August 2019 and all subsequent measures in IIOJK are in blatant violation of international law including the 4th Geneva Convention and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. India’s attempts to lend ‘legitimacy’ to its illegal and unilateral actions will never succeed.

The ulterior motive of Indian moves was to undermine the internationally recognized disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir, and to bring about changes in the demographic composition of the occupied territory to convert the Muslim majority to minority in IIOJK. Pakistan and the Kashmiri people have rejected all these moves.

This report is a further manifestation of the BJP government’s repugnant plan to disempower and disenfranchise the Kashmiris. Consequently, the electoral balance has been artificially tilted in favour of Jammu as opposed to Kashmir, despite the latter making up the bigger portion of the overall IIOJK population.

We believe that this whole exercise is illegal and in contravention of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, international law, and the 4th Geneva Convention which impose certain obligations on occupying forces including not to change the demographic structure of the occupied territories.

The Government of Pakistan has accordingly categorically rejected the report and termed it a farcical exercise.

A strong demarche was made to the Indian Charge d’Affaires, who was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 5 May.

On 10 May, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressed a letter to the President of the Security Council and Secretary-General of the United Nations, highlighting the unlawful steps taken by India to change the demographic structure of IIOJK. The FM underlined that the delimitation exercise was designed to disempower and disenfranchise, and further marginalize and divide the Kashmiri people and pave the way for yet another puppet government by BJP-RSS combine that panders to its “Hindutva” ideology.

Earlier today, the Foreign Minister briefed the National Assembly reiterating Pakistan’s categorical rejection of the entire exercise. The National Assembly unanimously adopted a strong resolution rejecting the report of the so-called ‘Delimitation Commission’ and reiterated Pakistan’s unflinching support and solidarity with the Kashmiri people.

Pakistan will continue to reach out to the world community to raise international awareness about India’s illegal actions and mobilize the requisite response.

We reaffirm commitment of the Government and people of Pakistan to extend all possible support to the Kashmiri people till they achieve their legitimate right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me now turn to some of the key diplomatic engagements in recent days. Beginning with the visit of the Prime Minister to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 28-30 April – his first visit after assumption of office, reflective of the close historical ties and the brotherly relations between our two countries.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was accompanied by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and a high-level delegation. His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince & Deputy Prime Minister, received the Pakistani Prime Minister in Jeddah. You must have seen the comprehensive joint statement that was issued at the conclusion of the visit which details:

  • Reassurance of continuous support to Pakistan and its economy
  • Expanding trade and business ties
  • Increasing investment and
  • Creating opportunities for Pakistan’s manpower

During the visit, OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha also called on the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister noted that as the current Chair of OIC-CFM, Pakistan would continue to play a proactive role with regard to the matters of interest and concern to the OIC Member States. He also thanked the OIC for its steadfast and strong support on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

From Saudi Arabia, the delegation proceeded to the UAE, where the Prime Minister met with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi & Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces. They held extensive consultations on a range of bilateral, regional & international issues.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the assumption of office by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity.

The Foreign Minister received felicitation calls from:

  • Iranian FM Hossein Amir Abdollahian
  • Kuwaiti FM Sheikh Dr. Ahmed Nasser Al-Sabah
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
  • Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi

Speaking to the US Secretary of State the Foreign Minister underscored that Pakistan and the United States have a longstanding broad-based relationship. He added that constructive and sustained engagement between the two countries on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest was vital to promote peace, development and security in the region and beyond. The Secretary of State also extended invitation for Second Global COVID Summit being held virtually – in which FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is participating later this evening – and for the Ministerial meeting on Global Food Security to be held in New York on 18 May.

In the virtual meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the two sides reiterated strong commitment to further strengthen the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and continued support to each other’s core national interests.

The Foreign Minister underscored his determination to inject fresh momentum in the bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and add new avenues to practical cooperation. Appreciating the transformational impact of CPEC, the Foreign Minister underlined that Pakistan was committed to high quality development of CPEC and looked forward to fast-tracking key projects and accelerating industrial relocation to Pakistan, especially in CPEC SEZs.

Condemning the terrorist attack in Karachi University in which three Chinese teachers lost their lives, the Foreign Minister underlined Pakistan’s firm resolve to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. He reiterated that Pakistan attached high importance to safety and security of Chinese projects, nationals and institutions in Pakistan.

On 9 May, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressed the High-Level Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative (GDI), held in virtual format in New York.

The Foreign Minister appreciated China’s initiative to launch the GDI and termed it a useful platform to accelerate and coordinate efforts for implementing the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On 10 May, British High Commissioner and Chinese Chargé d’affaires called on FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to convey felicitations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During the past two weeks Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar received Iranian, Cuban, Polish and Swedish Ambassadors and the Canadian High Commissioner. Discussions focused on enhancement of bilateral ties and regional and international issues.

On 5 May, MOS Khar participated virtually in the High-Level International Donor’s Conference for Ukraine held in Warsaw, Poland.

The Minister of State said that Pakistan continued to call for immediate cessation of hostilities and stressed the need for diplomacy and dialogue for an early, negotiated end to the Ukraine conflict. While expressing deep concern at the continuation of war, increasing number of civilian causalities, deteriorating humanitarian situation, and refugee crisis, she reiterated Pakistan’s principled stance for universal and consistent application of UN Charter principles – including non-use or threat of use of force, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, pacific settlement of disputes, and equal security for all States in order to ensure lasting peace and security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Government and people of Pakistan expressed deepest sympathies and condolences at the severe flash floods in Afghanistan resulting in loss of precious lives and damage to properties. On instructions of the Prime Minister, two planeloads of emergency relief assistance were dispatched to Mazar-e-Sharif on 7 & 11 May.

Pakistan also strongly condemned and condoled the terrorist attacks in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul on 28&29 April 2022 causing loss of precious Afghan lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan strongly condemns the raid by Israeli forces on Al Aqsa Mosque on Juma’tul-Wida on 29 April in the holy month of Ramadan, as well as subsequent raids and attacks resulting in injuries to many innocent Palestinian worshippers. You would have also seen our statement of yesterday on the condemnable killing of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh by Israeli occupation forces.

Pakistan calls upon the international community to take urgent action to put an end to the Israeli occupation, which continues to fuel conflict, tension and instability in the region. We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and reaffirm Pakistan’s unstinted support for the Palestinian cause.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We remain deeply concerned by the rabid Hindutva ideological drive that is being spearheaded by the BJP-RSS combine in India and IIOJK.

Innocent Kashmiris continue to face unprecedented violence at the hands of Indian occupation forces that operate with impunity in IIOJK. In the last week, 10 Kashmiri youth have been martyred in the so-called cordon and search operations in Kulgam, Bandipore and Shopian districts.

It is deeply deplorable that during the holy month of Ramadan the Indian occupation forces intensified their repression against innocent Kashmiris. This included the prohibition of congregations of “Shab-e-Qadr” and “Jumat ul Vida” at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.

Pakistan also condemns in the strongest possible terms the highly deplorable incidents involving playing of Hanuman Chalisa and other Hindu devotional songs on loudspeakers as a counter to the Muslims’ call to prayer (Azaan) at various mosques in Indian state of Karnataka, which lays bare the new level of religious radicalism in the BJP-ruled India.

Pakistan calls upon the Indian government to transparently investigate the incidents of widespread violence against minorities, particularly Muslims, and their places of worship and take measures to stop such incidents from recurring in the future. The Government of India must ensure the safety, security and well being of minorities.

Pakistan also calls on the international community to take note of the aggravating situation of Islamophobia in India, and play its due role in ensuring the religious freedom and safety of the beleaguered Muslim community in India.

I thank you and am ready to take your questions.


Question: In recent months interim Afghan government has imposed new restrictions on women, regarding girls’ education and compulsory veil requirement. How do you see these measures by Afghan Govt? (Zeeshan Ali Bhatti, PTV)

Answer: Thank you for the question. What I can say is that our own experience shows that women have an important role in national development and I think as a progressive Islamic country, it has always been our endeavor to harness and maximize the full potential of women and girls in all walks of lives. This is also as you would know in keeping with the Islamic teaching and traditions, which provide a central role to women in the society. We hope the general expectations of the international community in this regard will be duly considered by the Afghan authorities in their own interest.

Question: India has started construction of a hydro power project in violation to the Indus Water Treaty. How would you comment on this?

Secondly, Pakistan is undergoing a severe economic crisis. Do you think there is any conspiracy against Pakistan or the other developing countries faced with similar situation by the developed nations to achieve their sinister designs in view of the new world order? (Khawja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: Your first question, I think you are referring to 540 MW Kwar power hydroelectric project on Chenab River in the district of Kishtwar. This will ultimately divert the flow of river. Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters has already formally raised objection on this project with his Indian counterpart. And this is a practice that we continue to follow, as we keep close watch on these developments and we will take all necessary steps to protect our interest.

On your second question, while I would not like to comment on what you were implying in some negative sense, but it is clear that there are serious development challenges around the world and especially the developing countries are hardest hit by problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and other factors. The Sustainable Development Goals – the 2030 Agenda, as you know the world is lagging behind in meeting the targets, and that is a special challenge for the developing countries. So it is in that context that development is one of our key priorities and we believe that international and regional cooperation is a key in advancing the development goals and that is one particular reason that, as I mentioned, Pakistan is partner country in something like the Global Development Initiative by China, whose objective is to synergize the international efforts to promote the mutually beneficial objectives of development and shared prosperity.

Question: Ahmed Qureshi, an official from Pakistan National Television is part of the delegation visiting Israel and they also had meeting with Israeli President. Is he on official visit or is there any ongoing back channel negotiation on recognition of Israel? If you can comment on this? (Syed Faisal, Daily State views)

Answer: I do not have any information on that.

Question: Is the present government pursuing any back channel diplomacy with India to improve ties? In the Islamabad Security Dialogue held during the time of the previous government, both military and civil leadership said that Kashmir will be the top agenda of any negotiation with India. There are reports that recently Pakistan is moving towards revitalizing trader relations with India since the coming of office of the new government. Can you share details? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)

Supplementary Question: The new government is moving towards improving trade relations with India. Indian media has portrayed this as a defeat of Pakistan, as the previous government has strongly iterated that any such step will be linked to the reversion of measure taken by India in IIOJK on 5th August 2019.

Secondly, as the new government is in office, Is Pakistan going to provide air bases to the US? (Sardar Amir, Royal News)

Supplementary Question: Pakistan has recently appointed a Trade Minister in Pakistan High Commission Delhi. Is this a step towards improving relations or to revitalize trade with the eastern neighbor? Your comments please. (Rizwan Abbasi, Online Jinnah)

Supplementary Question: Pakistan had closed its door towards India after the illegal measures by India in IIOJK on 5th August, 2019. When will these doors be reopened? Are there any chances of negotiation/reopening of these doors? (Khawja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: In diplomacy you never shut the doors. Let me say very clearly and I think it is very obvious from the statements of the leadership of the previous government and the current government, and I think you will see a lot of consistency in these statements, and that is because this is an issue on which there is national consensus. So yes, we have been saying we want friendly relations with all neighbours including India but the situation that arose in the wake of India’s illegal and unilateral actions in IIOJK on 5th August 2019 and subsequent steps they took, the environment for a fruitful, constructive dialogue is not there. We have been saying very consistently that the onus was on India to create an environment that is conducive for a result oriented dialogue, and yes Jammu and Kashmir as the core dispute has to be at the forefront of any such dialogue.

Having said that, our position basically remains the same, as you would have followed the various statements that have been given by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and if you followed the Foreign Minister in the National Assembly earlier today. It is very categorical what he said about our approach, there is no change.

With regard to the question of trade ties and this question perhaps was posed in conjunction with the news yesterday about the posting of Trade and Investment Minister in New Delhi. I am sure you would have seen the statements issued by the Government of Pakistan – Ministry of Commerce specifically, that there is no change in Pakistan’s policy on trade with India. Ministry of Commerce manages 57 Trade Missions in 46 countries which includes the post of Minister (Trade and Investment) in New Delhi. The Post of Minister (Trade and Investment) in New Delhi exists for more than two decades and has no connection with the operationalization of trade with India or otherwise in the current context. The current cycle for selection of Trade and Investment Officers (TIOs) including New Delhi was initiated in December, 2021 and the final recommendations of the Interview Board were sent to Prime Minister’s Office on 1 April 2022 i.e. during previous Government. The present Government has given the final approval on the recommendations of previous Government for selection of 15 TIOs. The appointment of Minister (Trade and Investment) New Delhi, therefore, may not be seen in the context of any relaxation of trade restrictions with India.

Question: I wonder when you are counting felicitation messages to the leadership from the different parts of the world. I really missed something that could be emanating from Kabul. What is the state of relationship between the two countries now? How do you see the posturing by the Taliban government towards Pakistan? Have they sent messages to the new government and the new Foreign Minister in particular? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: I think there have been exchanges – also congratulatory message – and in the bilateral context, you know, the normal procedure is taking due course and we remain in contact with Afghan authorities on a range of issues of mutual interest.

Question: Given that now we have a new government in Pakistan. Can you please state in terms of policy, how does Pakistan sees Ukraine conflict with the change of guard in Islamabad. Is it a conflict, invasion, aggression or a special militarized operation? How does Pakistan view that?

Secondly, In a meeting with Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is seen seated after the Defense Minister Khawaja Asif. Is there a change in order of precedence because previously the Foreign Minister used to come first. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: I think on Ukraine you would have noted in my opening remarks, and you would have seen the statement by the Minister of State at the Conference in Warsaw that contains key elements of our stance. It is clear that our position is consistent and objective. It is a principled, non-partisan position, and our core message remains that this conflict should be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue.

On your second question rather observation during the visit to UAE, let me clarify that obviously the Foreign Minister, when it comes to protocol, is ahead of any other Minister. Now this meeting, and as you would have seen in the footage and photographs, was at the residence and in an informal setting, with no seating plan on either side. So it should not be construed in terms of any change in protocol or precedence.

Question: Since the coming of the Taliban regime in power in Afghanistan there has been a rise in terrorist and subversive activates in Pakistan. The government has continuously raised this issue with the Afghan side. What further steps have been taken by the Pakistan to prevent use of Afghan soil against Pakistan? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV Channel)

Answer: I think as you are aware since many years Pakistan has continued to urge the successive Afghan governments for their cooperation in counter-terrorism and not to allow the use of Afghan soil by any groups including TTP for undertaking terrorism in Pakistan. We hope the Afghan interim government will take all necessary measures to fulfill its commitment for not letting TTP use Afghan soil against Pakistan, and I must add that this is also an expectation of the international community that Afghan soil will not be used for terrorism against any country. We shall continue to take all possible measures that can best serve the interest of peace and stability in our country and the region. National interest is always uppermost.

Question: ISI Chief held security dialogue with his US counterpart in Washington. Can you share details?

Secondly, when will the Foreign Minister undertake his visit to the US and what will be the agenda of the upcoming visit? (Ali Hussain, Business recorder)

Answer: On your first question, basically I do not have relevant information at this point of time. You may ask this question to the relevant institution.

On your second question, you would be aware that invitation has been extended and Pakistan’s participation has been confirmed for this Ministerial meeting on Food Security that is going to be held in New York on 18 May 2022. We will share further details as soon as these are firmed up. We can also look forward to other bilateral engagements on the sidelines during this visit.

Question: India is going to host anti-terror body meeting under the ambit of SCO-RATS on 15 May 2022 in New Delhi. Will Pakistan Participate in the meeting? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)

Answer: On this, for your information, there is a meeting of Group of Legal Experts of SCO-RATS scheduled to be held in New Delhi from 15-20 May 2022. It is a regular expert level meeting which will be joined by all SCO member countries and there is nothing unusual about it. These meetings are periodically held in Tashkent but since India is current chair of SCO-RATS, the meeting is being hosted by India in New Delhi. A working-level Pakistan delegation, led by MOFA, would participate in the meeting with participation from other officials.

Question: Earlier, Pakistan was quite concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. However, during the past two months there has been very minimal focus on situation in Afghanistan. Has there been a change an overall change in policy and especially towards Afghanistan since the assumption of office by the new government?

Secondly, the previous government blamed the United States for the regime change in Pakistan. How did this impact our relations with the US? What all difficulties are being faced to revive our relations with the US? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: Your first observation, I think I might be slightly misplaced, there is continuing focus on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan will continue to advance this objective including through OIC and other relevant fora. We have also been saying that other situations should not divert the international community’s attention from the situation in Afghanistan. And we keep on assisting Afghanistan also in the context of emergency relief as I mentioned following the recent floods.

On your other question regarding allegations, regime change and other things, I think if you would have followed our previous press briefing, I had comprehensively commented on these issues, and from the Foreign Office perspective, there is not much for me to add at this point of time. With the U.S. there is shared desire for further strengthening and enhancing of mutually beneficial bilateral relations as manifested by recent and ongoing contacts.

Question: There was an untoward incident during the visit of the Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia. Reportedly some people were arrested for sloganeering in the Prophet Mosque in Madina. What is information with the Foreign Office or with our Embassy in Saudi Arabia on the exact number of the individuals who have been arrested? (Aun Sherazi, Such TV)

Answer: I do not have details on that, will have to check.

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