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 Weekly Press Briefing.

Let me start with the Foreign Minister’s visit to Romania and Spain that has served to reinforce our longstanding friendship and cooperation with the two countries.

In Bucharest, the Foreign Minister called on the Romanian Prime Minister, held meetings with the Romanian Foreign Minister, Minister for Economy and other dignitaries. Two MoUs were signed – relating to Award of scholarships to Pakistani students; and Cooperation between the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI) and the Romanian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (RCCI). The Foreign Minister interacted with the Pakistani community, and also inaugurated ‘Pakistan Cultural & Trade Exhibition Center’ at the Pakistan Embassy.

On the next leg in Madrid, the Foreign Minister held meetings with his Spanish counterpart, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, members of the Foreign Relations Committee of Congress of Deputies and called on the President of Congress of Deputies of Spain. He also interacted with members of Academia, and the Pakistani community.

While in Madrid, Foreign Minister Qureshi also met the Secretary General of UN World Tourism Organization to exchange views on benefiting from WTO’s expertise for development and digital transformation of Pakistan’s tourism sector.

On 3 January, Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the Pak-China Business Investment Forum, which is aimed at increasing investment in Pakistan and promoting business-to-business industrial cooperation. The forum would endeavour to promote sustainable investment, export industry and the development of modern technology in Pakistan.

On 5 January, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), HE Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf, visited Pakistan on the invitation of the Foreign Minister. Besides delegation-level talks with the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General met with the Minister for Finance and Revenue, and Prime Minister’s Advisor for Commerce and Investment. The visit provided an opportunity to review Pak-GCC relations and foster enhanced collaboration in diverse fields, with a renewed focus on trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and GCC Member States.

A strong business delegation led by the Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industries visited Pakistan. The delegation called on the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and other dignitaries. The visit imparted further impetus to bilateral economic relationship.

Foreign Minister Qureshi inaugurated International Seminar on the theme of “Combating Corruption – A Prerequisite for the full enjoyment of all Human Rights and Sustainable Development”, organized by the Government of Pakistan and the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission in collaboration with the UN, in Islamabad on 6-7 January 2022.

The International Seminar was attended by more than 200 international and national stakeholders. Based on its deliberations, the ‘Islamabad Declaration on Combating Corruption for the full realization of all Human Rights and Sustainable Development’ was adopted. The Seminar was part of Pakistan’s persistent efforts to strengthen international framework against corruption, recovery of stolen assets, promotion and protection of all human rights, and achievement of inclusive and sustainable development.

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood met with a delegation from European countries that was on a study visit to Pakistan, organized by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), to assess the opportunities for support and cooperation in the realm of migration management.

A 25-member delegation of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also visited Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 10 January. The delegation was briefed on key aspects of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy including our commitment to forge deeper cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection and Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, briefed the Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Islamabad on 10 January on the “Declaration on Establishing a Global Social Protection Knowledge Platform.” The Declaration is being steered by Pakistan in New York, in collaboration with a “Group of Friends on Social Protection”.

The Foreign Secretary also had a virtual meeting with Pakistan’s Ambassadors and Consuls General, and Heads of Camp Offices in provincial capitals to review matters pertaining to the Prime Minister’s Performance Delivery Unit (PMDU), with a view to further enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery and resolution of complaints.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 5th January, the Kashmiris’ Right to Self-determination Day was observed. On this day in 1949, the United Nations Commission for India & Pakistan (UNCIP) in its resolution guaranteed the Kashmiri people the right to self-determination through a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations.

In their messages marking the Day, the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, highlighted the grave human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and urged the international community to ensure accountability for these crimes against humanity, and to play their role in resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan reaffirmed its steadfast support for the Kashmiris till the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination.

It is reprehensible that Indian occupation forces are continuing with the killing spree in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Since the start of this year, at least 15 Kashmiris have fallen victim to extra-judicial killings in fake encounters and so-called cordon-and-search operations. At least 210 Kashmiris were martyred in 2021. India is also shamelessly targeting journalists and human rights defenders.

We are also concerned about India’s dangerous track record of orchestrating false flag operations, and we continue to alert the international community about that. There is a real possibility that India might stage another false flag operation to complicate the current situation. Therefore we continue to alert our friends in the international community about this prospect.

Pakistan calls on the international community to take immediate notice of the Indian state-terrorism in IIOJK and hold India accountable for the egregious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in IIOJK. India must allow unhindered access to international human rights and humanitarian organizations and UN Special Mandate Holders to conduct independent investigations in the IIOJK.

The despicable harassment and insult of Muslim women in India through purpose-built online application has been rightly and widely condemned. This obnoxious and repugnant act is the newest low in the violent streak of hate attacks and targeting of minorities with impunity overseen by the BJP-RSS extremist dispensation under which space for minorities is continuously shrinking in India. Deafening silence of the BJP leadership and absence of discernible action against ‘Hindutva’ proponents openly calling for genocide of Muslims should send alarm bells across the international community, and as the Prime Minister said it is high time they take note and act, to stop this dangerous slide and ensure the safety, security and well being of minorities in India.

We continue to follow closely the situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan welcomes the launch by the UN – what has been termed the largest single country aid appeal ever – for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. This comes on the heels of the OIC Extra-ordinary Ministerial Session in Islamabad last month focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. It goes without saying that urgent action is required to stave off a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.

You would have seen our response to media queries on the P-5 Joint Statement on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races. It is a positive development. However, as noted in the statement itself, the realization of the objective of global disarmament will require a conducive security environment. This can only happen through cessation of destabilizing arms build-ups and addressing asymmetries, settlement of disputes and commitment to strategic stability rather than competition.

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

Question: Since it is the start of the New Year, what are Pakistan’s Foreign Office expectations in year 2022 in context of humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, situation in IIOJK and maltreatment of minorities in India, specifically Muslims?

There are voices being raised from within India regarding the ongoing extremism and mistreatment of minorities even by notable celebrities like Mr. Naseeruddin Shah. India continues with its aggressive designs against Pakistan and has also violated the agreements and constructed six new dams. We have seen that the first ever National Security Policy of Pakistan has also been launched which also includes portion on relations with neighboring countries. How would you comment on this? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: This question would obviously require a lot of time to respond. Briefly, regarding Afghanistan, I can comment in line with what you would have heard in the recent press briefing by the Foreign Minister on Pakistan’s foreign policy achievements during the last year and how we see things evolving ahead. We remain engaged with the regional countries and other partners beyond the immediate neighbourhood, with the objective of seizing this opportunity to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan. The humanitarian situation is a prime concern and requires immediate attention. In this regard, we welcome the appeal launched by the UN which is a significant development and we will continue to encourage the international community to engage constructively with the Afghans and to address the challenges confronting the Afghan people.

The Foreign Minister had also elaborated on the Pakistan-India relations. Unfortunately, the hostile attitude and negative behavior that we have seen from the BJP-RSS authorities in India over the last years, seems to be continuing with no visible signs of any shift in that behaviour. Pakistan, on its part, remains committed to a peaceful and friendly neighbourhood. We want peaceful relations with all countries, including India. However, as you would recall the Prime Minister has said on various occasions that the onus is on India to create an enabling environment for meaningful dialogue. At the same time, we will continue to safeguard our positions and interests with regard to all issues related to India. We will continue to forcefully project the rights of the Kashmiri people; we will continue to inform the international community about the grave situation of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in IIOJK also as a matter of responsibility being a party to the dispute; we will continue to raise these issues forcefully at all international fora.

You mentioned the situation inside India regarding rising extremism and conditions of minorities. We have been following it closely and you are aware of our position and statements regarding the same. Yes, we are deeply concerned about the negative trends and regression in India, rising Islamophobia, and the persecution of minorities particularly Muslims. It is not surprising that it has been mentioned by Mr. Shah, and others who are speaking out against this dangerous trend. This is being increasingly noticed by the international community as well. You must have seen statements and tweets by UN Rapporteurs and opinion makers. This is a dangerous development – the international community must take notice and act urgently to prevent this downslide in India.

Question: Specifically about the National Security Policy, what is the take of Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding any trade or economic relations with neighboring countries including India? What is the innovation and novelty of National Security Policy, some part of which will be unfolded to media tomorrow by Prime Minister Imran Khan. (Shaukat Piracha, Aaj News)

Answer: At this stage, it would suffice to note that the National Security Policy has been approved by the Federal Cabinet on 28 December 2021. It was endorsed by the National Security Committee headed by the Prime Minister, a day earlier. This policy is result of wide consultations among all relevant stakeholders, and will be publicly unveiled shortly at high level. It would be appropriate to see more details about this document for a discussion.

Question: What is Pakistan’s position on the ongoing unrest between Russia and the US over Ukraine? As we have seen China is also siding with Russia over the issue. (Shamim Mehmood, Daily Khabrain Islamabad / Channel 5)

Answer: As you know, normally we do not comment on issues between third countries. By way of general policy, we would like issues to be resolved peacefully and constructively through a process of engagement and dialogue.

Question: Canada has issued a travel advisory whereby they have asked their citizens to be extra careful and vigilant while travelling to Pakistan. According to Canadian authorities Pakistan has unpredictable security situation, with the threat of terrorism, civil unrest, sectarian violence and kidnappings. Is it not the failure of Foreign Office and Government of Pakistan to improve Pakistan’s image as Pakistan is now peaceful and a number of countries have also recognized that we have done a lot to make Pakistan peaceful. Your comment please. (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)

Answer: I understand there is no Pakistan-specific change in Canada’s updated travel advisory and that should clarify your point. Yes, as you know the security situation in the country has improved considerably in recent years and many countries as well as the United Nations have revised their advisories. We keep informing and engaging our friends on this with positive results.

Question: To rise up to the global development challenges, President Xi Jinping solemnly put forward the Global Development Initiative at the general debate of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. It calls on the international community to speed up the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, pursue more robust, greener and more healthy global development, and build a global community of development with a shared future. What’s your comment on this initiative? (Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News Agency)

Answer: Pakistan welcomes the Global Development Initiative (GDI) put forward by President Xi Jinping of China, as a timely and good-intentioned step to facilitate implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It will help promote international cooperation that is required to overcome the triple challenge faced by the world today – the COVID-19 Pandemic; the related economic crisis; and the threat posed by climate change. GDI will open up new avenues of collaboration with developing countries in support of their post-pandemic economic recovery as well as long term sustainable growth. The 8 key areas of focus under the GDI (poverty alleviation; food security; COVID-19 response and vaccines; development financing; climate change and green development; industrialization; digital economy; and connectivity) correspond to the socio-economic development priorities of Pakistan. Pakistan and China are strong development partners, based on the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries. We look forward to further strengthening this development partnership under China’s Global Development Initiative.

Question: On 1st November 2020, Prime Minister has announced that Gilgit Baltistan will be made a separate province. What is the latest development on this decision and how this will impact the Kashmir cause? (Umar Hayat, Bol News)

Answer: This issue remains under active consideration. And as I responded previously to a similar question, it will be consistent with Pakistan’s position on Jammu and Kashmir in line with the UN resolutions.

Question: The Special Attaché of the Prime Minister Mr. Khalid Mansoor was quoted as saying that the Prime Minister is due to visit China in the first week of February. Can you please confirm this visit and the agenda of the visit? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: I can share that the Prime Minister has received invitation from President Xi Jinping to visit China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022. The Prime Minister has accepted the invitation. During the visit, the Prime Minster will also have interactions with the Chinese leadership to further strengthen Pakistan-China All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and exchange views on regional and international issues. We look forward to successful Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Question: There was a bilateral meeting between the Foreign Minister of Iran and Saudi Arabia on the sideline of the Extra Ordinary Session of the OIC. What was Pakistan’s role in arranging the meeting between the two Foreign Ministers?

Secondly, has the government contacted the Foreign Office to approach the UK authorities through its High Commission in London for seeking details of the medical examination / reports of the former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif?

Thirdly, Prime Minister has asked Ministers to seek approval / briefing by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to their interactions/meetings with Ambassadors. What were the reservations of the Foreign Office that the Prime Minster had to pass such instructions? (Aoun Sherazi, Such TV)

Answer: On your first question, I do not have any information to share.

The subject of your second observation is not in my knowledge at this stage.

On the third issue pointed out by you, let me bring it to your information that it is normal diplomatic procedure and practice that all interactions in the host governments by the diplomatic missions are processed and channeled through the Foreign Ministries.

Question: My question is regarding the water issue, as was mentioned earlier that the six dams have been constructed by India, National Security Policy also includes a portion on the water issues and our relations with India. How will Pakistan cope with this grave situation in the absence of any bilateral mechanism and meeting with India as the situation can lead to severe water crisis and drought situation in Pakistan? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: For this particular matter there are mechanisms which are in place and there have been meetings as well. The government is fully seized of the situation. In the broader context, your comment is valid. You need dialogue and interaction to address the issues.

Question: Heartwarming moments at Kartarpur Corridor were seen when two brothers separated since partition in 1947 were reunited two days back. The US Embassy in Pakistan and German Ambassador said that this is a very positive gesture between India and Pakistan and considered this a notion of Icebreaker. How does India respond to this positive gesture? How will Foreign Office respond to this? (Saud Ijaz, 24 News)

Answer: This is a development that is very welcome, and we are happy that others are also taking good note of such positive things. Let me note that the very idea behind opening the Kartarpur Corridor for Peace was to promote harmony, greater people to people interaction, to enable religious pilgrimage to revered sites, and to promote religious tourism. It is unfortunate that the Corridor remained closed from the Indian side for some time, but was finally re-opened. Pakistan remains deeply committed to the Kartarpur Corridor.


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