Media Briefing|

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

Assalam-o-Alaikum, Welcome to today’s briefing at the Foreign Office. Thank you for joining us.

We understand there has been a gap in our regular exchanges with the Foreign Office media corps since the departure of my predecessor. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in the intervening period. I now hope to have regular media briefings.

Let me begin with the major diplomatic engagements during the last two weeks.

Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif led an official delegation to participate in COP 27 World Leaders Summit from 6-8 November 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh. Foreign Minister, Minster for Climate Change, Minister for Information and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs accompanied the Prime Minister.

In Sharm El-Sheikh, the Prime Minister had a busy agenda. He also co-chaired with Prime Ministers of Norway and Egypt, a High-Level Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainability of Vulnerable Communities. He attended Middle East Green Initiative Summit chaired by Saudi Arabia and an event on Green Shield against Climate Risk for loss and damages support which was co-hosted by German Chancellor and President of Ghana.

During these events, the Prime Minister briefed the participants on the state of flood-hit areas of Pakistan and Government’s actions for rehabilitation and reconstruction. He reiterated the need for international community for solidarity and cooperation in mitigating the impact of climate change on developing countries, including Pakistan.

He underscored the importance of simplified long-term climate financing instruments to help developing countries in mitigating adverse effects of climate change.

The visit gave Pakistan an opportunity to highlight the climate induced flood catastrophe in Pakistan on impact of climate change particularly being faced by the developing countries.

COP27 also provided an opportunity for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to engage with world leaders, exchange views on bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern and mobilize international support and solidarity for Pakistan.

The Prime Minister held meetings with UN Secretary General, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the German Chancellor.

He met with Crown Princes of Bahrain and Kuwait, Presidents of Estonia, Tajikistan, Iraq, UAE and the European Council. Prime Ministers of Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Lebanon and the Vice President of Indonesia as well as the Secretary General of Arab League and the Managing Director of IMF interacted with the Prime Minster.

Foreign Minister held meetings with his counterparts from Egypt, France and the United Kingdom. He also held meetings with Administrator of UNDP and Special Presidential Envoy of the US President on Climate. Similarly, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Climate Change held meetings with key participants.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari undertook a visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 9-10 November. During the visit, the Foreign Minister co-chaired the Joint Sub-Committee meeting of inaugural session of the Ministerial Committee of the Political and Security Pillar of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Committee (SPSCC). The Committee discussed political, economic and security cooperation between the two countries. The two sides reaffirmed their strong commitment to further strengthen bilateral strategic relationship. During the talks, regional issues of mutual interest and the role of OIC were also discussed.

In Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Minister also held a meeting with Secretary General of the GCC to discuss bilateral ties between Pakistan and GCC countries. They discussed regional situation in Afghanistan and recent floods in Pakistan with a focus on Pakistan-GCC cooperation to mitigate the impact of climate change. They agreed to revitalize the dialogue between Pakistan and GCC which is an important partner for Pakistan with a special focus on political and security, trade and investment, food security and agriculture.

The European Union Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Ms. Ylva Johansson visited Pakistan from 13-14 November 2022.

During the visit, the EU Commissioner visited Peshawar (Bala Hissar Fort) on 13 November and held meetings with relevant authorities on border management.

On 14 November 2022, she held meetings with the Secretary of Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, Secretary Interior, Secretary of Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training in Islamabad. She also called on the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar. Her meeting was followed by a Joint Press Stakeout that I understand you all attended.

The EU Commissioner’s visit focused on migration related matters, including readmission/return of illegal migrants and implementation of Pak-EU Readmission Agreement.

She also announced launch of Pakistan-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue in the first half of next year. This dialogue was envisaged in Strategic Engagement Plan signed between Pakistan and EU in 2019. Pakistan and EU will thus be working together in the coming months on defining new legal and safe pathways of migration from Pakistan to EU countries.

In a positive development, United Kingdom has officially removed Pakistan from its list of ‘High Risk Third Countries’. The step has been taken in accordance with the decision taken by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on 21 October 2022. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office recognized the progress made by Pakistan to improve money laundering and terrorist financing controls. We welcome this step and hope that other countries would also follow and recognize Pakistan’s efforts in this context.

On the Verdict in 2021 Dasu terrorist attack case, we took note of the judgment and highlighted the proactive investigation, prosecution and judgment in this case which has once again demonstrated Pakistan’s abiding commitment to counterterrorism. We once again extended deepest condolences to the victims’ families and remain committed to the safety and security of Chinese workers, projects and institutions in Pakistan and believe that ironclad Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership will never be undermined by hostile forces.
You may have also seen our remarks regarding Indian media reports quoting Director General International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the firing of BrahMos nuclear capable missile into Pakistani territory from India on 9 March 2022 was not a cause of any specific concern for the IAEA.

We have termed this report as a disingenuous attempt by the Indian sponsored media to absolve India of its irresponsible nuclear behavior by directing this question at the Director General of IAEA. We believe that DG IAEA’s statement should have been qualified by stating that IAEA has no mandate on such matters. But the Director General’s response cannot be purposely misinterpreted to trivialize the incident of a nuclear capable BrahMos missile fire with grave implications for regional and global security. India needs to explain several repeated incidents of nuclear and radioactive material theft and illicit trafficking that are more relevant to the IAEA mandate. These critical questions which remain unanswered should continue to be a concern for the international community.

Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), Pakistan wishes to remind the world that the only durable solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute lies in holding a free and impartial plebiscite as espoused in relevant UN Security Council resolutions, to enable the people of Kashmir to exercise their right of self-determination. The world must speak with one voice to urge India to desist from altering the demographics of IIOJK through coercion and by unilateral and illegal means. It must immediately undo all subsequent legal and administrative measures that aim to rob the Kashmiri people of the democratic majority and their ethnic identity. Pakistan will always extend its full support to the Kashmiri people in their just struggle for freedom from 75 years of brutal Indian oppression.

That concludes my opening remarks and now we will move to Q&A session.

Thank you.
Question: What is the progress on the case of Arshad Sharif’s murder?

Secondly, India has been consistently committing gross and systematic human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). What is your response on that? (Shakeel Kalyana, Daily Relation News)

Answer: You must have noted the response by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs during her last media engagement. She appreciated the role played by our High Commission in Kenya and the Government of Kenya in facilitating the expeditious repatriation of mortal remains of Mr. Sharif and later on hosting the investigation team. The final report of the investigation Committee is awaited, the details of which may be sought from the Ministry of Interior. As for the Foreign Office, we have facilitated the entire process and will continue to do so.

Coming to your second question, our position on Kashmir is very clear and unambiguous. Pakistan has continued to highlight at various forums the gross violations of human rights that have been taking place in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). We have been raising this consistently at all regional and international forums and we will continue to do so. It is now up to India to reverse its illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019; immediately lift its inhuman military siege in IIOJK; and end its illegal measures to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory.

We believe the only way forward is the peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Question: Can you share any update on the visit of Saudi Crown Prince HRH Muhammad Bin Salman. What are Pakistan’s expectations from the visit? (Namra Sohail, PTV News)

Supplementary Question: It is being reported that the visit of Saudi Crown Prince HRH Muhammad Bin Salman was not scheduled or announced by the Foreign Office rather was decided and announced by political leadership. Could you please clarify? What are the new dates of the visit? (Rashida Siyal, Abb Takk)

Supplementary Question: What were the reasons for cancellation of MBS’s visit? Secondly, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif booked a Boeing 777 airplane for his visit to China and exorbitant expenses were incurred during the visit. Could you tell us what was the total cost incurred on the visit? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Daily Maddar)

Answer: Firstly, although the visit of Saudi Crown Prince HRH Muhammad Bin Salman was in works, the Foreign Office never announced the dates of the visit or cancellation of the visit. The visit is being rescheduled and new dates of the visit are being firmed up in consultation with the Saudi side. This visit holds great importance as this would be HRH’s first visit to Pakistan after assuming his Office as Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The highlight of the visit would be holding of the second meeting of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC) and signing of a number of MoUs covering various areas including economic, trade, culture and investment etc.

On the China’s visit, let me underline that the visit was of utmost importance to Pakistan and consolidation of Pakistan-China relations. As you are aware that there are some Covid-related travel restrictions in China due to which commercial flights are not operating, and a chartered plane had to be taken. Let me share with you that a very small delegation accompanied the Prime Minister due to Covid restrictions, which comprised of a few key Ministers, Foreign Secretary and the essential staff.

Question: A Summit on Climate Change took place in France in which poor countries were completely ignored. Now in the recently held COP 27, do you think that the commitments made to Pakistan were in sync with the overall loss and damage occurred by the recent floods in Pakistan?

Secondly, India has strengthened itself in the fields of technology in different regions of the world starting from Africa to America. They have also been actively participating in politics in these countries. What is Pakistan’s policy in this regard? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I have already briefed in detail the discussions that took place during COP 27. I must highlight here that during international conferences and forums certain principles are agreed by the international community.

International consensus then translates into implementation step. Pakistan has strongly taken up its case during COP 27.We would only be able to assess the commitments made by international partners once this process is completed. I would urge you to get more details on this issue from Ministry of Climate Change.

As for your second question, we cannot comment on foreign policy of any other country. As far as our own foreign policy is concerned, Pakistan stands for engagement and dialogue. We wish to strengthen and consolidate our relations with our traditional partners and friends, that include China, countries in the Middle East, Islamic bloc and others. We are revitalizing our relations with the United States. We are actively engaged with a number of countries in Europe, East Asia, Africa and Latin America. We look forward to even stronger partnerships in the years ahead.

Question: It is being reported that Pakistan is going to schedule an International Donors Conference. Are there any confirmed dates for that?

Secondly, Do you think that Pakistan was able to comprehensively present its case with regards to the devastation that was caused by recent floods during COP 27 meetings. (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International/ World Echo News)

Answer: Yes, absolutely. We have effectively highlighted our case not only during COP 27 but also during UNGA proceedings and various bilateral interactions that took place at different levels ever since floods hit Pakistan.
We have highlighted the devastating impact of climate change on developing countries including Pakistan. There is an international recognition that Pakistan is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. The threat of climate change is not limited to Pakistan – What we are experiencing today could happen anywhere. Hence the importance of international solidarity and cooperation to combat climate change.

As for your other question, we will share with you the details once the dates are finalized.

Question: We understand from the opening statement that Pakistan does not agree with the investigations carried out by India on BrahMos misfire, and does not agree with the conclusions it shared with its media. So what steps has Pakistan taken to stop and bar India from sale of this missile to Philippines or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and others? (Essa Naqvi, Independent)

Answer: On Brahmos Missile incident, Pakistan has clearly articulated its concerns. The international community realizes the danger that such incidents pose to international peace and stability. We know that small incidents can lead to big disasters. Pakistan is therefore committed to avoid such a situation in our region or anywhere else in the world. We have, therefore, highlighted this issue at every relevant forum.

Question: Has there been any verbal or written complaint by Saudi authorities on the issue of sale of watch that was gifted to the former Prime Minister Imran Khan by Saudi Crown Prince? (Khalid Mehmood, Express News)
Supplementary Question: Could you please share what is the system in place for handling gifts received by international dignitaries? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: With regards to any official communication on this matter, I am not aware of that. As for the process, please note that the Cabinet division develops guidelines and also oversees the entire process.
Question: Indian Court has restrained Amazon from selling Pakistani food items, your comments please? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)

Answer: I’m sorry. I do not have details. We’ll get back to you on that.

Question: Thank you very much, ma’am. My question is that there were some reports over the week in the media that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is also wanted in a Pakistani court. He was issued a diplomatic passport so my question is, does he hold any position in the government or in what capacity he was issued the diplomatic passport. Thank you. (Amjad Ali,EFE Public News Agency)

Answer: There are certain regulations and guidelines under which the Government of Pakistan issues diplomatic passports to individuals. There is a list of individuals who are entitled to diplomatic passports and that includes former Prime Ministers and former Presidents.

Question: What is the current progress regarding case of Kulbhushan Jadhav? Can you share some details? (Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Royal News)

Answer: I do not have any update to share at this point.

Question: Pakistan High Commission in London has paid more than 82 million rupees which was fined to NAB in broadsheet case. Foreign Office has been unable to retrieve this money from NAB. What are the reasons for that?
Secondly, the appointment of permanent Foreign Secretary has been delayed for three weeks now. Is this appointment also being politicized? What are the reasons? (Rizwan Ahmed Abbasi, Daily Ausaf)

Answer: I think this is a good point in my briefing to share with you that the Foreign Minister will be soon interacting with the media, and you may ask questions regarding official appointments from the Foreign Minister.

Question: Terrorism in Pakistan is once again on the rise. Yesterday, there have been two terrorist incidents one in Bajaur and the other one in Peshawar? What is the reason for rise of terrorist incidents in Pakistan? Do you see the footprints of some global terrorist organizations in Pakistan? What is the strategy, because countering terrorism is also the very important component and segment of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy? Is there any footprint of Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist outfit in Pakistan that could be behind such attacks? What are your comments on this? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: Any questions regarding specific terrorist incidents maybe addressed to the Ministry of Interior which is the relevant department to respond to that question.

Pakistan is definitely a victim of terrorism. At the international stage, Pakistan has consistently and explicitly spoken about this terrorism and its determination to counter it. In fact, an entire generation has grown up under the threat of terrorism. We have many successes against international terrorist network. Under no circumstances would Pakistan accept any kind of revival of terrorism in the country. We will continue to work in collaboration with our international partners to counter this threat.

Question: Firstly, from your own comments on the MBS question, where you said that the Foreign Office did not make an announcement about the visit. The Prime Minister himself on the 5th November addressing a press conference in Lahore said that Muhammed Bin Salman is due to come this month. The Interior Minister while addressing a press conference on the 7th November said that Mohammed Bin Salman is due to come on the 21st of November. The Finance Minister while addressing a briefing commented that $10 billion are expected in the visit of Muhammad Bin Salman which is due on the 21st November. Does that mean that the Foreign Office is negating the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister, the Finance Minister, who from the highest of the officers have said and given the date?

Secondly, two days back, we saw that in Georgia, there were some arrests of multinationals that included Pakistani national as well, pertaining to the alleged assassination plot of an Israeli businessman. Can the Pakistani Foreign Office confirm this?

Third is with regards to the situation at Chaman border, it is day five of the closure. Can you please enlighten on the facts with regards to the case.

Lastly, we saw a statement coming in from the Finance Ministry that said that the Finance Minister has met Minister of State for Foreign Affairs with regards to his upcoming visit. Is Minister of State for Foreign Affairs also going to accompany the Finance Minister on his visit to Afghanistan? When will this visit take place? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: First, let me tell you that on the question regarding Georgia we are awaiting details from our mission. Once received, we’ll share with you.

On the visit of HRH the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, no, we are not negating anyone. What I said was that we did not make any formal announcement. The Foreign Office makes announcements of such visits when we think is the right time to announce, and these announcements are made in coordination with the government of the other country.

Regarding the Chaman incident, on Monday 13th November an unknown assailant opened fire on the Pakistani security personnel posted at Chaman border crossing point which led to the martyrdom of one Pakistani soldier and injuries to others. The matter has been raised with the Afghan authorities and is currently under investigation. Pedestrians who were stranded at the border have been allowed to cross and we remain vigilant and actively involved on the matter.

On your last question regarding visit to Afghanistan, we will share details with you in due course.
Question: By far, how many Foreign visits have been conducted by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and what is the total cost incurred on these visits? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: I do not have details on all these visits with me. I would like to request that such questions which are regarding facts and figures may be shared in advance so that we can get details from the relevant divisions. We will share response on this question.

Question: A couple of days back, CIA Chief visited Pakistan? Can you share some details regarding the agenda of his visit? (Sohail Akhtar Chaudhry, Daily Pakistan)

Answer: I do not have anything to share on this. You may seek this information from the relevant departments.
Question: As you mentioned, that we have discussed with Afghan government regarding the incident which happened few days back at Chaman border, this is not one such incident and there are many others which have happened before. This issue is being caused due to terrorists who are coming in to Pakistan from damaged fence on the Pak-Afghan border. Have we highlighted this issue with the Afghan authorities? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)

Answer: As I have already shared, Ministry of Interior is the relevant forum for answer to such questions.

Question: A British court has directed Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to share his response regarding the case of Daily Mail till 13th December and if the response is not submitted he may be fined. What legal assistance is being provided to Prime Minister by Pakistan High Commission in London regarding this case? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY News)

Answer: I do not have anything to share on this right now.

Question: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has shared that we are working to procure oil from Russia. Are there any negotiations in progress with Russia on this matter or was this just a political statement? (Luqman Shah, Daily Azkar)

Answer:We have regular talks with Russia. This issue is also being discussed. We will share with you if there are any developments or updates.

Question: What is the update on Donor’s Conference for Pakistan? It was supposed to be held in November and it is already mid-November. Do you have any update on the dates for this Conference? What efforts are being done to organize the Conference? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: Yes, discussions are underway and the conference may most probably take place in Geneva. Once the dates are finalized, we will share with you.

Question: DG FIA was part of the team which visited Kenya and he has shared some reservations that even the Kenyan government and particularly the police department did not cooperate in true terms. Especially they have not given permission to meet those policemen who are suspected to have fired on Arshad Sharif. So, what sort of conversation or engagement is going on with the Kenyan government? Have these apprehensions been raised with the Kenyan government and what are the next steps to seek permission for meeting those particular personnel who are suspected to be involved in that incident?

My second question is regarding CPEC. The meeting of Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) is going to be held soon. When is it going to be held and what are the preparations on that? Is there any particular agenda proposed by Pakistan for the meeting of Joint Coordination Committee? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92News)

Answer: The meeting of Joint Coordination Committee was held last month. We will share details with you, which were also earlier announced by the Ministry of Planning at a press conference by the Minister for Planning.

Regarding Kenya, we thank them for facilitating the quick dispatch of the mortal remains, the facilitation provided to our High Commissioner in accessing the remains of Mr. Sharif and then bringing the body home in such a short span of time. Secondly, it is normal practice to discuss difficult issues through diplomatic channels. We are in contact with Kenyan authorities on all aspects of this matter.

Thank you very much and I will conclude here.

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