Media Briefing|

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

Good Afternoon and welcome to our Weekly Press Briefing.
Let me begin by extending very warm felicitations to the Sikh Community in Pakistan, India and across the world, on the 552nd birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak.
Pakistan is welcoming and hosting thousands of devotees coming in from India and around the world for the celebrations and various ceremonies.
Let me also note that pilgrims are also coming in through the Kartarpur Corridor since yesterday after Government of India’s last-minute decision to re-open the Corridor from its side following repeated calls for the same. Despite short notice, Pakistan responded promptly to facilitate the yatrees coming through the Kartarpur Corridor.
It may be recalled that following a brief COVID-19 related closure, the Corridor was reopened by Pakistan in June 2020. India on the other hand had kept the Corridor closed for 20 months, despite resumption of international travel and opening of religious places in India.

Besides the Kartarpur Corridor, pilgrims from India are also coming through Wagah border. Similarly, large numbers of pilgrims are coming from many other countries. During their stay in Pakistan, they will pay obeisance at different Gurdwaras including Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
In addition to issuance of visas by our High Commission in New Delhi and other Embassies, a series of activities have been organized from 17-26 November to commemorate this sacred event.
We hope all our guests will enjoy the traditional warmth and trademark Pakistani hospitality, and wish all of them a spiritually rewarding yatra.
On the bilateral front, let me note that the 11th round of Political Consultations between Pakistan and Switzerland was held in Islamabad on 12 November. Ambassador Nägeli, who led the Swiss delegation, also called on Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood. The Foreign Secretary also received Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft of UK Home Office during the week.
In the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), India continues with its reprehensible policy of oppression, harassment and state terrorism against innocent Kashmiris. Pakistan strongly condemns the spate of extra-judicial killing of Kashmiris by Indian occupation forces in recent weeks including the martyrdom of 9 Kashmiris in last two days. At least 30 Kashmiris have been extra-judicially killed in fake encounters and so called “cordon and search operations” since 1st October 2021. You would have noticed strong voices from within IIOJK and abroad on these continuing senseless and barbaric actions of Indian occupation forces being committed with complete impunity in flagrant violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws. It is repugnant that in many instances even the mortal remains of the martyred Kashmiris are not being handed over to their families for religious rites.
We salute the Kashmiris who remain resolute in their just struggle for self-determination in the face of this brutal illegal occupation that is evidently increasingly alienating the Kashmiri people. India must realize the futility of the military approach. Jammu and Kashmir dispute has to be resolved in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan will continue to provide all possible support for the realization of that objective.
We are also deeply concerned by the rising trend of violence against minorities particularly Muslims in India and the increasing constraints on religious freedom. Pakistan condemns the restrictions imposed on offering Friday prayers, vandalisation of mosques, attacks against Muslims offering prayers, and sacrilege of Muslim places of worship. Detention of hundreds of activists under draconian laws for raising voice against widespread human rights violations of minorities in India has attracted global attention. We call on the international community, particularly the United Nations and relevant human rights and humanitarian organizations to fulfill their responsibilities to stop the rising Islamophobia and violent attacks against minorities particularly Muslims in India and ensure their safety and security and the protection of their places of worship.
Pakistan rejects the U.S. State Department’s arbitrary and selective assessment under a U.S. domestic legislation on religious freedom. The designation of Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” is completely against the realities on the ground and raises serious doubts about the credibility of this exercise. Such subjective designations do not contribute towards promoting the cause of religious freedom worldwide. Pakistan and the U.S. have been constructively engaging on the subject at the bilateral level, a fact regrettably overlooked by the U.S.
Pakistani society is multi-religious and pluralistic with a rich tradition of inter-faith harmony. Religious freedom and the protection of the rights of minorities are guaranteed by our Constitution and ensured through a range of legislative, policy and administrative measures.
Furthermore, the glaring omission of India, where the RSS-BJP regime and their leaders openly disregard religious freedom and discriminate against minority communities in an institutionalized manner, is unfortunate and puts the credibility of the U.S. report into question. State complicity in organized violence against the Muslim minority in India is a matter of record. It is no secret that attacks by cow vigilantes and mob lynching of Indian Muslims take place regularly, with complete impunity for the perpetrators. Systematic demonization, dispossession, marginalization and targeted violence against Muslims in Hindutva-inspired India has become commonplace.

The findings and recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as well as the U.S. Congressional hearings on the maltreatment of minorities in India and the violation of religious freedom including in the Muslim-majority Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) were ignored by the U.S. State Department.
We believe the redressal of the rising trend of intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia requires global efforts based on the principles of cooperation and mutual understanding. Pakistan is sincerely playing its part in this endeavour and will continue to do so.
I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related matters.
Question: Sir yesterday during the joint session of the parliament, a bill has been passed that has sparked new discussion. Reportedly it will facilitate the release of Kulbhushan Jadhav? What is the Bill’s status and Foreign Office stance on this? Secondly, COP26 Conference has recently concluded in Glasgow. It was noticed that many people were not satisfied with the measures being adopted by the countries. Moreover, the developing countries were being ignored in this conference. How does Pakistan see this conference? Was it a success? If you can kindly comment on this. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: There is absolute clarity on the legislation adopted by the Parliament. The International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Act, 2020 provides for the right of review and reconsideration in giving effect to the judgment of the ICJ in the case of Commander Jadhav. Commander Jadhav, an Indian spy and RAW operative, facilitated numerous acts of terrorism in Pakistan, which resulted in the killings of countless innocent citizens of Pakistan.

The passage of the Bill has reaffirmed that Pakistan continues to take its obligation with regard to the ICJ judgment very seriously.

It is deeply regrettable that the Government of India has refused to avail itself of the legal remedies provided by Pakistan. Government of Pakistan once again reminds the Government of India of its obligation to arrange for legal representation of Commander Jadhav under paragraph 118 of the ICJ judgment.

Coming to your second question regarding the COP-26 in Glasgow, I can understand what you are trying to put across with regard to the concerns of the developing countries on the issue of climate change. Let me add that Pakistan appreciates the role played by the United Kingdom in its capacity as the COP-26 presidency in ensuring that the Conference achieved visible progress on a range of issues with the adoption of “Glasgow Climate Pact”.

The successful conclusion of long-pending Paris Agreement article 6 negotiations leading to the finalization of Paris Rulebook; establishing a comprehensive two-year Glasgow-Sharam el-Sheikh work programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA); operationalization of the Santiago network on Loss and Damage and establishment of Glasgow Dialogue on Loss and Damage; and establishment of the ad hoc work programme on the New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance were all positive outcomes of the COP-26.

A number of countries voluntarily announced new climate finance commitments. Notably the developed countries announced financial pledges to the Adaptation Fund equivalent to US $ 356 million to fund concrete adaptation projects and programmes in the most climate vulnerable developing countries including Pakistan.

As for Pakistan, in view of our forthcoming Chairmanship of the G-77 and China starting from January 2022, Pakistan remained actively engaged in COP-26. Our delegation to the COP was led by SAPM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam. The SAPM highlighted Pakistan’s recently updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and other key climate change related initiatives of the government in Pakistan’s national statement on 9th November.

Question: Kartarpur Corridor has been reopened and Indian Punjab Chief Minister is visiting Kartarpur. Is he on an official visit or on a private visit?

Answer: I think you cannot call it an official visit, but this is mostly in the context of pilgrimage, they come as a way of paying homage and tribute and for religious rites, so we take the visit by the Indian dignitaries in that context.

Question: You have spoken about the bill relating to Kulbhushan Jadhav. Indian media is stating that Pakistan has passed this bill under pressure from India. Moreover, they are also stating that through this bill they will facilitate the release of 15,000 Indian prisoners in Pakistani prisons including the ones imprisoned on severe charges. They have also stated that if Pakistan had any proof against kulbushan Yadev they would already have punished/sentenced him. And on Kartarpur Corridor they are also stating that Pakistan had opened this under pressure from India. Moreover, the Sikh community in India including Navjot Singh Sidhu has given credit to Indian government for the opening of the Corridor. How would you comment on these media reports? (Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Daily Media)

Answer: The reports that you mentioned with regard to the Kulbhushan Jadhav case and the Act that has been passed by the Parliament and linking it to other prisoners, though I have not come across those reports, but they make no sense at all, and can only be termed baseless since the purpose of the legislation was clear and specific and there was no room for such interpretations.

On re-opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, what you referred to from the reports, it was somewhat hilarious apart from being untrue. Everyone knows about Pakistan’s commitment and sincerity on the Kartarpur Corridor from the very outset when it was inaugurated in November 2019. It is also known that it was temporarily closed due to the COVID situation and from Pakistan side this short closure period was only three months and we reopened it in June 2020, and it has ever since remained open with COVID protocols from our side. We have been urging for the Corridor’s reopening. We also conveyed this formally to the Indian side recently in the run-up to the birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak and proposed them to reopen. And not only us, the Sikh community who wanted to come and pray and pay their respects and homage, all those from within India and from other countries around the world, they were hoping, and urging India to open the Corridor. So it is incredible that someone could say that there was some pressure on Pakistan. On the contrary, the pressure was clearly on India. Any way it is good that for whatever reason, they decided, though at the very last minute, that they were ready to open it. You are aware that according to the agreement, there is requirement of sharing of lists of 10 days in advance. Nevertheless, despite the short notice, we were very clear, and responded very promptly to make this happen and to not provide any excuse.

Question: Sir, my question is regarding the situation in Ethopia, as a state of emergency has been declared and a number of protests are ongoing. How would you comment on this? (Zulqernain Haider, ARY News)

Supplementary Question: If you can also comment on the security of the Embassy/diplomatic Staff. (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: We are following the developments in Ethiopia. Our Mission remains in close contact with the Pakistani community there.

Let me point out that there were about 200 Pakistani nationals residing in Ethiopia. Of those, around 50 have returned to Pakistan as the Bole International Airport was functioning and commercial flights were operating. Our Embassy remains engaged with the Pakistani diaspora to provide necessary advice and facilitation including to those who are making their arrangements to leave through commercial flights in view of the evolving situation.

The Ministry remains in constant contact with the Embassy also to cater to any emergency. The Embassy has also circulated a dedicated whatsapp number to the community for emergency contact and liaison on: + 251 944 348 362.

Question: In last couple of days a number of Kashmiris have been martyred in IIOJK and their families have asked for the help of the government of Pakistan. On the other side, India is saying that it is conducting operations against terrorists and Pakistan should not interfere in this matter. How would you comment on this? (Raziq Mehmood Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)

Answer: I have spoken in detail about this. You would also have seen our numerous press statements, including one issued this morning and another the day before yesterday, and we have expressed our concerns very clearly and very consistently on these actions of the India occupation forces that are illegal and totally in violations of India’s obligations as it is an occupying power in IIOJK and there are very clear obligations with regard to international humanitarian law which are applicable. This callous behavior of India is totally unacceptable and rejected. India’s attempts to hide its widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in IIOJK by raising the bogey of terrorism or blaming Pakistan has been completely exposed over time. Indigenous nature of the Kashmiri struggle is well established.

Let me also note that it is not only what Pakistan was saying, there is visibly increased international attention, and naming and shaming with regard to what was happening in IIOJK and you are well aware of the international media’s focus on those issues. There have been debates in international parliaments, global leaders have spoken about it, the UN, UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and various Procedures/Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council are engaged in many ways. And you have also seen the statements that are increasingly coming out of IIOJK not only from the families of the victims who our genuinely and deeply distressed by the loss of their loved ones but also from across the political spectrum in IIOJK who are out-rightly questioning and rejecting the this behavior and approach of the Indian occupation forces, the way they are treating the innocent Kashmiris through brutal use of force, draconian laws, and these fake encounters and extra judicial killings. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms.

Question: Firstly, Can you let us know whether Pakistan has allowed wheat to be transited from Pakistan to Afghanistan which is being sent by India – There seems to be some ambiguity as the statement by PM Office after the meeting of the Taliban govt delegation said they will work out ways whereas the Taliban Foreign Ministry statement said its been allowed already, your comments please to clarify the situation.
Secondly, on the reports of US – Pakistan in talks of using Pakistan’s airspace for future counter terrorism operations in Afghanistan, on 24th May the Foreign Office in a press release said that the AirLines of Communications agreement was in place with US Since 2001, whereas on 23rd October, the Foreign Office said that quote, “no such understanding was in place”, my question is, very specifically, which one of these two statements was misleading, the 24th may one or 23rd October one – thank you. (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: On the second one, I have spoken on that issue before. Our statements are quite clear.

On the first question, let me recall what the Prime Minister conveyed that in the current context Pakistan would favourably consider the request by Afghan brothers for transportation of wheat offered by India – on exceptional basis, for humanitarian purposes, and as per modalities to be worked out, and that is what was being done.

Question: Russia has recently provided S400 system to India. China has also deployed missile system along its border. What is the implication of this procurement on Pakistan? How would you comment on this move? (Sauud Ejaz, 24 News)

Answer: We have taken note of supply of first of five S-400 ballistic missile defense systems to India, which affects strategic balance in South Asia.

New Delhi is irresponsibly weaponizing outer space, has nuclearized Indian Ocean Region and is vertically proliferating.

Pakistan will continue to take suitable measures to restore strategic balance and maintain a credible deterrence against India.

Question: Recently, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister visited Afghanistan, followed by visit by Afghan Acting Foreign Minister to Pakistan. Both sides discussed many issues of concern. Was the issue of recognition of Taliban government discussed? What is Pakistan’s position on the issue? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: The Foreign Minister on many occasions has spoken in detail about that. Let me say that this question of recognition is out there somewhere yes but is perhaps not the most immediate and question, given the challenges facing Afghanistan.

Yes the two sides discussed many things – cooperation on many areas, as well as the imminent crisis confronting Afghanistan on the humanitarian side specifically and how we in Pakistan, will continue to work with our partners in the region specifically the immediate neighbours and others in the international community, to promote sustained and constructive engagement with the Afghan interim authorities with a view to move forward in a manner to address the various challenges facing the Afghan people. We think it is best to proceed in a consensual and coordinated manner.

Question: After the National Security Committee meeting it was announced that Pakistan, U.S. and Taliban government are onboard on the grant of permission for usage of Air corridor. How would you comment on that? (Zaheer Ali, Samaa News)

Answer: I have no comment on that. But let me recall what I said in one of the previous briefings, that this whole question was situated in a different context previously. Now, the context and the situation on ground have changed, so these things perhaps have to be reviewed accordingly.

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