Media Briefing|

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

Welcome to our Weekly Press Briefing.

As you are aware, the High-Level Segment of the 76th UN General Assembly is currently underway in New York.

The theme of the 76th Session is “Building resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people and revitalize the United Nations”

Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the UNGA virtually on 24th September afternoon New York Time.

The Prime Minister will present Pakistan’s perspective on various regional and international issues. Jammu and Kashmir will be one of the key areas of focus, besides the situation in Afghanistan, and other areas of common concern including combating Islamophobia, corruption and illicit financial flows, as well as climate change.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is in New York and has a packed schedule, as you would have been following. He had a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, has attended various high-level meetings including the D-8 Ministerial, has had bilateral meetings with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and his counterparts from Egypt, Portugal, Norway, Ireland, EU High Representative, Qatar, Austria and Slovenia, besides engagements with the media and the dynamic Pakistani-American community. Multiple engagements are lined up for today onwards including the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, Uniting for Consensus Ministerial Meeting, meetings with the UN Secretary-General and the President of the UNGA, and other bilateral and media engagements.

During these interactions, the Foreign Minister has been underlining the need for collective action and multilateral cooperation to effectively address common challenges.

Given the current regional situation, international interest, and Pakistan’s active engagement, Afghanistan has been a central theme in all these engagements.

The Foreign Minister has also highlighted the gravity of the human rights situation in IIOJK, shared the dossier on Indian human rights violations in IIOJK with his interlocutors and underlined the need for urgent steps to bring an end to those violations.

The Prime Minister’s policy address and the Foreign Minister’s visit to New York will serve to enhance Pakistan’s diplomatic outreach and engagement with our international partners, and reaffirm our abiding commitment to multilateralism and UN’s central role on peace and security, development and human rights.

Pakistan will also be participating actively in the UNGA Plenary and its Main Committees over the coming weeks.

As you know, the Prime Minister led the Pakistan delegation to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit held in Dushanbe on 16-17 September 2021.

In his statement at the Summit, the Prime Minister highlighted Pakistan’s priorities for the SCO framework of cooperation in particular socio economic development, poverty alleviation, connectivity projects and climate change. Reaffirming Pakistan’s position on implementation of UN Security Council resolutions for peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes, the PM cautioned that any tendency towards unilateral and illegal measures to change the status of the disputed territories in violation of Security Council resolutions, ran counter to the objectives of the peace and security. The Prime Minister shared Pakistan’s point of view on Afghanistan and stressed the need to stand by the Afghan people. He also briefed about Pakistan’s assistance for evacuation efforts and humanitarian support for Afghanistan.

On the sidelines of the Summit, the PM also held bilateral meetings with the Presidents of Uzbekistan, Iran, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Chinese State Counselor and Foreign Minister also called on the Prime Minister.

In the bilateral component of the visit, following the SCO Summit, the Prime Minister had detailed interaction with the Tajik President. A joint statement was also adopted for the establishment of Strategic Partnership between Pakistan and Tajikistan. Besides Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum, nine bilateral documents including various agreements/MoUs were signed including in the fields of tourism, banking, financial cooperation, sports, taxation and information exchange. The visit goes a long way in operationalizing Pakistan’s “Vision Central Asia” policy and Geo-economic Focus.

While in Dushanbe, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also met his counterparts from Russia and Iran. And an informal meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran was also held on the sidelines to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. The Ministers also agreed to continue close cooperation on Afghanistan.

And we are following the developments in Afghanistan closely.

We have taken note of the expansion in the interim Cabinet with representation of different ethnic and political groups. This is a positive direction, and we hope they continue to take steps leading to lasting stability in the country.

We continue to engage with the interim authorities. Special Representatives of China, Russia and Pakistan were in Kabul recently. It highlighted the importance of close coordination to promote the shared objectives of a peaceful, stable, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

We continue to urge the international community on the imperative of constructive engagement and timely mobilization of humanitarian assistance, on which Pakistan itself has led from the front with additional food supplies sent to Afghanistan in recent days. Let me reiterate that ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan is a shared responsibility of the international community.

Coming to the Jammu and Kashmir.

As you know, on 12 September, Pakistan presented a detailed dossier highlighting India’s egregious human rights violations in IIOJK.

In recent days we have briefed the diplomatic community, the resident envoys in Islamabad on the contents of the dossier and have shared copies of the dossier with them. We are also doing that in capitals around the world, drawing the attention of the international community to Indian illegal actions and human rights violations in IIOJK.

The Foreign Minister is also briefing his counterparts in NY on the dossier, and emphasizing the need for urgent action to address the situation which is deteriorating on ground, because as we observe, the draconian military siege, extra-judicial killings, torture in custody, enforced disappearances and illegal detentions are continuing in IIOJK.

Three Kashmiri youth have been martyred extra-judicially recently.

22 journalists among 43 others have been banned from traveling outside IIOJK and India, as per a lookout circular list prepared by the Indian authorities. These are Indian ploys to silence the voices of dissent and muzzle the Kashmiri voice,

The continuing violence against innocent Kashmiris only shows India’s frustration over its failure to suppress the just struggle of the Kashmiris for their right to self-determination.

We have also seen recent Indian media reports insinuating about alleged infiltration from across the LOC. Pakistan categorically rejects these allegations as baseless and unfounded.

Such allegations are established Indian tactics to create false alarm and implicate Pakistan often before major international events. We have alerted and continue to caution the international community on these dangerous India tactics, built around false-flag operations and fake encounters, which have also been exposed in the dossier we have recently presented. The Kashmiri freedom movement against Indian occupation and the reign of terror is indigenous. Pakistan deplores India’s flimsy efforts to divert the world attention from its indefensible actions and human rights violations in the IIOJK.

These tactics cannot suppress the will of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan will continue to provide all possible support to the Kashmiri people in their just struggle.

Let me briefly mention that a number of important things are happening in the context of our bilateral relations with various countries, and in this regard wanted to highlight the 10th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) Meeting of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is being held today.

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

Question: On the complaint filed by a Sikh organization, a US district court has issued Summon to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for killing Sikhs amid recent protests by the farmers. Sikhs are also planning to protest outside the United Nations building against Prime Minister Modi. Do you think these actions are going to be embarrassing for Prime Minister Modi?

Secondly, the Sikhs are often not permitted by the Indian authorities to visit their holy sites in Pakistan. What is your take on it?

Lastly, after the Taliban took over the control of Kabul, a number of international leaders contacted both Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister requesting Pakistan’s facilitation to evacuate their citizens from Afghanistan. Ironically, now when the situation is normal than before, the New Zealand and British cricket teams have cancelled their tours to Pakistan. Do you think that the west has ‘double standards’ towards Pakistan. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: Has Pakistan lodged protest with the New Zealand and UK authorities over the cancellation of their cricket team’s tour of Pakistan citing security concerns ? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Daily Maddar/Royal News)

Answer: We have seen the recent filing of case you are referring to against PM Modi on the eve of his arrival to the United States. It is reflective of concerns on the overall state of affairs in India, particularly with regards to the treatment meted out to the minorities.

While this has been a longstanding problem in India, but ever since BJP’s coming into power, Indian religious minorities in particular, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others are being specifically targeted and facing discriminatory treatment. It is a matter of serious concern not only for India’s neighbours but also for the international community.

Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the international community and voicing its concerns over the human rights violations in India. It is encouraging to note that the rising tide of religious bigotry in India is being documented by international human rights organizations, regularly highlighted by the international media, and raised in various forums. The international community must hold India to account and impress upon it to respect the rights of its minorities.

On the visits for religious purposes, our position has been consistent, open and transparent. Despite a difficult relationship with India, Prime Minister Imran Khan went ahead with the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, which reflected our continued commitment to facilitate Sikh pilgrims. Our approach is also in line with the government’s efforts to promote religious tourism. We expect India to reciprocate.

Regarding your question on the security concerns expressed by New Zealand and UK, we are obviously disappointed to note the unilateral decisions by both. We have conveyed our concerns and have also asked them to share with us the intelligence they have.

Yes it is not understandable and is indeed ironic that a few weeks ago with that chaotic situation in Afghanistan, requests were pouring in seeking Pakistan’s assistance in evacuation process from Afghanistan. Now, when the situation was even better, such decision was unfortunate. Such matters can be dealt with in a better manner.

Question: Could you please share where the JCC is taking place?

Secondly, the Taliban government has written a letter to the UN Secretary General to seek an opportunity to participate in the ongoing UNGA session. Is Pakistan supporting their request? If yes, please share details? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: The JCC is taking place virtually.

Regarding your second question, we understand that the Afghan interim government has made this request to the UN. As you would know, that there is a procedure in UNGA under which the Credentials Committee considers such requests. Pakistan is not a member of that Committee. We have been advising the international community that keeping in view the ground realities and the humanitarian situation, the international community should engage with the interim Government in a constructive manner. We believe that positive engagement with Afghanistan is important to ensure lasting peace and security in the region and beyond.

Question: In his recent interview to BBC, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that we are part of the region and we will recognize the Taliban government based on the collective decision by the regional countries. Could you please share that who is leading the regional efforts in this regard? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: It is not important as to who is leading these efforts. More important is the need for continued engagement especially of the regional countries. It is all about coordination and consultation. The regional countries have shared concerns and interests vis-a-vis the developments in Afghanistan.

As for Pakistan, we will continue this process of engagement and mutual consultations to make our contribution towards a peaceful, stable and sovereign Afghanistan.

Question: I have two questions. Firstly, JKLF has called for protest, including in Islamabad, claiming that some of the steps taken by Pakistan are mirroring the Indian actions in IIOJK. Don’t you think it is unjustified given Pakistan’s efforts for the Kashmir cause? Have any actions been taken to prevent the protest?

Secondly, the receipt issued to passengers travelling to Turkey via PIA is generally not accepted by the Turkish Authorities. There have been instances of these passengers getting imprisoned for 15-20 days. Will Pakistan take any action in this regard? (Raziq Mehmood Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)

Answer: On your first question, I can safely say that our position on Jammu and Kashmir is very clear and firmly anchored and consistent with relevant UNSC resolutions. There is no comparison with India and the illegal actions that it has been undertaking in IIOJK in contravention of UNSC resolutions.

On your second question, we would need to ascertain the facts from relevant authorities.

Question: Pakistan has a longstanding position on the nuclearization of Indian Ocean region and elsewhere. How do you see the recently signed AUKUS pact, as this development has the potential to further nuclearise the Indian Ocean region?

Secondly, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during his recent visit to Pakistan mentioned that UK will provide humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, a portion of which was to be given through Pakistan. What is that money meant for?

As of 10 September, some 12,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan with Pakistan’s help? How many of these are still in Pakistan? (Essa Naqvi, Independent)

Answer: On your first observation, nuclearization is a shared concern of many countries. There are various angles and perspectives through which AUKUS is being gauged, and many countries, including friends and allies of these countries are looking at it with different degree of concern.

As for Pakistan, in principle we do not subscribe to bloc politics. Rather, we support broader, inclusive multilateral cooperation, based on open and transparent principles. Peace and stability are best ensured through cooperative frameworks, and not by arrangements that can be perceived as directed against some other country, or countries, or a tool to expand some countries’ self interest.

On your second question, I am not in knowledge of any assistance actually realized. We can check on that.

On your last question, my understanding is that the large majority of people have already left Pakistan, as they were basically in transit, and that was the understanding on which people were flown out of Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Interior would be best placed to provide exact figures.

Question: Muhammad Ghulam Rabbani, a Pakistani citizen from Karachi, is incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay for the past 17 years on alleged links with Al-Qaeda, even though those charges could never be ascertained. A UK-based human rights organization is dealing with his case; and there was word that his case in under review, but nothing has been finalized. Can you please share details? Can you also share the number of Pakistani inmates still there in Guantanmo Bay?

My next question is about a Pakistani, named Shoaib Mahmood Malik, who has been missing in Saudi Arabia since 20 January 2020. A letter was also addressed to the Foreign Secretary on 5 August 2021 by his family. Has this issue been taken up with the relevant Saudi authorities? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: I don’t have information off hand, and can get back to you with regard to your question on Guantanamo inmates.

As for the individual case that you mentioned, unfortunately such cases do happen in different parts of the world. As soon as we get the information, as a standard practice we instruct our relevant Mission to ascertain details and provide all possible assistance. We will check on this case and let you know.

Question: When U.S. President addressed the 76th Session of UNGA, he asked the countries to call out and condemn oppression of religious and ethnic minorities. He mentioned Xinjiang and Northern Ethiopia, but failed to mention Kashmir or the religious minorities in India. We know how U.S. has been unduly favouring India in order to contain China. How do you comment on this deliberate omission by the U.S. President? (Essa Naqvi, Independent)

Supplementary Question: You earlier shared that the dossier on human rights violations in IIOJK has been shared with P5 countries. How do you then explain the U.S. silence on Kashmir in UNGA? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: I think your observation is valid. This is something that is unfortunately not new; and this is what you call ‘doublespeak’ and ‘double standards’. We have consistently maintained that human rights have to be respected and upheld universally, without any distinction or political motives.

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