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 the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by recalling the launch of ‘Automation of Power of Attorney’ by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week, corresponding to a long-held demand of overseas Pakistanis. This is in continuation of Prime Minister’s ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative, which is aligned with the Government’s policy of maximum facilitation for overseas Pakistanis.

An Agreement has been signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), under which 24/7 uninterrupted online services will be provided for attestation of Power of Attorney-from the Embassy to the comfort of an applicant’s home.

This automation has been initially launched as a pilot project in ten Pakistan Missions in the United States and the United Kingdom, and will shortly be replicated across all Pak Missions abroad.

While on Digital diplomacy, the Secretary General of the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO), Deemah Al Yahya, called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi last week. The Foreign Minister while

commending the formation of this new organization, affirmed Pakistan’s commitment to its strategic partnership with the DCO and called for enhanced efforts to achieve the shared goal of digital transformation and promoting joint initiatives to leverage ICT potential for socio-economic development.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity at MOFA.

Let me first inform you that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be representing Pakistan today at the 20th Anniversary Meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government being chaired by Kazakhstan. The Foreign Minister is also representing Pakistan today at the 13th ASEM (Asia Europe Meeting) Summit being chaired by Cambodia.

During the last week, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood separately received Japan’s Ambassador-designate Wada Mitsuhiro and Cambodia’s non-resident Ambassador, Ung Sean. He also received Nigel Casey, UK’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

9th meeting of Russia-Pakistan Joint Working Group on Combatting International Terrorism and Other Challenges to Security was held in Moscow on 22 November signifying continuing and deepening cooperation between the two countries on wide range of issues of mutual interest.

Later in the week, a United States Congressional Delegation comprising Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representative (HFAC), accompanied by Congressman Ami Bera, Chairman of the Asia Subcommittee called on the Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister underscored the longstanding bilateral relationship with the United States and the desire to further broaden it.

On the public diplomacy front, we celebrated last week, 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Spain in a colourful cultural gala reception at the Pakistan Monument.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 20 November, Foreign Office turned to hues of blue in commemoration of World Children’s Day. On the occasion, the leadership in their messages highlighted the need for necessary protections and the conducive conditions in which children can realize their dreams and full potential.

Let me also note that Pakistan and Republic of Palau established diplomatic relations on 22 November in a ceremony held in New York. It is our earnest hope that this will open new vistas of cooperation between the two countries.

Pakistan continues to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in foodstuff and medicines. We have provided 4 C-130 plane-loads and 101 truck-loads containing 1658 MT of food stuffs and medicines in recent weeks to Afghanistan. Recently, the Prime Minister has also pledged an additional 5 Billion Rupees for in-kind assistance to Afghanistan to be given in three categories: foodstuffs (wheat and rice), medicines and shelter (tents and tarpaulins). Under this, Pakistan will be providing 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghan brethren.

And as you would have followed, as a goodwill gesture towards the brotherly Afghan people, the Government of Pakistan has decided to allow the transportation of 50000 Metric Tonnes of wheat and lifesaving medicines from India to Afghanistan via Wagah Border on an exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes. Decision to this effect was conveyed to India’s Charge d’Affaires at the Foreign Office yesterday.

It is highly unfortunate and a matter of deep concern to see India continuing with its ill-advised hostile approach that is vitiating the environment in the region.

I do not want to repeat, but am sure you would have seen our responses to the Indian Defence Minister’s irresponsible, provocative and gratuitous remarks recently, as well as India’s farcical and fabricated claim of downing a Pakistani F-16 aircraft, and on top of that making that the basis for awarding the Indian pilot who was shot down and captured by Pakistan as the entire world witnessed. While all this fantasizing by India would have appeased, and rather amused many, it obviously had no credibility whatsoever in the eyes of the international community.

In the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), Indian occupation forces are committing grave crimes against the Kashmiri people including enforced disappearances, targeted and extra-judicial killings, and collective punishment of the population. Pakistan strongly condemns Indian state-terrorism and extra-judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters and so-called “cordon and search operations”. 35 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred by the Indian occupation forces in less than two months in IIOJK. Three more Kashmiris have been martyred in a fake encounter on 24 November in Srinagar.

Nothing can obfuscate Indian state-terrorism perpetuated with shameless impunity in IIOJK. Nor could use of brutal force ever succeed in breaking the will of the Kashmiri people struggling for their inalienable right to self-determination.

The UN human rights machinery, independent NGOs and global media have consistently expressed concerns over increasing intimidation, harassment and reprisal attacks by Indian occupation forces against Kashmiri human rights defenders, journalists and civil society actors over the last two years. The detention of Mr. Khurram Parvez is the most recent example that has been widely condemned by the international community.

Pakistan calls upon the international community to hold India accountable for the egregious human rights violations of the innocent Kashmiri people in IIOJK. We also urge the international community to play its role for peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people for durable peace and stability in the region.

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

Question: A number of foreigners have applied for Pakistani visas from different countries, but their requests are pending for last 2-3 months. What type of 24/7 services are provided? Secondly next week Taliban and US are resuming talks. What is Pakistan’s stance on this? (Tariq Ullah Wardak, Free Lencer)

Answer: The online visa system clearly facilitates visa application processing and it is done through a very well set out procedure in which the concerned Missions abroad and the Ministry of Interior as appropriately engaged. I am not in a position to comment on any specific cases that you might be referring to but I can say that generally visas are issued as per the procedure and within the timelines.

About your other remark, while I need to check on the information regarding forthcoming interaction between the Afghan interim authorities and the U.S., I can say that would be welcome development, as we have been saying, encouraging and advocating enhanced engagement of the international community with Afghanistan in order to help address its challenges.

Question: You talked about Pakistan’s assistance dispatched yesterday to Afghanistan – 7 trucks or so far a population of over 38-40 million. Is that enough? What Pakistan is urging international community to contribute? And allowing Indians wheat and medicines to Afghanistan via Wagha Border, is it a favour or how long this arrangement will continue? (Shaukat Piracha, Aaj News)

Answer: I did not refer to any number of trucks sent yesterday. But I get what you are trying to convey – it is quite obvious that the humanitarian need in Afghanistan is huge and this can only be met by the international community acting together, so you see that the UN has been engaged and various countries are coming forward to provide assistance. Pakistan is part of that international effort and we have done, and will continue to do the maximum we can to support Afghanistan. I informed briefly what we have done already, and with the 5 billion rupees that has been pledged in addition – a part of it will be used to provide assistance of 50,000 MT of wheat specifically, besides other items. This is what we are doing in the short-term, and we are already engaged with the Afghan side on a number of other areas of cooperation including capacity building, but what we are saying is that it is a big challenge and requires much greater contribution from others especially those who have the capacity.

About your other observation, I think you have rightly pointed out, and I am sure you have followed our statements, that as a goodwill gesture towards the brotherly Afghan people, the Government of Pakistan decided to allow the transportation of humanitarian assistance from India to Afghanistan via Wagah border and this has been done on an exceptional basis, only for humanitarian purposes, and without creating any precedent. And according to the modalities, there is a time frame in which this transportation has to be completed.

Question: My question is regarding the US Department of Commerce has placed 16 entities from China and Pakistan on the list based on the contribution to Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear activities as it has been mentioned in this report or ballistic missile program. I want your comment and what will be the implication of this list or decision? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)

Supplementary Question: What is Pakistan’s Foreign Office position on nexus between China and Pakistan entities aiding Pakistan nuclear and ballistic missile program. (Kausar Lodhi , Prime News)

Supplementary Question: NATO has sought Indian permission for establishing bases in Ladakh region. What is Pakistan’s position on this? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Royal News)

Answer: On the last question, we will have to ascertain information, before I can comment on that.

On the other two questions – we have seen the report, and our response will be intimated. We do not accept any insinuations regarding our nuclear program.

Question: The Afghan appeal to the US government for unfreezing the Afghan accounts has been rejected by US. Pakistan has hosted / is hosting a number of delegations currently a Special Representative from some European countries is also in Pakistan. What does Pakistan consider the issue in releasing the frozen assets? Secondly an Indian artist has been criticized for narrating his point in Washington in which he has described the real face of India in a poem titled Two Indias. He has been severely criticized in India. Moreover the Muslims in India have also been victimized and subjected to violence, mosques were been closed and Muslims were not allowed to offer prayers. The Sikh community opened the door of their temples for Muslims to offer prayers. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal , Media Today)

Answer: On the second one first – well you are stating the obvious, this is now increasingly evident to the international community and Pakistan has been saying this for a long time. We have been drawing attention to this regressive environment, the downward and dangerous trend in India with regard to human rights issues and particularly persecution and discrimination towards minorities especially Muslims. What you are relating to is a manifestation of that. The international community is very much aware of it, and voices are being raised increasingly on it from within India and beyond. I think such kind of scrutiny and oversight by the international community, putting India’s behavior under the spotlight and putting pressure on it is important to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

On your other question regarding the frozen accounts of Afghanistan, it has been raised and discussed on various occasions and fora. It remains an important issue. Pakistan and other countries have been saying that it needs to be considered as a way of supporting the Afghan people who are faced with immense challenges. That remains our expectation.

Question: The Syrian news agency has quoted that President of Pakistan has assured education Minister of Syria that Pakistan is supporting Syria in its war against terrorism. I want to check what is Pakistan position on Syria conflict? Secondly is Pakistan participating in US President’s initiative of Summit for Democracy? What will be the level of participation? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: On your second question, yes there is an invitation as you would know. If there is any further development, it will be shared.

On your first question, I did not quite get what you were trying to enquire. I have not seen that particular report. Pakistan desires to promote relations with Syria and would like to see peace and stability there.

Question: Recently Russian federation has done an experiment and they have destroyed a space station by firing a missile. This has been strongly criticized by US and EU countries. What is your take on this? Secondly in a Russian report it has been mentioned that at the start of next year Russia will attack and capture Ukraine. How does Pakistan see this situation? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Well, the second question seems to be speculative and I have not seen that report and it would not be proper to comment. The first question should better be posed to the concerned countries.

Question: There are few Pakistani prisoners in Egypt awaiting death sentences in narcotics smuggle case. Egyptian government has not followed the due legal procedure and has sentenced them. Has Pakistani government taken up the issue with them? (Abid Siddique Chaudhry, Daily Capital Mail)

Answer: Our Missions follow such cases as matter of practice. I would encourage that questions related to individual cases could be shared with us in advance so that we could get the updates. Let us get the information on your question.

Question: You issued a press release which mentioned about the seizure of radioactive material that was being transported to Shanghai. India media has widely cover the issues and Foreign Office also issued a press release. If you can kindly comment on this? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)

Answer: We have already commented and clarified it.

Question: The 720-megawatt Karot hydropower station, which is the first of its kind under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), successfully closed the gates of the diversion tunnels, starting reservoir impoundment. It is the latest development of green development of the CPEC. What is Pakistan’s comment on it? (Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News Agency)

Answer: Thank you for your interest in CPEC’s continued progress and development.

As a flagship of the Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC is an embodiment of win-win cooperation under the Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership with the underlying principles of wide-ranging consultations, joint contribution and shared benefits.

Entering a stage of high-quality development, Pakistan and China are committed to a clean and green vision of CPEC. This vision is being translated into reality through projects such as the Karot hydropower project, which will improve Pakistan’s access to clean, low-cost and sustainable energy.

We congratulate the relevant enterprises on achieving this important milestone despite the challenging nature of the project and difficulties represented by the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to the timely completion of Karot and all other CPEC projects, demonstrating the abiding commitment of Pakistan and China to realizing the full potential of this transformative undertaking and giving play to its role in actualizing Pakistan’s geo-economics vision.

Question: A month ago I raised a question about a Pakistani Ghulam Ahmad Rabbani, who has been in prison in Guantanamo for the last 18 years. Is there any further detail? I will also ask that how many Pakistani prisoners / inmates are detained in Guantanamo? Any update on that? On Macedonian border, Serbian / Macedonian held two under aged Pakistanis alleging that they were involved in human trafficking and abusing the other migrants. They are underage and have been detained and no further details are being provided that whether they are in Macedonia or in Serbia. Can you elaborate on that? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: I do not have information off-hand on that. We will get the details. On the first question, response will be shared when we have the precise information.

Question: On 4 November on border with Afghanistan a soldier was kidnapped and his body was mutilated and video was made viral. Some more Pakistanis were killed and their bodie were hanged in Kabul city. Last night also near the Chaman border 2 of our soldiers were martyred in the same manner. On one side we are sending them the humanitarian aid while on the other hand the same Indian sponsored terrorists are involved in such activities and TTPs name is being used. Who is beyond such incident? What is the stance of the present government on this? (Czechangez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)

Answer: Some of the incidents you mentioned, will have to verify before I am in a position to comment.

Question: My question relates to TTP and the peace agreement being brokered. What role the Taliban government is playing? And what is the government policy regarding other tribal groups and the demands being made regarding the Islamic State of Pakistan, opening of political office abroad, and to take back the decision of the merger of FATA? What is your comment on that? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: With regard to your main question about negotiations, I have said before, referring to statements that have been issued, and do not have anything to add at this point of time.

Question: Reports suggest that Pakistan will hold an OIC meeting of Foreign Ministers. Your comments on that? (Nayyer Ali, News One TV)

Answer: Yes, Pakistan is going to host the OIC-ICFM on 22-23 March 2022.

Question: Pakistani cricket team was warmly welcomed in Bangladesh. Has the attitude of the Bangladeshi government at official and diplomatic are also changed/improved. Is there any bilateral visit expected? (Khalid Mehmood, Express News)

Answer: We have good, friendly and brotherly relations with Bangladesh, and we look forward to continuing strengthening of this relationship.

As you mentioned, our cricket team is there and they have been welcomes, and are playing in a good environment. Our cricketing ties and love for the game are also a way of promoting goodwill and friendship between our two countries and our two peoples. And everyone is enjoying cricket in that sense also.

Question: People face issues during the export of potatoes and oranges to Afghanistan. Is Pakistan Embassy playing any role in this regard, so as to facilitate this? (Shakeel Kalyana,)

Answer: Trade related matters and issues in transportation are being dealt by the relevant authorities on both sides and there is an ongoing effort to address them.

Question: Indian government awarded Abhinandan military award for his act of courage. How you would comment on that? (Kausar Lodhi , Prime News)

Answer: We have already commented on that.

Question: Recently a Pakistani national was brutally murdered and his body was mutilated in Canada. What is the update with the Foreign Office regarding this incident? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: This was an unfortunate, tragic crime. According to our information, the culprit was arrested. Our Consulate attended the funeral prayers in Canada, facilitated the transportation of dead body back to Pakistan and has raised the matter with the Canadian authorities.

Question: On 5 November the Chairman Senate was extended an invitation from Indian side for the public Accounts Committee Conference. Will he attend this conference? (Zaheer, SAMAA TV)

Answer: I have no update on this.

Thank you.


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