Media Briefing|

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

Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,


I begin with a round-up of activities on the foreign policy front.

Intensified Indian atrocities continue in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian occupation forces martyred two youth including a Physiotherapist Burhan-ud-Din Ganie and Sabdar Amin in Islamabad district of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. They were martyred by troops belonging to 3 Rashtriya Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force and Special Operation Group during the so-called ‘cordon and search operations’ at Bagender Mohalla in Bijbehara area of the district. The authorities also suspended the mobile internet services in Islamabad South district. Indian systemic massacre of innocent Kashmiris on false pretexts is regularly followed by suspension of internet and communication services to prevent the voices of the Kashmiris from reaching the international community.

Pakistan strongly condemns the continuing incarceration, despite deteriorating health of Mr. Yasin Malik, Chairman Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), since 22 February 2019, on trumped up charges. Mr. Malik, was arrested earlier under the draconian Public Safety Law and despite his critically worsening health was shifted to the notorious Tihar jail. In violation of legal rights, ethics and norms, his family, who were informed after considerable delay, has not been permitted to meet him.

Indian draconian laws, including the Public Safety Act, are in blatant violation of fundamental human rights, and grant immunity to Indian occupation forces to operate with impunity and have been criticized by the OHCHR and the APPKG.

Coercive Indian measures and brutalities against Kashmiris in IoK will not change the universally accepted reality of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, but will only aggravate the situation. We expect the Government of India to ensure the wellbeing of Mr. Malik and the Kashmiri people.

We urge the international community, to call upon India, by all means possible, to immediately halt the human rights atrocities in IOK and expedite resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute.

Our heartfelt condolences to Sri Lanka where the death toll has risen above to 350 with more than 500 injured in a series of 8 highly coordinated terrorist bombings on Easter on 21 April. Yesterday, Prime Minister Imran Khan telephoned his Sri Lankan Counterpart. He strongly condemned the terrorist attacks, conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and profound prayers for the speedy recovery of the wounded. He also reiterated Pakistan’s offer of assistance to Sri Lanka for counter-terrorism measures.

President and the Foreign Minister also telephoned their Sri Lankan counterparts and in unequivocal terms, condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed firm commitment for continued efforts and cooperation for eliminating it.

It is regrettable that in this time of grief, a section of the Indian media continues to sensationalize this tragedy by irresponsibly attempting to link detention of some Pakistanis in Sri Lanka with the recent events there. We completely reject these baseless allegations. According to the information shared by the Sri Lankan officials, 7 Pakistanis were recently detained by the law enforcement authorities on account of overstay on their visas. This is a purely consular matter and projecting it in any other manner is patently mischievous. We reiterate the call of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister to desist from propaganda.

Separately, on 22nd April 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan concluded his two-day visit to Iran, the first since assuming office. Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Iran in line with government’s approach to meaningfully strengthen its relations with all neighboring countries. Iran is an important Muslim neighbor having centuries old people to people, religious and cultural affinities with Pakistan. In Tehran, the Prime Minister held in-depth one-on-one and delegation-level talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and called on the Iranian Supreme Leader. The visit further strengthened the mutual understanding on important issues in bilateral, regional and international domains.

Both sides discussed issues related to Pakistan-Iran border security; facilitation of Pakistani pilgrims and Zaireen travelling every year in large numbers to Iran; overcoming hindrances in promotion of bilateral trade and economic activity; opening of new border crossing points, establishment of the new border market; enhancing cooperation in energy, consular, health, railways; and promotion of cultural collaboration, tourism and people to people exchanges between the two countries.

Significantly, both sides highlighted the need to resolve the Jammu & Kashmir dispute through dialogue and peaceful means based on the will of the people of that region and in line with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi, at the invitation of H.E. Mr. Taro Kono, Foreign Minister of Japan, visited Japan from April 21-24, 2019. During the visit, the Foreign Minister held wide-ranging talks, which include his meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister/ Finance Minister of Japan H.E. Taro Aso and the Japanese Foreign Minister and other notable dignitaries.

The two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and identified areas for further cooperation in political, economic, trade, investment, education and cultural fields.

The Foreign Minister after completing his visit to Japan arrived in Beijing, yesterday, and met with H.E. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China. In their interaction, both sides agreed to further strengthen their coordination and cooperation on international and regional matters.

It was agreed that a peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous South Asia is in the common interest of all parties, and emphasized the importance of dialogue in resolving all disputes. The Chinese side called on international community to view Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and contributions in an objective and fair manner, and to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with Pakistan.

Unfortunately, in a tragic incident, a bus carrying 51 Pakistani Zaireen hit a security check post near Samarra, Iraq, on the night of 21st April 2019. According to information provided by our Mission in Baghdad, injured passengers were shifted to Medical City Hospital. Passengers with minor injuries were treated and have been discharged. 47 passengers are in good health, whereas 02 passengers are admitted in the hospital due to serious injuries. Unfortunately, Mr. Umar Hayat s/o Mr. Allah Yar who had been seriously injured has passed away. Our Mission in Iraq is in contact with the local authorities and the bereaved family to provide all possible help. We offer our prayers for the departed soul and condolences to family. Our embassy is arranging safe return of the pilgrims to Pakistan, in coordination with Iraqi authorities.

The floor is now open for questions.

Question: What is the policy of Pakistan regarding the comments of Prime Minister in relation to the Pakistani soil being used against Iran? Secondly, what were the outcomes of this visit? (Mr. Adeel Warriach – Dunya TV)

Answer: You must have seen the press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. I stand by that and reiterate that there has been a lot of debate about Prime Minister’s statement on use of Pakistan soil. The statement has been largely taken out of context. Prime Minister Imran Khan was talking about non state actors using Pakistani soil under foreign influence to carry out activities in Pakistan or coordinating from Pakistan, case in point is Commander Kulbushan Jadev sand local facilitators. In the same manner, Pakistan is attacked using soil of Iran and Afghanistan.

The same was clearly stated by the Prime Minister during his visit to Iran while referring to latest incident in Balochistan. That is why the Prime Minister is making all out efforts for peace across whole region.

Prime Minister’s statement being linked to any other context is an effort to misinterpret the expression which doesn’t serve Pakistan in any way.

Regarding the outcomes of the visit, please note that the visit was in line with the government’s approach to meaningfully strengthen its relations with all neighboring countries. Iran is an important Muslim neighbor having centuries old people to people, religious and cultural affinities with Pakistan. The important outcomes, as contained in the Joint Statement, are listed below:

Signing of Declaration for Cooperation in Healthcare Sector.
Pakistan welcomed the initiation of the process for release of a number of Pakistani prisoners by the Government of Iran and their repatriation to Pakistan.
Next meeting of the Joint Consular Commission to be held in Islamabad in 2nd half of 2019.
10th round of Security Committee to be held in Islamabad in June 2019.
2nd round of High Border Commission in Islamabad in May 2019.
21st round of Joint Economic Commission (JEC) in Islamabad in 2nd half of 2019
. Next round of Joint Committee on Trade to meet in Islamabad in first week of July 2019.
Early opening of new crossing points at Gabd-Reemdan and Mand-Pishien and agreement in principle on opening of new border market to be discussed during the High Border Commission.
Agreement to promote broader regional consensus on an Afghan-owned, Afghan led peace process and an amicable solution.
Call for peaceful solution of Jammu & Kashmir dispute based on the will of the Kashmiri people and in line with the UNSC Resolutions.
Acceptance of official invitation extended by Prime Minister Imran Khan to President Rouhani for a visit to Pakistan.

Question: What is the latest news regarding the recent spate of terror attacks in Sri Lanka. How many Pakistanis have been injured in the attack and whether any casualties took place or not? (Mr. Adeel Warriach – Dunya TV)

Supplementary Question: Has Pakistan offered assistance to the Sri Lankan authorities, specifically regarding sharing forensic science laboratory technology? (Mr. Asghar Ali Mubarak – Pakistan International Press Agency)

Punjab Forensic Laboratory, Lahore has offered assistance to the Sri Lanka authorities. Can you confirm this? (Ms. Rashida Sial – Aab Tak News)

What assistance has Pakistan offered to Sri Lanka in the recent situation? (Ms. Kausar Lodhi – Prime News)

Answer: Pakistan will provide every possible assistance that Sri Lanka requests. This offer of support has been extended by the President, Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to their counterparts in Sri Lanka.

We have not received any formal request from the Sri Lankan authorities, so far. However, as stated earlier, Pakistan will provide every possible assistance to Sri Lanka. This has been conveyed at the highest level.

In response the other questions, Pakistanis residing in Sri Lanka are safe and there have been no Pakistani fatalities, in the terror attacks.

Three Pakistani Women namely Maheen Hasan, Muzna Humayun and Atika Atif, sustained injuries in the blasts and were subsequently released from the hospital. Our High Commission in Colombo visited the injured women in hospital and connected them with their families. All possible facilitation is being extended to their families. They are in the process of traveling, as per their requirements.

Question: There are reports that prominent Kashmiri leader Muhammad Yasin Malik has been hospitalized, and is critically ill; whereas, other Hurriyet leaders are also languishing in Indian Jails, particularly the notorious Tihar Jail. What has Pakistan done to raise voice against this gross injustice? (Mr. Asad Yar Khan – PTV)

Supplementary Question: The Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir has announced that he will travel to Srinagar by bus. How do you this statement?

Secondly, what have you done to resume the suspended trade between Indian and Pakistan across the Line of Control? (Mr. Raziq Mehmood Bhatti – Daily Kashmir Express)

Answer: In response to your second question, Pakistan has condemned this unilateral suspension of trade by India. We hope that trade is resumed soon, as it is a confidence building measure between the two countries.

Mr. Yasin Malik’s health is an issue of an extreme concern to us. We have issued a detailed press release in the matter and I would reiterate that he should be released. Secondly, we support his wife, Ms. Mushaal Malik’s, decision to visit him and hope that Indian authorities will issue a visa to her, so that she can see her ailing husband. Moreover, the Indian authorities have committed blatant violations of human rights and illegally incarcerated not just Mr. Yasin Malik but many other Kashmiris. These arrests have been made under various draconian laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act. We demand an immediate end to such measures and stress that the resolution of the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir should be brought about by dialogue.

Regarding the visit of the of Prime Minister of Azad Jammu & Kashmir to Srinagar, we would support any measure that can help in bringing an end to the oppression and grave human rights violations in IoK.

Question: In your recent interview, you made an allusion that Dr. Shakeel Afridi can be exchanged against Dr. Afia Siddiqui’s release. Can you please elaborate on this? (Mr. Ali Hussain – Business Recorder)

Supplementary Questions: In the same interview, you commented that Dr. Afia Siddiqui might not want to return to Pakistan, however, when her family was contacted, they rejected this statement of yours. Your comments please? (Ms. Parveen Bobi – AVT)

How can you exchange Dr. Shakeel Afridi, as he is a Pakistani citizen? (Mr. Sib Kaifee – Arab News)

Has the official stance of the State of Pakistan regarding Dr. Shakeel Afridi changed because your recent statement is in contravention to the earlier stated positions? (Mr. Aun Sherazi – Such TV)

Answer: The remarks were quoted out of context. We are in touch with Dr. Afia and her family and we will continue our efforts to bring her back to Pakistan. We encourage responsible journalism.

We continue raising the issue in Islamabad as well as in Washington. We remain engaged with the US authorities. Our Consul General in Houston regularly visits Dr. Afia. The last visit took place on 18 April 2019.

Question: Did the Prime Minister of Pakistan raise the issue of Ormara terror attack during his meeting with the President of Iran? (Ms. Rashida Sial – Aab Tak News)

Supplementary Questions: The Foreign Minister recently stated that Pakistan is going to fence its border with Iran. Has the Iranian government agreed to this?

Answer: The Foreign Minister has already commented on the fencing of border with Iran. I have nothing more to add.

In response to the first question, the Prime Minister during his visit to Iran has stated that security issues and concerns of both sides need to be resolved completely through close engagement of concerned agencies. Both sides are ready to address this subject comprehensively.

Question: The Special Representatives of Russia, China and the USA will participate in the Tripartite talks in Moscow. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad will also be a part of these talks. Has Pakistan been taken into confidence regarding these talks? (Mr. Muhammad Jaleel – VoA)

Answer: Pakistan’s position is quite clear that we want an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and support all dialogues in this regard.

Question: Senator Rehman Malik has stated that Daesh is present in Pakistan, and operating for the past three years. How do you see this statement? (Mr. Haider Sherazi – G-TV)

Answer: Our position is clear. However, this question pertains to the Ministry of Interior.

Question: When is Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expected to visit Pakistan? (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)

Answer: There is no final date of his visit, yet.

Question: Was the issue of mediation between Yemen and Saudi Arabia raised during the visit of the Prime Minister to Iran? (Mr. Zaheer Khan – Samaa TV)

Answer: I have already spoken on the matters that came under consideration during the Prime Minister’s visit to Iran.

Question: Reportedly a firing range is being constructed in the US Embassy, Islamabad. Your comments please? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malik – Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: No firing range is being constructed in the US embassy. Islamabad police and US embassy are cooperating for up-gradation of Islamabad Capital Territory’s firing range facilities. The Ministry of Interior is the line Ministry in this subject.

Question: What is Pakistan’s position on arrests of Pakistani wives in China and the Chinese training camps? (Mr. Gauhar Abbas – AFP)

Answer: We have already given a comprehensive answer on this subject. I do not have anything to add.

Question: When is Alice Wells expected to visit Islamabad? And what matters would come under consideration during the visit? (Mr. Sib Kaifee – Arab News)

Answer: The dates have not been finalized yet.

Question: The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit China today. What is on the agenda of this visit? Secondly, please comment on the anti-Muslim agenda of BJP in India. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Supplementary Question: The Prime Minister will meet the respective Presidents of IMF and the World Bank. Will the issue of IMF package with Pakistan come under consideration? (Mr. Naveed Akbar – Aaj TV)

Answer: The Prime Minister’s visit to China is highly significant and a comprehensive press release will be issued soon, containing the details of the visit. The Prime Minister will have important meetings with the Chinese leadership and with other international leaders.

In response to your question regarding the agenda of BJP, we have consistently condemned the actions taken against the minorities in India, not specifically against the Muslims only, but regarding other minorities including Christians and Dalits as well. We impress upon the government of India to ensure that the minorities are treated in light of the international conventions and laws.

Question: Iran denounces the US talks with Taliban. Has the Iranian leadership shared these concerns with Prime Minister Imran Khan? Why is Pakistan not a part of the dialogue taking place in Moscow? (Ms. Rabia Peer – VoA Dewa Radio)

Answer: I have already commented on both these questions and have nothing more to add.

Question: Prime Minister Imran Khan raised the gross violations of human rights by the Indian authorities in Occupied Jammu & Kashmir during his press briefing with the Iranian President? But why did the Iranian President not mention these human rights violations in his address?

Secondly, regarding the situation in Gilgit-Baltistan, it is also a disputed territory in conjunction with the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, as you have consistently stated. I would like to ask that Pakistan raises its voice regarding the situation in India Occupied Jammu & Kashmir but you have never highlighted the human rights violations in Gilgit-Baltistan, as a number of Pakistanis have been arrested unjustly by the application of anti-terrorism laws in this region. Your comments please? (Mr. Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)

Answer: It is your right to question. However, questions should not be couched in negative tone and tenor. I have always supported your right to question and would continue to do so. But it is my suggestion that questions should be based on facts. There is no comparison between the situation in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan does not apply the draconian laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or the Public Safety Act like the Indian authorities. We have just deliberated upon the unjust, unethical and immoral incarceration of Mr. Yasin Malik and other Kashmiris in Indian jails. His wife, Ms. Mushaal Malik wants to travel to India and meet her ailing husband but it might be difficult as India would be unwilling to cooperate even on that. There have been more than 80,000 deaths and mass rapes perpetrated by the Indian Forces, as highlighted by the APPKG and OHCHR as well. Thus, I would reiterate that there is no parallel between Gilgit-Baltistan and the Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

In response to your first question, you should see the joint statement issued by Pakistan and Iran. In that statement, the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir and our stance on the issue has garnered emphatic support from the Iranian side. There is an entire paragraph which calls for the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in light of the UN Security Council’s resolutions. This is a significant victory of our diplomatic endeavours which should not be discounted or downplayed by anyone. The Kashmiris greatly appreciate the stance taken by Iran on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Question: Did the Prime Minister of Pakistan discuss Iran-Pakistan Gas pipeline project with the Iranian leadership? Is there any hope of the project gaining momentum? (Mr. Zargoon Shah – Geo TV)

Answer: Yes, the IP gas pipeline project was also discussed, among other projects. Both sides expressed their commitment and agreed to work closely for the implementation of the project.

Question: Was the matter of Mr. Masood Azhar discussed during the meeting of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi with his Chinese counterpart?

Secondly, Pakistan has released over 300 Indian prisoners and 60 more will be released soon. Has the Indian government reciprocated this gesture? (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)

Answer: No, India has not reciprocated, as yet.

In response to your first question, any decision on Mr. Masood Azhar will be taken in the national interest.

Question: Afghan government linked the finalization of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan Free Trade Agreement with the opening of Wahga Border for transit trade. Resultantly, the World Bank funded project was dropped because of this impasse. Would you like to comment on this? (Mr. M. Jaleel – VoA)

Answer: This is a very interesting question, however, I do not have details on this issue at the moment but will get the details and revert to you.

Question: In February, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Muhammad bin Salman announced the release of Pakistani prisoners in the Saudi jails. What is the update on the 3400 Pakistani prisoners languishing in Saudi jails as stated by the Foreign Minister? (Mr. Sib Kaifee – Arab News)

Answer: There is no delay. We are pursuing it actively and good news will be given soon.

Question: A Parliamentary delegation comprising Parliamentarians from the SAARC countries was sent to the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir to monitor the elections. Did Pakistan also send observers in the SAARC delegation? (Mr. Asghar Ali Mubarak – Pakistan International Press Agency)

Answer: This question pertains to the Election Commission of Pakistan. But I will get the details and respond soon.

Question: Afghan government closed the only Pakistani bank in Kabul. What is the update on that? (Ms. Kausar Lodhi – Prime News)

Answer: We have sought details from the relevant Ministry but have not received a response yet.

Question: European Commission has blacklisted many countries including Pakistan. Has the European leadership been contacted at the highest level in this regard? (Mr. Faisal Raza Khan – 92-News)

Answer: We have already given details on this matter, however, I will send the details again.

Question: What is the update on the situation in Libya?

Secondly, please also update on the current status of Kartarpur Corridor? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malik – Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: Pakistan is keen that the Kartarpur Corridor becomes operational as per the schedule. However, the meetings are dealyed as the Indian government is not willing to hold the delegation level meeting at this juncture.

Regarding your question on Libya, our embassy is in contact with the Pakistani community there and we are following the evolving situation vigilantly. The safety of our citizens in Libya is of paramount importance to us and we are working actively in this regard.

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