[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Assalam-o-Alaikum. Thank you for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.
Let me share with you at the outset, that the Prime Minister would be undertaking a visit to Qatar next week. The Foreign Minister is visiting four European countries – Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. These visits manifest continuing intense engagement and diplomacy by Pakistan. We will be sharing further details about these visits in due course.
I would like to recall the activities for the 75th anniversary of our independence.
It was an occasion to celebrate our endeavors of the past 75 years, an occasion to celebrate our people and our progress as a nation.
You saw the messages from the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.
Officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came together to pay a musical tribute to the homeland in a special rendition of song ‘Yeh Watan Tumhara Hay’ to celebrate the 𝐒𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐢𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐈𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞. We will also be hosting a special screening of the song for our media colleagues to partake the pride we feel at having been given the immense opportunity to represent our homeland internationally.
Our Embassies and Missions around the world celebrated the occasion with zeal and fervor through flag hoisting ceremonies, and a host of other events and activities that were enthusiastically attended by a large number of people from the Pakistani community, locals and host government officials.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 15th August, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a telephonic conversation with HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Crown Prince congratulated people of Pakistan on 75th Anniversary of Pakistan’s Independence. The two leaders exchanged views on issues of mutual interest.
On 17th August Mr. Julien Harneis, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, called on the Prime Minister. Various areas of UN’s work and cooperation with Pakistan including the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, flood relief, food security, and ecosystem restoration were discussed during the meeting.
On the same day, delegation from a Turkish company ‘Limak’ called on the Prime Minister and discussed new opportunities for investment in the wake of recently signed Preferential Trade Agreement between the two countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
During the week, there has been a flurry of activity at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On 17th August, the Foreign Minister received Mr. Rostam Ghasemi, Minister for Roads and Urban Development of Iran. The Foreign Minister highlighted fraternal ties between the two countries, rooted in shared history and cultural and linguistic affinities and reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.
On the same day, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had a video call with the Foreign Minister of Canada, Ms. Mélanie Joly. The Foreign Minister underlined that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Canada. He also underscored that Pakistan and Canada needed to further deepen and expand bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.
Yesterday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Secretary General of Digital Cooperation Organization Deema Al-Yahya held a meeting via video link. Comprehensive development in digital economy in all member countries including Pakistan was discussed during the meeting.
Later in the day, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also met with Deputy Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan Artykbaev Aibek Muhtarovich. During the meeting bilateral relations and matters of mutual interest including promotion of trade, tourism and enhancement of cultural relations were discussed.
Also yesterday, Pakistan hosted 2nd Session of Bilateral Political Consultations with the Kyrgyz Republic. The entire gamut of bilateral relations as well as regional and multilateral issues came under discussion.
On 17th August the Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister met the Foreign Secretary. Noting that the two countries were celebrating 30 years of the establishment of their diplomatic ties, the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s desire to further enhance multi-dimensional ties keeping in-view five planks of Pakistan’s “Vision Central Asia,” focused on political, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defence, and people-to-people exchanges.
Addressing a special ceremony to recognize achievements of participants and position holders of 40th Specialized Diplomatic Course at the Foreign Service Academy yesterday, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood stated with rightful institutional pride that over the years, Pakistani diplomats have proven their mettle on the world stage, earning praise for their skills and professionalism, from friends and foes alike. He expressed confidence in the young officers and wished them personal and professional success.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Coming over to the situation in IIOJK.
In a blatant display of state terrorism, Indian police took a political prisoner Mohammad Ali Hussain from Kothbalwal Jail Jammu and brought him at Toph Arnia area and killed him in a staged encounter. The killing of Mohammad Ali Hussain under mysterious circumstances at a location far away from the prison is yet another sickening chronicle and a dastardly practice of extra-judicial killing of prisoners in fake encounters by the Indian forces in occupied Kashmir.
This is the second such extrajudicial killing of a prisoner – as you would recall Zia Mustafa, from Rawlakot, was taken out of the Kothbalwal jail Jammu and brought to forests in Poonch by the Indian troops and subsequently killed in firing in October 2021.
Pakistan also categorically rejects the deliberate Indian attempts of pre-poll rigging and overt manipulation in IIOJK. Kashmiris themselves have also completely rejected the Modi government’s decision to allow non-Kashmiri citizens and temporary residents in IIOJK, to vote in the so-called Kashmir Assembly elections.
The move reeks of a blatant attempt to undermine the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir and the sinister design of turning the Muslim majority in IIOJK into a minority.
Since 2019, BJP led government in India has unleashed unspeakable atrocities on the innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir. Over 660 Kashmiris have been martyred by Indian Occupational Forces, including over 145 innocent lives this year alone. These cold blooded and blatantly unlawful acts include a ruthless policy of killing and arresting Kashmiris in fake cases, seizing their properties, and dismissing them from government jobs, with a view to suppress the ongoing freedom movement.
We salute the spirit of the oppressed people of IIOJK and their indomitable quest for the right to self-determination guaranteed to them by the UN Security Council. The people of IIOJK stand strong in the face of brutal acts and have categorically rejected the BJP government’s illegal actions post August 2019.
We believe it is time for the international community to bring its moral force to bear with the Hindutva inspired BJP government of India today and to call for immediate halt of reprehensible state-backed violence, and to play its due role in ensuring a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
I thank you and am ready to take your questions.
Question: An airplane from Hyderabad India landed at Jinnah International airport Karachi and shortly after landing the special flight took off with 12 passengers onboard. Can you please share details regarding why the plane had landed at Karachi airport?(Sardar Awais Ashraf, Daily Haqeeqat)
Answer: Thank you. These matters pertain to the Civil Aviation Authority being the relevant body and I would like to refer you to them regarding these issues. There must be a proper record.
Question: Indian Air Force has deployed its first batch of S-400 Russian Missile Defence System in Adampur and Halwara Air Base, some 90-100 Km close to Pakistani border, how do you see this Indian act of pushing arms race in the region, and again a belligerent act and threat against Pakistan, how do you see that?
(Supplementary Question): Multinational Aman Exercise is round the corner, there are reports that still Russian Navy has not been extended invitation, what’s the policy regarding that? As previously Russian Navy was represented at a very high level, as in last Exercise Rear Admiral Oleg Apishev led that Russian delegation. Your take on this please.
(Supplementary Question): With reference to the US State Department Press Briefing by Mr. Ned Price, the US indicated its willingness on transferring US$3.5 billion to the Afghan Central Bank that must be used necessarily for Afghan people, but attaches strings to it, in the form of pre-conditions, safeguards and monitoring that these must not be diverted to terrorism, illegal ways and also indicated pre-emptive trust deficit in Afghan Central Bank in handling such finances, how do you see it? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)
Answer: Thank you very much. I think let’s start with the last one. You’re aware of Pakistan’s position on this issue and in fact, Pakistan was in the lead in arguing that Afghan assets abroad should be de-frozen and allowed to be utilized for the benefit of the Afghan people. Some steps were initially taken by the US administration in that regard and we welcomed that. I think we would welcome any further steps that the administration would take in that regard. We in fact, encourage that. I think there is a situation in Afghanistan that needs to be addressed with some sense of urgency. While I don’t have the technical details – how they’re going to do that, I think we have also said that this shouldn’t be done without strings attached. It should actually be done in a manner that would make it easier for the interim authorities to utilize this money. I think you are aware that the US is also amongst those countries that have provided a lot of humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan during this period.
On the Aman exercise – although your first two questions basically should be addressed to the relevant authorities – I think on the Aman exercise, this is a multinational exercise that Pakistan has been hosting, and many countries have been attending. I’m not aware of the specific invitation that you were referring to. We can find that out and you can also contact the relevant authorities.
Regarding your first question, it has been a long standing concern of Pakistan that the arms race, the imbalance that has been created and further exacerbated in our region because of India’s belligerence and unbridled acquisition of arms over the years, threatens regional peace and stability. We have clearly shared those concerns with friends, members of the international community, and have also raised these issues at the relevant forums in the United Nations. You are aware that almost over 70% of the military capability that India has acquired is actually directed, deployed against Pakistan, so obviously we are very much concerned about all related developments.
Question: About the SCO heads of states there are reports that Prime Minister will be meeting President Xi on the sidelines of SCO summit and there are also reports allegedly attributed to you that the Prime Minister will also meet the Russian President. Can you please confirm that? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Supplementary Question: Secondly, next week the SCO NSA meet has to take place. Who will be participating from Pakistan?
Answer: Thank you. On the second question, I think I’ll have to check on that. On the first question as you can understand the nature of these meetings is such that all the member states are there, the leadership is there, and it is the tradition, it’s a practice for the leaders to avail the opportunity to have bilateral interactions where possible. So you know, we work on that basis. There’s still some time till the Summit, and as soon as the bilateral meetings are fixed, and scheduled, we will obviously let you know about the meetings that will be taking place.
Question: My question is regarding the intelligence cooperation between the Pakistan and the United States of America. With regards to recent incidents in Afghanistan, targeting of Ayman al-Zawahiri and killing of Omar Khalid Khorasani, is there any cooperation still going on from Pakistan side? In achieving these high-profile targets, was there any role of Pakistan? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)
Answer: I think I’ve responded to such questions in the past and I would again refer you to the statement, the exact statement that we issued after that incident. Have no further comments on that.
Question: My question is regarding TTP militants which were recently sighted in areas of Swat and ISPR has also confirmed this. What is the progress on that? Have those people returned to the places where they came from?
Secondly what is the benefit of fence if these people are still coming to Pakistan?
Thirdly, there are people other than TTP whom we have given different names like ‘Aman Committee’ which is working in South Waziristan and their attire is like TTP. What is Pakistan’s position on this? Are we going to take any action against such entities? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer: I think I’ve said this several times from this forum that you know, these questions actually, should better be addressed by those who are dealing with these issues on a daily basis – they are aware of the process, where it stands, and the status and dynamics.
Question: There have been reports in international media that Pakistan is providing ammunition and tanks via British Royal Air Force and there is an air bridge established between Pakistan and Romania for that purpose. Is Pakistan extending any military cooperation and providing tanks to Ukraine on the request of EU and United Kingdom?
Secondly, Pakistan proposed CBMs to India. Any response received from India on these CBMs? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: Thank you. I think you’re aware of the kind of relationship that is there with India at the moment – it is really vitiated and escalated because of India’s actions especially post 5 August, and we haven’t seen any positive signs from across the border with regard to this desire to improve relations. With regard to the first question, I am not here to comment or respond to what I refer to as open source content and unverified information. So I have no comment on that.
Question: We are seeing increasingly worsening state backed violence in Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. This includes as you mentioned the blatant attempts to alter demographic structure of IIOJK. How do you comment? (Zeeshan Ali Bhatti, PTV)
Answer: Thank you. I think you would recall that, you know, we’ve been following all these developments since India took those illegal and unilateral actions on 5th August and there has been a series of illegal actions that have followed that aimed at undermining the internationally recognized disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir and to alter the demographic composition of the occupied territory, and we have expressed our concerns consistently.
As I was referring to in my opening remarks, India has once again shown its treacherous designs to overtly manipulate the outcome of the ‘so-called’ elections that it intends to hold in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The decision to permit temporary residents, including labor, security personnel and others will add nearly 2.5 million voters to the eligible voter rolls and this is almost 1/3 of the total number of registered voters in IIOJK. So this will definitely influence the outcome of any so called elections and further suppress the Muslim vote in the valley.
Pakistan has categorically rejected this measure, as well as India’s continued attempts to undermine the Muslim majority in IIOJK through reprehensible actions including illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019, issuance of millions of fake domiciles grant of property rights to non-Kashmiris, and above all, gerrymandering through the so called “Delimitation Commission”.
We believe that the only acceptable democratic activity in the IIOJK will be a free and impartial plebiscite to be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations to ascertain the wishes of the Kashmiri people with regard to their future, as espoused in relevant UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir Dispute.
This week, we also witnessed India’s forcible display of the Indian flag in various parts of IIOJK on India’s Independence Day. The reality is that Kashmiris marked this day as Black Day in protest of the steps taken on 5th August 2019 and subsequent gross human rights violations, continued military siege, incarceration of political leadership, suppression of media and other civil society activists.
There was also another incident of extrajudicial killing of an innocent Kashmiri two days ago. The total number of extrajudicial killings has exceeded 660 as I mentioned, including over 145 this year. This is the reality of so called “normalcy” in IIOJK that India routinely attempts to portray.
So we believe that no amount of fake narrative building can alter the reality of IIOJK, which remains under Indian occupation since 1947. And the solution to this is in the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions to allow the Kashmiris to exercise their right to self-determination.
Question: With regards to the tragic incident of helicopter crash in Lasbela, a social media campaign was started on social media and some Indian accounts were found to be involved in it. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has also shared that these accounts were being operated from India. Can you please share what action is being taken by Pakistan to block or report these accounts?
(Supplementary Question) You mentioned Prime Minister’s visit to Qatar in your opening statement. Will the Prime Minister request for any financial assistance in his visit to Qatar?
(Supplementary Question) Will UN General Assembly Session be attended by the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)
Answer: Thank you, on the first question I think there are many statements from the leadership and obviously all necessary actions and counter-measures are being taken with regard to those who are involved in that malicious campaign.
For the visit to Qatar, as I said we will be sharing more information and you will come to know from us when the visit is taking place. Obviously you know in any such visit what are the areas of discussion, the agenda normally includes bilateral aspects, as well as regional and global situation. There are multiple areas of cooperation. I think economic cooperation and trade and investment are important part of that discussion.
About the UN General Assembly Session I can say that, yes, there will be high-level of participation. We will be sharing more details about that also.
Question: Still in Pakistan one segment believes that United States was involved in the conspiracy of regime change. On the other hand we see growing interactions and exchange of visits from the US. Even yesterday CENTCOM chief was here and they have also announced flood relief package for Pakistan. How do you comment on that, the damage which had been done because of this cypher crisis, is it over or is it still haunting the diplomatic course of Pakistan? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: You know, at least we have consistently said that we have to move on from that. As you mentioned, the kind of activities that are taking place, there are very intense, regular interactions and at various levels. The various interactions that the Foreign Ministers have had, the recent visit that you are referring to, the kind of assistance that is there from the US in various fields. Don’t forget the support that we received in the past two years for the COVID response – that was very important. So I think, that as far as this Ministry and the political leadership is concerned, we recognize that, and I think similar recognition is there at the other end in Washington, that this is an important relationship, which we have to build on the basis of trust, mutual interest and mutual benefit. We will continue to do that.
Question: Keeping in view the situation in Afghanistan and the region what is the current situation of working relationship between Pakistan and the United States? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: So, as I just said that we are moving forward with this relationship, we want to broaden and diversify it. Various dialogues and mechanisms of exchange are already there. There is mutual understanding at both ends that this is an important relationship. We need to strengthen this and I think there is this understanding also that whenever Pakistan and the US cooperate as they have cooperated in the past it has been very beneficial for both countries and for the region. We continue to discuss the situation in Afghanistan also.
Question: What is the current status of our agreement with USA allowing over flight lines of communications? Has it been revised and does it allow over flight of drones?
Secondly, what is the status of TTP? Is it blacklisted or not? If it is blacklisted, how is our state allowing TTP militants to move freely in our country with their weapons? (Anwar Abbas, BOL News)
Answer: The status of TTP is very clear. I don’t need to elaborate on that. And, on your first question also there are statements on record. You can refer to them.
Question: In a briefing which took place in FIA Headquarters it has been shared that 4500 Pakistanis are facing imprisonment in various prisons of our brotherly country Turkey. It was also shared that recently 5000 prisoners were freed from various prisons in Muscat. Are these reports true?
Secondly, we offer on arrival visa to 64 countries but only 30 countries have on arrival visa facility for Pakistan? What are your comments on this? (Changez Khan jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)
Answer: Some of these questions should be asked to the relevant authorities. Right now, off-hand I don’t have the figures but we have been informing you that throughout the world wherever there are Pakistanis who are in prisons, our embassies, the relevant missions, they take care of them. They keep record. This record comes to the Ministry on a regular basis. We maintain it. We also share it with the Parliament. And we provide to the Pakistanis interned abroad with all kinds of legal, economic and financial assistance while they’re serving their terms and when they are freed, efforts are made to repatriate them, and sometimes these efforts which are at a larger scale lead to the release of a larger number of people, so this is what I can say.
About the visa regime, I think it is all clear, you can look at the website. The Ministry of Interior maintains the list of countries to which such visa facilitation is provided and also Pakistan is accorded such facilities by other countries. One important thing is that we keep working on improving this situation, for example, to have more countries that would allow our official and ordinary passport holders to travel without the need for visa so we keep working on that.
Question: With regards to trade relations with India, are there any ongoing discussions to resume the suspended trade with India? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)
Question: Mr. Spokesperson, can you comment on India’s recent move to set notorious village defense committees in IIOJK to silence freedom voices and wipe out young people, who are actively involved in freedom movement. How do you see this act of fueling atrocities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K)?(Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)
Answer: Well, as I said, you know, since 5th August 2019, the situation has really deteriorated. And remember that in the run up to that they increased the deployment to over 900,000 in IIOJK which was already one of the most militarized zones in the world. So you can imagine, with 900,000 troops and paramilitary and other deployments, what kind of repressive activities they undertake, the prolonged lockdown and military siege, and communications blackout, and you would recall the dossier on human rights violations in IIOJK that we unveiled in September last year. And it had very detailed information about the kind of atrocities, extrajudicial killings, the cordon and search operations and different kind of repressive actions that the occupation forces are undertaking in order to suppress the Kashmiris. One of the elements, I think, this is what your question also relates to, is that their have been specifically targeting the youth, the young boys, and this is what they do when they raid the homes in the so-called cordon and search operations. They target the young boys and there are even reports from the Indian civil society, which refer to thousands of young boys having been taken away from their families and illegally detained, mostly incommunicado. This is one important aspect, which is there and needs to be highlighted. We would appreciate if you also through media, throw more light on this.
Question: Sir would you please highlight in general that if any Services Chief travels on any international tour, is it necessary to take on board the Embassy in that country or is it through the Defence Attaché? Will you also elaborate on the recent media reports of meeting between Mr. Nawaz Sharif and the Army Chief? When Mr. Nawaz Sharif is not an ordinary citizen and has a status of a convicted person. What are rules and regulations about this? And in these types of matters is Foreign Office usually informed or taken on board?(Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News Agency)
Answer: Don’t really understand, you are referring to the Defence Attache and the Embassy, you should know that the Defence Attache or the Defence Wing is part of the Embassy and works under the Ambassador or the High Commissioner.
Question: India has killed thousands of people in IIOJK. Recently Youm-e-Siyah was observed in Kashmir and Pakistan. India has suspended more than 10 government employees for not hoisting Indian flags in IIOJK. In a city of England a program was held by Pakistanis and Indians to jointly celebrate 14th and 15th August. Members of Pakistani consulate have participated in that event. Would you please highlight if we have any SOPs regarding participation in such events? (Rizwan Abbasi, Daily Ausaf)
Answer: I’m not aware of this particular event that you’re referring to, I will have to check.
Last modified: August 19, 2022
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