[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 begin with the two-day official visit of the Prime Minister Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif to Türkiye from 25-26 November 2022. President Erdogan had extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to participate in the launching ceremony of PNS Khaibar at the Istanbul Shipyard. PNS Khyber is the third of the four MILGEM Corvette Ships built for Pakistan Navy by Turkish state-owned defence company M/s ASFAT under a contract signed in 2018.
In Istanbul, the Prime Minister held wide-ranging consultations with President Erdogan in both one-on-one and delegation level formats. The Prime Minister conveyed deepest condolences of Pakistan over the terrorist bomb attack on Istiklal Street in Istanbul on 13 November 2022. Bilateral relations, the regional situation and other issues of mutual interest were discussed at length. The two leaders agreed to further deepen bilateral ties, increase trade and economic engagement, and strengthen strategic dialogue and defence cooperation. They also discussed energy and connectivity projects.
The Prime Minister also met with the President of ECO Trade and Development Bank (ETDB) and leaders of the Turkish business community. In an address to the business leaders at an event organized by Foreign Economic Relations Board of Türkiye (DEIK), the Prime Minister highlighted the investment opportunities in Pakistan especially in food processing, hospitality, construction, IT services and e-commerce. He expressed confidence that the recently-signed Trade in Goods Agreement (TGA) will trigger higher volumes of bilateral trade.
Pakistan and Turkiye are close friends and partners and will continue to maintain robust dialogue and engagement at all levels.
As you know the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar undertook a one-day visit to Afghanistan on 29 November 2022. In Kabul, she held meetings with Amir Khan Mutaqqi, Acting Foreign Minister, Abdul Salam Hanafi, Deputy Prime Minister, Shahabuddin Delawar, Minister for Mines and Petroleum and Haji Nooruddin Azizi, Commerce Minister of the Afghan Interim Government. During the visit she discussed a range of bilateral issues including cooperation in education, health, agriculture, trade and investment, regional connectivity, people-to-people contacts and socioeconomic projects. Matters related to regional security were also discussed.
During her engagements, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to a peaceful, prosperous, stable and connected Afghanistan. She underscored that the two countries were not only tied by bonds of religion, culture and history but their futures were also intrinsically linked. Pakistan, therefore, had a natural stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan. During the last twenty years, Pakistan has continued to follow this policy.
The Minister of State also highlighted the need for practical engagement especially in the areas of trade, commerce, connectivity and socio-economic development. Both sides had similar views on enhanced regional connectivity including projects such as CASA1000 and TAPI gas pipeline project. There was a shared intention to enhance bilateral economic trade and transit trade.
The Minister of State held a luncheon meeting with a delegation of Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce, led by their Vice Chair, Mumtaz Yusufzai. Acknowledging the important role being played by women in the economic development of Afghanistan, the Minister of State encouraged further strengthening of bonds between the enterprises of Pakistan and Afghanistan. She also assured the Women enterprises of Pakistan’s willingness to facilitate women-led businesses exporting items to Pakistan. Pakistan will also facilitate Afghanistan in access to healthcare and facilitate those coming to Pakistan for medical treatment.
This week’s visit of the Minister of State to Kabul was meant to convey the importance that Pakistan accords to its longstanding fraternal ties with Afghanistan. We wished to reiterate Pakistan’s commitment to work with Afghanistan to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation across the entire spectrum of our bilateral relations. We wish to pursue a dialogue to further expand and consolidate ties with Afghanistan in the areas of economy and trade, connectivity and people-to-people contacts. We also wanted to discuss how the two countries could together work towards unlocking the inherent potential of Afghanistan, as a hub of connectivity and regional integration, with benefits for the entire region.
From Pakistan’s perspective, the visit carried great significance. This was the first high-level political visit from Pakistan in the last several months and a tangible manifestation of our intention to continue our engagement with Afghanistan and to discuss all issues of concern to Pakistan.
In the various meetings, our key concerns and preferences were clearly spelt out in a candid and constructive manner. The two sides agreed to develop institutional mechanisms for robust follow up to address various bilateral issues. Going forward, Pakistan will continue to maintain this momentum.
As part of Pakistan’s deepening engagement with the European Union and its member states, Acting Foreign Secretary Jauhar Saleem undertook a two-day visit to Luxembourg and Brussels. In Luxembourg, the Acting Foreign Secretary led the inaugural session of Pakistan-Luxembourg Bilateral Political Consultations on 28 November 2022. The Consultations provided an important opportunity to review and discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, including ways to expand trade and investment and fostering partnerships in green economy. Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in the education, health, science and technology and developing start-up linkages.
On 29 November, the Acting Foreign Secretary co-chaired the 8th Round of Pakistan-European Union Political Dialogue in Brussels. In the dialogue, a wide range of areas were discussed. The two sides agreed to intensify engagement and dialogue to promote political ties and trade and investment relations. GSP plus, migration issues, education and climate change were discussed. Issues of regional and global importance also came under discussion. We see the political dialogue with the EU as a key institutional mechanism to foster dialogue and cooperation and to strengthen our multifaceted ties in all areas of mutual interest.
You may have seen a statement released by the Prime Minister of Pakistan on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Palestinian people have suffered under illegal Israeli occupation for over seven decades. In his statement, the Prime Minister reiterated Pakistan’s unwavering support to the people of Palestine. Pakistan continues to support a two-state solution of the Palestinian issue, as enshrined in relevant United Nations resolutions. We reiterate our call for the establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine on the basis of internationally agreed parameters of the pre-1967 borders, with Al Quds al Sharif as its capital.
The recent statement by former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shankersinh Vaghela and Amit Shah, India’s Home Minister have confirmed BJP leadership’s direct involvement in anti-Muslim violence during the horrific Gujarat riots of 2002 that led to the massacre of over two thousand Muslims. It is an internationally acknowledged fact that Mr. Modi who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat was directly responsible for fomenting anti-Muslim riots and the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat.
In 2002, this massacre was perpetrated for BJP’s political gains and twenty years later, once again BJP is fomenting communal hatred for political gains including in the upcoming elections in Gujarat. India must end the ongoing incitement to communal violence and constitute an independent Commission of Inquiry to bring to justice the culprits of the horrific Godhra incident and the Gujarat riots.
The 6th of December this year marks the 30 years of the demolition of Babri Mosque by BJP-RSS zealots. It serves as a reminder that space has become restricted for minorities in India.
Pakistan is also seriously concerned over the decision this week by Indian National Investigation Agency’s Delhi court to award life imprisonment to five innocent Kashmiri youth in a fabricated case. These young Kashmiris were denied justice because of their Kashmiri background. This case, like countless others, is reflective of India’s continued campaign to suppress the voice of Kashmiris and to deny them their rights.
In IIOJK, the Modi regime is continuing to pursue the Hindutva agenda of RSS and disempowering Kashmiris by turning them into a minority in their own land. In its latest move, it has added over 700,000 new voters in the electoral rolls. Majority of these so-called new voters are non-Kashmiris and retired personnel of Indian forces. The move is aimed at advancing electoral prospects of the Bharatiya Janata Party in IIOJK and clear violations of the 4thGeneva Conventions that assigns special responsibilities to the occupying power.
We call upon India to end its gross and systematic violations of human rights in IIOJK, revoke its illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019, and free all political prisoners including the true Kashmiri leaders.
I conclude my written remarks here and the floor is open for questions. Thank you.
Question:During her recent visit to Afghanistan did Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar discuss the issue of negotiations with TTP? Also, yesterday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said in his press briefing that there are no negotiations going on with TTP at any level. On their end, TTP has announced annulment of ceasefire agreement with Pakistan. Can you confirm whether any negotiations are going on with TTP at state level or not? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyaber News)
Supplementary Question: We have confirmed that Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar have discussed something important with Taliban regarding TTP, but we have no confirmation whether they are going to take action through military approach or through politics. In short, if you can tell us that Taliban in Afghanistan are going to handle TTP through soft approach or hard approach? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)
Answer: Both of the questions raised are on similar lines. The Minister of Interior, as you mentioned, made a very comprehensive briefing yesterday; I would not dilate further on that. What I would like to say is that Pakistan has suffered enormously from terrorism and there has been a lot of bloodshed and lot lots of lives have been lost. We are, therefore, seriously concerned about the terrorist activities that take place in Pakistan. As far as our discussions in Kabul are concerned, as I stated in my opening remarks, all bilateral and international issues of mutual concern were discussed during various meetings of the Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar. The Afghan side has reassured that the Afghanistan territory will not be used for terrorism against Pakistan or any other country. We hope that they will respect their promises.
Question:My question is related to the TTP. After TTP launched militant activities in Pakistan, the State Department spokesperson said that “we seek strong partnership with Pakistan counterterrorism and expect sustained action against militant and terror terrorist groups”. State Department spokesman further added that “we look forward to cooperate to efforts to eliminate all regional and global terrorist threats”. How do you see the American State Department Spokesperson’s statement regarding this follow up, following the TTP threat to launch military activities and what Pakistan can expect from United States? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA Urdu)
Answer: TTP is a threat to Pakistan, there is no denying that fact. We have suffered enormously because of the activities of terrorist groups including TTP, which has continued to target Pakistani citizens and security forces. As I said, we have received assurances of sustained counter-terrorism action against TTP and other terrorist organizations and we hope that the promises that have been made will be respected.
Question: Earlier this week we saw that Pakistan voted ‘no” at the UN Human Rights Council in the vote that called into investigations on the alleged human rights violations in Iran, in protests subsequent to the death of a Mahsa Amini. Can you explain Pakistan’s position on that? Because at one point when we go into the Human Rights Council, and seek support on the matter of Kashmir regarding human rights violations or alleged human rights violations, as it said, then why abstain or why vote no on Iran?
Secondly, last night, we saw the statement coming in on the US listing regarding TTP, but the US has still not listed the Majeed brigade as what authorities say it’s just a group of two hundred people, a group that has actively been involved in attacking Chinese interests and Chinese nationals in Pakistan. Is it a failure on the part of Pakistani diplomacy to not being able to pursue this actively with the US administration to have them listed as Specially Designated Terrorist Organization?
Thirdly, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar visited Afghanistan and you were there with her as well. Yesterday, we saw that 21 People were publicly flogged in Kabul in a statement issued by the Afghan Supreme Court that includes six women. Was this discussed as well, because this is seen as a retaliatory action or a subtle messaging by the Taliban that in less than 48 hours after you conclude your visit there is a public flogging that has happened in the city of Kabul itself? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: First, as I said earlier, all issues of concern to Pakistan were discussed in these meetings. I would like to highlight that we believe in dialogue and diplomacy and finding solutions and not all our diplomacy is conducted through the media. So I reiterate that all issues of concern were discussed.
Second, on your question regarding the listing issues – These are technical issues, which are under discussion in New York. We are in contact with our partners in New York, including the members of the UN Security Council to find a solution on this issue.
Regarding the third question about Pakistan’s vote, Pakistan has a consistent policy of not interfering in domestic affairs of countries. Decisions in respect of our votes at the United Nations are taken keeping in view these considerations.
Question:In India, incidents related to Islamophobia are on the rise and lives of Indian Muslims and other minorities are becoming difficult day by day. On the other hand we see that incidents of human rights violations in IIOJK are on the rise? In this context, is Pakistan planning to play its role by holding special sessions of OIC, other organizations of Islamic countries or UN to stop these incidents? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International/World Echo News)
Answer: First of all, as I said in my opening statement, the space for minorities in India has become very restricted. They are facing many difficulties and this is a matter of concern not just for Pakistan, but for the international community. Pakistan will continue to raise its voice against the injustice that is taking place against minorities in India. In that context, we will continue to use all forums where we think our voice needs to be heard and our viewpoint needs to be articulated.
Question: The US Department of Treasury the other day released a statement wherein they stated that the number two of Pakistani Taliban Qari Amjad has been included in the listing and declared as international terrorist. How do you see the cooperation in this regard from the United States, especially when it is being talked about that TTP is threatening again?
Secondly, during the visit to Afghanistan, a mechanism for overseeing the connectivity trade and economic cooperation was talked about. What is that mechanism about? (Shoukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: Regarding your first question, I do not have the details about the specific case that you have mentioned. But Pakistan has a very consistent policy as far as international terrorism is concerned. We have cooperated with international partners including the United States in combating international terrorism.
With regards to the Afghanistan visit and the follow up mechanism, as I mentioned earlier, the two sides discussed all issues of concern and there were many areas of agreement. It was agreed that we should continue to engage and follow up on the various issues which were discussed, including the connectivity projects. I will not go into details of any specific mechanisms that are being discussed but there are follow up mechanisms, which Pakistan wishes to revitalize.
Question: The UN Secretary General said during his visit to Pakistan that India is not listening to them. Now what forums will Pakistan look forward to highlight atrocities being committed by Indian occupation forces in IIOJK and to stop them? (Saqib Rathore, Daily Kashmir Times)
Answer: On this question I would say that Pakistan is an important country on the international stage. It is an important country in the region. So when Pakistan speaks, its voice matters. So we will continue to raise these issues of concern about the atrocities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and all avenues wherever Pakistan would get an opportunity would be effectively used to raise the Kashmir issue.
Question: Two days ago, a travel advisory was issued by UAE authorities particularly for Pakistani passport holders to keep a single name. Can you share details regarding this travel advisory? (Rizwan Abbasi, Daily Jinnah)
Answer: I do not have any information on this right now. I will share details with you later.
Question: The visit of Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Muhammad Bin Salman was postponed and various reasons were reported for that. Foreign Office stated that the new dates were being discussed. Can you share any update on the visit? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN News)
Answer: When the time will come to announce details about the visit, we will do that. Right now, it is a bit premature to share the dates of the visit.
Last modified: December 2, 2022
Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.