March 2, 2023| Media Briefing, Press Releases|
[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Thank you for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.
Let me begin with the recent tragic case of Pakistanis who were onboard a vessel that capsized off the coast of Italy on 26th January 2023. Two Pakistani nationals have lost their lives in the tragic incident. 17 Pakistanis have been rescued while two individuals are still missing. Our Embassy in Rome remains actively engaged with the Italian authorities for the welfare of the survivors and transportation of the mortal remains of the deceased.
In a separate tragic incident, thus far 7 Pakistani nationals have perished in a boat wreck near Benghazi, Libya. Embassy of Pakistan in Libya is facilitating the process of identification of the bodies and transportation of the mortal remains to Pakistan with the support of local authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Embassy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are also in contact with the families of the deceased.
Today, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar participated in the High-Level Meeting of the Conference on Disarmament held in Geneva. In a recorded video message, she spoke about the importance of addressing the existing and emerging risks to global and regional security. She expressed Pakistan’s concerns about the troubling trends on display in South Asia, which are straining the security environment; heightening risks to regional peace and stability; reinforcing a sense of impunity; and freezing pathways to conflict resolution through peaceful means.
The Minister of State outlined Pakistan’s vision and policy for peaceful neighborhood on the basis of universally agreed principles; sovereign equality and undiminished security for all States; and pacific settlement of disputes. She also reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world and its desire for a renewed paradigm for arms control.
Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar also participated virtually in the High-Level Segment of the 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council being held in Geneva. In her statement, she reaffirmed Pakistan’s full commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and outlined Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen its domestic human rights architecture by enacting progressive laws, and improving their implementation, upgrading institutional support, and reinforcing parliamentary and judicial oversight.
The Minister of State invited international attention to the situation of human rights in IIOJK, called for the protection of the rights of the Kashmiris in the occupied territory, and urged the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present an updated report and apprise this Council about the grave human rights situation there.
She reiterated Pakistan’s strong condemnation of the recent burnings of the Holy Quran in Europe, expressed our concerns about rising Islamophobia and stereotyping of Muslims, and called for confronting the underlying drivers and actors fanning deliberate hate and incitement to violence.
Minister of Economic Affairs Division, Mr. Ayaz Sadiq is leading the Pakistan delegation to the Summit of the Contact Group of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on post COVID-19 pandemic global recovery. The Summit, which is being held in Baku from 1-3 March 2023, aims to formulate NAM’s vision and strategy for promoting the agenda of post-pandemic recovery at international platforms. It would also put forward an initiative of establishing UN High-Level panel on Post-COVID-19 Global Recovery.
As this is the first media briefing for the month of March, I would like to update you on the ongoing human rights violations in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) during February.
Last month, the Indian troops killed five Kashmiris – two of them while in custody. As many as 115 youth were arbitrarily arrested while seven were injured as Indian forces continued to use brute force on peaceful protesters. The so-called “cordon and search operations” that totaled 193 last month, remain a tool for the occupation forces to intimidate and harass the Kashmiris.
Meanwhile, over four thousand Kashmiri political leaders, activists, youth, students and human rights defenders continue to remain incarcerated in different jails across India and in IIOJK. They are being targeted for their valiant struggle for their rights and freedoms.
Pakistan will continue to raise its voice against the grave human rights violations in IIOJK. We will also continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.
I would now make some upcoming visits announcements.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will visit New York in the context of the Conference on “Women in Islam: Understanding the rights and Identity of Women in the Islamic World”. This Conference being held on 8 March 2023 is an initiative of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. It is being convened by Pakistan in its capacity as the chair of the OIC Council of Ministers at the UN Headquarters on the sidelines of the 67th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
The objective of the Conference is to bridge the perception-reality gap on the rights of women in Islam and to counter gender stereotypes that are often associated with Muslim women. The Conference will celebrate the experiences and successes of iconic Muslim women so as to inspire younger generations around the world.
The conference will have High-Level and Policy Dialogue segments. Foreign Minister will chair the High-Level segment. We expect ministerial level participation from OIC Member States and non OIC states, in addition to the leadership of the United Nations, UN Women and other international organizations.
On 10th of March, Foreign Minister will headline an event on Islamophobia in New York. It may be recalled that last year, at the initiative of Pakistan, the United Nations General Assembly declared 15 March as the Day to Combat Islamophobia.
Lastly, Germany’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Tobias Lindner will visit Pakistan from 4-7 March 2023. He will meet with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and review bilateral relations between Pakistan and Germany. Discussions will be held inter-alia on economic cooperation, climate change and regional matters of mutual interest. This will be his first visit to Pakistan.
This visit is taking place within days of the visit of the Foreign Minister and Minister of State to Germany for the Munich Security Dialogue. The visit will also build on the recent visits exchanged between the two sides last year at the level of Foreign Ministers. We will continue to pursue enhanced engagement and dialogue with Germany.
I thank you.
Question: Is Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq is intact on his position? If not, then what are the reasons for his resignation?
Secondly, hundreds of trucks laden with goods were stuck at Torkham border. What is the update regarding the movement of these trucks at Torkham? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: I would like to refer you to the statement made by Ambassador Sadiq on Twitter, where he explained the reasons why he has tendered his resignation. I have nothing further to add on that.
As far as the border is concerned, the border is open and trade and people to people interaction between Pakistan and Afghanistan are ongoing.
Question: Today marks completion of 33 years of the worst human rights violation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, when Indian security forces carried out massive firing on peaceful Kashmiri demonstrators in front of the UN building in Srinagar. Despite passing of 33 years, no justice has been given to the victim’s families. What are your remarks on this?
Secondly, since last week when Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Pakistan there have been widespread rumors and speculations that the top nuclear body official was here in Pakistan to inspect the nuclear military installations and there have been some rumors that Pakistan has opened up its military nuclear installations for inspection. What are your comments on this, please? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: In one of the earlier briefings, we commented on both these topics, but I’m pleased to answer both questions again. First of all, regarding the tragic incident that happened in IIOJK 33 years ago today, is a sad reminder that international community is yet to pay the rightful attention to the Kashmir dispute where the people of IIOJK continue to face widespread brutal oppression at the hands of the Indian occupying forces. It is also a travesty of justice that those responsible for such incidents have yet to be held to account. Pakistan has continued to draw international attention and will continue to raise the cause of Kashmiri people at every relevant forum as we have been doing for the last several decades.
With regard to the visit of Mr. Rafael Mariano Grossi to Pakistan, we have made the situation very clear, very forcefully and very clearly that Director General, IAEA visited Pakistan in the pursuance of the mandate of IAEA which is focused on cooperation in civilian uses of nuclear technology including power generation, agriculture and health care for cancer treatment. So, during the visit of Mr. Grossi, there was no discussion on Pakistan’s nuclear programme which is defensive in nature. It was not on our agenda and no decisions or agreements were made with respect to Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
Question: U.S. State Department has released a report which mentions that there are different terrorist organizations operating in Pakistan including Baloch Liberation Army, TTP and Islamic State Khorasan Group, that they have the capacity to carry out terrorist activities and that they have training camps in tribal areas. Is Pakistan looking into this matter and what kind of help Pakistan needs from other countries to deal with these matters? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer: We will comment on the contents of the report in due course. I would however, like to say that the people of Pakistan, the leadership of Pakistan, Pakistan’s security and military establishment are all fully aware of the challenge that we face in terms of terrorism and we believe that we are fully equipped and have the capacity to defeat this threat.
Question: EU Disinfo Lab has released another report regarding India which states that Indian Government News Agency is carrying out anti-Pakistan propaganda to discredit Pakistan entirely based on fake news. A similar report was also released earlier. What are your comments on this latest report? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News)
Answer: This latest report by EU Disinfo Lab once again corroborates our long-held position about some Indian media outlets unrelenting smear campaign against Pakistan. The report illustrates how a number of nonexistent organizations, bloggers and journalists have been regularly quoted by Asian News Agency (ANI), a prominent news agency in India. We have been consistently sensitizing the international community about India’s ill intentions to malign Pakistan through structures of fake organizations in media and think tanks and we will continue to do so.
Question: On 23rd February, a high-level delegation from Pakistan led by Defense Minister Khawaja Asif visited Afghanistan and met the Afghan authorities. They were there to resolve the issues facing Pakistan and Afghanistan. Are you in a position to give us some update that what is the outcome of that visit and what is the reason that our Ambassador to Afghanistan is still in Pakistan? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN)
Answer: First, I briefed you in detail about the visit of the Minister for Defense to Afghanistan. The Minister led a high-level delegation to Kabul where discussions focused on counter-terrorism and security matters were discussed in detail. As I said in our last briefing, these discussions are sensitive in nature. We would not like to discuss the details in public about the nature of the discussions that took place in Kabul.
As far as the Pakistan’s Head of Mission to Afghanistan is concerned, we are still evaluating the conditions which would permit us to take a decision regarding his return to his post in Kabul.
Question: As you mentioned in your statement seven Pakistanis lost their lives in Libya. Of the 150 people only 87 have been recovered till now and remaining people are still missing. Among them how many were Pakistani nationals? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Daily Maddar/ Royal News)
Supplementary Question:Since these two different incidents are examples of human trafficking and human smuggling, which is a global issue. Did the Italian and Libyan authorities share any information regarding the individuals involved in sending these Pakistanis abroad and are we doing something to arrest those people? (Aizaz Syed, GEO News)
Supplementary Question:What steps are being taken at the government to government level to prevent this human smuggling? A number of ministries are involved and there have been series of inter-ministerial meetings in the Government of Pakistan on this issue, but almost every month we are listening and watching reports of Pakistanis trying to reach Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and several other countries. What actions or what steps are being taken to prevent these incidents which ultimately lead to the tragedies and disasters? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Supplementary Question:In this tragedy, a female Pakistani sports person who was also the member of Pakistan team died. What are your comments that people of such caliber are being forced to leave country and seek refuge through illegal means in Europe or other countries? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Supplementary Question:About the incident that happened in Libya, it is being reported that 87 people have been recovered till now and a search operation is underway to find the remaining people. Have families of any individuals contacted Foreign Office that their loved ones also went and they have no contact with them anymore?(Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination)
Answer: First of all, I must say that we are talking about a human tragedy that has taken place. It is always a very sad occasion for this Ministry or for any of our embassies to announce such tragic incidents or details of causalities. Secondly, in incidents where not everyone involved is going through regular legal channels it is difficult for government authorities and especially our embassies to ascertain details about individuals who may not have their papers with them. So, the Government of Pakistan and this Ministry have been very careful in making any announcements. We are sharing information with the media, which is accurate and based on evidence. You were right, according to our count thus far seven individuals have perished in the Benghazi incident. We are in contact, as I said earlier, with local authorities as well as the Red Cross to access the bodies, to identify them and to make sure that we have the accurate information before we make any announcements. We are also in contact with families and are trying to facilitate by providing them information about their loved ones. I would not like to share the names of the victims at this stage. At some point we will be releasing the names as identified authentically with their documents and confirmed by their families. Lastly, I would like to say that these tragic incidents take place when unscrupulous individuals try to take advantage of people who may be interested in traveling abroad for livelihood. The Government of Pakistan is very cognizant of the situation and measures are being taken to address it.
Question: A person who was rescued in this incident shared that 23 Pakistanis are still missing at the moment. That’s why I’m asking you the question that how many Pakistanis are involved in this incident? Do you have any confirmation regarding number of Pakistanis still missing?
Secondly, there are many Pakistani prisoners in Saudi Arabia. What is Pakistan’s Mission doing for their legal aid and support? According to their records how many people are facing imprisonment till today?
Thirdly, is government taking any measures to procure cheap oil from Russia and Iran? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Daily Maddar/ Royal News)
Answer:I think I’ve answered your first question. When people do not travel through normal channels, it is challenging to access such information. Our announcement thus far are based on information obtained after we were able to access the survivors, or when there is access to a dead body. We take all precautions to confirm that the individual is actually a Pakistani national including on the basis of authentic Pakistani documents.
In this context we are in contact, not just with the relevant embassies here, but also the authorities in Libya and in Italy to identify the victims, to retrieve the bodies, to provide relief to the survivors and then to ensure that the mortal remains are transferred back to Pakistan.
Secondly, I do not have the list of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi Arabia. I will check with our relevant department.
On your third question, I have answered this question in almost every briefing. Pakistan will continue to look for opportunities to provide relief to its people, including in terms of provision of cheap and affordable energy sources, and for that we are in regular dialogue with several friendly countries.
Question: One last supplementary question regarding the previous discussion is that whether the survivors are free or they are in the custody of Italian and Libyan law enforcement agencies. What is the status of those Pakistani citizens who survived?
Secondly, G-20 Foreign Ministers are meeting in India including the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Would you like to share any concern or encouragement for them to play a role for stabilization of situation in South Asia, especially between India and Pakistan? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: On your second question, Pakistan is not a member of G-20, so we do not have any comment to offer on the meeting taking place in India.
Regarding your first question, I would like to say that our mission in Italy has met with survivors of the boat wreck and they seem to be in good physical health. At this stage I would not say that they are in custody but I have to confirm the exact location of Pakistani survivors. So, on the second part of your question, we will revert.
Question: We did ask this question earlier that what are your comments regarding a Pakistani journalist Mr. Fawad Shah who was allegedly deported from Malaysia but now Mr. Shah has turned up in a Pakistani prison. Syed Fawad Ali Shah was deported to Pakistan from Malaysia in August 2022. Allegedly despite having refugee status based on Pakistani Government’s allegedly fabricated request that claimed that Shah was a police officer subjected to a disciplinary proceeding. As claimed by his family, Mr. Syed Fawad Ali Shah spent five and a half months in one of the cells of FIA where he was allegedly tortured before being transferred to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, and then he has been reportedly transferred to Peshawar. As reported and claimed by his family Syed Fawad Ali Shah is facing allegedly fabricated and baseless charges, like defamation and intimidation of officials as well as posting false frivolous and fake information online and critical coverage about Pakistani government and intelligence agencies. ‘Journalists Without Borders’ has also requested the Pakistani government to release him immediately. We request your comments on this matter.(Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)
Answer: I would like to say that this case is before the courts and I would not like to pass judgment on any statement made by Mr. Shah or anybody else, including the media. The courts will hear the evidence and justice will be done in this case.
Question: It has been reported that a Pakistan delegation is working on the Kishanganga Dam project. Can you share some details on the working of this delegation? (Rana Imran, Daily Awami Rang)
Secondly, a few days ago it was shared in the Public Accounts Committee that budget of Foreign Office has been slightly reduced. Will this have an impact on the working of Pakistan’s Missions abroad? What are your comments?
Supplementary Question: As you shared that Pakistan is hosting a conference on Islam and Women in New York. Would you mind sharing what is the cost of that conference and who is bearing that? (Azaz Syed, GEO News)
Answer: Regarding your first question, proceedings of the case currently underway before a Court of Arbitration in The Hague and a Neutral Expert pertain to the dispute between Pakistan and India on the Kishanganga and Ratle Hydroelectric Projects. Pakistan believes that these projects were developed in violation of the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty. So, Pakistan is ably represented in these proceedings; we believe we have a solid case.
Regarding your question about the budget, I think this question was asked last time as well. I have said that the Cabinet of Pakistan has taken certain decisions, according to which a range of proposals have been made for austerity and budget control. These proposals apply to all government departments and entities. This Ministry is also considering various austerity proposals so as to contribute to this national effort. I would like to say that the Pakistan Foreign Office will continue to perform its responsibilities as is expected from us. As regards, the Conference on Islamophobia, and the conference on women in Islam being held in New York next week, I would like to confirm that this conference is taking place at the premises of the United Nations.
Question: A lady Maham Amjad contacted Foreign Minister to extradite the murderer of her father from Dubai to Pakistan. What efforts have been undertaken by Foreign Office for provision of justice to this woman?
Secondly, a delegation from U.S. recently visited Pakistan and met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif; also the agreement with IMF has not been finalized yet, based on these developments there is an impression that Pakistan is being pressurized to recognize Israel to get out of the current situation? What are your comments on this? (Ghulam Abbas Jaffar, Daily District News)
Answer: I would like to say that Pakistan’s position on Palestine is very clear. We have spoken about it several times including at our last briefing. Basically what we have said is that Pakistan will continue to support the people of Palestine. We call for the establishment of an independent state of Palestine on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. So, I do not understand why this question has arisen when we have been making this position clear, again and again, including in my last briefing. As for your other question, I do not know the particulars of that case and we will need to check before responding.
Question: As we have seen that after the establishment of caretaker government in Afghanistan, not only the attacks by TTP on Pakistan have increased substantially but TTP has also strengthened its position in some areas of Pakistan. We have also seen that talks were also underway with TTP and recently a high-level delegation led by Minister of Defence also visited Afghanistan. My question is that currently are there any talks going on with TTP at any level or not? If not, is there any possibility of resumption of talks with TTP in near future or not? (Ghazala Naureen, Suno TV)
Supplementary Question: What are your comments on the recent country report by State Department which mentions TTP and other terrorist organizations?(Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)
Supplementary Question: Do negotiations with TTP come under the purview of Foreign Office or not? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN)
Answer: Ministry of Interior is responsible for all matters related to internal security as is clearly outlined in the rules of business. I would therefore advise you to contact the Ministry of Interior for these developments.
Question: Pakistani community in Portugal has shared concerns regarding Pakistan Embassy in Portugal, Foreign Office and the Embassy of Portugal in Pakistan. The concerns relate to a problem which involves attestation of police character certificate by Foreign Office and then it has to be attested from Embassy of Portugal also. The issue is that Embassy of Portugal is not giving dates for appointment which is putting thousands of Pakistanis in Portugal at risk of losing their resident status. What action has been taken by Foreign Office regarding this matter? (Saqib Ali, Daily Kashmir Times)
Answer: I need to check exact details on this issue.
Question: Yesterday, a woman died at Angur Ada border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan who was waiting for the past three to four days to cross the border. Does Foreign Office have any detailed report about this? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer: Okay, I have to check on that. I don’t have details about this incident.
Question: A few days ago, a migrated Kashmiri person Bashir Ahmad was brutally murdered here in Islamabad. The important thing is that he was linked to a Jihadist organization in IIOJK. After his assassination, Indian media is carrying out propaganda that this has been done by them and they are taking credit for it. What does Pakistan’s Foreign Office has to say on this? (Syed Faisal Ali, Daily State Views)
Answer: I would only like to say that Indian media routinely makes tall claims that reflect the bravado that is prevalent in their political system. You have already seen and I have already commented on the latest Disinfo Lab report on how their media operates and is being used to project their foreign policy agenda. I have no further comments to add on that.
Question: Is there any backchannel diplomacy going on between Pakistan and India? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: At this stage, there is no back channel between Pakistan and India.
Last modified: March 2, 2023
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