[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 ongoing official visit of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to South East Asia.
Foreign Minister is on a 3-day visit to Indonesia and Singapore. He landed in Bali, Indonesia last evening and will travel to Singapore tonight.
This morning the Foreign Minister attended the 15thBali Democracy Forum. Established in 2008, BDF aims to create a progressive democratic architecture in Asia Pacific. Pakistan last attended the Bali Democracy Forum at the level of the Foreign Minister in 2011.
At the Forum, the Foreign Minister stressed the need for democracies to reinvent themselves to be more responsive to the needs of their people. He called for reform of international financial institutions and underscored the importance of democracies in developing countries to collaborate in responding to common challenges.
Foreign Minister has held a meeting with his counterpart from Indonesia H.E. Retno Marsudi. This was their second meeting this year. They earlier met in Cambodia in August on the sidelines of ARF Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
The two Foreign Ministers reviewed the state of bilateral relations and agreed to further strengthen bilateral dialogue at all levels and pursue mutually beneficial cooperation. As the two largest Islamic countries, Pakistan and Indonesia will maintain dialogue on matters relating to the OIC and global and regional issues of mutual interest.
The two Foreign Ministers have signed a landmark MoU on establishment of a Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) at the Foreign Minister level. JMC will oversee mutually beneficial cooperation and promote regular bilateral engagement.
In Bali, Foreign Minister has also held a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina H.E. Dr. Bisera Turkovic. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed Pakistan’s desire to further strengthen our bilateral engagement with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
As we speak, the Foreign Minister is participating in the International Conference on Afghan Women Education. In his remarks, he will speak on the importance of education for women and their participation in decision-making. He will underline the need for concrete and practical assistance programs benefiting all sections of the society. Foreign Minister will also reiterate Pakistan’s strong support for the well-being and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan.
The Foreign Minister will fly to Singapore tonight for the second leg of his East Asia visit. There he will meet Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and President H.E. Halimah Yacob.
During these meetings, the Foreign Minister will emphasize the importance accorded by Pakistan to its relations with Singapore, a key partner in ASEAN. The two sides will discuss cooperation in diverse areas and measures to add momentum to bilateral relations.
The visit of the Foreign Minister to Indonesia and Singapore reflects Pakistan’s keen desire to deepen its engagement with ASEAN countries.
On the 6th of December, the 5thRound of Pakistan-Argentina Bilateral Political Consultations was held in Islamabad. It was led by Foreign Secretary, Dr. Asad Majeed Khan and Argentina’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Pablo Tettamanti. The BPC provided an opportunity for the two sides to discuss matters of mutual interest including trade, agriculture, and investment cooperation. They also discussed UN reform and climate change issues and regional matters of mutual interest.
Regarding upcoming engagements – Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) H.E. Mr. Hissein Brahim Taha will undertake a visit to Pakistan from 10-12 December 2022. This will be his first country visit to Pakistan since assuming office in November 2021.
The Secretary General will call on the Prime Minister of Pakistan and hold delegation level meeting with the Foreign Minister. He will also visit Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Issues on the agenda of OIC, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, Islamophobia and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, will be discussed. It will also be an opportunity to exchange views on economic, social and technological cooperation among OIC member countries.
As a founding member of OIC and the current Chair of Council of Foreign Ministers, Pakistan will continue to promote Islamic solidarity, unity and dialogue.
Coming to the 2nd December attack on the compound of the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul, that particularly targeted our Head of Mission, Mr. Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani. Mr. Nizamani was saved because of the timely and valiant action of his security guard Sepoy Israr Mohammad. Sepoy Israr was injured and was immediately evacuated to Pakistan. He is under treatment in CMH Peshawar.
Our Head of Mission, who is currently on a pre-scheduled visit to Pakistan, has paid a visit to Sepoy Israr. Doctors are encouraged with his progress.
The attack on our Head of Mission inside the Embassy compound is concerning. We have conveyed our serious concerns over the incident to the Afghan authorities and beefed up the security of our diplomats and Missions.
We have also noted initial reports of some arrests and claims. We are in active contact with Afghan authorities and are following the situation closely. Pakistan expects a full investigation of the attack and exemplary punishment for the perpetrators as well as the planners.
The attack of 2nd December is yet another reminder of the threat that terrorism poses to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
I would now like to express Pakistan’s deep concern and disappointment on the US State Department’s unilateral and arbitrary designation of Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
This pronouncement is detached from ground realities of Pakistan. Pakistan has a multi-religious and pluralistic society with a rich tradition of inter-faith harmony. Religious freedom and the protection of rights of minorities are guaranteed in the Constitution and enforced through a range of legislative, policy and administrative measures.
We have also noted with deep concern and disappointment that India, the biggest violator of religious freedom, has once again not been included in the State Department’s designation list despite clear recommendation by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). This conspicuous omission raises serious questions about the credibility and transparency of the entire process and makes it a subjective and discriminatory exercise.
International concerns over India’s treatment of religious minorities have been the subject of several hearings of the US Congress and reports of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Procedure Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council, and reputed international NGOs.
We have conveyed our concerns to the US government regarding this designation.
The 30th anniversary of the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque in the Indian city of Ayodhya by Hindu zealots is a sad reminder of the growing religious intolerance in India, which should not be ignored by the international community.
Pakistan has expressed its deep regrets over the non-issuance of visas to its Blind Cricket Team by India for participation in the third T-20 World Cup Cricket Tournament for the Blind. As a result of the Indian decision, Pakistani players could not attend an international sporting event of special significance. India’s practice of politicizing sporting events must end. We have conveyed our deep disappointment and regrets over this incident.
Today, I would like to speak specifically about the situation of Kashmiri journalists in IIOJK who are working under intense pressure – facing intimidation, assault and arrests.
The media policy enforced in IIOJK is aimed at curtailing free flow of information and to make media a mere propagator of India’s disinformation campaign. Kashmiri media is barred from covering the actual situation in the occupied territory and not to print statements of the APHC leaders.
A few weeks ago, a Kashmiri photo journalist, Ms. Sanna Irshad Mattoo, was stopped from travelling to New York to receive the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. Prominent journalists including Asif Sultan, Manan Gulzar Dar, Fahad Shah and Sajad Gul are in illegal detention in different jails. Many more have been summoned, harassed and threatened by the Indian authorities. These draconian measures cannot hide the true face of the Indian Occupation from the rest of the world.
As we mark the International Human Rights Day on 10th December, we must keep in our thoughts the oppressed people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), as the human rights violations in IIOJK continue unabated and their inalienable right to self-determination continues to be denied.
I thank you.
Question:Once again, the US State Department has put an allegation on Pakistan having sanctuaries of TTP. Would you like to comment? Do you agree or disagree? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)
Supplementary Question:US Secretary of State in his recent statement regarding situation in Afghanistan shared concerns about Taliban. How does Pakistan view this?
Secondly, It was reported in media that an agreement was ended by TTP. Can you share that with whom this agreement was signed and when did this agreement take place? Also there were discussions regarding negotiation. Who was doing these negotiations and what was its official status? If such negotiations took place what were the demands of TTP? Please share some details? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: On your second question, I would request you to check with Ministry of Interior because this is a question related to internal security and Ministry of Interior is the right forum to ask these questions.
Pakistan is a country that has suffered enormously from terrorism for the last several years. Instability in Afghanistan and our region has created a situation that has resulted in the loss of lives of civilians and law enforcement officials. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism. There has been undeniable proof of India’s direct involvement in state sponsored terrorism inside Pakistan because of which our society has suffered a lot. The international community should take notice of this reality.
Question:What are your comments on the Joint Communiqué Issued after First India – Central Asia Meeting of National Security Advisors/Secretaries to the Security Council which was held in New Delhi on 06 December 2022? (Zeeshan Ali Bhatti, PTV)
Answer: We have seen those statements. Those statements reflect the understandings that these countries had amongst themselves and the joint statement speaks for itself. What I want to say is that Pakistan has time and again expressed its concern about terrorism that emanates from India. It has deep roots and it is state sponsored. We urge the international community to take notice of India’s deceptive approach that it undertakes while pointing fingers at others.
India’s efforts to portray itself as a torch bearer of counter-terrorism efforts are ironic. A country, that is vigorously engaging with other countries on the subject of terrorism, is itself involved in a relentless terror campaign in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Its involvement in inciting terrorism inside Pakistan is widely established and documented.
Question:You have explained the current situation in IIOJK. But recently offices of Jamat-e-Islami and other religious organizations have been sealed. Since you urged the international community to take cognizance on these issues, is there any discussion going on to take measures directly for a ceasefire and also against these Indian actions and on the issues faced by journalists in IIOJK? (Raziq Mehmood Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)
Answer: We have condemned and we continue to condemn the atrocities being perpetrated in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. India is continuing with repression of Kashmiris without any consideration of international human rights laws and norms. We have voiced concern at international forums and have called upon international human rights organizations to pay attention to the situation in Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Question:In a statement regarding attack on Pakistan Embassy in Kabul the spokesperson of the interim Afghan Government said that a person has been arrested for involvement in this attack and that he is a foreigner. Have they shared any details with you regarding the identity of this individual and which country does he belong to? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyaber News)
Question:There are reports that the Pakistani embassy in Kabul is located in a very unsafe area. Is there any realization on the part of the Foreign Office to make enhanced security arrangement for that?
Secondly, we are witnessing that after the ascension of Taliban in Afghanistan terrorist incidents have increased in Pakistan. Has the Foreign Office and for that matter, Pakistan, taken any steps to check the infiltration of these terrorists from Afghanistan? (Abdul Hadi Mayar, Hum Pashto 1 News)
Answer: As I said in my statement, we have seen reports and statements and some claims regarding responsibility of the attack on the Pakistan Embassy compound on the 2nd of December. We are in contact with the Afghan authorities and are pursuing discussions with the objective of identifying and holding accountable the individuals or organizations that are behind this attack. We believe that this attack is a reminder that terrorism continues to pose a threat to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
Now on the question regarding security of our embassy compound, I would like to assure you that since the incident on 2nd December, the Government of Pakistan has increased the security of its diplomats and our missions. We are in contact with Afghan authorities in this regard as well. I will not go further into the details of security related matters.
On your second question – In our weekly briefing last week, I briefed you on the recent visit of the Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar. I shared with you, if you would recall, that in her meetings in Afghanistan, the Minister of State discussed all issues of interest and concern for Pakistan. The Afghanistan side has assured that the Afghan territory will not be used for terrorism against Pakistan or any other country. We hope that they will respect their promises.
Question: According to some media reports a new map has been issued in which Khyber Paktunkhwa is shown as part of Afghanistan and Afghanistan is working on it. What is Pakistan’s view on this please? Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer: We have seen some social media posts. Pakistan has clearly defined and internationally recognized borders. Things that you may see on social media could be somebody’s wishful thinking and not the reality.
Question: Last month Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman was expected to visit Pakistan but it was shared that the visit has been postponed and will be rescheduled. Can you share whether it has been rescheduled or not?
Secondly, can you confirm that a high-level delegation from Pakistan including Chief of Army Staff is visiting Saudi Arabia or not? If yes, when will this delegation visit Saudi Arabia? (Aamir Saeed Abbasi, Dunya TV)
Answer: I said last time and I will repeat again this time that whenever we have information regarding finalization of the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Salman we will share it with you.
Right now, I do not have details regarding any upcoming high-level visit to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Question: India refused to issue visas to blind cricket team of Pakistan. Obviously, such decisions are political in nature. The reason that these questions are put forward is that there are no sports exchanges between India and Pakistan. Does this mean that India will boycott the Asia Cup and Pakistan will boycott the World Cup to be held respectively in Pakistan and India?
Second question is Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Saudi Arabia. Both Saudi Arabia and China are strategic partners of Pakistan. How Pakistan views such a development, keeping in view BRI and CPEC? (Shoukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: Regarding your second question, I would say that yes you’re absolutely right. Pakistan has very good relations with both China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We are strategic partners and there is a great deal of goodwill between Pakistan and these countries. We are happy to see whenever our friends engage with each other. So we welcome the visit of President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Regarding your first question, I would say that it is based on speculation and it is a bit premature for me to comment on that.
Question: What is your take on foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s official visit to Qatar, as Pakistan’s football team is not participating in that tournament? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN News)
Answer: Pakistan has welcomed and shares the pride of Qatar to be the first Muslim country that is hosting the FIFA World Cup. With the pride that the Qatari Government and people have for hosting this World Cup, they have invited leaders from around the world, including from Pakistan. Our Foreign Minister was invited in that context.
Question:Can you share any update regarding the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project, as Pakistan is facing huge problems particularly for procurement of natural gas?
Secondly, if you can share any update regarding the Reko Diq project which is a big asset for Pakistan?
Thirdly, can you please comment on the procurement of oil from Russia? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: On your question about Reko Diq, this matter is being considered at senior levels of Government and the Prime Minister himself is taking interest in that. So I can only say that we are following the developments very closely and want a good outcome on all aspects of this issue.
On your question regarding the import of oil from Russia, recently the special adviser of the Prime Minister Mr. Musadik Malik undertook a visit to Russia, where these issues were discussed. There was a detailed press conference by Mr. Musadik Malik after his visit. I would invite you to see the transcript and if needed, we can also share a link with you directly.
We are in touch with Russia and other partners regarding purchase of crude oil and this is something which is at various levels of discussion. We can share with you more details when it is time to make them public. However, Mr. Musadik Malik has given some details about his Russia visit, and perhaps that statement can give you a better understanding of where things stand.
Last modified: December 8, 2022
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