Transcript of the Press Briefing by the Spokesperson on Thursday 09 March 2023
[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.

I will begin with the visit of Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif to Qatar on 5-6 March 2023. Emir of Qatar had extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to attend the 5thUnited Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as a special guest.

At the Conference, the Prime Minister presented Pakistan’s views on accelerating sustainable development in the Least Developed Countries and to help them make progress on the road to prosperity. He called for international support for LDCs in fighting climate change and overcoming economic challenges resulting from the pandemic and massive disruption in global supply chains.

In Doha, Prime Minister held a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. A range of issues of bilateral significance were discussed including trade and investment and cooperation in energy sector.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is in New York to attend important events being held in connection with the Women’s Day. This includes participation in Commission for the status of Women (CSW), address in debates on Women issues at the UN Security Council and co-chairing events on Islamophobia and Women in Islam in his capacity as co-Chair of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers.

At the 67th Session of CSW, Foreign Minister has highlighted the importance of women empowerment and access to all levels of education and work. In his addresses at the United Nations Security Council Foreign Ministers raised his voice for women suffering under foreign occupation, as manifest in Palestine and IIOJK. He called for the establishment of a monitoring mechanism for crimes committed against women and girls in territories under foreign occupation, including Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

In his remarks at the conference on “Women in Islam: Understanding the rights and Identity of women in the Islamic World”, the Foreign Minister underlined the importance of dispelling misperceptions about the rights, roles and identity of women in Muslim societies. He paid tribute to Muslim women who have made enormous contributions in all walks of life – education, enterprise, economics, politics and governance. He also spoke about the denial of religious and cultural rights to Muslim women in non-Muslim societies and negative stereotyping and discrimination against Musl Dr. Tobias Linder, Minister of State of Germany undertook a visit to Pakistan from 7-8 March 2023. This was his maiden visit to Pakistan. He held meetings with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman and Minister for Commerce, Syed Naveed Qamar. Discussions focused on strengthening the multifaceted bilateral cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, higher education and vocational training, migration and mobility, and climate change and renewable energy. We are encouraged with our constructive engagement with Germany and will continue to pursue dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation.

The Pakistan – US Counter Terrorism Dialogue took place in Islamabad on 6-7 March 2023. The Pakistan side was led by Syed Haider Shah, Additional Foreign Secretary (UN&ED), while the US delegation was headed by Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Christopher Landberg. The discussions covered counter- terrorism cooperation at multilateral forums, assessment of regional counterterrorism landscape, cyber security and countering violent extremism. The US assistance projects in Pakistan were discussed with a particular focus on capacity building in anti-money laundering. The two sides shared their experiences in countering financing of terrorism and reaffirmed their commitment to address terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The last Counter-Terrorism Dialogue was held in 2016.

On 7th March, Pakistan participated in the meeting of the Special Representatives of the Countries Neighboring Afghanistan in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Pakistan was represented by our Head of Mission in Uzbekistan where our delegation reaffirmed Pakistan’s preference for regional approaches to the situation in Afghanistan. The deliberations would set the stage for substantive outcomes during the Ministerial Meeting to be held next month in Tashkent.

The Secretary General of D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, Ambassador Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam is on a weeklong visit (4-11 March 2023) to Pakistan to undertake consultations on D8 Cooperation with Pakistan. He will meet with Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and engage with the Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He has attended a Meeting of D-8 Network of Pioneers for Research and Innovation (NPRI) and inaugurated the D-8 Research Center for Agriculture and Food Security in Faisalabad.

As the International Women’s Day has been observed around the world. I would like to speak about the unending ordeal of the women in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

At least 682 women civilians have been victims of extrajudicial killings by the Indian forces since January 2001. Instead of providing them protection, Indian security forces have molested or raped 11,256 women during the same period. Women constitute majority of the Kashmiri people suffering from psychiatric problems that are widespread in the climate of oppression and fear. Over two dozen women leaders and activists, including Asia Andrabi, remain incarcerated in different jails of IIOJK and New Delhi.

Women across the globe should take cognizance of their Kashmiri sisters’ plight and urge India to protect women’s rights in IIOJK. For its part, Pakistan will continue to invite the international community’s attention towards the grave situation of Kashmiri women 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 like to announce that Government of Pakistan has acceded to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents (Apostille Convention) of 1961. From now on, foreign public documents authenticated by Apostille can be directly presented to the concerned authorities without any other attestation requirement. We will be sharing further details shortly.

Next week will be an active week for Pakistan’s diplomacy.

Minister for State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar will travel to Bahrain on 10 March to participate in the annual Manama Dialogue in Manama, Bahrain. She will attend the dialogue as a key note speaker and meet with participating leaders and government officials.

Minister of State will also undertake an official visit to London, UK, to attend the Commonwealth Day and Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM) from 13-15 March 2023 in London. She will also hold meetings with participating leaders of other Commonwealth countries on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting.

UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan, Markus Potzel, is visiting Pakistan from 09-10 March 2023. He will call on the Foreign Secretary and exchange views on the situation in Afghanistan, with a special focus on the humanitarian situation and international assistance for the Afghan people. Pakistan considers UNAMA as an important partner in our international engagement efforts on Afghanistan.

Next week, two important dialogues will be held between Pakistan and the United States. These include the Energy Security Dialogue and the Climate and Environment Working Group to be held in Islamabad.

Energy Security Dialogue is scheduled for 15 March 2023. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources Assistant Secretary Geoffery Pyatt will lead the U.S. delegation. Secretary Power and Secretary Petroleum will lead from the Pakistan side. Discussions will be held on energy priorities, advancing the renewable energy transition, and economic and commercial opportunities in the energy sector.

Climate and Environment Working Group meeting is scheduled for 16 March 2023. The U.S. Department of State’s Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs (OEC) Monica Madina Assistant Secretary will lead the U.S. delegation. The two sides will discuss Pakistan’s climate priorities and energy transition, water management, climate smart agriculture, biodiversity and protected national areas, air quality, and solid waste management.

This will be the second round for the Energy Security Dialogue and the Climate and Environment Working Group. The first rounds were held virtually in September 2021.

In coming days bilateral dialogues will be held with countries in East Asia including Australia, China, Japan, and Malaysia.

Next week Pakistan and Australia will hold the 8thSession of Senior Officials Talks (SOTs) and the Trade Talks on 16th March 2023 in Islamabad. The two sides will review the bilateral relations and multilateral cooperation including matters relating to political, economic trade and investment, defence and security, educational and technical cooperation and people-to-people contacts.

In the Trade Talks the two sides will discuss bilateral trade and investment cooperation between Pakistan and Australia.

I would like to conclude by paying homage to women of Pakistan who have played a critical role in country’s development and economic growth. Throughout our history, women diplomats have played their part in this journey of development and represented Pakistan at the international stage with distinction. We celebrate their contributions and appreciate their dynamism.

I thank you.


Question: In the absence of anyone on the position of Special Assistant to Prime Minister Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, who resigned last week, who is looking after Afghanistan affairs at the highest level in Pakistan, since a number of events related to Afghanistan are taking place?

Secondly Foreign Minister was due to visit India next month as part of SCO Foreign Ministers conference. Has any decision has been made as far as Foreign Minister’s upcoming visit to India?

Thirdly, there is an austerity committee setup by Government of Pakistan on directives of Prime Minister of Pakistan. So, what austerity measures have been adopted by Foreign Ministry and Pakistan’s Foreign Missions abroad? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: Firstly, Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a full fledge division dealing with Afghanistan headed by Additional Secretary (Afghanistan and West Asia). Syed Ahsan Raza Shah and the division continues to perform its responsibilities with commitment and they have been doing that and will continue to do that in future.

Regarding participation in the upcoming SCO Council of Foreign Ministers, as I have said earlier, the matter is under consideration and as and when this decision is taken, we will share it with everyone.

On austerity as I said last time, in compliance with the instructions of the Government of Pakistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also undertaking an exercise to comply with the austerity directives and is taking all measures necessary to cut down on our expenses.

Question: My question is about Lieutenant Governor of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha who has recently said that Azad Kashmir was an integral part of India. He also said that the dream of Akhand Bharat will be a reality in the coming times. What are your comments? (Shahid Ajmal Malik, PTV)

Answer: This statement that you referred to is yet another manifestation of Indian leaders’ aggressive designs, which remain a constant threat to regional peace and stability. The so-called Lieutenant Governor has made baseless claims. These claims can neither change the facts of history nor the legal status of Jammu and Kashmir that remains an internationally recognized disputed territory. Jammu and Kashmir has never been, nor will ever be India’s “integral part”. In fact, it is India that is an occupation force in IIOJK in blatant violation of international law and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Rather than resorting to false and misleading assertions, India must vacate its illegal occupation of the disputed territory and let Kashmiris exercise their inalienable right to self-determination through a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices.

As for the boasts of “Akhand Bharat”, the gratuitous assertion is nothing but a manifestation of the ‘Hindutva’ majoritarian agenda of India’s ruling dispensation and its revisionist and expansionist mindset that seeks to subjugate the identity and culture of its neighboring countries as well as its own religious minorities. The Indian leaders would be well advised not to indulge in political rhetoric against other countries merely to further their divisive and parochial political agenda.

Question: A US intelligence report submitted yesterday in the US Congressional hearing said that it apprehends increased tension between India and Pakistan and India and China with the possibility of a conflict between them. On the one side despite having this ceasefire along the Line of Control, the report said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely than the past to respond with military force to Pakistan provocations. What are your comments please? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Supplementary Question: The report also stated that Pakistan also has a long history of supporting anti-India militant groups that have been acting under some patronage. Would you like to comment on that? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer:Pakistan has consistently advocated peace and dialogue in South Asia. Our foreign policy is based on building partnerships for peace, friendship and prosperity in the region and beyond. We desire friendly ties with all our neighbors. We have also advocated constructive engagement and result oriented dialogue with India on all outstanding issues including the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. Unfortunately, India’s unabated hostility and retrogressive steps have vitiated the regional environment and impeded the prospects for peace and cooperation. Indian illegal actions of August 5, 2019 have further harmed the possibility of constructive engagement between Pakistan and India. We call on the international community to urge India to introspect, change course and take necessary steps to create an enabling environment for peace in South Asia for the welfare of the people of this region.

As far as the other question is concerned, I would like to state that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and has suffered for years because of terrorism that has emanated from our neighborhood, I would like to remind everyone of the dossier that Pakistan presented a few months ago where we documented India’s involvement in terrorist incidents inside Pakistan. A serving naval officer of Indian Navy is currently in Pakistan’s custody for having committed terrorist activities inside Pakistan. So there is no denying the fact that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and India has been responsible for propagating terrorism against Pakistan.

Question: As you’re talking about dossier, are you in a position to brief us something that what is the outcome of dossiers which were given to the United Nations? If there is no outcome, is Pakistan planning to go for follow up of these dossiers?

Secondly, this is with reference to reported violence in Islamabad and in Lahore yesterday, on the political workers and the women marching on Women Day. How would you view the statement given by the Deputy Spokesperson of the United Nations Secretary General? Don’t you think that his statement is interference in Pakistan’s Internal Affairs, because we have the right to run our state in our own way?(Mazhar Iqbal, PNN)

Answer: I need to see the transcript of the statement you are referring to before commenting.

Regarding your first question, I would say that Pakistan has shared the dossier with the members of the UN Security Council, with the leadership of the United Nations and important international organizations and we have also shared the dossier with our friends around the world. We will continue to discuss and share further evidence of Indian involvement in terrorism inside Pakistan.

Question: As you talked about different engagements of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in New York. He made a statement yesterday and that is something on which I really wanted your response. When, Foreign Minister says that due to the uncertain political scenario in Pakistan, the conduct of diplomacy has become very hard. Can you spell out the specific hardships that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is facing in pursuit of diplomacy?

My second question is about a report in newspapers today about a meeting of the Special Envoys of European countries on Afghanistan in Paris last week, where they recognized TTP as a major threat. U.S., France, UK and others were part of the meeting. When the world acknowledges TTP as a major threat to peace, how can Pakistan take benefit of their concern to make itself safe? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: First on terrorism, I have said many times that Pakistan has a history and track record of taking on these terrorist organizations and defeating them. We are aware of the challenge that we face now. Our security agencies and the Government of Pakistan are fully cognizant of the situation that we are facing and are committed to fighting all these terrorist groups. We believe that Pakistan has the capability and the will to defeat this terrorist threat.

On the other question you asked, I would like to say that foreign policy is a always a mix of variety of factors, and Pakistan’s foreign policy remains robust. We have seen a flurry of diplomatic activities in the recent past, which is a healthy indicator of Pakistan’s continued engagement with the world. A prime example is Foreign Minister’s ongoing engagements in New York, as we speak.

Question: There are reports that Afghanis are involved in terrorist activities, killings, robberies and other crimes in Pakistan. Similarly, there were many attacks recently on the border fence between Pakistan and Afghanistan in which Pakistan Army soldiers were also martyred. On this matter, has any letter been shared by Foreign Office with the Afghan Government? (Rana Imran, Daily Awami Rang)

Supplementary Question: A delegation led by Minister of Defence to Afghanistan on 22nd January 2023. Recently, he also stated that a high-level delegation from Afghanistan will be visiting Pakistan soon. As this is a long-awaited visit please share some details of this visit? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN)

Answer: I believe the visit of the Defence Minister was also a high-level visit that just took place very recently and matters related to security including the threat posed by terrorism was discussed including on the issues that you have raised. I would not go beyond what we have said, but I would just like to add here that Pakistan remains actively engaged with Afghanistan on counterterrorism and security matters alongwith other issues that concern Pakistan.

Question: Can you share that what has been discussed regarding TTP in the security dialogue between Pakistan and US recently held in Islamabad. Also, if you can comment on the leads shared with Afghanistan by Pakistan regarding TTP and Daesh Khorasan?

Secondly, former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has shared this concern multiple times that current Foreign Minister is hesitant to visit Afghanistan. What are your comments on this? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk)

Answer: I think this question has been raised in the past as well. I would like to say that visits between countries take place when it is the right time for such visits. If you recall, when we considered it was an appropriate time for the visit of the Minister of State, that visit took place last year at the level of Minister of State.

Similarly after due consideration and preparation when Pakistan thought that it was the time for a security related visit headed by our Defense Minister, that visit took place a few weeks ago. So the visit of Foreign Minister will only take place when the time is right. At this stage we cannot confirm that this visit is on the cards.

Regarding the counter-terrorism dialogue with the United States, we have already issued a detailed readout of the meeting. There was a discussion between the two sides on counterterrorism, on the regional landscape of counterterrorism and the special focus of course was on US – Pakistan cooperation in terms of capacity building in anti-money laundering.

Question: Recently, Federal Minister for Defence visited Afghanistan along with a high-level delegation and also reiterated that Afghan soil will not be used against Pakistan. A few days ago TTP has issued a press release in which they said that in provincial elections of KPK and Punjab, votes should be casted in favor PTI. Has Pakistan made any contact with the current Government of Afghanistan about this press release and related issues? Also, after Pakistan’s recent discussions with Afghanistan is TTP still using the Afghan soil against Pakistan?(Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: First of all, I would like to say that from this podium, I do not want to dignify the statement made by a terrorist organization. Secondly, all issues of concern, including the threat that we face from these terrorist groups based in Afghanistan, are being discussed with Afghanistan through all relevant channels of communication that exists between our two countries.

Question: Please share update regarding the media reports about investment by UAE in Pakistan. Has any other friendly country agreed to provide support to Pakistan in the current difficult economic situation?

Secondly, please comment on the brave protest by Kashmiri women in IIOJK against Indian brutalities on International Women’s Day. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: Saudi Arabia has deposited $5 billion dollars in Turkey’s central bank to help Turkey to meet its economic challenges. Pakistan is also a close friend of Saudi Arabia and there were some reports that maybe Saudi Arabia will also provide financial support to Pakistan. What is the update on that and why has Saudi Arabia not come forward till now? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: Regarding the bravery of the women of IIOJK, I spoke about it in our opening statement and I would reiterate that Pakistan will continue to advocate for the rights of Kashmiri women and invite the international community’s attention towards the grave situation of Kashmiri women in IIOJK.

As far as the financial and economic support of our friends including from the Middle East is concerned, first of all I would like to convey our deepest gratitude for the support that we have received from our friendly countries including China and our brotherly countries in the Middle East. Our Ministry of Finance remains in contact with the governments of these countries about the modes of support and financial assistance, as well as massive investments that are coming in from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China and other friendly countries. This is an ongoing process, and please stay tuned for statements from the concerned Ministries on the results of these discussions.

Question: We saw that the Envoys Conference was held earlier this month. Can you please shed some light on what was discussed, because in the past we’ve seen that some sorts of readout or notes were put out in the media? So, particularly what was the focus of Pakistan in the recently held Envoys Conference?

Secondly, you mentioned that no decision has been taken as of yet regarding the Foreign Minister visit to India for the SCO meeting. Next week, we have the Defence Ministers Meeting, followed by the IT ministers meeting, followed by the Health Ministers Meeting, followed by the Climate Ministers meeting and then there’s a long list of ministerial meetings. Will the Defense Minister be attending or is that matter too under consideration? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: First of all, I would like to say that Pakistan considers Shanghai Cooperation Organization to be an important organization, where Pakistan regularly participates and we will continue to participate in all activities and constructively contribute to its outcomes. Now, regarding the in-person participation that you have asked about, at this stage we do not have final decisions. When these decisions will be taken we will share with you. It is a bit early for me to speculate on these meetings.

Regarding the other meeting that you referred to, I must clarify that there was no specific meeting of envoys that that took place in Islamabad. Some of our ambassadors were invited, four or five of them to Pakistan for briefing sessions with the Ministry and to discuss the priorities of their Mission and Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities in the coming year. We could not hold such consultations at the beginning of the year. This is a normal consultation process and not something out of ordinary for which we needed to issue any statement.

Question: Can you please explain that what are Pakistan’s priorities in foreign policy? Is it public diplomacy, economic diplomacy or any other? (Mateen Haider, G-News)

Answer: Pakistan will continue to remain engaged with the rest of the world. We will continue to follow a robust foreign policy of peace, partnership, development and dialogue. This would include expanding and reinforcing our friendships in our neighborhood in our extended neighborhood and around the world. Pakistan will continue to engage with our friends and partners in the Middle East, our friends in Europe, in East Asia and we will also intensify our outreach to the African and Latin American countries. Pakistan is already pursuing and we will continue to pursue a dialogue with the United States. Our friendship with China is consistent and we will further expand on our All Weather Strategic Cooperative partnership with China. This is in sum what we will be doing in terms of our bilateral relationships. At the multilateral level Pakistan will continue to play its role at the UN and OIC and work for the cause of developing countries especially in the view of huge challenges that we all face. We will continue to raise the Kashmir dispute and the India’s illegal occupation of IIOJK around the world. Pakistan will also continue to follow a robust engagement on trade and economic partnership around the world.

Question: My question is about the Quad Ministerial Meeting recently held in New Delhi. What would you like to say about the joint statement in which various references have been given to Pakistan, especially with regard to the Mumbai attacks and the cross-border attacks? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: First of all, I would say that the meetings that were held recently in India are being hosted by India and Pakistan is not a member. Further I would like to reiterate that Pakistan believes that the countries must pay attention to the terrorism that is emanating from India, in its neighborhood. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism that is that is sponsored and financed by India. We are watching the developments taking place in our region in the Asia Pacific, especially the development of new groupings and cliques. We will approach these groupings on how they relate to Pakistan’s interests.

Question: Two international conferences were organized after the floods in Pakistan and United Nations Secretary General also participated in them. A loss and damage fund was discussed in those conferences as well. Has Pakistan received the assistance promised under that fund yet or not, because Sindh and Balochistan are still devastated?

Secondly, more than seven years have passed for Kulbhushan Jadhav case. What is the update on that case? Were the recent terrorist attacks in KPK and Balochistan in that same context or there is further involvement of other people as well? (Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Daily Media)

Answer: On your second question I have said before and I repeat again there is no progress in the case of the Indian terrorist who is in the custody of Pakistan.

On your first question, we are very encouraged with the commitments made by friendly countries at conference that took place in Geneva for Resilient Pakistan. We are in the process of engagement with those countries in how these commitments would translate into actual projects in Pakistan. Some of the assistance will come in-kind, some in-cash, some will be project-aid which will be given directly to the projects, through international donor agencies and NGOs. Pakistan remains engaged with all its partners in ensuring that we have a resilient recovery following the floods in Pakistan. As far as the loss and damage fund is concerned it is a global project. After the decision by the COP-27, the process of establishment of the fund is underway. An international committee is discussing the terms of reference of the fund. We hope that this process will conclude soon so that developing countries could benefit from the Fund.
Question: Security Dialogue was held between US and Pakistan on 6-7 March for countering the threat of terrorism. Was this only for the capacity building of Pakistan or there will be anything else beyond this capacity building? As, it is being said in some circles, that preparation is underway to make Pakistan a drone hub in the region. What is your response on this? (Syed Asif Ali, Din News)

Supplementary Question: Can you share with us the current status of cooperation between Pakistan and United States for countering terrorism intelligence sharing. Is there any ongoing cooperation between the intelligence agencies for sharing information regarding cross-border movement of terrorist, militants and overall regional security? How both countries are cooperating with each other? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: I would like to say that we are very encouraged with the dialogue on counterterrorism that took place earlier this week in Islamabad with the United States. It was a good opportunity for the two sides to discuss counterterrorism issues, as the challenge of terrorism is a challenge for the entire world. The topics that we covered included cooperation at multilateral forums, cyber security, countering violent extremism. Of course the discussion was also held on capacity building matters, especially in anti-money laundering. As you know, Pakistan has already developed a very robust mechanism following the FATF process to curb money laundering and financial flows to terrorist organizations. There was no discussion on the topics that you have referred to, it was not on the agenda and it was not discussed, and therefore, there is no need for speculation in that matter. Regarding your other question, I would like to say that Pakistan and the United States are old friends and our engagement with each other continue on all matters that are of interest to both our countries and includes counterterrorism matters.

Question: On 15th August 2021 Taliban took control of Afghanistan by force and many people migrated to different countries but most of them came to Pakistan they are facing many problems in Pakistan and most of them are in jails. How many Afghanis are in jails and how many Afghanis are have been sent back to Afghanistan. They have also demanded from the Foreign Minister that they should be released from jails according to Foreign Act. (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: First of all, Pakistan for decades has been a welcoming country for Afghan brothers and sisters. Generations of Pakistanis have opened their hearts and their homes for their Afghan brothers and sisters whenever they have been in difficulty. They have come and have lived here for decades and we believe that Pakistan has been a very good neighbor of Afghanistan. I would also like to say that Pakistan is a country of laws and regulations. There are certain laws that all foreign nationals should respect whenever they enter the Pakistani soil. The issue that you have referred to is an issue of internal law and order, and application of visa and immigration rules. We believe that those who comply with Pakistan’s visa and immigration rules and hold valid visas will continue to be welcomed in Pakistan. Those who defy these rules and regulations will be dealt with according to Pakistani law.

Question: As you were talking about counterterrorism and we have signed a lot of agreements with US. Are we again going to provide our airspace to them?

Secondly, you mentioned about the incident in Libya last time. Can you confirm that how many Pakistanis have died in that incident till now? (Sardar Amir, Daily Maddar)

Supplementary Question: Can you also confirm the total number of survivors in the incidents? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: First question I believe is speculative. So, I will not go into that. Your other question is important and I would like to answer that. These are some sad news, sad statistics that I would like to share with you. As I shared last time that it has been very challenging for our authorities to identify individuals who may be lost at sea without papers. So, it takes time to get information and to identify the bodies and to verify that they are actually Pakistani citizens. So according to the information that I have so far, in the incident of boat wreck near Benghazi city, about 15 Pakistanis have been confirmed as deceased. In Italy, we have confirmations of four deaths. According to our information two are still missing in Italy, but we will keep you updated when we have further information especially from Benghazi.

[inaudible] I will not combine them because these were two different boat incidents. We express our deep sympathies to the families. The Government of Pakistan and our embassies are in contact with the families and are in the process of transportation of the mortal remains back to Pakistan.

On the other question, I have a list of 17 survivors in Rome. I shared the same number last time. Two individuals are missing and four are deceased, 17 survivors, are being held in a camp in Italy and our Embassy is in contact with Italian authorities for their future repatriation.

Thank you so much.


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