Media Briefing|

 

[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.

We begin with the ongoing visit of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to the United States. The primary purpose of the visit was to attend the Ministerial Conference of the G-77 & China at the UN Headquarters in New York and to hold consultations for the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan to be held next month in Geneva.

The Foreign Minister chaired the Ministerial Conference of the G-77 & China on 15-16 December 2022. The Conference was convened by Pakistan in its capacity as the Chair of the G-77, the largest bloc of developing countries within the UN system.

At the Ministerial Conference, the Foreign Minister highlighted the need for a multilateral mechanism for sustainable management of the sovereign debt of developing countries and for lowering of borrowing costs for them.

He called for fulfillment of the agreed Official Development Assistance (ODA) target of 0.7 percent of the GNI of developed countries; promoting sustainable infrastructure investments; and an equitable international Information Technology regime.

Foreign Minister also emphasized full implementation of the climate change agenda and climate commitments in accordance with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. He added that restructuring the international trading system is critical to revive export-led growth in developing countries.

The Ministerial Conference adopted a concrete outcome document spelling out the Group’s strategy to address common challenges in achieving the SDGs in face of present challenges and building resilience to respond to future crises.

On 16 December 2022, the Foreign Minister met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. They discussed the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan and international support for Pakistan’s long-term recovery, rehabilitation and restoration based on the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). Foreign Minister also met with UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed and President of the UN General Assembly Csaba Kőrösi.

The Foreign Minister held bilateral meetings with counterparts from developing countries, including Cuba, the incoming Chair of G-77 & China for the next year. He briefed his interlocutors about Pakistan’s relief and recovery efforts following the recent floods.

As we conclude our chairmanship of G-77 & China, we can say with satisfaction that throughout 2022, Pakistan played a leading role in highlighting the issues of importance for developing countries such as sustainable development and climate change. An important achievement this year was the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where Pakistan led the cause of developing countries and forging a historic consensus.

Pakistan’s chairmanship of G-77 & China concludes this month. However, it will continue its traditionally active and constructive multilateral diplomacy in advancing the common interests of the Global South at the United Nations.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had a very productive visit to Washington DC. He had a busy visit schedule which included engagements with the Administration and members of the US Congress, speaking engagements at two prestigious think-tanks, interaction with Pakistani-American community leaders and DC based think-tank community as well as interviews with leading media outlets.

The main purpose of the visit to Washington was to continue discussions on Pakistan-US cooperation in flood relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts and enlist US support for the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan. The visit also provided an opportunity to review the entire scope of bilateral relations and discuss important regional and global developments.

On the Administration side, the Foreign Minister had a comprehensive conversation with Secretary of State Blinken during which both sides covered a wide range of issues of mutual interest, and meetings with other senior Administration officials including USAID Administrator Samantha Power, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Counselor to the Secretary of State, Derek Chollet.

During Foreign Minister’s September visit to the United States, a bipartisan group of US Senators had invited him to visit Washington DC again in December to discuss further cooperation in flood relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. The Foreign Minister, therefore, held several important meetings at the US Congress. These included a joint meeting with a bipartisan group of senators including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, and Democratic Senators Bob Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen and Tim Kaine.

The Foreign Minister held separate meetings with Senator Chris Van Hollen, Senator Gary Peters and Senator Ben Ray LuJan and a joint meeting with Congressman Brad Sherman and Congresswoman Shiela Jackson Lee. He also held a virtual meeting with Congressman Ami Bera, Chairperson of House Subcommittee dealing with Asia.

On the think-tanks side, the Foreign Minister addressed and engaged with scholars and think-tank experts at The Heritage Foundation and the Atlantic Council.

The Foreign Minister had interactive sessions with the Pakistani-American community leaders, representatives of leading think-tanks and journalists from prominent media outlets.

The visit, that concludes today, was another important step towards further strengthening Pakistan’s broad-based bilateral ties with the United States.

This week, Pakistan will host two important dignitaries from Central Asia. On 22-23 December 2022, H.E. Serik Zhumangarin, Deputy Prime-Minister for Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan will lead a high-level delegation for the Pakistan-Kazakhstan Intergovernmental Joint Commission (IJC) – an important mechanism to promote mutually beneficial cooperation.

The 11th Session of the Commission will be co-chaired by Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister and our Minister for Economic Affairs, Mr. Ayaz Sadiq. The Meeting will focus on cooperation in trade and investment, agriculture, energy, transport and industry, science and technology, banking, higher education, and tourism.

On 26th December 2022, Deputy Prime Minister for Trade and Investment of the Republic of Uzbekistan H.E. Mr. Jamshid Khodjaev will arrive in Islamabad for a two-day bilateral visit. He will lead a high-level delegation, which will hold talks on a range of issues including trade, investment, and connectivity. The visit is taking place in follow up of the important understandings reached between the President of Uzbekistan and Prime Minister of Pakistan during their meetings held in September 2022 in Uzbekistan and in October 2022 in Kazakhstan.

Yesterday, we released a statement expressing our disappointment on the suspension of university and higher education for female students in Afghanistan. Our position on this issue has been clear and consistent. We firmly believe that every man and woman has the inherent right to education under the injunctions of Islam. We strongly urge the Afghan authorities to revisit this decision. We cannot deprive the enterprising and innovative Afghan women the right to progress and to follow their dreams. They have full and equal rights to participate in all aspects of life.

Last week, the Indian delegation once again politicized an international forum to project its agenda to target and malign Pakistan. For the last several years, India politicized the FATF process to prevent Pakistan’s exit from the Grey List and is following a similar agenda at the UN Security Council.

For a country that has a grandiose vision about itself and its place in the world, India has been unable to act as a responsible member of the international community that can assume new privileges that it aspires.

India masquerades itself as a victim of terrorism, yet it is itself a perpetrator of repression in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and a sponsor and financier of terrorist groups in South Asia, including Pakistan.

We are concerned about the rise of extremist nationalism in India and its expansionist designs for the region. We still await condemnation from the Indian leadership on the recent call for violence and assassination by a BJP leader from Bhagpat.

India also continues with its policy of coercion and intimidation of the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). This week, it killed three Kashmiri youth in fake encounter in Shopian district in IIOJK.

The occupation authorities are sealing properties owned by Kashmiris including those dedicated to educational institutions offering free education to disadvantaged Kashmiris. A property owned by Late Hurriyat Leader, Syed Ali Shah Gillani, and located in Barzulla Srinagar, has also been designated for closure.

You would recall that Syed Ali Gillani was not allowed a proper burial by the Indian occupation forces when he died in captivity last year. His family continues to be harassed for their contribution to the just struggle of Kashmiris to seek their inalienable right to self-determination.

India must be held accountable for these grave injustices. The only way to lasting peace in South Asia is by granting the people of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir their inalienable right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

I thank you.

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Question: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto said that we should revisit policy about TTP. My question is that in which context he spoke? Can you elaborate?

Secondly, China is also engaged with Afghan government. Can Pakistan use China’s leverage in Afghanistan to counter TTP? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: Foreign Minister has made comprehensive statements on the issue of counterterrorism and the threat of terrorism that Pakistan faces. He has himself been a victim of terrorism like countless other Pakistanis. So for him, it is important that Pakistan continues to pursue its policy of countering terrorist threats to Pakistan.
I would also like to add here that Pakistan has pursued continuous and practical engagement with interim Afghan government on all areas of mutual concern, including peace and security. We have conveyed to them our concerns about terrorist groups and we are in close communication with Afghanistan to ensure that activities of these groups do not threaten Pakistan.
With respect to your question about China, I would say that Pakistan and China are close, all weather strategic cooperative partners. We consult with each other on all matters of mutual interest, including counterterrorism and on the situation in Afghanistan. These consultations will continue.

Question: In the recent attack in Bannu, the attackers demanded a safe passage to Afghanistan during negotiations with authorities. It means that Afghan territory is being used for terrorism. Has Pakistan discussed this matter with Afghan side or lodged any protest on this issue that these militants come from Afghanistan to carry out terrorist activities in Pakistan and then demand to go back to Afghanistan? (Aamir Saeed Abbasi, Dunya TV)

Answer: I will not comment on any specific terrorist attack, because that pertains to internal security and Ministry of Interior is the right forum to answer that question.
However, I would like to underline that Pakistan is very concerned about the recent border incidents. On 16th of December, the Afghan C’dA was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when Pakistan lodged a strong condemnation of the recent incidents of unprovoked cross border shelling by Afghan border security forces in the Chaman – Spin Boldak area that resulted in the loss of life, injuries and damage to property. We reiterated to the Afghan authorities, that protection of civilians remains the responsibility of both sides and the recurrence of these incidents must be prevented.
We have agreed that we will continue to use established institutional mechanisms in this regard. Pakistan remains committed to maintaining its fraternal relations with Afghanistan and to ensure that peace is maintained on the Pakistan – Afghanistan border.

Question: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto said that there was no new agreement with Afghanistan. Under any new arrangement, can US carry out attacks against terrorist targets in Pakistan? Will Pakistan allow it, as Pakistani security forces are conducting military operations against such terrorist elements?
My second question is about completely conflicting statements of two government ministers regarding procurement of Russian oil. What is the current status regarding Pakistan’s procurement of oil from Russia? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: On your first question, Pakistan is committed to countering terrorism. We have defeated terrorist forces in the past and we will defeat them again and our law enforcement agencies are fully equipped to do so. They are undertaking every possible effort to ensure that terrorism does not establish a foothold in Pakistan.
Regarding your question about the purchase of Russian oil and the statements of the Foreign Minister and the Minister of State for Petroleum, I would like to request you to look at the transcript of the statement that the Foreign Minister made.
As the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said, Pakistan is facing an extremely difficult economic situation, inflation and pump prices. He has also said that Pakistan is exploring various avenues to overcome its energy insecurity and to offset the pressure on our finances that have arisen because of high energy prices, internationally.
At this stage Pakistan is not purchasing any Russian oil. We will, however, continue to explore all avenues to meet Pakistan’s energy needs at the best possible rates. The Government of Pakistan remains engaged with Russia and other partners in import of crude oil on competitive prices to meet our domestic requirements.

Question: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto had an outburst and rightly pointed out what had been happening in India. The spokesman of the State Department Ned Price said United States is ready to offer mediation between India and Pakistan. What is the reaction of the Government of Pakistan? Last night the Foreign Minister had a meeting at the Department of State with Deputy Secretary of State. Was this issue touched that what could be the modalities of such mediation between India and Pakistan? (Shoukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: First, I do not have the complete readout of last night’s meeting with Deputy Secretary of State – just an initial readout.
I would like to underline here that Pakistan has maintained that all outstanding issues between Pakistan and India should be resolved through dialogue. However, in order to pave the way for a meaningful and result oriented dialogue, India must take steps to create a positive environment in the region. It should end the systemic violations of human rights that are taking place in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and it must end support to terrorist groups that threaten Pakistan. In this context, you are aware that Pakistan has already shared a Dossier and we have called for accountability of perpetrators of Indian-sponsored terrorist attacks on Pakistan.

Question: India has banned a Pakistani web series. What are your comments on that? (Saqib Ali, Daily Kashmir Times)

Answer: Such decisions by Indian Government reflect a consistent policy by the Indian authorities to hide the reality about the real face of India and the policies of hatred that are espoused by the Hindutva led government in India.

Question: Since last 5 months we have been highlighting and also asked questions regarding the presence of terrorist elements in Swat and establishment of posts by TTP in various areas. Our diplomacy has been going on for five months and now terrorist activities have started in Pakistan. What is our Foreign Policy on this? What is Foreign Minister doing regarding this issue? Why do we have a soft approach on this issue considering that everything happened including damaging of border fence and consequently terrorist activities have started inside Pakistan and we are just talking or sharing dossiers? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Daily Maddar)

Answer: I highlighted earlier, Pakistan’s policy is very clear. We will not brook any terrorist groups in Pakistan and our security forces are already taking measures to fight this threat.
At the same time, we are engaged with international partners, including our neighbour Afghanistan, to ensure that terrorist groups do not threaten Pakistan’s security.
We have certain mechanisms with Afghanistan in which we engage to discuss these issues. We will continue to engage with them to ensure that the Afghan authorities fulfill the commitments that they have made to Pakistan that Afghan territory will not be used to destabilize or to threaten Pakistan’s security.
War and instability in Afghanistan has led to terrorism, extremism and instability in the region. We have a policy of engagement because unlike others Pakistan does not have a choice to walk away. The objective of our policy is to promote peace, progress and connectivity. It is underpinned by a desire to discuss and resolve all issues of concern through dialogue. We believe that peace, security and stability in Afghanistan would contribute to the safe and dignified return of all Afghan refugees and to help bring peace and prosperity to Pakistan.

Question: After the incident of Spin Boldak at local level a 16 member delegation from Pakistan visited Afghanistan for ensuring peace in the area. What is its current status? Secondly, in the border area of Chaman and Spin Boldak are Taliban involved in these activities against Pakistan or are there are any other forces?
Secondly last briefing I asked question that there are media reports that in area of Gwadar large fishing trailers of India and various other countries are fishing. This is violation of Pakistan’s maritime waters and is also causing huge economic loss for the local people. This is in violation of Pakistan’s maritime waters. What are your comments, please? (Abbas Jaffer, Daily District News)

Answer: On your second question, if you can share details of any particular incident we will try to verify and respond to your question.
Regarding your question on the visit of any delegation from Pakistan to Afghanistan, I reiterate that Pakistan and Afghanistan have mechanisms to discuss bilateral issues including security related matters. We have received some assurances and have held some important consultations with the Afghan authorities. We hope that the Afghan Interim Government will fulfill the commitments that it has made to Pakistan in terms of security.

Question: I would ask you for details on the visits of the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Could you also please tell why Foreign Minister was arrested in New York? What were the charges on him? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: On your second question, I must say that this is completely devoid of any facts or any basis. And I did not expect such a question based on social media chatter from a serious journalist. So, I would not comment on that.
As for the visits of Foreign Minister, I have a list that I can share with you. Since assumption of his responsibilities, the Foreign Minister has visited UAE (in May 2022 and November 2022), United States (in May 2022, and December 2022), China, Switzerland, Iran, Uzbekistan (in July 2022), Cambodia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Singapore. In addition, he also accompanied the Prime Minister during his visits to Saudi Arabia, UAE (in April 2022), Turkey, Uzbekistan (in September 2022), United States (For UNGA in September 2022), Egypt, and China.

Question: Madam I have two questions. Yesterday, on the border incident with Afghanistan, the Foreign Minister said that the easier part is cooperation with the Afghan interim government and that is going to be his preferred route, but that is not the only route. What is he trying to suggest? Is he trying to suggest use of force against Afghanistan, blockade of the border trade or transit trade? Is that what he means?
And the second question is that Pakistan presented a Dossier last week about Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan and the State Minister said during the briefing that the Foreign minister of Pakistan is going to take up this matter. While the Foreign Minister was speaking at the UN Security Council’s debate on international peace and security but there was no mention of that dossier in his speech. Did he present the same dossier to the UN Secretary General or the UN Security Council or other Member States? (Essa Naqvi, ABN News)

Answer: Okay, let me start by responding to your second question on the issue of sharing of dossier. The dossier was shared with members of the UN Security Council, even prior to the visit of the Foreign Minister, by our Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Regarding the statement made by the Foreign Minister — I spoke about it at our last briefing. The participation of the Foreign Minister at the high-level debate at the UN Security Council was in the context of a particular debate on ‘reformed multilateralism.’ The Foreign Minister shared Pakistan’s views on the comprehensive reform of the United Nations and its various organs, as well as democratization of the global financial and economic institutions.
In meetings with high-level dignitaries, including at the United Nations, members of US administration and US Congress, the issue of state sponsorship of terrorism by India, have been raised.
Regarding the Foreign Minister’s statement on Afghanistan, I believe that the statement is very clear and outlines Pakistan policy. Pakistan prioritizes dialogue and finding constructive solutions. That has always been our policy. We also want to find constructive solution to the current situation that we are facing, through dialogue. I do not want to speculate on what would happen if this route fails. Pakistan will take a decision when we are faced with that reality.

Question: Madam, would appreciate if you could brief us on the definite outcome of the Foreign Ministers recent visit to the United States. (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN News)

Answer: While I spoke at length on what transpired in New York and in Washington in my opening statement, I can brief you on some of the salient points from Foreign Minister’s visit.

The primary purpose of the visit was to attend the Ministerial Conference of the G-77 & China at the UN Headquarters in New York and to hold consultations on the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan to be held next month in Geneva. At the Ministerial Conference Foreign Minister highlighted Pakistan’s vision about the challenges that developing countries face in achieving their SDGs and about building resilience to respond to new crises. He held meetings with the Secretary General and other officials of the UN as well as with leaders of other countries participating in the meeting of G-77 and China.

During these meetings, the Foreign Minister discussed at length, Pakistan’s long-term recovery, rehabilitation and restoration needs and Pakistan’s relief and recovery efforts following the floods. This was the culmination of Pakistan’s chairmanship of G-77 and China and it was an important meeting for which the Foreign Minister was there in person.
Later, the Foreign Minister went to Washington, where he had a very busy program. The main purpose of the visit to Washington was to continue discussions on Pakistan-US cooperation in flood relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction and to enlist US support for the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan. The visit also provided an opportunity to review the entire scope of bilateral relations and discuss important regional and global developments.
In September, when Foreign Minister visited New York, a bipartisan group of US Senators had invited him to visit Washington DC in December to further discuss cooperation on flood relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. We believe Foreign Minister held important and substantive meetings with key Congressmen and Senators on the Capital Hill.

Question: Could you update us on the salary issue of the Pakistani missions. On one side, the Pakistani diplomats are not being paid salaries for the last many months, but on the other side, more than 1.5 billion rupees have so far been spent on the visits of Foreign Minister. What are your comments, please? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)

Supplementary Question: Apart from the issue of payment of salary to diplomats, there has been no revision in foreign allowances since 2011. What is Foreign office doing in that regard? (Abbas Jaffer, Daily District News)

Answer: Regarding second part of your first question, I would say that it is based on a presumption, which is not based on facts and it is completely incorrect.
On the first part of your question — as I said earlier, our Missions have started receiving finances for their budgetary needs. There was a short delay in payments and the Foreign Office has been in contact with the Ministry of Finance to resolve all financial matters for the future as well.
Please understand that this is a very complicated and long process and it involves several steps including the Ministry of Finance, the State Bank, and then transmission of funds through international banking channels to the particular Missions. Sometimes in these processes’ delays arise. These are occasional and are not consistent. We hope that soon all missions would have the requisite funds that they need.
On the issue of enhancement of foreign allowance and salaries, we are in contact with Finance Ministry on all these matters.

Question: It is expected that Pakistan – Russia Intergovernmental Commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation will take place in January 2023. Do you have any details on that? What is planned to be discussed? How long delegation of Russia is going to stay in Pakistan and what expectations of Pakistan towards that? (Ruslan Bekniyazov, ITAR-TASS News)

Answer: I do not have those details with me at the moment, but I can comment at our next briefing.

Question: Madam could you tell that what is the latest progress on CPEC projects? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: CPEC is an important project between Pakistan and China. It is a symbol of our long-standing, ever-growing friendship and partnership. CPEC is a project that has brought enormous benefits to Pakistan. We have been in contact with the Chinese authorities to consolidate and develop CPEC.
If you would recall, recently the Joint Cooperation Committee meeting of CPEC was held in Islamabad, where all projects under CPEC were discussed at length. During this meeting, the two sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation and dialogue on CPEC projects. Following the JCC meeting, the Prime Minister visited China, where detailed meetings were held between the Prime Minister and the Chinese leadership. Both sides reaffirmed their continued commitment to CPEC projects. There was also a clear understanding that we will continue to explore new areas of cooperation under CPEC. Lastly, I would also like to highlight that next year will mark the ten years of CPEC. When we look back at these ten years since 2013, we can see that CPEC has made enormous contributions in terms of strengthening Pakistan-China relations, bringing prosperity to Pakistan and for enhancing win-win cooperation between Pakistan and China.

Question: They were rumors and media reports that Kulbhushan Jadhav is no longer in Pakistan. Could you update us on the latest status? (Nayyar Ali, News One TV)

Answer: I had earlier commented on this issue as well. As of now, there is no change in the status.

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