Thank you for joining us for the first media briefing after the Eid holidays. Also please accept our Eid greetings.

On this Eid, our brothers and sisters in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir once again were prevented from participating in the Eid festivities. The occupation authorities barred the Eid prayers at the historic Jamia Mosque and the Central Eidgah in Srinagar. The head cleric of the Jamia Masjid and prominent Kashmiri leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, remains under arbitrary house arrest since August 2019. For over 200 Fridays, he has not been able to address the Friday congregations from the Jamia Masjid’s pulpit. We urge the Indian authorities to set Mirwaiz Umar Farooq free and bring an end to the restrictions imposed on Kashmiris that prevent them from freely practicing their religion.

This week, we also remember the iconic Kashmiri youth leader, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, whose seventh martyrdom anniversary will be observed day after tomorrow (8 July). Burhan Wani was one of the hundreds of Kashmiri youth who have been victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces. While paying homage to him as the voice of the indigenous freedom movement of the Kashmiri people, we once again urge the Government of India to bring an end to extra-judicial killings and desist from indiscriminate use of force against the Kashmiri people.

Earlier this week, on 4th July 2023, Prime Minister Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif participated in the SCO Council of Heads of State Meeting. In his remarks, the Prime Minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the ‘Shanghai spirit’ and presented Pakistan’s vision for connectivity and regional cooperation as a vehicle for peace and prosperity. He stressed the need for collective action against terrorism, extremism, and separatism. The Prime Minister also called for global solidarity in addressing climate change and poverty alleviation, and for promotion of peace and the resolution of disputes.

Pakistan will continue to play an active role in SCO. We welcome Iran’s membership of the SCO and accession of Bahrain, Maldives, Myanmar and the UAE as new Dialogue Partners of SCO. We are pleased to see the establishment of the Working Group on Poverty. As announced by the Prime Minister, Pakistan will hold the SCO Conference on Transport Connectivity in the last quarter of 2023.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari undertook an official visit to Japan on 1-4 July 2023 where he held bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and called on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. In the bilateral meetings, the two sides agreed to enhance dialogue and engagement at all levels, to increase bilateral trade and investment, and pursue mutually beneficial cooperation in defence, education, and science and technology.

Foreign Secretary Dr. Asad Majeed Khan is currently in Türkiye for an official visit. Yesterday, he led the Pakistan delegation at the sixth round of the Pakistan-Türkiye Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) in Ankara. Türkiye’s Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akçapar led the Turkish delegation.

The two sides extensively discussed the entire range of bilateral cooperation covering political relations, trade, connectivity, defence, education, culture, and people-to-people contacts. Progress made under the Strategic Economic Framework (SEF) was also reviewed.

The two sides agreed to continue their strategic partnership and to coordinate closely on all issues of mutual concern. In this context, they agreed to hold the 7th Session High Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) in Islamabad. It was also agreed to enhance cooperation in science and technology, research and development, information technology, defence, health, education, agriculture, shipping and maritime domains.

Pakistan and China are celebrating the 10th anniversary of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is an important pillar of the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership with China.

The people of Pakistan have witnessed the remarkable achievements and fruits of high-quality development stimulated by CPEC since its inauguration in 2013. Under the first phase of CPEC, China invested around US$ 25.4 billion in Pakistan, primarily in energy and transport infrastructure sectors. CPEC projects have added: 8000 MWs of energy to the national grid; 510 km of highways; 932 km of road networks; 820 km of Optical Fiber Line. It has also created about 200,000 jobs in Pakistan.

CPEC is also an important node in cross regional connectivity. It is an inclusive and open platform for interested third parties to benefit from investment opportunities in CPEC priority areas such as cooperation in industry, agriculture, information technology, science and technology, and oil and gas.

Both Pakistan and China remain committed to continued expansion and development of CPEC to promote win-win connectivity, development and mutual prosperity. We will continue to push forward all CPEC projects in a safe, smooth, and high-quality manner, promoting cooperation in areas such as economy and trade, investment, industry, agriculture, health, and science and technology, contributing to the peoples’ well-being and delivering greater benefits to local communities.

Pakistan strongly condemns brutal Israeli raids and airstrikes on the Jenin refugee camp, resulting in multiple casualties The people of Pakistan are outraged on this deliberate targeting of civilians. Such egregious and repeated attacks on Palestinian people must end. We also believe that the Palestinians have a right to live peacefully in an independent state of Palestine, based on pre-1967 borders, with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital.

As Pakistan celebrates sanctity of the Holy Quran day tomorrow, we strongly condemn the despicable acts of public burning of the Holy Quran in Sweden and other countries in Europe. We believe that such willful incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence cannot be justified under the guise of freedom of expression. The recurrence of such Islamophobic incidents calls into serious question the legal framework which permits such hate-driven actions.
As a leading member of the OIC, Pakistan has called for an urgent debate on this important matter at the UN Human Rights Council. We also call for credible and concrete measures to prevent the rising incidents of xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.

​Finally, I have an announcement to make:

Foreign Minister of the Swiss Confederation, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, will arrive in Pakistan for an official visit from 7-9 July 2023. The delegation includes three members of the Swiss parliament and senior officials. Prime Minister of Pakistan had extended an invitation to Mr. Cassis when they met in Geneva at the occasion of international conference on climate resilient Pakistan held on 9 January 2023.

In Islamabad, Federal Councillor Cassis will call on the Prime Minister and meet with Minister for Climate Change, Ms. Sherry Rahman. He will visit the National Disaster Management Authority in Islamabad where the two sides will discuss bilateral cooperation in disaster management.

I thank you.
Question:​ My question is on rising strategic relationship between India and USA; I need your comment on how this will affect Pakistan? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today).
Answer: We do not comment on relations between other countries. Pakistan has a longstanding and historic relationship with the United States. This relationship has continued for the last several decades and we are confident about its future as well.
Question: Pakistan arrested five nationals yesterday for working in Israel. How does the Foreign Office see this development? Is there any possibility that more Pakistani might be working in Israel? (Abdullah Momin, Dawn)
Answer:​ A statement has been issued by FIA on how these individuals had violated Pakistani laws. I would like you to refer to that statement.
Question:​ Prime Minister Pakistan offered India to become a part of CPEC on the completion of 10 years of CPEC between Pakistan and China. Are there any upcoming talks between Pakistan and India, as our number one stance has always been on Kashmir? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)
Answer:​ I think your question has several different elements. First of all, I think you have not read the transcript of the Prime Minister’s statement. Prime Minister has spoken about regional connectivity and cooperation which we believe is important for mutual prosperity and peace in the region. This is a long-standing position of Pakistan and we continue to reiterate that position. As far as CPEC is concerned, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, CPEC is a bilateral project, but it is a project for regional connectivity and prosperity. And, we welcome all countries to come and invest in projects in CPEC priority areas.
Question:​ Two questions. Firstly, with regards to the comments by the Indian External Affairs Minister, about four days back he made a comment in Calcutta and I quote, “terrorism by the night and trade by the day, we cannot allow terrorism to be normalized by Pakistan in such a scenario to go ahead with talks.” What is your comment on that?
Number two, you’ve made a comment on the alleged Israeli arrest. My question is that FIA said that these seven individuals were traveling on a Schengen visa. We’ve previously seen that the Government of Pakistan’s officials and somebody as senior as the Foreign Minister has traveled and engaged with his Israeli counterparts as well; he has written that in his own book in 2005. So, with that, my question is, you’ve got this range of government dignitaries Zulfi Bukhari, Allama Tahir Ashrafi, and Abdul Kabir Azad. Are all of them to be arrested as well? Or are the standards different for common citizens, those who are traveling on a valid visa, and the standards are different for Government officials? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer:​ Firstly, regarding your second question. I would like to underline that FIA has clearly outlined the reasons for these arrests. Any further details may also be referred to FIA who would be in a better position to respond. Lastly, on the same question, I am not aware of any visit by former Foreign Minister of Pakistan to Israel so a such statement needs to be seen in its proper context.
In response to your first question, there are some officials and political personalities in India who have an unhealthy obsession about Pakistan. And so, we should see their statements in that light. We have maintained on a number of occasions that the issue of terrorism should not be exploited for diplomatic point-scoring or staying away from interstate engagement. Pakistan has its own concerns about India’s involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan, and we have shared credible evidence in that regard. We believe that India should not hold the regional cooperation hostage to its belligerent posturing and hegemonic ambitions as their antagonistic statements and hostile gestures would lead this region nowhere.
Question:​ It has been reported that Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto reached America on a three-day visit; is there any confirmation from Foreign Office? What is the agenda of this visit? Will Pakistan raise the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui who is in prison for 15 years in America. Or if America is not responsive on this matter, will Pakistan take this matter to International Court? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: I think on Ms. Aafia Siddiqui we have made our position clear many times. I just spoke about it a few weeks ago when her sister visited the United States. Our position is on the record. So I would not like to go into it further. As far as the Foreign Minister’s visit is concerned, the Foreign Minister is on a private, personal visit to the United States. So, this Ministry does not have any comments or statement to offer.
Question:​ There is a development in India regarding the unilateral measures taken on 5th August 2019. A five-member constitution bench of the Indian Supreme Court has been constituted by the Chief Justice of India. Reports are very conflicting and the individual who filed this petition Shah Faisal is reported to have withdrawn. So, what is the exact position of the issue? Secondly, what is the reaction of Pakistan about the five-member bench constituted to review the unilateral measures of 5th August 2019? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer:​ Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory, whose final disposition is to be made in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and as per the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Any other process cannot serve as a substitute to the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people.
Supplementary Question: ​If we are so unconcerned about the scrapping or retention of article 370, then why we discontinued the High Commissioner level relation, discarded the trade, discarded the People-to-People contacts, discarded the bus service, and discarded the train service. (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer:​ First of all, Pakistan has never recognized India’s control or occupation of Kashmir. So, Article 370, or any provision of the Indian constitution that perpetuates India’s illegal occupation has never been accepted by Pakistan. Pakistan’s concern in 2019, that remains our concern today, was India’s unilateral and illegal measures in IIOJK to convert the Kashmiri people into a disempowered minority in their own land. These measures are unacceptable to Pakistan and must be rescinded to create an environment for peace and dialogue.
Question:​ My second question is about the speeches made at the SCO virtual Summit. Both Indian and Pakistani Prime Minister they listened to each other and there was unanimity about the concerns regarding the humanitarian conditions inside Afghanistan. And there was concern about terrorism, as you have just responded to. But despite the unanimity about the Afghan scenario and concerns about terrorism, why it is not creating any convergence between the two countries? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: ​I disagree with the premise of this question about unanimity of views between Pakistan and India. Unlike Pakistan, India is using the issue of terrorism for diplomatic point scoring, and for staying away from interstate engagement. It is using the bogey of terrorism to target and malign Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, is the foremost victim of terrorism. It is the foremost victim of instability in Afghanistan, and our concerns are genuine. And we believe that if there is to be any regional cooperation, India would have to give up its belligerent posturing, maligning of Pakistan and its hegemonic ambitions in the region.
Question:​ Recently, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh alleged in a speech that a large part of Kashmir is under occupation of Pakistan. He has also recently threatened Pakistan and said India is capable of entering into any neighboring countries territory and killing on its own. He made the latest statement at an election rally. How do you see these statements? (Fazal Raza Khan, 24 News)
Answer:​ The anti-Pakistan remarks by the Indian Defence Minister that he continues to make are deplorable. Pakistan rejects all his false assertions. The ground realities in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir are diametrically different from what the Indian Defense Minister has portrayed. While Azad Jammu and Kashmir is peaceful and open and accessible to the world with the local population enjoying their civil and political rights, India has managed the illegal occupied Jammu and Kashmir as a vast open prison. The egregious human rights violations committed by India in IIOJK, are well documented, including by the UN Human Rights machinery, by the world media, and by the international human rights organizations. It is also a fact that IIOJK is one of the most militarized zones in the world. The delusional claims by India about peace and normalcy in the area, therefore, ring hollow.
Jammu and Kashmir remains an internationally recognized dispute on the agenda of the United Nations since 1948. India is an occupation force in IIOJK, and in clear violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Its claims over Jammu and Kashmir can neither change the facts of history nor its legal status. We believe the only resolution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute lies in ensuring that the Kashmiris are able to exercise their right to self-determination through the democratic method of a UN-mandated free and fair and impartial plebiscite as espoused in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and as per the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Question:​ My second question related to Afghan interim government Defense Minister Maulvi Mohammed Yaqoob; he has given an interview to Tolo news and leveled three prime allegations on Pakistan. Firstly, he denied Durrand Line as a border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and called it merely a line, disputed and de facto. He said that Afghanistan will raise this matter with Pakistan as and when the people of Afghanistan allow that. Secondly, he again blamed Pakistan for poor border security that Pakistan is unable to defend itself against TTP, therefore it blames Afghanistan. Thirdly, he accused Pakistan allowing the US to fly drones from its airspace into the Afghan airspace to target different factions there. What is your response please?​(Fazal Raza Khan, 24 News)
Answer:​ First of all, we have seen the media statement that you are referring to. And, I think I have answered this question when it was raised earlier as well. I would like to reiterate what I said in the past that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is an internationally recognized border, and it has never been and shall never be on the agenda of any talks with any country or entity because it is an internationally legally recognized border. We want this border to be a border of peace and amity. Pakistan has made every effort to maintain peace along this border. We have also seen that there have been attempts by different entities to hinder Pakistan’s efforts for fencing of the border. We have also witnessed several incidents from across the border where Pakistani civilians and law enforcement officials have been targeted. This issue has been on the agenda of bilateral talks, and the trilateral dialogue between Pakistan, China and Afghanistan. And I would refer you to the trilateral statement that was issued a couple of months ago about the terrorist threat faced by Pakistan and the role of Afghan Interim authorities in this regard.
Question:​ If you could share the fresh details of the Greek shipwreck tragedy and has the Foreign Office summoned someone or will take up this issue formally with the Greek authorities on the Coast Guard’s negligence. Second, EU observer mission, in a statement said that they are uncertain about the election in Pakistan this year. They said that we don’t see any election this year in Pakistan. Can you please comment on this?​(Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)
Answer: ​I haven’t seen any such statement which states what you have just said. There has been another statement by the European Union about election observers so I can’t comment on a statement that I haven’t seen.
Regarding your first question, this is an opportunity for me to share some details about the Greek boat tragedy.
First of all, according to the information that we have received from our Mission in Athens, the Greek authorities have carried out the autopsies on all 78 dead bodies that were recovered and DNA samples have been obtained. The analysis of DNA samples has also been made. Another piece of information that I can share with you is that at this stage according to the latest information that we have, Greek authorities have confirmed 15 Pakistanis among dead bodies through fingerprint matching and DNAs. The process continues. And when we have further details, we will share with you.
Lastly, I can also share with you is that our Embassy of Pakistan in Greece has shared its concerns and queries with the host government. The Greek government has initiated a judicial inquiry into the matter. The Greek authorities have interviewed the survivors to ascertain information about the circumstances of the ferry disaster. We will remain in contact with the Greek authorities. Once these inquiry details are released, we would be in a better position to share further details with you.
Question:​ Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto had recently visited India a month ago, our National Cricket Team is also willing to go to India to play the game while the Indian Cricket Team has denied to play Asia Cup in Pakistan neither their officials visiting Pakistan. What is the clear policy of Pakistan regarding World Cup? Is Pakistan Cricket Team going to play World Cup in India? And will our official visits to India be continued while India has announced a complete boycott of Pakistan. (Luqman Shah, Daily Azkaar)
Answer:​ Well, this question is under consideration of the Government of Pakistan. As I said last time when we have any announcement we will share with the media.
Question:​ So, the Government has said that it will join the protests on Friday after the burning of the Quran in Stockholm. What measures are the government taking regarding Sweden and are there any suggestions of severing any form of ties or what sort of further pressure is the government applying to the Swedish government given the burning of the Quran? (Ms. Carrie Davies, BBC News)
Supplementary Question:​ Ma’am, has the Ambassador of Sweden been summoned by the Foreign Office and has any protest been recorded formally, as has been reported in the media? (Adil Hussain Nizami, Hum News)
Supplementary Question: ​What is the reason for a delay of 5 days in the summoning of the Swedish Charge d’Affaires while several countries responded within two days? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Answer:​ First, Pakistan has diplomatic ties with Sweden and we maintain good relations with Sweden. Like in the past we have raised our concerns on this incident with the Swedish authorities. I can confirm that, yes, we have raised this with the Charge d’Affaires of the Sweden in Islamabad and our dialogue with Sweden will continue. We will continue to raise our concerns with the Government of Sweden which has conveyed its own concerns about Islamophobia and Quran burnings. Pakistan has also brought this issue to the OIC; and as the OIC coordinator in Geneva we have raised this issue at the UN Human Rights Council, where we have asked for a special debate on Quran burnings, Islamophobia, and this deliberate targeting of Muslims and sentiments of Muslims around the world.
Question:​According to reports there were 300 people in a boat wreck incident in Greece, of which you said only 15 dead bodies were found. Do you have any confirmed number of how many people were there on the boat? Number two, what were the outcomes and total expenditures of all of the Foreign Minister’s visits till today? (Sardar Aamir Hussain, Daily Maddar)
Answer:​ I have shared details of such visits on various occasion in the past. If you do not have those details, please go to our website, do some research and all visits of the Foreign Ministers are reflected on our website. You can count how many foreign visits were undertaken by the Foreign Minister. Regarding the issue of the Greek boat tragedy, as I said in our last briefing, the total number of Pakistanis who were traveling on this boat is not known to us, to the Government of Greece, to the Government of Egypt, or other nationalities who were on-board because the unfortunate fact is that these people were traveling without visas or proper documentation. So, it is difficult for us to exactly determine how many people were on this boat. There are different media reports but these reports cannot be verified.
Question:​ We heard from the Interior Minister that about 293 families had contacted, and about 89 of them had already submitted their DNA samples. Can you confirm the veracity of this report? How many DNA samples have been provided to the Greek authorities from the Pakistani side on a government-to-government basis?​(Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer:​ The DNA reports that have been received are from people who fear that their loved ones or their relatives may be on that ill-fated boat. This, however, does not confirm whether they were actually on that boat. Because of the dynamic nature of this process, unfortunately, I don’t have the exact number of DNA samples shared with the Greek authorities thus far, but we can share it with our media friends separately.
Question:​ America has played an important role in a staff level agreement which has recently been done between Pakistan and IMF. Pakistani Ambassador in Washington also contacted American authorities regarding this matter. Can you confirm if Pakistan has sought help from America to get this deal done? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News)
Answer: ​First, I would like to say that the details of the IMF deal have been finalized by the Ministry of Finance. They had the lead in this process. They know the real dynamics of the negotiations with IMF so they can give you the exact details. However, I can add here, that Pakistan’s friends, including the United States, were engaged with us and we held constructive conversations with all relevant parties including the United States and we are grateful for their support.
Question:​ Every day, terrorist activities are being reported. Yesterday, there was a suicide bomb attack in North Waziristan and recently a Captain embraced Shahadat in the Khyber Agency. Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar and Khwaja Asif visited Afghanistan and their Foreign Minister visited Pakistan and held talks regarding Tehreek e Taliban. What were the outcomes of these visits and those talks? Is there resultantly been any reduction in terrorist activities? Secondly, yesterday, in Afghanistan they put ban on women beauty salons and women education; apart from this, the current Afghan government has started lashing prisoners in public and also started public hangings. What is the stance of Pakistan on this? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer:​ First, Pakistan has always believed in dialogue and we believe dialogue is important for productive results and we do see the value of dialogue with Afghanistan, including on counterterrorism matters. You’re right that there have been many engagements, the visit of Minister for Defence, the visit of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs but also the visit of the Afghan interim Foreign Minister to Pakistan. All these were opportunities for us to engage with Afghanistan to discuss with them all aspects of cooperation and concern, including Pakistan’s serious concerns about the threat of terrorism that emanates from Afghanistan. So, we believe that these talks are important and we will continue to engage in these talks. With regards to other developments in Afghanistan, Pakistan has said in the past and we reiterate that education and the rights of women are an important concern for Pakistan. We would like the Afghan women to play their due role in the society. We also hope that the Afghan authorities will review their decisions because we cannot deprive the enterprising and innovative Afghan women the right to progress, to follow their dreams, and to play an active role in the Afghan society.
Question: ​There are reports that the Ambassador of Pakistan to the US has been called back to Pakistan. Is it true? (Saqib Ali, Daily Kashmir Times)
Answer: ​I have no information to that effect. When I have information about any transfers and postings, I will share with you.
Question:​ Ma’am, Pakistan has played a strong role internationally regarding Islamophobia especially declaration of 15th March as International Day to Combat Islamophobia was on Pakistan’s demand in the United Nations. In collaboration with OIC and United Nations, will Pakistan raise the voice regarding the recent Islamophobic incidents?​(Asghar Ali Mubarak, the Daily Mail International)
Answer:​ I think I have already answered this question but I will reiterate it. Pakistan has raised this question at the UN Human Rights Council. Pakistan is the coordinator of OIC group in Geneva and in that capacity, we made this a request for a special session of the Council. Similarly, we have expressed our concern at the meetings of OIC which took place in Jeddah and this concern is widely known to the rest of the world.

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