[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Thanks for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had an active agenda over the last several days. He held important telephone conversations with a number of his counterparts and leaders of international organizations and institutions. These include: Foreign Minister of Iran, Dr. Hossien Amir Abdollahian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Türkiye, Hakan Fidan, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary General, Hissein Brahmin Taha, and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.
In these conversations, bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest were discussed. The main purpose of these calls was to discuss two key issues of concern to Pakistan: the alarming rise of Islamophobia and religious hatred directed against Muslims, and discussions pertaining to the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI).
You would recall the Black Sea Grain Initiative was discussed between the Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and Ukraine last week. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had expressed a willingness to engage with relevant parties to promote dialogue and consultation for the revival of the Initiative.
Foreign Minister discussed BSGI in the telephone conversations with the Foreign Minister of Turkiye and Russia, the US Secretary of State and the EU High Representative, and the UN Secretary General. He shared with them Pakistan’s concerns pertaining to food security and inflation resulting from BSGI’s expiry. He underscored the need for concerted efforts to revive the deal, taking into account the concerns of the relevant parties on the basis of mutual accommodation. Foreign Minister also shared Pakistan’s readiness to contribute to collective efforts in that regard.
Pakistan strongly condemns the desecration of the Holy Quran and dishonoring of the Pakistani flag in front of the Embassy of Pakistan in Copenhagen, Denmark. A strong protest has been lodged with the Government of Denmark. We expect the Danish authorities to take all measures necessary to stop such acts of hatred and incitement.
The intent of such evil acts is to insult two billion Muslims around the world and create friction amongst communities, cultures, and countries. These acts, by any definition, do not constitute freedom of expression. Nor can the permission to carry out provocative acts of religious hatred be justified under the pretext of freedom of expression, opinion and protest. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said, “speech and inflammatory acts against Muslims are offensive, irresponsible and wrong”.
Pakistan has always maintained that freedom of expression comes with responsibilities. It is the responsibility of national governments, regional organizations and the international community at large to call out, condemn and proactively prevent the vile acts of Islamophobia and religious hatred. As urged by the UN Human Rights Council, the relevant countries must address, prevent and prosecute such acts of religious hatred. The international community must raise its collective voice against Islamophobia and work together to promote inter-faith harmony and peaceful co-existence.
Pakistan, for its part, will continue to raise the question of Islamophobia at the international level. This issue was a key point of telephone conversations of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari with his counterparts from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkiye and with Secretary General of OIC and the UN Secretary General. Issues pertaining to these recurrent acts of Islamophobia are being discussed at the OIC Headquarters in Jeddah and the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Last week Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also signed the ‘‘Host Country Agreement’’ between Pakistan and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which was co-signed by President of IFAD Alvaro Lario. As a result of the Agreement, IFAD will set up its Country Office in Islamabad. The Agreement formalizes the already existing substantial cooperation with IFAD whose current portfolio across Pakistan totals US$ 673 million, which is the second highest IFAD undertaking in the world.
The UN Special Coordinator on Afghanistan, Feridun Sinirlioğlu visited Pakistan 24-25 July 2023. In Islamabad, he held meetings with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Secretary, Dr. Asad Majeed Khan, Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Asif Durrani, and Secretary, States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Division, Mr. Pervaiz Ahmed Junejo. The discussions focused on the importance of a coherent international strategy to engage with the Afghan Interim Government.
Pakistan strongly condemns the provocative statement made by Indian Defence Minister on 26 July 2023 in Ladakh, boasting India’s readiness to cross the Line of Control. These unwarranted and totally unacceptable remarks reflect India’s hostility against its neighbours, Pakistan in particular.
Pakistan is fully capable of defending itself against any aggression as demonstrated in its forceful response to India’s misadventure in February 2019.
This is not the first time that India’s political leaders and senior military officers have made such highly irresponsible and delusional remarks about Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. They routinely engage in jingoistic rhetoric for political ends by stoking hyper-nationalism and anti-Pakistan sentiment. This practice of dragging Pakistan into Indian political discourse must end.
These highly irresponsible statements also constitute a threat to regional peace and security and aim to destabilize the strategic environment in South Asia. While fully prepared to respond to India’s provocations and irresponsible behaviour, Pakistan will continue to act responsibly and contribute to all efforts for promoting peace, security and stability in the region.
Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally-recognized disputed territory. India’s claims on Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are founded in fantasy. Neither history and international law, nor morality and the situation on ground can validate India’s illusions. It should, therefore, direct its attention to full implementation of the relevant UNSC resolutions which stipulate that the final disposition of the territory will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.
Pakistan will 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 have an update on the Greek Boat Tragedy.
The mortal remains of 15 Pakistanis who perished in the disaster have arrived in Pakistan and handed over to their families in the districts of Gujarat, Gujranwala, Mandi Bahauddin, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, Vehari and Mirpur (AJK). Our Mission in Greece facilitated the process of retrieval and transportation of the dead bodies. The Greek authorities have also informed that they have completed the process of DNA matching of the retrieved dead bodies. No additional Pakistani national has been identified among the deceased.
Question: Currently in Manipur, India there is internal strife. There is also a debate undergoing on Manipur in the Indian Parliament. In coming days there will be a G20 summit in India in which international actors will participate. What is Pakistan’s stance on this? (Mohsin ul Mulk, 24 News HD)
Answer: We are following the developments. We have also seen the pronouncements made by the international community about their concerns about the plight of minorities in India. As you know, we have on a number of occasions maintained that the safety and security of minorities and their places of worship should be ensured by the Indian government.
Question: The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, submitted a letter to the Pakistan Permanent Representative to the United Nation in Geneva, Switzerland. In this letter, they have expressed serious concern with the treatment of Ahmadi minority in Pakistan. We have also witnessed in the last few weeks in Karachi that their (places of) worship have been demolished. So, what is the response of the Foreign Office on this? Secondly, the special envoy to Afghanistan, Asif Durrani recently visited Afghanistan. Are there any outcomes of that visit? Are the Afghan Taliban ready to take action against the Pakistani Taliban or not? (Abdullah Momand, Dawn)
Answer: First, the visit of the Special Representative Ambassador Durrani to Afghanistan was his first visit to Afghanistan since his appointment in this position. He took this opportunity to meet the relevant Ministers and officials in Afghanistan and discuss issues of cooperation and concern between Pakistan and Afghanistan. These conversations will continue. We are not in a position at this time to announce the results of those conversations, because this is an ongoing process. Regarding your first question, I would basically invite you to address the question of the law-and-order related developments to the Sindh Government. They will be in a better position to share with you the circumstances of those incidents. While we may not be perfect, Pakistan is a country in which minorities have full protection under our Constitution and we have made progress on many aspects of minority rights. We will continue to present the progress Pakistan has made in recent years to the UN Human Rights Council.
Question: Three questions. First, regarding Ambassador Durrani’s visit, my question is essentially a follow up to the last time because Afghans in a press release said that Ambassador Durrani had congratulated on the struggles of the Taliban and their success in maintaining peace. Did he actually congratulate the terror outfit that is listed for more than 20 years and which Pakistan is fighting. With regards to Denmark – what level was the protest registered and was there a summon of the Danish Ambassador or Charge d’affaires? And thirdly, the Foreign Minister held a telephone conversation with Secretary Blinken. Interestingly enough, both the US statement and the Pakistani Statement had the exact same paragraph and I quote, “Secretary Blinken stressed that democratic principles and respect for the rule of law are central to the US – Pakistan relationship. And these values will continue to guide this partnership forward.” What is the context of this paragraph? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: There is a wide canvas of subjects of discussion between Pakistan and the United States. When our leaders or our Foreign Ministers engage all important topics of interest are discussed between the two sides. During this telephone call the two sides discussed bilateral and regional issues. The Black Sea Grain Initiative was on the agenda. It was also an opportunity for the Foreign Minister to share with the US Secretary of State the commitment of the Government of Pakistan to the democratic process in Pakistan. This has been reflected in our statement. I do not have anything further to add to that. Your other question was about the desecration of the Holy Quran in Denmark. Yes, it has been raised at the level of Charge d’Affaires and our Mission in Denmark has also been in contact with the relevant authorities there. As I said, we have conveyed our concerns to these authorities. On your first question. I would like to reiterate what we said in our last briefing. I had said and I quote, “the statement released by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is their version of events.” This does not necessarily correspond to our version of the conversations.
Question: After ban on girls’ education, the Taliban officials are now openly and publicly speaking against neckties. A Taliban official yesterday spoke against neckties and said neckties are a sign of the cross. Taliban government has ordered unofficially right now to eliminate wearing necktie especially in the hospitals. What’s Pakistan’s take on it? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)
Answer: I need to ascertain more details before commenting on this development.
Question: Foreign Minister hosted his counterpart from Ukraine, and then spoke to his Russian counterpart. What is the policy of the Government of Pakistan regarding the two hostile countries who are at war against each other? Ukraine is facing aggression from Russia. Are we with Hussain or Yazeed? My second question pertains to the talks with TTP which is responsible for hundreds of killings of Pakistanis. The Afghan Taliban are suggesting to Pakistan that we should hold talks with TTP. Would the Government of Pakistan at any point talk to those who do not recognize the Constitution of Pakistan? And accept the collective demand from Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: On your second question, I have responded in the past as well and I will reiterate. Pakistan’s position is that we will not negotiate with individuals or entities which are involved in killing of Pakistani civilians and law enforcement officials and who do not recognize the Constitution of Pakistan. Pakistan’s position has been very clearly enunciated including to those who propose such talks. With respect to your first question regarding the regarding the Ukraine-Russia conflict, we have spoken about our position on several occasions. When he spoke to you a few days ago, the Foreign Minister also reiterated Pakistan’s position of neutrality in this conflict. We believe that conflict does not serve anyone. It creates difficulties and miseries for the people of both countries. It is, therefore, important to find a negotiated settlement of this conflict so that peace can prevail and the people of Ukraine and Russia can enjoy the peace dividends.
Question: Last year, there was a massive disaster in which 33 million people were affected. Last year UN Secretary General visited Pakistan and the Prime Minister participated in donor conferences and many promises were also made. Reports suggest that only a small portion of the relief has been received. Now Pakistan is again facing the brunt of climate change. What is Pakistan’s stance on this? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: You’re absolutely right, climate change is a national emergency for Pakistan. It brought human suffering to millions of Pakistanis during last year’s floods. Climate change issues remain a priority for Pakistan’s foreign policy and our engagement and dialogue with partner countries and international organizations. With respect to our national policy, I would advise you to contact the Ministry of Climate Change which will be in a better position to share with you our agenda on climate change.
Question: During the last briefing you stated that consular access has been requested for Seema Haider. Is there any progress on this? (Saqib Ali, Daily Kashmir Times)
Answer: No update. We have not received the consular access yet or confirmation about her nationality.
Question: You just said in response to a question that Pakistan will not talk to those people who are involved in the massacre of innocent Pakistanis. Are these individuals or organization also? During the visit of Iran’s Foreign Minister, will there be a conversation about IP pipeline along with other topics? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Answer: I clearly said individuals and entities. We will share any details of any future visits when we announce those visits. At this point. I’m not in a position to divulge any details.
Question: The press release of the Pakistani side on the call between Foreign Minister Zardari and Secretary Blinken skips the mention about Kashmir and India’s tactics. Has there been a change in policy or was this not discussed at all? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: I do not have a complete readout of the statement. But, as I said this conversation was primarily in the context of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Although some other aspects of bilateral concern were also discussed.
Question: The relations between Pakistan and India have always been tense. Seema went to India and Anju came to Dir. Do you believe that both countries can pave the way for peace? (Abdullah Momand, Dawn)
Answer: First of all, we have still not been given any information about Ms. Seema and we are unable to confirm her nationality yet. Second Ms. Anju is an Indian national who arrived here on a valid visa. So, I cannot find any links between these cases.
Question: Has the Indian High Commission approached the Foreign Office about Anju’s case? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)
Answer: As I said she has come here on valid visa and is not under arrest. So, the issue of consular access does not arise.
Last modified: July 27, 2023
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