Media Briefing|

(2019-11-07) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,


Let me begin by giving a brief round-up of the events on the foreign policy front;

The Indian Occupation Forces in their acts of state terrorism martyred Naveed Hussain Tak, Hamid Lone Lelhari, Junaid Bhat and Ajaz Ahmed Malik, in the Pulwama and Islamabad districts, in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The humanitarian nightmare in IOJ&K is worsening with continued military lockdown and complete communications blackout for 98th consecutive day (since the lockdown was imposed on 4th August 2019), which is affecting lives and property of millions of innocent Kashmiris. Over 8 million people in the IOJ&K remain cut-off from the world, with continued concerns being raised about lack of medical supplies and other basic needs. These inhuman and unilateral actions by India are continuing despite the international condemnation. We call upon the international community to impress upon India to halt its atrocities in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

As Director General (SA & SAARC), I summoned the Indian Charge d’ Affaires Mr. Gaurav Ahluwalia on 25th October and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control (LoC) in Shahkot and Khuiratta Sectors. Due to indiscriminate and unprovoked firing by Indian Army, three innocent civilians, embraced shahadat, while one child, sustained serious injuries.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement once again expressed serious concerns that the population of IOJ&K continues to be deprived of a wide range of human rights and urged the Indian authorities to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied. The statement, at length, delves upon the gross violations of human rights being perpetrated in IOJ&K, since the illegal actions of Government of India on 5th August.

Pakistan welcomes the U.S. House of Representative’s Sub-Committee on Asia & the Pacific public hearing on human rights in South Asia. The deliberations were mostly focused on the grave human rights and humanitarian situation in the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K). Members of the Sub-Committee noted that India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 5 and subsequent lockdown in IOJ&K have created a humanitarian crisis with security implications for the entire region. Heart rending accounts of detentions, beatings and torture of innocent Kashmiris remained the most poignant part of the hearing, which evoked a unified reaction from Members for an urgent end to these violations.

On 30 October, 2019, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held wide-ranging talks with Vice President of Cuba Mr. Roberto Morales Odeja along with his delegation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Whilst highlighting excellent bilateral relations, the Foreign Minister added that there was enormous potential to enhance bilateral cooperation in the health and agricultural sectors. He also briefed the Cuban delegation on India’s unilateral and illegal actions of 5 August in the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

After the meeting, Pakistan and Cuba signed the agreement on the exemption from visa requirement for diplomatic and official passport holders. The agreement would facilitate the travel of the officials of the two countries. The Cuban Vice-President also met with the President and Prime Minister and discussed areas of mutual interest.

On 31st October, Pakistan rejected the “bifurcation” of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. Changing of status quo in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir is in complete violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions and Bilateral Agreements between India and Pakistan, especially the Simla Agreement. These changes are illegal and void as per the relevant UNSC Resolutions, and do not prejudice the right to self-determination of the people of Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Furthermore, contrary to the false projection by the Indian authorities, the purpose of these illegal changes in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir is neither development of the region nor welfare of the Kashmiri people. The real motive is to alter the demographic structure of the Muslim majority state in pursuance of the extremist “Hindutva” ideology.

On 3rd November, Pakistan rejected the political maps of India, issued by the Indian Home Ministry on 2 November 2019. The alleged maps displaying Jammu and Kashmir region and seeking to depict parts of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir within the territorial jurisdiction of India, are incorrect, legally untenable, void and in complete violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Pakistan rejects these political maps, which are incompatible with the United Nations’ maps.

On 1-2 November 2019, Pakistan participated in the 18th Meeting of the Council of the Heads of Government of SCO Member States. Pakistan’s delegation was led by Additional Secretary and National Coordinator SCO Zahoor Ahmed led Pakistan’s delegation to the on 1-2 November 2019. A detailed press release has also been issued in this regard.

On 05 November 2019, the 4th round of Bilateral Political Consultations between Pakistan and Bulgaria was held in Islamabad. Dr. Aman Rashid, Additional Secretary (Europe) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the Pakistan delegation. Ambassador Christo StefanovPolendakov, Director General Bilateral Relations of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs led Bulgarian delegations. The two sides took stock of the whole range of bilateral relations, including political, economic, trade, investment, education and cultural fields. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the progress made at 2nd Session of the Pakistan-Bulgaria Inter-Governmental Commission on Economic Cooperation held in Islamabad in May 2019 and agreed on further cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.

On the invitation of Malaysian Foreign Minister Mr. Saifuddin Abdullah, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Malaysia from 4-5 November 2019. During the visit, the Foreign Minister attended a preparatory meeting on Kuala Lumpur Summit chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and held separate meetings with the Malaysian Foreign Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs to discuss, inter alia, bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, halal food, science and technology, human resource and international issues of common interest. The Foreign Minister thanked Malaysian Government for its principled stance on Kashmir issue. In addition, the Foreign Minister held networking meeting with leading businessmen and invited them to invest in Pakistan. The Foreign Minister also held a meeting with the top management of the flagship Malaysian Oil and Gas Corp Petronas to discuss cooperation in Oil and Gas and LNG sectors. The Foreign Minister also inaugurated Community Service Centre at the High Commission of Pakistan. The Centre has been set up by Malaysia Pakistan Business Council.

As a special gesture on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, Pakistan has waived a) pilgrims from carrying passport for the 550th celebrations; b) the requirement to convey pilgrim information to the Government of Pakistan 10 days prior to the entry through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor; c) US $ 20 service charges per pilgrim, per visit, on 9th and 12th November 2019.

On 6 November, 2019, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood briefed the diplomatic corps, regarding Pakistan’s initiative of opening the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. The Heads of Mission and representatives from Islamabad-based diplomatic missions attended in large number. Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the Corridor on 9 November 2019.

While highlighting the historic initiative by Prime Minister Imran Khan to open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the auspicious occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the Foreign Secretary underscored that Pakistan has taken this step to meet the long-standing request of Nanak NaamLevas and especially the Sikh community across the world, particularly from India. Opening of the Corridor is in line with the Islamic principles, Pakistan’s policy of promoting inter-faith harmony, and Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood.

As a part of series of activities to observe the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the Government of Pakistan is issuing a special coin and a commemorative stamp. Moreover, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has laid the foundation stone of Baba Guru Nanak University at Nankana Sahib. The Foreign Secretary stated that besides the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, pilgrims from India would continue to come through Wagah border, as well, their numbers have, however been, increased. Similarly, thousands of pilgrims from across the world, especially from countries with large Sikh communities, are coming to Pakistan. Our missions abroad are also fully facilitating visa requests from Nanak Naamlevas.

Appreciating Pakistan’s historic initiative to open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and completion of the huge project in record time, the diplomats congratulated Pakistan and thanked for the arrangements being made for their facilitation.

Lastly, Pakistan is disappointed with assertions made in the U.S. Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism 2018, concerning its counter-terrorism efforts. The report completely overlooks the factual situation on the ground and the tremendous contribution made and sacrifices rendered by Pakistan over the last two decades in the international fight against terrorism. These efforts have not only resulted in the elimination of Al-Qaeda from this region, but have also made the world a safer place. Pakistan is committed to take concrete actions under its National Action Plan. Pakistan has taken extensive legal and administrative measures for implementation of its obligations under the UNSC 1267 sanctions regime for the freezing of assets and denial of funds and economic resources to all designated entities and individuals. Pakistanis continuing actions to fully implement the FATF Action Plan. We hope Pakistan’s commitment, contributions and sacrifices would be fully recognized and appreciated in the right perspective.

Question On one side Pakistan is catering to the needs and rights of minorities but on the other side India is not facilitating visas for Pakistani nationals who intend to visit religious places and shrines in India.Your comments please?

Secondly, how many invitees from India have confirmed their presence for the opening ceremony of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in Pakistan?(Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Supplementary Question Would you please inform that as per which law an Indian national will be permitted to cross the international border without the necessary requirement of passport, to visit Gurdawara Kartarpur Sahib? Is there any change in the Agreement between Pakistan and India to this effect? (Mr. Adeel Warriach – Dunya News)

Supplementary Question How many Sikh pilgrims are expected to visit Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from India and also from the rest of the world for the upcoming Inauguration Ceremony of the Corridor? Your comments please?(Mr. Mateen Haider – G-News)

Supplementary Question Prime Minister has recently waived requirements, as agreed in the Agreement between Pakistan and India. My question is that as per one of the clauses in the Agreement, both countriesbeforemaking any amendment/change in the agreementneed to inform the other party for the same. Had Pakistan informed India before the Prime Minister announced the waivers?(Mr. Faisal Raza Khan – 92-News)

Supplementary Question Indubitably, opening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor is a major milestone to facilitate Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy place. Is Pakistan considering similar arrangements like giving visa free excess for other minorities like Buddhists, to visit their holy places in Pakistan? (Mr. Nauman Ishfaq – Daily Parliament Times)

Supplementary Question Is the waiver of passport requirement only for 550th Birthday? Has the Indian government accepted the concessions announced by Pakistan? (Mr. Muhammad Jaleel – VoA Urdu)

Supplementary Question The statement given by DG ISPR mentioned that the requirement of passport is mandatory for the Sikh pilgrims, whereas you have mentioned that the Prime Minister has waived the requirement of the passport. Would you please clarify?(Mr. Sehar Gul – BBC Urdu)

Supplementary Question There is some negativity flourishing at the behest of Indian Chief Minister of Punjab Province, wherein the visiting Sikh pilgrims are warned to be cautious, while visiting the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, as there is an alleged presence of terrorist groups near the area of Gurdwara? Your comments please? (Mr. Naveed Akbar – Aaj News)

Answer: I will try to answer all these questions, cumulatively. In my opening statement, I stated that as a special gesture on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, Pakistan has waived (a) pilgrims from carrying passport for the 550th celebrations; (b) the requirement to convey pilgrim information to the Government of Pakistan 10 days prior to the entry through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor; and (c) US $ 20 service charges per pilgrim, per visit, on 9th and 12th November 2019. This has been conveyed formally to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and the Government of India. We hope and expect that the Corridor would be an opportunity,especially for the Sikh community and all the Nanak NaamLevas to come and observe their prayers at Baba Guru Nanak Shrine here in Pakistan, which has been their long-standing request.

Moreover, the expected number of pilgrims who will visit the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor are in thousands, because they will come from three different points of entry and the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor is only one of the access points. The pilgrims who will visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib will arrive and depart from the Corridor,on the same day. This is a dedicated Corridor for the Nanak Naamlevascoming from India. The visitors cannot go to any other place except the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

Furthermore, we already have a bilateral agreement with India regardingpilgrims visiting the holy sites, signed in 1974, wherein, nationals of both the countries can visit the holy placeson both sides of the border. Under the same established Agreement, almost 4500 pilgrims from India have already been issued visas, which is much beyond the agreed limit. Besides, our Missions in Australia, Canada, Europe, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Tanzania, USA, UK, Uganda etc. have also issued thousands of visas to the pilgrims. The number of pilgrims is expected increase with the passage of time and the capacity of the Gurdwara Sahib will be expanded accordingly. Approximately, 10,000 pilgrims are expected to be present on 9th November 2019, from all these access points, cumulatively,to attend the inauguration ceremony of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. Also, Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu has been issued a visa and we willwarmly welcome him on the Opening Ceremony.

Regarding the question on visits ofBuddhist Monks, tourism is an industry that Pakistan was unable to focus on earlier, however, this government is making a concerted effort to promote this industry in the country. One of the facets of the tourism industry is religious tourism. Sikhs / Nanak NaamLevas, Hindus and Buddhist Monks etc.have various holy sites in Pakistan and we are trying to tap this potential of religious tourism.

You will also see many initiatives under religious tourism that are currently in the pipeline and a great deal of effort is being put in for their fruition. The promotion of such initiatives will also help in boosting the economy of Pakistan, as in many countries, tourism is their primary driver of economy.

Regarding statement of DG ISPR, I have conveyed Pakistan’s formal position very clearly and the DG ISPR’s statement is in line with this policy.

On the question regarding spreading of negativity by the Indian Chief Minister, I, as the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can only stress upon the positivity of this initiative and our government’s policy. I want to state this categorically thatthere is not even a modicum of any negative element in our policy.

Question It has been reported that Pakistan’s Consul General in Barcelona had a fight with Pakistani community. Can you please share some details? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malik – Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: I am not aware about our Consul General’s involvement in any problem with community.

However,as per available details from the Spanish authorities and the Pakistani community of Badalona (a suburb of Barcelona), a fight took place between two groups of Pakistanis using knives and baseball bats at the Barcelona Metro Station on 28 October 2019. As a result, a young Pakistani boy named Saad Cheema S/O Tanvir Cheema, aged between 20-22, resident of Barcelona, was killed and two other boys were seriously injured. Their names have not been revealed, but they are also said to be Pakistanis. Police has arrested 09 people in relation to this incident. Our Consul General is in contact with the family of the deceased boy and the local police authorities.

Question What is your reaction on the recently signed Riyadh Agreement on Yemen crisis facilitated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and how can Pakistan facilitate this process as per the vision of the Prime Minister? Do you think that this process will pave the way fora durable peace in the region? (Mr. Shaukat Mehmood Piracha – Aap News)

Answer: We hope so. The Prime Minister has already welcomed this development. We already see the signs of diffusion of tensions in the region. We are hopeful that it would promote peace and de-escalate the tensions in the region.

Question There are increasing reports of harassment of Pakistani diplomats in Afghanistan. Afghan Cd’a has been summoned in this regard. Can you confirm that the Afghan government has taken some steps in this regard to ensure that such harassment is halted? And if this continues then how it will affect the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan?(Mr. Essa Naqvi – Indus TV)

Answer: The Officers and Staff of the Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, had been harassed continuously. They were being obstructed on the road and the Embassy vehicles were also hit by motorcycles while going towards the Embassy.

The Afghan Government has been reminded that being party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities 1961, it is the responsibility of the Government of Afghanistan to ensure safety, security and freedom of movement of to all members of the Mission. We have urged the Afghan Government to ensure safety and security of the personnel. As regards resumption of visa services, please note that we have resumed visa services for medical emergencies on humanitarian grounds. We lodged a strong demarche with the Afghan side, both here and in Kabul. We have conveyed that we take this matter most seriously. We will continue to pursue the matter with the Afghan authorities.

Question There were reports in the media that a truck carrying illegal immigrants was found in France. As per the reports a Pakistani national was driving the truck. Can you please share some details?

Secondly, US Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has visited Afghanistan twice during the last month and also had meetings with the Afghan officials. There are reports that Ambassador Khalilzad is negotiating about a possible swap of Australian and American professors with Anas Haqqani, whose elder brother is the deputy Taliban leader and head of the Haqqani network, to resume the peace talks between USA and Taliban. Your comments please? (Mr. Waqas Ahmed – Capital TV)

Answer: Regarding your first question, I am not sure if the said incidentoccurred in France, or of its other details. Let me check and revert.

With regard to your second question, it is a very sensitive matter. I cannot share explicit details at the moment. We support Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and early solution to the Afghan conflict.

Question My first question is a follow up of earlier question about interception of an Air India plane by Pakistani jets over our airspace. Would you please share some details? Secondly, there are reports that India has taken Pakistan to International Civil Aviation Organization with regards to denial of Pakistan to use its airspace. Could you please confirm?(Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)

Answer: Regarding your first question, I have not received details, as yet. Your second question pertains to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Question Could you update on the mediatory role being offered to Prime Minister of Pakistan between Saudi Arabia and Iran? What is the current situation? (Mr. Zulqarnain – ARY News)

Answer: As I have said already, we see the signs of diffusion of tension in the region. We are hopeful that it would promote peace and de-escalate the tensions in the region.

Question Pakistan has been asking the World Bank for intervention on the outstandingwater issues, under the IWT, between Pakistan and India. Your comments please? (Mr. Shahid-ur-Rehman – Kyodo News)

Answer: Your question pertains to the Ministry of Water and Power. However, let me state that Pakistan is actively pursuing the case in the World Bank.

Question There are reports that the Turkish President is visiting Pakistan on 17 November 2019. Could you please confirm? (Ms. Rashida Sial – AabTakk News)

Answer: We are working on the dates and the VVIP visit is expected soon.

Question A Pakistan namely Ali Sher met with an accident on the border of Iran and Turkey. His family is eagerly waiting for the remains of deceased. Is there any update on the deportation of the dead body? (Mr. Faisal Raza Khan – 92-News)

Answer: Let me check details and get back to you.

Question Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, Head of JUI, in his recent statement has stated that Foreign Office is silent and reluctant to take up the matter with Afghanistan, regarding harassment of Pakistani diplomats in Kabul. Your comments please?

Secondly, you have rejected the map issued recently by the Indian authorities. My question is, whether Pakistan has objection on the bifurcation of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh,orinclusion of Gilgit-Baltistan or in the map in total?

Thirdly, when Pakistan’s initiative to open Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh community is reported in media, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan feel that their voices have not been heard in the same manner. The families of Kargil-Ladakh whose families were separated as a result of1971 war have grievances against discrimination meted out to them. The question is that has Pakistan ever proposed to India regarding the opening of Ladakh-Kargilroute or are there any plans to raise this matter with India in the future? (Mr. Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)

Answer: In response to your first question, I have already commented on this issue and stated Pakistan’s lucid policy, in this regard.

Regarding your second question, Pakistan’s position is in line with the UNSC Resolutions which state that the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir, as it stood on 14 August 1947, is a disputed territory. The final resolution of which has to be done as per the UNSC Resolutions through a UN administered plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiri people. India cannot change the political map of this disputed territory.

Regarding your third question, the opening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor is solely an initiative of Pakistan, particularly the Prime Minister of Pakistan. We are ready to talk and negotiate with India, on all issues. It is India, whichhas beenunwilling to engagewith Pakistan. Pakistan firmly believes that all the disputes,whether Jammu & Kashmir, IWT, Sir Creek, Siachen etc. and the opening of more such corridors between Pakistan and India cam only be dealt with via dialogue. India has stopped the intra-Kashmir trade which was taking place, at three points. Facts are clear, you are all aware that Prime Minister of Pakistan wrote to Prime Minister Modi on 14th September,last year,recommending that Pakistan and India should engage in a dialogue on all outstanding matters. India accepted the request on 20th September 2018 but back-tracked the very next day. The only way in which disputes can be resolved is through dialogue. On the contrary, India has taken numerous aggressive steps, thereby, jeopardizing the peace and stability of the region. India’s unilateral and illegal steps of 5th August 2019 are a manifestation of its nefarious designs. Despite all this, Pakistan is an advocate of peace and harmony in the region and that is our stated policy.

Question Why was the recent report published by the US State Department despite high level political, military and diplomatic engagement between the two countries? This report blames Pakistan for not taking action against the terrorist organizations working in Pakistan. Do you think that there is a presence of any terrorist group in Pakistan?(Mr. Mateen Haider – G-News)

Answer: I completely reject that there are any terrorist groups operating within the territory of Pakistan.

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