[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.
Let me begin by wishing all Muslims in Pakistan and across the globe a happy Ramadan. May this be a month full of blessings for all of us.
The first Virtual Summit between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev was held on 14 April 2021.
Besides reviewing the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, the two leaders discussed regional and global issues of common interest.
The two sides exchanged views on enhancing bilateral cooperation in the areas of trade and economy; security and defence; people-to-people exchanges; and connectivity.
The progress on the Trans-Afghan Railway Line Project was also reviewed.
The two sides also agreed to work closely at the international and regional fora on issues of mutual convergence.
The two leaders also decided to regularly convene existing political and economic mechanisms, including consultations between the respective Foreign Ministries and to strengthen parliamentary collaboration.
Three Agreements and MoUs signed on the occasion included:
- Agreement on Mutual Recognition in the Fields of Conformity Assessment of Products, Standardization, Metrology and Technical Assistance;
- MoU for Developing Further Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture; and
- MoU on Defence Cooperation.
A Joint Declaration was also issued at the conclusion of the Summit.
Prime Minister Imran Khan received a telephone call from Turkish President Reccep Tayyib Erdogan, yesterday.
Both leaders discussed issues of mutual interest including the situation in Afghanistan and agreed to further strengthen bilateral relations in all areas.
Prime Minister appreciated Turkey’s role and stressed the need for an inclusive, broad based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister also highlighted Pakistan’s role in facilitating the US-Taliban peace agreement and the subsequent initiation of intra-Afghan negotiations.
Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi paid an official visit to Germany at the invitation of his counterpart, Heiko Maas, from 12-13 April 2021.
The visit coincided with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Germany.
During the visit, the Foreign Minister held delegation level talks with his German counterpart.
He also met with the President of the German Parliament.
The Foreign Minister’s other engagements included interaction with the German business leaders, investors, media, and members of the Pakistani community.
During the meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, views were exchanged on the entire gamut of bilateral relations.
The possibilities for further deepening the existing cooperation, particularly in the fields of trade and investment, science and technology, alternate energy, education and legal migration were also discussed.
In addition, regional and international developments, including Pakistan-India relations; human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK); Afghan Peace Process; China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); and opportunities for investments in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were discussed.
Foreign Minister Mass hoped that the visit would further strengthen and diversify the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Germany.
During the meeting between the Foreign Minister and the President of the German Parliament, discussions were held on a wide range of Pakistan-Germany relations.
The need to enhance parliamentary cooperation between the two countries was particularly underscored.
The Foreign Minister also briefed the President of the German Parliament on regional issues including the Afghan Peace Process and the gross and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK.
To harness the economic potential between the two countries and facilitate the Pakistani diaspora, Foreign Minister Qureshi also announced the opening of a new Consulate General of Pakistan in Munich.
The Special High-Level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan on 12 April 2021.
The four-day Forum is being held under Pakistan’s Presidency of the ECOSOC.
In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister underscored the need for utilizing the Forum to adopt decisions for mobilising finances needed by developing countries, to recover from COVID-induced recession and maintain the path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
While deploring “vaccine nationalism” and export restrictions, the Prime Minister called on the international community to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine was “available to everyone, everywhere, and as soon as possible.”
The Prime Minister recalled his agenda for emergency financial support to the developing countries, including:
- One - debt relief and restructuring;
- Two - creation and redistribution of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs);
- Three - larger concessional finance; and
- Four - an end to illicit financial outflows from the developing countries.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Investment Fair 2021, by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) was also held on the sidelines of the Forum, in a virtual format.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi inaugurated Pakistan’s country presentation at the Fair.
Highlighting the Government’s priorities, the Foreign Minister reiterated the importance Pakistan attaches to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Foreign Minister highlighted that Pakistan offers pivotal geo-economic location, regional connectivity, a huge consumer market with an expanding middle class, and a large segment of skilled, vibrant, and youthful population to its valued investors.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken held a telephone conversation on 13 April 2021.
During the call, matters of mutual interest, including regional security situation, the latest developments in Afghan Peace Process and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed.
General Bajwa reiterated Pakistan’s support for the “Afghan led-Afghan Owned” Peace Process based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders.
Secretary Blinken also acknowledged Pakistan’s continuous efforts for peace and stability in the region and pledged to further enhance bilateral relations between both countries.
Pakistan and Kenya held the First session of Pakistan-Kenya Joint Trade Committee, virtually.
During the meeting, both sides discussed various avenues to enhance mutual cooperation in trade and investment.
As part of the ongoing celebrations to commemorate the 70th anniversary of establishment of Pakistan-China diplomatic relations, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong planted a Friendship Tree, at the Chinese Embassy Compound in Islamabad.
Plantation of the evergreen Deodar Tree – which is also the national tree of Pakistan – depicted the spirit of Pakistan-China “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership”.
Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
Pakistan strongly condemns the indiscriminate firing of heavy weapons and grenades on a Mosque in Shopian, IIOJK on 9 April 2021.
In unabated acts of state-terrorism in IIOJK, the Indian occupation forces have martyred 5 more Kashmiris, including a 14-year-old juvenile and 10th grade student in so-called “cordon-and-search” operations.
Desecration of places of worship and extra-judicial killings of young Kashmiris including children are reflective of the moral bankruptcy of the Indian occupation forces.
These actions are in clear violation of the basic human norms and fundamental precepts of international law.
Pakistan has repeatedly called for independent investigations under international scrutiny into these gross and systematic human rights violations.
We once again call upon the international community to hold India accountable for these crimes against the Kashmiris people and work for peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions.
I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.
Question: Given the role being played by some Muslim countries including UAE and Turkey, it is evident that the role of OIC and Muslim countries is very critical in resolving the Jammu and Kashmir Dispute and in addressing the continuing human rights crisis in IIOJK. What is Foreign Office view in terms of reaching out to OIC in this regard? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)
Supplementary Question: The UAE Ambassador to the United States has confirmed that UAE is facilitating mediation between India and Pakistan. Can you please confirm? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)
Supplementary Question: Has India shown any inclination in discussing the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, which is the core issue between Pakistan and India during the talks held between intelligence officials of the two countries in UAE? (Khawaja Nayyer, Media Today)
Supplementary Question: According to Reuters, the meeting that took place between intelligence officials of India and Pakistan was focused on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir? Can you please verify this? Also, was Foreign Office involved in talks that took place in UAE? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY)
Supplementary Question: The UAE Embassy has also shared its response on the Reuters story underlining that they intend to open up the line of communication and functional relationship between India and Pakistan. Your comments, please.
There are media reports that a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to take place in the near future. Could you confirm? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)
Answer: We remain concerned over the grave human rights situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the international community about the continuing military siege, extrajudicial killings, incarcerations of Kashmiri leadership and unprecedented restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of Kashmiri people.
We believe that the international community including the Muslim world must use all tools at its disposal to urge India to rescind its illegal and unilateral actions since 5th August, 2019 and to end its human rights violations in IIOJK.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has passed multiple resolutions condemning India on its human rights violations in IIOJK and calling for the just and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.
As for the contacts between India and Pakistan, States have ways and means to communicate with other states which remain available even during wars.
So, what is important is that whether Pakistan is ready to talk to India; what needs to be discussed between the two sides; and whether a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue can take place under the current environment.
Pakistan has never shied away from talks with India and has always underscored the need for a ‘meaningful dialogue’ and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
We believe durable peace, security and development in the region hinge on peaceful resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
We, therefore, believe that the two sides need to discuss all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir with a view to seek peaceful resolution of this long outstanding dispute as per international legitimacy. Therefore, Kashmir remains central to any meaningful engagement between India and Pakistan.
Unfortunately, India has vitiated the environment through its illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019. The onus is, therefore, on India to create an enabling and conducive environment for a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue between the two countries.
As for the role of third parties, we have always maintained that the international community has an important role to play in averting risks to peace and stability in the region and facilitating a just and lasting solution to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Question: Recently a Jatha of Sikh Yatrees arrived in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival. In his tweet the Minister of External Affairs of India, S. Jaishankar, expressed his concern regarding the safety of Sikh Yatrees due to TLP led protests. Would you like to comment on Indian EAM’s tweet and provide latest updates on the matter? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY)
Answer: A Jatha of 818 Sikh Yatrees arrived in Pakistan on April 12 via Wagah Border. It has participated in the annual rituals of Baisakhi Festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib. Yatrees are scheduled to visit different Gurdwaras during their stay from 12-22 April 2021, including one night stay at Kartarpur for the first time.
As per tradition, the relevant institutions made adequate arrangements for travelling, accommodation, langer, security and medical assistance to Sikh Yatrees to make their stay conformable. The leader of Jatha, Harpal Singh Jalla, expressed his satisfaction and appreciation for the overall arrangements made by the Government of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again sent a message of goodwill by allowing the Jatha to participate in Baisakhi Festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib after a gap of one year. Government of Pakistan especially relaxed the COVID-19 restrictions for Sikh Yatrees to send a message of Pakistan’s love and affection for the Sikh community across the world.
The false spin by Indian media or any official statement alleging that Sikh Yatrees are stranded in Pakistan are unfortunate.
Pakistan remains committed to facilitating Sikhs from around the world, including from India, for visiting their religious sites.
Question: What is the view of Foreign Office on the ongoing protest in the country over the removal of the French Ambassador? (Adil Nizami, Hum TV)
Supplementary Question: The French Embassy in Islamabad had advised its citizens and companies in Pakistan to temporarily leave Pakistan. What are your comments in this regard? (Amjad Ali, PTV)
Answer: I am sure you must have seen the statements by the Minister for Interior and the Minister for Religious Affairs on the issue. I don’t have anything further to add to that.
As for the advice issued by French Embassy, it appears to be based on their own assessment of the situation.
For its part, the Government is taking enhanced measures for the maintenance of law and order and preventing any damage to life and property.
Question: With regards to back channel diplomacy between India and Pakistan, it has been reported that Pakistan would like to seek concession viz-a-viz reversal of Articles 35-A and 370-A. Your comments, please?
In his recent statement, President Joe Biden has asked Pakistan to ‘do more’ in Afghanistan. What is Pakistan’s stance on this? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)
Answer: Pakistan has always underscored the need for a meaningful dialogue on all outstanding issues including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. We believe that resolution of all outstanding issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is critical for durable peace and stability in South Asia.
Unfortunately, India has vitiated the environment though its illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 20019 in IIOJK. The onus is now on India to create an enabling environment for a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue.
Regarding Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, we have played a pivotal role in facilitating the efforts for achieving durable peace and security in Afghanistan including in facilitating (a) the U.S. Taliban Peace Agreement signed in February 2020; (b) the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations on 12 September 2020; and (c) the agreement on Rules and Procedures between the Afghan parties in Doha in December 2020.
Pakistan’s role in this regard has been widely acknowledged and appreciated by the international community.
Pakistan is the only country that has consistently maintained that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that dialogue and a political settlement through Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process was the only way forward for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is gratifying that the world has come around to this view and sees political settlement as the only way forward.
On its part Pakistan will continue to work together with the international community in the efforts for ensuring peace in Afghanistan.
As for President Biden’s announcement regarding the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, a detailed statement has already been issued by the Foreign office. I would refer you to that.
Question: Government has taken a welcome step by banning Tehreek-e- Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). Do you see the possibility of TLP factions joining politics by registering under different names? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)
Answer: I would refer you to the Ministry of Interior, as this matter pertains to them.
Question: Iran’s nuclear site has been attacked, at a time when important talks regarding JCPOA are underway in Vienna. Iran says Israel is behind this attack in an attempt to sabotage the Vienna talks. China and Russia have already condemned this attack. What is Pakistan’s position on this issue? (Sheeraz Asghar, IRNA)
Supplementary Question: As a reaction to the attack, Iran is enhancing its nuclear enrichment to 60 percent. Your comments please?
Secondly, the Indian vaccines that were supposed to be delivered to Pakistan have gone elsewhere rather than being supplied to Pakistan. How do you comment? (Khawaja Nayyer, Media Today)
Answer: Pakistan has a principled position on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). We believe JCPOA represents a good model of mutually agreed and negotiated settlement of issues at the international level. We hope that all parties to the agreement will comply with their part of obligations under the agreement. The return of the parties to the negotiating table is a welcome development. Any efforts to sabotage the Vienna talks need to be discouraged.
Regarding the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, Pakistan has not entered into any bilateral procurement agreement for COVID-19 vaccine from India.
GAVI, the international vaccine alliance, has offered to provide vaccine doses to several countries, including Pakistan under its COVAX Facility. The procurement and supply mechanism of the vaccine doses are undertaken by GAVI and not the recipient countries.
As for the exact details, I would request you to approach the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.
Question: Has Germany assured Pakistan any support on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) procedures? (Hassan Riaz, JNN)
Answer: As we highlighted in our earlier Press Releases, during the Foreign Minister’s visit to Germany, the entire gamut of bilateral relations was reviewed and areas of mutual interest, including FATF came under discussion. Foreign Minister Qureshi shared Pakistan’s perspective on the issue which was appreciated by the German side.
Question: According to the US National Intelligence Council, Pakistan and India might stumble into a war in the next 5 years. Do you agree? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawan TV)
Answer: - Pakistan is a peace loving country. We continue to promote peace, security and stability in the region for the prosperity of our own country and of the South Asian region on the whole.
It may be recalled that in his inaugural speech, Prime Minister Imran Khan had stated that “If India takes one step forward for peace, Pakistan will take two”.
Our desire for peace was also manifested when we released the captured Indian pilot as a gesture of peace after the Balakot misadventure by India.
We have consistently maintained that durable peace and stability in the region is contingent upon resolution of outstanding disputes and the core issue between India and Pakistan is indeed the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
The onus is on India to create the enabling environment for a meaningful dialogue that promotes peace and precludes the occurrences which might result in avoidable conflict in the region.
On its part Pakistan remains committed to regional peace and stability and at the same time remains resolutely resolved to defend itself against any misadventure.
Question: Regarding recent announcement by the US to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, don’t you think it will imperil security in the region? Do you think the current security situation in Afghanistan allows withdrawal of US troops? (Zaheer, Samaa TV)
Answer: Pakistan has been consistently supporting and facilitating the efforts for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. We believe there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and a negotiated political solution through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process is important for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Towards this end, the U.S.-Taliban Agreement of 29 February 2020 laid foundation for a comprehensive intra-Afghan peace agreement including a permanent ceasefire for bringing an end to violence in Afghanistan.
In our view, it is important that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan coincides with the progress in the peace process. We hope that the forthcoming meeting of Afghan leadership in Turkey would be an important opportunity for Afghans to make progress towards a negotiated political settlement. In this regard, we support the principle of responsible troop withdrawal in coordination with Afghan stake-holders. We also hope the U.S. will continue to urge the Afghan leaders to seize this historic opportunity for achieving a political settlement in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has consistently reiterated that peace and stability in Afghanistan is in our interest. Pakistan reaffirms its abiding commitment for a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan. A meaningful engagement of the international community for promoting reconstruction and economic development in the post-conflict Afghanistan is important for ensuring sustainable peace and stability. Pakistan believes that another key feature in the efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan should be a time-bound and well-resourced plan for return of Afghan refugees to their homeland and their reintegration in Afghanistan.
Pakistan will continue to work together with the international community in the efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Question: Please comment on the upcoming Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)
Supplementary Question: Taliban has refused to participate in the upcoming meeting in Istanbul. How do you comment? (Khwaja Nayyer, Media Today)
Answer: We attach great value to Turkey’s efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Details about the meeting will be shared once received.
We hope that the Afghan parties will not miss the opportunity to work out an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.
Question: The Islamabad High Court has directed the federal government to once again contact the Indian government in a case pertaining to the provision of lawyer to Kulbhushan Jadhav. Your comments please? (Sardar Sheeraz, Neo TV)
Answer: We once again urge India to cooperate with the Pakistani courts by inter-alia appointing a lawyer in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case so that full effect could be given to the ICJ judgement in the case.