[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Assalam-o-Alaikum. Thank you for joining us at our Weekly Briefing. Let me begin with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit to Tashkent from 28-29 July, where he is leading Pakistan’s delegation to the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers’ (SCO-CFM) Meeting. At the Ministerial Meeting, the Foreign Minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong partnership with SCO and our unflinching commitment to the ‘Shanghai Spirit.’ Appreciating SCO’s contributions towards regional economy, security and stability, the FM also drew attention to a number of challenges, including the situation in Afghanistan and importance of averting an economic or humanitarian crisis; combating terrorism; and managing the ancillary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic including reduction in trade flows, declining production, rising inflation and growing unemployment. The FM emphasized the importance of multilateralism, cooperative inter-state relations and ‘shared goals for shared prosperity’. He also stressed on enhancing connectivity, digitalization of business, sustainability of e-commerce ecosystem and building a more resilient economic model. On the margins of the CFM, Foreign Minister Bilawal is having bilateral meetings with a number of counterparts including China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Accompanied by other counterparts, the Foreign Minister also called on the Uzbek President this morning, as you would have followed. You would recall that earlier last week, SCO Secretary-General Ambassador Zhang Ming had visited Pakistan.Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar represented Pakistan at the 20th Developing-Eight (D-8) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting hosted by Bangladesh in hybrid format on 27 July 2022. In her statement, the Minister of State called for creating a conducive environment for intra-D-8 trade through facilitative legal frameworks, and equal opportunities for investment and business. She proposed setting up a Private Sector Coordination Facility to boost economic cooperation amongst the D-8. Referring to Pakistan’s geo-economics vision, the MOS highlighted the critical overland and maritime connectivity afforded by Pakistan that made us one of most pivotal states in the world. She also expressed confidence that through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), this geo-political asset would rapidly turn into a geo-economic dividend. Pakistan-U.S. Health Dialogue was held on 25th July at the U.S. Department of State. The Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination led the Pakistan delegation. Focusing on seven themes, the Health Dialogue was an opportunity for wide-ranging discussions, wherein Pakistan and the United States inter-alia pledged greater exchange of information, expertise, and best practices in fighting diseases. During the week, the Ambassadors of China, the European Union, Turkmenistan, Japan, and Uzbekistan called on Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Yesterday, the Italian Ambassador called on the Minister of State. Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood welcomed Spain’s Ambassador-designate and also received the Belgian Ambassador for a farewell call. Earlier today Foreign Secretary received Ambassador designate Jemal Beker Abdula, who is the first-ever resident Ethiopian Ambassador to Pakistan. Ladies and Gentlemen You would have seen our statement completely rejecting and strongly condemning the unwarranted and totally unacceptable comments made by the Indian Defence Minister at a recent event in IIOJK. Pakistan has also categorically rejected the baseless and misguided remarks made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson in an effort to politicize the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Attempts to cast aspersions over CPEC show India’s insecurity as well as the pursuit of a hegemonic agenda that has held back socio-economic development in South Asia for decades. We reject India’s fallacious assertion that CPEC impinged on its “sovereignty and territorial integrity”. It is in fact India that is illegally occupying the State of Jammu & Kashmir for over seven decades while perpetrating gross and widespread human rights violations and effectuating blatant territorial and demographic changes in the occupied territory in complete contravention of international law and relevant UNSC resolutions. You would have seen our statement condemning India’s politicization of the 44th Chess Olympiad being held in Chennai, by passing the torch relay through Srinagar in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir which is in utter disregard of the globally acknowledged “disputed” status of the territory. By way of protesting India’s regrettable and mischievous attempt to mix politics with sports, Pakistan has decided not to participate in the 44th Chess Olympiad and will also raise the matter with the International Chess Federation at the highest level. Ladies and Gentlemen, India, the serial violator of human rights, would be well advised to introspect its inhumane siege of IIOJK and its total failure to smother the flame of freedom and self-determination from the hearts of the Kashmiris despite employing draconian tactics, indiscriminate use of illegitimate force, unleashing a reign of terror, torture and human rights violations for the past 75 years. India’s futile attempts to obfuscate cold facts by making controversial, irresponsible, and untenable assertions stand fully exposed – it cannot mislead the world. Pakistan remains deeply concerned over the deteriorating health of Hurriyat leader, Muhammad Yasin Malik. He continues to suffer for his legitimate political resistance to India’s illegal occupation of IIOJK. We reject this judicial persecution and demand his immediate release. The inhuman incarceration of Yasin Malik, his sham trials under fabricated cases, the fallacious conviction and the malfeasant attempts at tarnishing the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiris for their right to self-determination only further confirm India’s known credentials as a serial violator of human rights and usurper of fundamental freedoms of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan calls upon the Indian government to refrain from victimizing the true representatives of the Kashmiri people by way of inhuman and illegal detentions and implications through sham trials in baseless and fictitious cases. Pakistan once again urges the international community to take cognizance of India’s inhuman and illegal detention and treatment of Yasin Malik and of other political leaders, and to ensure that the Kashmiri people can exercise their right to self-determination as promised to them by the UN and the international community. More than 1.5 billion people of this region deserve to see the dawn of peace and prosperity - something that has been held hostage to India’s hostile agenda, hegemonistic designs and systematic violations of human rights in IIOJK. As we prepare to solemnly commemorate Youm-e-Istehsaal on 5 August marking three years of India’s unilateral and illegal actions in IIOJK and unabated human rights violations, we salute the indomitable spirit of the people of IIOJK. We honor their immense sacrifices. And we reaffirm our resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Kashmiri brothers and sisters and extend unrelenting, all possible support until they realize their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with the UNSC Resolutions.
Question: In the current economic situation of Pakistan, the value of rupee has deprecated to Rs 140. Have we received assurance from any friendly country for economic support?Secondly, India has released 300,000 cusecs of water downstream into already flooded rivers of Pakistan. India has constructed multiple dams and hydro-electric projects upstream and during the flood season it has been observed that India releases extra water downstream which aggravates the flood situation in Pakistan. What is the mechanism for information sharing and flood early warning? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today) Supplementary Question: Have you received any such information (flood data) from the Indian side? (Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News) Answer: On your first question, I think there is no doubt there is an economic situation that we are facing, and not only Pakistan, many countries around the world are faced with economic difficulties for various reasons, COVID related and other factors. You are also aware of the steps that successive governments have been undertaking to address the challenges including various policy measures. IMF package is also part of that effort, and as you are aware, there are friends who have also extended invaluable support. For any specific information it would be appropriate to address this question to the relevant authorities in the Ministry of Finance. Regarding the floods, this is an unfortunate situation and that's why you would have seen a lot of focus and attention being paid to this matter, led by the Prime Minister himself, the issuance of directives to provide all possible assistance and to take all possible actions to tackle the situation. The release of water under these circumstances - that has been a recurrent problem in the past. I think we will have to check, as what you are referring to is very recent, so need to check with our Indus Waters Commission whether such decision to release water or the flood data was shared by the Indian side in a timely manner or not. Question: Chief of Army Staff has held telephonic conversation with US Deputy Secretary of State. It has been shared that he discussed the release of IMF tranche and possible US support in this regard. Can you shed some light on what other issues were discussed during the call? (Aun Sheerazi, Such TV) Answer: Well I understand conversation has taken place, but at this stage, I am not in direct knowledge of the content of this discussion. Question: Recently an Ulema delegation from Pakistan visited Afghanistan. Would you please share some details about this visit? (Adil Nizami, Hum TV ) Answer: Thank you for the question. Ulema of Pakistan and Afghanistan have longstanding relations due to our shared history, religion, geography, culture and people to people contacts. In this context, a delegation of Pakistani Ulema led by Allama Taqi Usmani and including many leading scholars was visiting Afghanistan. They had meetings with the Interim Prime Minister of Afghanistan, cabinet members and leading Ulema from Afghanistan. They discussed strengthening peace and stability and good relations between the two countries. I understand this was a very good visit, and well received in Afghanistan, as is evident from the kind of interactions and meetings that have taken place. So I would say that this has resulted in very positive engagement between the two sides. Question: Pakistan is facing multiple challenges along with the worst economic challenge right now. Inflation seems to be out of control. Would you please share how International community is helping us under such circumstances? (Yaqoob Alvi, Intercity Views) Answer: Well as I said many countries are facing economic challenges. As for Pakistan, it is in the first place for us to address these problems. The international community can help and you've seen that many countries have extended help and cooperation. We see an environment in which there is a lot of cooperation being extended, but in the end, it is up to us, ourselves to face and address our problems. And the Government is taking necessary steps. As I said earlier, if you are interested specifically with regard to the economic situation and related questions, I would refer you to the concerned authorities in the Finance Ministry. Question: News and videos of Pakistanis imprisoned in various countries are often shared on social media. It seems the government of Pakistan is not paying attention to this and thus spreading confusion among the people, while that information is many years old. It would be better if the Foreign Office can share the list of all Pakistanis imprisoned in foreign countries on different charges? (Czechangez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber) Answer:Thank you. I think this is an important question but it is not only related to an occasional social media post. We maintain full and updated record of Pakistanis who may be in prisons in foreign countries and this is periodically updated. One of the main responsibilities of our Embassies is to remain in touch with these Pakistani inmates, to look after their well being, to provide consular or legal assistance when required, and when they are released, to help in repatriation, also in case of people who are destitute. This information has been shared from time to time, not only publicly, but also periodically in the National Assembly and Senate, you would be aware that occasionally there are requests for sharing this information. So this is something that has been shared many times including in the Parliament. So rest assured that we pay full attention to this and we maintain the relevant information as well. Question: There are reports that Pakistan is in the process of buying some Iranian petroleum products, can you verify the news and share details? (Abid Siddique Chaudhry, Daily Capital Mail) Answer:I would like to refer you to the Petroleum Division. Question: A week ago Pakistani and Afghan delegation held a bilateral meeting would you please share some follow up details regarding the meeting? Secondly, can you please share whether currently we have a cease fire agreement in place with TTP or not? (Mohsin, 24 News) Answer: On your first question, I spoke about that in the previous briefing also. It has been some time that this delegation was there. What I can say is that this delegation led by Secretary Commerce had very useful, productive discussions and there were several areas on which both sides developed understanding, including how to facilitate cross border trade and transit trade and related issues. For more details Commerce Ministry may be approached. On your other question you know, there is this process which is ongoing, and whenever there is something that I think needs to be shared publicly, I think that is done. I have no particular update at this point of time. Question: Pakistan has always supported Afghanistan in time of need. Recently, in the Chitral area of Pakistan-Afghanistan border some Afghan officials have destroyed a border post which was recently inaugurated. Has Pakistan raised this matter with concerned Afghan authorities? Secondly, when Zarb-e-Azb military operation was conducted in Waziristan area some local residents migrated to adjoining border areas of Afghanistan. They intend to return to Pakistan. What arrangements have been made by Pakistani government in this regard? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV) Answer: These are specific comments or observations, I am not in a position to respond to them off-hand. We need to check, but in any case, on any such issues, the point that you should remember, is that these are discussed bilaterally so you know, we have mechanisms for exchange and dialogue. We have ways to communicate bilaterally through our Missions and through visits and other interactions. As you know, the Foreign Minister just met the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan in Tashkent. So all issues of concern and of mutual interest, we continue to take them up with the Afghan side. Thank you