Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 02 September, 2021
[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
I appreciate your presence at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ press briefing.
I must say we are gathered here today with a heavy heart.
We are deeply saddened at the passing away of the iconic leader of Kashmiri resistance, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, under prolonged house arrest in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). The nation pays rich tribute to his life-long struggle for justice and freedom.
We are sure his legacy will continue to inspire all those carrying his mission forward to bring an end to illegal Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
We are observing a day of official mourning, with the Pakistan flag flying at half-mast here and in all our Missions around the world.
Pakistan strongly condemns the barbaric act of snatching of the mortal remains of Syed Ali Shah Geelani by the Indian Occupation Forces as his family was preparing for his last rites.
It is deeply regrettable that he was not allowed to be buried in accordance with his will, and the wishes of his family members. This shows the highest degree of callousness on part of the occupation forces in complete disregard of civil and human values.
The international community must take serious note of the unprecedented and egregious situation and hold India to account for its breaches of international human rights and humanitarian laws.
Mr. Geelani’s unflinching commitment to the Kashmir cause, in the face of persistent persecution and tremendous personal hardship, is unparalleled. He inspired three generations of Kashmiris in resisting the illegal Indian occupation and unabated tyranny. He was a true voice and hero of the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination. Upright and steadfast, he would never compromise on the just cause that he led throughout his life from the core of his heart. He will be remembered for his unconditional love for Kashmir and Pakistan. May his soul Rest in Peace.
Let me reiterate that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible support to the Kashmiri people till the realization of their legitimate right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
We are extremely concerned by, and strongly condemn the systematic and grave human rights violations and trampling of fundamental rights in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), a situation that has continued for decades and has been escalated ever since India’s illegal actions of 5 August 2019. This exposes the true face of India’s sham democracy and secular credentials.
Perpetrators of state terrorism, Indian Occupation Forces martyred 18 Kashmiris during the month of August alone. 60 innocent youth were critically injured. Arbitrary arrests and detentions continued under draconian laws.
More than 100 Kashmiris have been martyred this year.
All of this warrants investigation by the UN Commission of Inquiry as recommended by the OHCHR in its 2018 and 2019 reports. There must be accountability. Pakistan will continue to forcefully raise India’s gross human rights violations before the international community.
Now coming to the situation in Afghanistan, we continue to closely follow the developments. As you are aware, there has been intensive diplomatic outreach and engagement by Pakistan at the leadership level with a number of partners in the region and beyond.
Let me reiterate our strong condemnation of the heinous terrorist attacks in Kabul last week that resulted in loss of precious lives. Our sympathies and condolences are for the bereaved families, and prayers for early recovery of the injured. The perpetrators of these terrorist acts must be brought to justice. And even more important, the spoilers must be held accountable, and isolated, as we have been saying before.
The sad images of that attack unfortunately reminded us of the tragedy and suffering the Afghan people have been through all these years of conflict and instability in Afghanistan.
Along with Afghanistan, Pakistan itself has been the biggest victim of the situation, having lost over 80,000 lives and over 150 billion dollars in economy, besides hosting millions of refugees. No other country or people have suffered and sacrificed as much.
Peace in Afghanistan is also critical to realize our vision of regional connectivity, economic integration and development. That explains our interest in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Therefore, the country most desirous of peace in Afghanistan is Pakistan.
That brings us to the larger issue of how to seize the opportunity for lasting peace - and galvanize the international community’s engagement in support of an inclusive political settlement in the Afghan context, that would ensure lasting peace and stability and avert a humanitarian crisis.
In this regard Pakistan’s position is clear, and our role is constructive. You have seen a flurry of engagements in recent days.
German and Dutch Foreign Ministers were in Islamabad during the week. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi undertook visits to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran last week, where he held meetings with his counterparts and also called on the leadership of these countries. During these interactions, views were exchanged on ways to promote a coordinated regional approach.
During the past two weeks, Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to a number of world leaders including the President of the Russian Federation, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of European Council and President of the Asian Development Bank. WFP Executive Director also called on the Prime Minister.
During the same period, the Foreign Minister spoke with his counterparts from Turkey, Russia, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Australia, UK and Canada, as well as the OIC Secretary General and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy. Foreign Minister also received a telephone call from the UN Secretary-General.
I am pleased to share that Pakistan’s facilitation for the evacuations from Afghanistan has been widely acknowledged by world leaders and heads of international organizations. As of yesterday, over 12000 individuals from around 38 nationalities had been evacuated with Pakistan’s assistance.
With WFP, we are also facilitating the establishment of ‘humanitarian air bridge’. First cargo flight of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also delivered essential medicines and other supplies to Afghanistan in partnership with WHO.
At this critical juncture, there is an opportunity in the form of international community’s convergence on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. It would also be imperative for the regional and international partners to constructively engage with Afghanistan including by supporting the country’s economy, reconstruction, rehabilitation and humanitarian needs.
Pakistan is committed to work together with the international community to advance the shared objectives of peace, progress and stability in Afghanistan.
I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related issues.
Question: I have two questions:
Firstly, after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, do you foresee the possibility of a new misadventure?
Secondly, after the demise of senior Hurriyyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, condolences have been coming from all over the world. However, the cruelty of Indian occupation forces by not giving his remains to his family has demonstrated once again that India has no respect for fundamental human rights. How do you comment? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: In the wake of the developments in Afghanistan, there is a lot of rethinking and reassessment going on in the US and western circles, about the strategies adopted, objectives and results. We can hope the right lessons would be learnt.
As for your second question, Syed Ali Shah Geelani devoted all his life for the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, and there is a natural sense of great loss on his demise. His devotion to the cause of Kashmir has been widely acknowledged. It is regrettable that he was not allowed to be buried in accordance with his will, and the wishes of his family. India’s trampling of human rights is well known, and this reflected the highest degree of callousness on part of the Indian occupation forces in complete disregard of civil and human values.
It is our sincere hope that the international community will continue to lend its voice and weight to hold India to account for its breaches of the international human rights and humanitarian laws.
Question: Could you tell us how many American soldiers and civilians have arrived in Pakistan? Please also tell for how long the American soldiers will stay in Pakistan and what is their purpose for stay? (Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Daily Media)
Supplementary Question: I have two questions:
How many U.S. soldiers have arrived in Pakistan and when they will go back?
Secondly, the Foreign Minister has undertaken a recent visit to the region. What is the status of extending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan particularly in terms of food supplies? Are other countries also sharing this responsibility? (Sardar Amir , Daily Maddar/ Royal News)
Answer: You would have followed the briefings by the Ministry of Interior and others on the assistance provided by Pakistan for evacuations from Afghanistan. For detailed and updated figures I will refer you to the concerned offices.
Let me share with you that in light of the decision taken by the National Security Committee, Pakistan is facilitating evacuations for various countries, upon request. This is irrespective of nationalities. Those being evacuated are basically in transit in Pakistan for short durations.
As for your other question, our leadership has been continuously underlining the need for engagement and a careful and calibrated approach to avoid any humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
As for Pakistan, borders are open, allowing trade to take place and that is important to ensure essential commodities supply. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, we have been working with UN to establish a ‘humanitarian air bridge.’
From our interactions with other countries, we understand there is willingness to engage and provide resources for humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan.
Question: I have two questions:
Firstly, in a recent news report of Guardian, the Chinese company working at Gwadar port has been targeted for not providing water and other resources to the people living in the nearby area and Balochistan overall. Was it part of the project that Chinese company will have to provide these necessities to people? What’s your comment on this report? Do you think the report totally lacks objectivity and seemingly intends to target CPEC and the BRI?
Secondly, the US intelligence community has recently compiled a so-called report on the origins of COVID-19 and issued a statement slandering and attacking China. China is firmly opposed to that. What attitude does Pakistan take to see the issue of tracing of COVID-19 origins? How does Pakistan comment on China's attitude and efforts in tracing the origins of COVID-19? (Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News)
Answer: Regarding your first questions, we have noted the relevant news report, several aspects of which are not factual and are misleading.
CPEC has played an important role in addressing energy shortage in Pakistan. The energy projects set up under CPEC provide one third of Pakistan's energy supply. In addition to energy supply, CPEC’s energy projects have created 26,795 jobs over the last seven years.
A 300 MW power project is already under construction in Gwadar, as an interim measure the current electricity supply is imported from Iran. Power Division is also working on other proposals for meeting additional electricity demand in the short term.
Additionally, during Prime Minister’s visit to Gwadar on 5th July 2021, implementation agreement for 1.2 million gallons per day ‘Desalination Plant’ and MoU on grant for solar generators from China for South Balochistan were signed. Once operational the Power and water Desalination plants will transform the lives of the people in Gwadar.
On the origin-tracing of the COVID-19 virus, we believe, it is a scientific matter and should be examined in accordance with science-based approaches.
We dispel insinuations on the origin of virus. It should not be affiliated with race, region and ethnicities. Pakistan firmly believes in multilateralism. We extend our full support to WHO’s science-based work and reject its politicization.
The China-WHO Joint Study of the Origins of the Novel Coronavirus published in March of this year has drawn an authoritative and scientific conclusion on issues relating to the origin-tracing, which should be recognized, respected and maintained and be taken as the foundation for the global origin tracing in the next phase.
We hope the WHO to join the international community in maintaining the scientific nature and preciseness of the study on origin tracing, resisting the practice of politicizing the origin-tracing issue, and retaining the good atmosphere of global cooperation in fighting the pandemic.
Question: Pakistan’s position on Afghanistan has now been acknowledged by the world community. Do you think that the situation in Afghanistan will have an impact on the Kashmir movement? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)
Answer: The two situations are different in nature. Being an immediate neighbor, Pakistan has suffered from the situation in Afghanistan both in terms of human and economic losses. Anything that happens in Afghanistan has a direct bearing on Pakistan. It is in this spirit that we have engaged with a number of partners in the region and beyond. We have shared our perspective. We have seen commonalities in positions with many countries with regard to ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan and to avoid a humanitarian crisis. There is also a realization that an inclusive political framework is desirable for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.
As for Kashmir, irrespective of any other situation in the world, it remains the core national agenda and key interest of our foreign policy. J & K is an internationally recognized dispute which remains on the agenda of the UNSC.
It is our consistent policy that Kashmiris must be given the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination as was promised to them by the relevant UNSC resolutions. We keep pressing for the implementation of those resolutions only which can lead to a solution that is in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Question: Firstly, Could you confirm if the British and Italian Foreign Ministers are visiting Pakistan in the coming days?
Secondly, Qatar has stated that there should be foreign presence at the Kabul airport to manage its security. What are your comments?
Thirdly, Indian media has widely reported that a nexus has been established between LeT and Taliban which would launch terrorist activities in India. Your comments, please? (Rashida Siyal, Abb Takk)
Answer: As for the visits that you have mentioned, we will share the updates as and when they get finalized.
Regarding the security of Kabul airport, this was in discussion even before the events of 15 August. The issue is important, both in terms of technical reasons and in terms of ensuring safety and security of airport and aviation crew.
As for our position in this regard, we welcome any efforts that would lead to peace and stability in Afghanistan.
On your last question, as you are aware that we have been drawing the attention of the world community towards India’s elaborate and reprehensible global disinformation campaign against Pakistan, which was exposed by EU DisinfoLab and India chronicles.
The allegations leveled by India are devoid of any substantive evidence. We strongly reject these baseless insinuations. The main purpose of such actions is to divert the attention of the world community from India’s gross human rights violations and state terrorism in IIOJK. India’s false narrative and propaganda have been exposed. We have also been alerting and forewarning key countries and other friends about false flag operations and stage managed incidents orchestrated by India to malign Pakistan.
On the other hand, as you are aware, we have shared with the international community irrefutable evidence of Indian involvement and sponsorship of terrorism and subversive activities in Pakistan including through its terrorism infrastructure in Afghanistan. Indian hand was also visible in the recent terrorist attacks in Lahore and Dassu.
Question: I have two questions.
Firstly, Western media is speculating that in the wake of ongoing situation in Afghanistan, the relations between Pakistan and India might further deteriorate. How do you comment and what is Pakistan’s defence preparedness in this regard?
Secondly, with the Taliban in control of Afghanistan, Pakistan will once again be alleged for having connections with the Haqqani network. How do you comment? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: As for your first question, a part of that is hypothetical.
At the same time, let me state that our defence capability is credible, and a demonstration of that was evident to everyone when we effectively thwarted and successfully responded to the Indian misadventure in February 2019. Along with the defence preparedness, it is our national resolve that is the major deterrent vis-à-vis India.
We have been sensitizing the international community, including the Security Council and the P-5 on how India’s belligerent rhetoric and irresponsible actions have imperiled regional peace and security.
As for your second question, we reject all such baseless allegations and insinuations, which are part of the smear campaign and blame game against Pakistan for years. The developments in Afghanistan have amply shown that the reasons for failure were different and mostly internal to Afghanistan.
Question: There have been incoming visits by various foreign ministers to Pakistan. What assistance have they been seeking other than evacuation?
Can you share the exact numbers of foreign nationals and diplomats that have been evacuated? How long will the process continue? (Naveed Siddique, Dawn TV)
Answer: These visits are primarily an opportunity for consultations on Afghanistan, besides bilateral matters. The discussions taking place are about engagement of the international community, and Pakistan remains an important partner in this aspect.
Yes, the question of evacuations has also been part of the discussions. I provided the figures for evacuations assisted by Pakistan to date, but for any detailed statistics I would refer you to the relevant authorities. Pakistan is facilitating the evacuation efforts. Many requests have been entertained, while additional ones will be looked into.
Question: What preconditions Pakistan has for recognizing Taliban government? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber TV)
Answer: Pakistan has consistently maintained the need for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. Ownership is important.
It is not about pre-conditions but about expectations, and there is a widely shared view that formation of an inclusive set-up would be conducive for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Question: The world, including European countries, needs Pakistan right now, and Pakistan is playing a constructive role in Afghanistan. Will Pakistan raise its main concerns i.e. FATF and Red List with European countries? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY News)
Answer: Pakistan’s key concerns and core national interests are part of all our engagements and interactions with the international community, and it is not because of what was going on in Afghanistan.
We have regular consultations on FATF and other issues of interest with our international partners, including the European countries. Pakistan’s implementation of the FATF Action Plan is evident and widely acknowledged. The issue of red list has been consistently taken up with the UK authorities and we can expect it to be part of the upcoming interactions.
Question: UNGA is approaching, and this year is very important because of the current situation in Afghanistan. You would recall that in 2019 too, in the month of August, India took illegal actions in IIOJK, and Prime Minister presented our case very effectively? What will be the level of participation this year? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)
Answer: Whatever decision is taken in this regard, we will have strong and forceful representation to utilize the UN forum to promote our interests and positions and to engage with the international community.
While Afghanistan will be in focus, we would also have Jammu and Kashmir at the top of our agenda, and it will be effectively highlighted in all its dimensions particularly peace and security and the human rights situation in IIOJK.
Question: United States has once again started the drone operations in Afghanistan. There are concerns within some quarters that the US is using Pakistan’s airspace for its drone operation. Your response, please? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)
Answer: This is a technical question and I would refer you to the relevant authorities.
The position of Pakistan and specially the Prime Minister has been very clear on the use of armed drones.
Regarding the recent drone attacks in Afghanistan, it is for the Afghans to comment, and you would have seen some statements already.
Question: Taliban have said that TTP is Pakistan's issue while Pakistanis are looking towards Taliban to resolve this issue. How do you respond?
Moreover, Americans are staying in Islamabad for one month. Why are they not choosing any other country? (Tariq Ullah Wardak, Daily Times)
Answer: As for your question on U.S., I have responded to similar questions earlier and I don’t have anything to add.
As for your question on TTP, as you are aware, it is an entity that has been proscribed by the UNSC. We have been sharing our concerns about the activities of TTP and the support extended to them by India, with previous governments in Afghanistan. We will raise this when there is a political dispensation in place in Afghanistan.
We are encouraged by the comments by the Taliban that Afghan soil will not be allowed to be used by any entity against any other country.