China being a neighbouring country to Afghanistan does have an important role to play in the Afghan peace process. Zahid Hafeez

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 29 July 2021

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

 

Assalam-o-Alaikum and welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.

Let me begin with the recent visit of Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, His Highness Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to Pakistan.

The visit took place at the invitation of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, as a follow up to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May this year.

During the visit, the Saudi Foreign Minister held delegation level talks with the Foreign Minister and also called on President Dr. Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.

During these meetings, the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, particularly in the areas of trade and investment, welfare of Pakistani Diaspora in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, regional situation and peace in Afghanistan were discussed.

The two Foreign Ministers, during their meeting, expressed satisfaction on the ongoing work related to the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC), which is aimed at imparting strategic direction to the development of Pakistan-Saudi relations.

Foreign Minister Qureshi offered Pakistan’s full support in realization of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, including by sharing of experience and provision of requisite professional and technical manpower.

The Foreign Minister also highlighted the transformational China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative and noted the vast opportunities for investment in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) developed under CPEC.

Foreign Minister Qureshi highlighted the current situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and the unabated violations of human rights being committed by the Indian occupation forces.

Discussing the situation in Afghanistan, the Foreign Minister apprised his Saudi counterpart about Pakistan’s continuing efforts for an inclusive, broad based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is currently in Bahrain for a two-day official visit.

The Foreign Minister co-chaired with his Bahraini counterpart the 2nd Session of Pakistan-Bahrain Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC).

During the JMC, Foreign Minister Qureshi highlighted the longstanding relations between Pakistan and Bahrain, characterized by a spirit of friendship and solidarity.

He further observed that the experience and expertise acquired by both countries in many spheres over time could be shared for their mutual benefit.

Both countries held fruitful discussions and agreed to work together for:

• Enhanced Business-to-Business interaction between the two sides;
• Early finalization of the MoU between Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority, and
• Increased cooperation for joint investment in industrial sector and holding expert level meetings of Joint Working Groups in agriculture, Trade & Investment, labour and manpower, oil and gas and IT sectors.

During the visit, the Foreign Minister also met with the Interior Minister and called on the Crown Prince and the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain.

During these meetings, wide-ranging discussions were held on a number of issues of mutual interest.

Earlier during this week, the Foreign Minister visited China to attend the Third Session of the Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue between Pakistan and China.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi exchanged views on bilateral strategic, economic and security cooperation, COVID-19 pandemic, and international and regional issues of mutual interest.

The Chinese side reaffirmed its firm support to Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.

China reiterated that the Kashmir dispute should be resolved peacefully through the UN Charter, relevant UNSC resolutions and bilateral agreements.

The two countries reaffirmed their commitment to continue to firmly advance the construction of CPEC, ensure timely completion of under-construction projects, and reviewed with satisfaction the remarkable achievements of CPEC.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to facilitate and support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Coming to the situation in the region:

We have noted with serious concern and condemn in strongest possible terms the Indian government’s recently-exposed organised spying operations using an Israeli origin spyware , ‘Pegasus’.

The reported targets of these massive spying operations included journalists, politicians, human rights activists, business executives, public health experts, foreign diplomats in India and the Kashmiri leaders.

Reportedly, the targeted telephones also included at least one number used by Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as hundreds of others in Pakistan.

Keeping a clandestine tab on dissenting voices is a long-standing textbook ploy of the RSS-BJP regime.

The world has seen the true face of the so-called Indian “democracy” when the reports of EU Disinfo Lab, Indian Chronicles, surfaced last year.

In view of the gravity of these reports, we call on the relevant UN bodies to thoroughly investigate the matter, bring the facts to light, and hold the Indian perpetrators to account.

On the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir:

5th August 2021, would mark the completion of an unprecedented 24 months long military siege and draconian curbs on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Kashmiri people in the aftermath of India’s illegal and unilateral actions.

In keeping with its long held tradition of peddling false propaganda, India is trying to push the sham narrative of so-called “normalcy” in IIOJK. However, the situation on the ground points to the contrary.

To this day, Kashmiri leadership remains incarcerated under trumped-up charges.

Extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detentions, staged cordon-and-search operations and custodial torture by the Indian occupation forces continue with impunity.

The Indian government continues pushing its agenda of turning the Kashmiris into a minority in their own homeland through illegal changes in the demographic structure of the occupied territory.

The past two years have been marked by Pakistan’s efforts to firmly oppose the unilateral and illegal Indian actions of August 2019.

We have used every platform to highlight the legal, humanitarian and peace and security dimensions of the dispute.

The United Nations Security Council has discussed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir at least three times since 5 August 2019; the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued two reports in 2018 and 2019, making specific recommendations including the institution of an Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the gross and systematic human rights violations by India in the occupied territory; the global parliaments have debated the issue of Jammu and Kashmir; the international human rights and humanitarian organizations as well as global media have consistently raised the issue of human rights violations in IIOJK.

We once again call upon the international community to urge the Government of India to:

• Reverse its illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019;
• Lift the continuing inhuman military siege;
• Remove restrictions on communications, movement and peaceful assembly;
• Release the incarcerated Kashmiri leaders and allow them to express the wishes of the Kashmiri people;
• Free arbitrarily and illegally detained Kashmiri youth;
• Reverse the new domicile rules designed to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory;
• Remove the draconian laws granting impunity to the Indian occupation forces;
• Stop sponsoring terrorism against the people of IIOJK;
• Desist from any further actions in IIOJK to perpetuate its illegal occupation; and
• Fulfill its obligation of holding a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices, to let the Kashmiris exercise their inalienable right to self-determination as enshrined in numerous UNSC resolutions.

The Government and the people of Pakistan will continue to stand with Kashmiris in their just struggle till the realization of their right to self-determination.

I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.

Question: Recently, Mullah Baradar has met Chinese leadership. How does Pakistan see this development?

If Taliban would make Government in Afghanistan, what in your opinion would be the approach adopted by Taliban? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: India has played the role of a ‘spoiler’ in the region. Recently, India has expressed strong concerns over intervention in Afghanistan by China and Pakistan, and the recent visit of the Taliban delegation to Beijing has also raised eyebrows in New Delhi. What is Pakistan’s response to these concerns being voiced by India? (Khalid Mahmood, Express News)

Supplementary Question: The Taliban Spokesperson has accepted and disclosed that Indian Air Force has carried out airstrikes in Spin Boldak near Pak-Afghan border. How do you see the reported use of Indian defense equipment by Kabul administration against Taliban? Do you think it will pose a threat to Pakistan as well? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: As for statement by India on China’s engagement with Taliban, we believe that China being a neighbouring country to Afghanistan does have an important role to play in the Afghan peace process.

Pakistan is a close and brotherly neighbour of Afghanistan, and the only country that has consistently emphasized that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict.

Pakistan has been supporting and facilitating peace process for achieving an inclusive intra-Afghan political settlement. All neighbours of Afghanistan including China have been supporting political resolution of the Afghan conflict. Pakistan and China are committed to facilitate and support “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and reconciliation process.

Unfortunately, India is among the spoilers of the peace process and this Indian thinking is also reflected by its continued opposition to the Afghan peace process and the efforts being made by the international community in this regard.

We have consistently maintained that at this critical juncture in the Afghan peace process, all energies must be focused on reaching an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan. Reduction in violence leading to ceasefire is particularly significant in this regard.

Question: Is there a possibility of downgrading of diplomatic relations with Afghanistan?

Reportedly, the daughter of the Afghan Ambassador has moved to Germany and is applying for asylum over there. As the investigation in her kidnapping case is underway, her cooperation would be critical in reaching the exact findings of the case. What are your comments in this regard?

The Vice President and the National Security Advisor of Afghanistan have been continuously making negative statements about Pakistan. What are your views in this regard? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer: Regarding the reported abduction of Afghan Ambassador’s daughter, as you are aware, a thorough investigation was launched that immediately after the incident was reported. Over 700 hours of video footage was examined from over 300 CCTV cameras. More than 200 witnesses were interviewed by the security personnel.

While a significant progress has been made in this case, we believe that the cooperation of Afghan Ambassador and his daughter is critical in concluding the investigation.

Regarding the possibility of the downgrading of diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, Pakistan believes in maintaining close, cooperative and brotherly relations with Afghanistan. There is no plan to downgrade our diplomatic relations with Afghanistan.

Negative statements by some elements, who are not representative of the people of Afghanistan, cannot be allowed to adversely impact this important relationship particularly at this critical juncture of the ongoing Afghan Peace Process.

Question: There is growing concern among student community with regards to Chinese student visas. The focal person appointed by the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad is also not reachable. Has Foreign Office raised this issue with Chinese authorities? (Nouman Ishfaq, Daily Parliament Times)

Answer: We are in close contact with the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, as well as the relevant authorities in China through our Mission in Beijing on this issue.

This issue was also taken up by the Foreign Minister during his recent visit to China for the Third Session of the Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue between China and Pakistan. We hope that the two sides will be able to resolve this issue.

Question: What was the solid outcome of the recently concluded visit of the Saudi Foreign Minister to Pakistan? Has any progress been made on the issue of 400,000 stranded Pakistani workers? (Kausar Lodhi, Prime News).

Answer: I have talked in detail on the visit of the Saudi Foreign Minister to Pakistan in my opening statement.

Let me once again share with you that the visit took place at the invitation of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, as a follow up to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May this year.

The visit provided an opportunity to review the implementation status of the decisions taken during Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia and to prepare the ground before the Saudi Crown Prince’s future visit to Pakistan.

During the visit, a wide range of issues were discussed covering bilateral relations with particular focus on trade and investment, energy, environment, cultural cooperation, defence and security ties, COVID-related travel restrictions, welfare of Pakistani diaspora, including the issue of stranded Pakistani workers.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related investment opportunities, particularly in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) being developed under CPEC were also discussed.

Regional as well as global issues of common interest also came under discussion.

Most importantly, the ongoing work related to the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC) – highest level platform designed to impart strategic direction to the development of Pakistan Saudi relations – was also deliberated upon.

The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to continue to work closely to further strengthen bilateral relations in all spheres.

Question: How many Afghan refugees are currently present in Pakistan and how many have already left for Afghanistan?

After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will Pakistan try to send back the Afghan refugees to their country? (Sheeraz Mirza, Daily Media)

Supplementary Question: There is a possibility of further influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. What is Pakistan’s policy to handle this situation? (Sardar Amir, Royal News)

Answer: Pakistan has hosted over 3 million Afghan refugees for four decades. The Ministry of SAFRON, which is the Ministry responsible for the refugees, will have exact details of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

As for our position on the Afghan refugees, we have repeatedly underscored the need for a time bound, dignified and well-resourced plan for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland and their reintegration in Afghanistan.

We hope the current security situation in Afghanistan doesn’t worsen, as it will also have serious consequences for Pakistan, including the possibility of further influx of Afghan refugees.

As we have clearly stated, Pakistan is not in a position to host any more refugees.

We also have bilateral mechanisms to discuss the issue of Afghan refugees including through the Refugee Working Group (WG) under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), which must be optimally utilized to deepen engagement, communication and understanding for early return and resettlement of Afghan refugees in their homeland.

Question: During his visit to Bahrain, we saw that the Foreign Minister co-chaired the 2nd Bahrain Pakistan Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC).

He also called on His Royal Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain.

Did the Foreign Minister convey any message to him on behalf of Prime Minister Imran Khan, inviting the Crown Prince for investment in Pakistan? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyaber)

Answer: As you know that the primary purpose of the Foreign Minister’s visit was to co-chair the 2nd Bahrain-Pakistan JMC along with his Bahraini counterpart.

During the visit, the Foreign Minister also met with the Bahraini leadership. He called on the Crown Prince, the Deputy Prime Minister and met with the Interior Minister of Bahrain.

The visit of Foreign Minister Qureshi is expected to add to the current momentum and positive trajectory of brotherly ties between the two countries in all areas, including trade and investment.

Question: Do you have any comments on the recent situation of floods in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK)? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

Answer: We are deeply saddened by the loss of precious lives and injuries caused by floods and landslides to many in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and in parts of India including Maharashtra.

The people of IIOJK who are already faced with an unprecedented military siege, communications restrictions and the obfuscation of their fundamental rights and freedoms, are particularly vulnerable even in situations such as the current floods.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and we wish speedy recovery to the injured.

Question: We have seen that the 10th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting under CPEC was delayed after the Dasu incident? Are the Chinese willing to hold the JCC? What is the reason of the postponement? (Umer Hayat, Bol TV)

Answer: Pakistan and China are All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partners. Both sides remain committed to enhance bilateral strategic and economic cooperation between the two countries.

This resolve was further reaffirmed during the recently concluded third session of the Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue, which took place in Chengdu, China.

The postponement of the JCC meeting has nothing to do with the tragic Dasu incident. During Foreign Minister’s visit to China, the two sides also deliberated on the holding of the next JCC. The new dates for the 10th JCC meeting will be announced soon.

Question: Pakistan returned 46 Afghan soldiers as a goodwill gesture. Has there been any impact internationally? What has the official response been from Afghanistan? How were those soldiers treated in Afghanistan? (Khalid Mehmood, Express News)

Answer: ISPR has issued a statement on this. I would request you to refer to that.

As for our position on Afghanistan, we have no favorites. We have been consistently underlining the need for an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan; the reduction in violence; and peace at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

In the same perspective, we extend all possible coordination to Afghanistan.

Question: We have seen India’s use of Israeli spyware, for which reportedly Prime Minister Imran Khan was also a potential target. What are the views of Foreign Office and what concrete actions does Pakistan plan to take? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Supplementary Question: After the Pegasus operation was revealed, the Government called an inter-ministerial investigation. Has there been any outcome?

Additionally, since Foreign Office deals with sensitive matters, has any step been taken to strengthen cyber security? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: The Foreign Office has issued a statement on this, and I also talked about the issue in my opening statement.

We strongly condemn the use of spyware by India, and we will raise this issue on all the available international fora.

Communication security in the Foreign Office is a consistent effort and a constant process. We keep tracking the emerging challenge and take the necessary measures to further enhance the organization’s cyber security.

Question: I have two questions.

Firstly, Pakistan has decided to host Afghan peace conference, however it was delayed. What are the new dates of the conference?

Secondly, the Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan has been recalled. Our Ambassador to Afghanistan is also in Pakistan these days. Has he also been recalled? (Adil Hussain Nizami, Hum News)

Answer: Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan is in Pakistan for his periodic visit, and to celebrate Eid with his family. He has not been recalled and neither do we plan to downgrade our diplomatic relations with Afghanistan in any way.

Question: Has there been any progress on the investigation regarding the incident of the reported kidnapping of Afghan Ambassador’s daughter? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: I have already shared the status of the investigation with you. However, let me reiterate that the investigation has made substantial progress. To conclude the investigation, we need cooperation from the Ambassador and his daughter and we are awaiting that.

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