[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,
As you are aware, Prime Minister Imran Khan paid an official visit to the State of Qatar from 21-22 January 2019 on the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. During the visit, the Prime Minster was accompanied by Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Petroleum, Adviser to the Prime Minster on Commerce, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, Chairman Board of Investment, Chairperson Prime Minister’s Energy Task Force and the Foreign Secretary. Following a delegation level meeting, the Prime Minister and the Amir held one-on-one meeting.
The two leaders discussed bilateral relations and emerging international dynamics. Both leaders also expressed their desire to enhance bilateral relations between two brotherly countries and discussed ways to strengthen partnerships in all areas of mutual interest. His Highness, the Emir congratulated the Prime Minister on the peaceful transition of the government in Pakistan and his election as the Prime Minister. He assured the Prime Minister of all possible support for progress and development of Pakistan.
Apart from high level meetings, the Prime Minister also held key meetings with top Qatari businessmen and investors. During the business meetings, Prime Minister Imran Khan invited Qatari Business leaders to invest in all sectors of Pakistan’s economy, including energy, petroleum and petrochemicals, agricultural research, food processing, culture, tourism, education and infrastructure development. Prime Minister invited Qatari Public and private sectors to become partners in his government’s drive for construction of 5 million low cost housing units over the next five years. Qatari business leaders expressed great interest in investing in Pakistan.
Prime Minister thanked Qatar for its decision to import 100,000 Pakistani workers. He also requested the Emir for a greater share for Pakistani manpower in 2022 FIFA related large scale infrastructure development projects.
The Prime Minister also addressed over 15,000 Pakistanis at Wakra Stadium. The Pakistani community responded with enthusiasm and great interest.
Now some updates from Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where Indian atrocities against innocent Kashmiris have intensified.
Indian occupation forces, during the so-called search and cordon operations martyred six (6) Kashmiris including Tawseef Ahmad Yatoo, Sabzar Ahmad Mir, Syed Ruban Shah, Dr. Shamsul Haq Mengnoo, Shuaib Ahmad Shah and Amir Suhail Bhat in Budgam and Shopian districts of the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Indian Occupation Forces are continuingly using pellet guns against the innocent and defenseless Kashmiris and have injured Waseem Andrabi, Nisar-ul-Haq, Junaid Gulzar and Mir Burhan in Shopian district.
We urge the international community, especially the champions of human rights, to call upon India to immediately halt the human rights atrocities in IOK.
On 18 January 2019, the Foreign Minister held talks with President of UN General Assembly, Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa at the Foreign Office. The two dignitaries discussed a range of issues including recent trends and developments at the global and regional levels. Both agreed that the United Nations remained an indispensable institution for advancing dialogue, cooperation and pursuing collective solutions to global challenges.
On 21 January 2019, the Government of Pakistan, in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s commitment to open Kartarpur Corridor on the occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November 2019, has shared the draft Agreement between Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Government of the Republic of India for facilitation of (Indian) Sikh Yatrees to visit the Gurudwara, Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Narowal, Pakistan with the Government of India through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. The Government of Pakistan has appointed Director-General (South Asia & SAARC) as the focal person on Pakistan’s side and requested that the Government of India designate a focal person at its end. The Government of Pakistan also invited Government of India to urgently send a delegation to Islamabad to negotiate and finalize the Agreement. This is a typical example of the childish behavior of this Indian Government. Let me assure you that Pakistan will look at the issue in a mature manner and will take a considered decision.
On 17 January 2019, US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad held a delegation level meeting with the Foreign Secretary to discuss developments in the Afghan reconciliation process. Ambassador Khalilzad briefed the Pakistan side on his recent engagements in the region. He lauded Pakistan’s efforts in facilitating direct talks between Taliban and the US in Abu Dhabi last month. Foreign Secretary reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate Afghan reconciliation process to realize the shared goal of peace and stability in the region. It was noted that taking the Afghan peace process forward remained a shared responsibility. Both sides agreed that ultimately the intra Afghan dialogue would be vital to agree upon the contours of a future Afghan polity where Afghanistan becomes a stable and prosperous country and at peace with its neighbours.
On 20 January 2019, Foreign Minister hosted the senior US Senator Lindsey Graham over a luncheon meeting at the Foreign Office. Senator Graham is Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and senior member of Armed Services, Appropriations and Budget Committees. Foreign Minister informed Senator Graham about Pakistan’s efforts for reconciliation in Afghanistan. He also said that Pakistan’s continued overtures to engage India to discuss all outstanding issues including the core Dispute of Jammu and Kashmir were also aimed towards realization of an enduring peace in the region. Senator Graham conveyed the well wishes of the US leadership to the Government and people of Pakistan. He said that US was appreciative of Pakistan’s sincere efforts to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process which was a priority of the Trump Administration. Senator Graham maintained that in line with the historic linkages between the two countries underpinned by close people to people contacts, Pakistan would remain an important country for the United States.
I thank you.
Now the floor is open for questions.
Sir, on Kartarpur Corridor, after Pakistan’s offer to India for negotiations on Kartarpur, India has responded, proposing two sets of dates. How do you gauge the response from the Indian side? Do you welcome this Indian initiative?
Secondly, will Pakistan’s delegation proceed to India for negotiations on Kartarpur or will India come to Islamabad for negotiations?
Thirdly, India has reportedly handed over Jinnah House to the Dutch Ambassador. I need your comments on this development.
Finally, there are reports that Pakistan has not been allowing overflight of Indian cargo planes to Afghanistan. A flight from Indian spicejet, a cargo flight to Afghanistan, was allegedly denied passage last month and similar practice continues this month too. Your comments please? (Ms. Rashida Sial – Aab Takk)
Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu has written a letter, both to PM Narendar Modi and to PM Imran Khan, forwarding certain suggestions on modalities surrounding the operationalization of Kartarpur Corridor. Has Pakistan formally received his letter? Since Pakistan has already prepared a comprehensive plan for construction of the corridor and is in process of implementation of its own plans on it, will Pakistan be willing to consider the proposal from Navjot Singh Sidhu and make amendments to its plans, keeping in view the sensitivities of Sikh Community?
Secondly, the Prime Minister of Pakistan during his recent visit to Doha, Qatar met with the Sikh community. Would you please apprise as to what was discussed during the meeting? (Mr. Tariq Mehmood – Hum News)
You all know that Pakistan, on 21 January 2019, shared a detailed proposal alongwith the draft Agreement proposed by Pakistan, with India. The concerned departments of Pakistan, in the lead of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have done extensive work in the preparation of the draft Agreement, in the last month and a half, in line with the directive of the Prime Minister to facilitate the Sikh community. After extensive meetings, between various stakeholders in Pakistan, a finalized draft Agreement was prepared, which was subsequently shared with India requesting it to send a delegation to Pakistan for negotiations on the draft Agreement. India has regrettably behaved in a childish manner, as far as its response is concerned. We have seen similar reply from India in the past, in September 2018, in response to the letter from Prime Minster Imran Khan. I can assure you that our reply on the Indian proposal will be mature and well considered.
On Jinnah house, I have to check. I do not have any information at the moment. As I have maintained, Pakistan’s claim on the Jinnah House is legitimate.
Regarding the question on cargo flights from India, I have seen those media reports. Our position on overflight cargo planes from India remain unchanged. However, passenger flights from India are operating as per the laid down SoPs.
The Sikh community all around the world, including Qatar is extremely grateful to the Prime Minister for the groundbreaking of the Kartarpur Sahab Corridor.
According to the data released by Freedom of Information (FOI), British children born in Pakistan have to wait for 6 to 12 months to get their passports compared to British children born in United States and Australia. The results indicate clear discrimination against British citizens of Pakistani origin.What are your comments on this?
My second question is regarding presence of Daesh in Pakistan. In the past, the Foreign Office has denied the presence of Daesh in Pakistan. However, in the recent Sahiwal incident, the Counter Terrorism Department Sahiwal has linked one Mr. Zeeshan with Daesh. What are your comments on this development? (Mr. Saad Umar – Roze TV)
Regarding your first question, the matter relates to British citizens. We hope that the British authorities follow their rules and regulations and as such no discrimination is given to their citizens irrespective of their place of birth or origin. However, the British High Commission may be in a better position to answer this.
On your second question, there is no organized presence of Daesh in Pakistan. On this specific incident, you may check with the Home Department Punjab or the Ministry of Interior in Islamabad.
Few days back, US Senator Lindsey Graham visited Pakistan and in a press interaction said that the US wants good relations with Pakistan. After years and years of accusing Islamabad of lies and deceit, the US seems to have shifted their stance towards Pakistan. Do you think that the US will continue to have good relations with Pakistan after the political settlement in Afghanistan? How much is the government satisfied with Senator Graham’s statement and to what extent we would be able to remove the tag of US-Pakistan being a seasonal relationship? (Mr. Waqas Ahmed – Capital TV)
US Senator Lindsey Graham called on the Prime Minster and the Foreign Minister over the last weekend. What was discussed during the meeting? Did the senator bring a specific message from the US for Pakistan as far as the ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan are concerned? Has the US shared a timeframe with Pakistan of withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan?
Secondly, after the meeting with Senator Graham, the Foreign Minister stated that the world is now rallying behind Pakistan and in particular, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision for peace in the region. There may also be a possibility of a meeting between the US President and the Prime Minister Imran Khan. What is the development on this? (Mr. Hamza Rehman – APP)
The visiting US Senator talked about a prospective meeting between the US President and PM Imran Khan? Are the diplomatic sides from the two countries engaged in finalization of dates for the meeting? Has a timeframe been identified for scheduling such a meeting? (Mr. Adeel Warriach – Dunya)
There are reports that the US has put on the table a proposal to ink a free trade agreement with Pakistan, in lieu of Pakistan’s efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Was such a proposal discussed during the visit of Senator Graham? (Mr. Shabbir Waghra – PTV World)
Senator Graham’s meetings with the Prime Minster and the Foreign Minister were useful in understanding each other’s perspective and reviewing the regional security situation. Matters of bilateral and regional interest, including Afghan situation were discussed. Detailed press releases have already been issued on both the meetings.
Interest has been expressed from the US side for a meeting of the Prime Minister with President Trump. Senator Graham reiterated this interest during the visit. There are no dates, as of now, for this meeting. A lot of preparation and homework is required before such high-level engagements are materialized.
On FTA, I do not have any information and I will check and revert.
US Special Representative Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was here for an extended stay and at the end of his visit he tweeted and I quote “we are headed in the right direction with more steps by Pakistan coming that will lead to concrete results”. Would you like to take the nation into confidence as to what further steps will the Government of Pakistan take and what commitments and assurances have been given to Ambassador Khalilzad?
My second question, a report suggested today a Pakistani Jew has been allowed to travel to Israel. Our passport clearly mentions that it is not valid for travel to Israel. Would you confirm this report? (Mr. Shaukat Mehmood Paracha – AAP News)
A Jewish Pakistan Mr. Fischel Benkhald is anxious to know when he will be able to get NOC to travel to Israel. Your comments?
Secondly, how will he travel? Will he be the first Jew from Pakistan to travel to Israel on Pakistani passport? How will the visa be stamped on his passport or will he receive an e-visa from Israel or a letter allowing him to go to Israel? (Mr. Sib Kaifee – Arab News)
There are reports that, behind the scenes, some countries are active to establish relationship between Pakistan and Israel. Are these reports correct? (Mr. Mateen Haider – G-News)
Since independence Pakistan does not have diplomatic ties with Israel. If Pakistan is allowing its Jewish national to travel to Israel, would any Christian nationals from Pakistan be allowed to visit Israel on the Pakistani passports? (Mr. Shamim – Online News Agency)
My question relates to the Pakistani Jew – Can Muslims from Pakistan also visit their holy places in Jerusalem on Pakistani passport? (Ms. Shumaila Andleeb – APP)
On the first question regarding Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, I have nothing further to add.
On questions regarding Israel, our position on Israel remains unchanged.
Pakistan is a stakeholder in the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. On one hand, we see that Taliban are engaged in dialogue with the US, while on the other hand, they have claimed responsibility for a recent terrorist attack in Wardak. Being a stakeholder, how does Pakistan see this dichotomy in behavior of the Taliban where they remain engaged in dialogue but are also carrying out their ground activities in Afghanistan?
Secondly, do you not feel that terrorist attacks alongside negotiations should not take place and will Pakistan not request the Taliban to refrain from their ground activities in Afghanistan? (Mr. Mazhar Iqbal – Public TV)
I am in no position to comment of any other country, except Pakistan. Pakistan, as a part of the shared responsibility, is facilitating the ongoing round of talks between US and the Taliban in Doha. Negotiations are between the two parties for which Pakistan and Qatar are providing the necessary support and facilitating the talks.
On your second question, Pakistan has repeatedly said and it has been our consistent position that a political solution through dialogue should be the way forward.
My question relates to Afghan peace and reconciliation process. Has Pakistan been able to maintain or establish any recent contacts with the Taliban so that they can come for negotiations with both parties? (Mr. Mateen Haider – G-News)
The ongoing peace talks in Qatar have been facilitated by Pakistan.
Reportedly, the Indian side has alleged that Pakistan has fired on one of their fishing vessels. Is this report correct?
Secondly, there are reports that Bangladesh has refused to take back their citizens imprisoned in Pakistani jails with the Bangladesh High Commission claiming that they are not their citizens. Your comments please! (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)
India has reportedly lodged a protest with Pakistan, through diplomatic channels, on the sinking of its fishing vessel, Sudama Puri on 17 January 2019. What are your comments on it? Was the vessel fired upon or it sank due to some other technical reasons? (Mr. Aun Sherazi – Such TV)
On your first question, no sinking of any Indian Fishing Boat took place in operating areas of PMSA on 17 January 2019, as claimed by the Indians. The proclaimed position of the incident referred is 110 Nautical Miles away from Pakistan EEZ in Gulf of Kuch, where PMSA does not operate. Notwithstanding the above, poaching in Pakistani EEZ by Indian Fishing vessels are a frequent activity. PMSA conducts anti-poaching operations as per laws, and International Regulations and UNCLOS-1982.
Regarding Bangladeshi prisoners, we have not been conveyed any such thing formally, by the Bangladeshi government. The Bangladeshi Prisoners in Pakistani jails, who have completed their sentences, are in the process of being repatriated to their country.
Sir, reportedly, during Prime Minister’s visit to Qatar, export of food items, fertilizer and rice from Pakistan was discussed. Can you share some details regarding any concrete proposals related to trade discussed during the visit? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malick – Daily Metro Watch)
As I have stated in my opening remarks, the Prime Minister had wide ranging discussions with the Qatari leadership. We have high hopes from these interactions and remain hopeful that political, economic and commercial relations between Pakistan and Qatar will be cemented further as a result of this high-level engagement.
Sir, it has been observed that the ceasefire violations on LoC have intensified. A woman and three others along the LoC were injured in cross LoC fire a few days back. Your comments please?
Secondly, the government had announced that an air ambulance service will be provided for those who are injured due to cross-border firing by Indian occupation forces and bunkers along the LoC will be constructed to protect the civilians. What is the progress on this? (Mr. Razik Bhatti – Kashmir Express)
On your second question, I do not have details on the matter. I will check and revert.
On your first question, whenever Indian atrocities and human rights violations in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir intensify, we see an escalation in the cross LoC firing from India. These are Indian diversionary tactics. Last year around 2300 ceasefire violations were reported. As you pointed out, these ceasefire violations are intensifying. The Pakistani forces are responding to these violations effectively. If India responds with a message of peace, we will reciprocate. However, if it resorts to gunfire, Pakistan will respond to it in kind.
My question relates to the ongoing negotiations between the US and Taliban in Qatar. Is Pakistan participating in these talks?
Secondly, Afghan Ambassador Mr. Shukrullah Atif Mashal has said that Pakistan and Afghanistan have reached an agreement on exchange of prisoners. Can you please share the details of this agreement and what kind of prisoners from both sides will be exchanged under this agreement? (Ms. Rabia Peer – VoA)
On your first question, yes Pakistan is present in Qatar.
On your second question, during the former Prime Minister’s visit to Kabul in April 2018, Pakistan had proposed signing an agreement for exchange of prisoners convicted on civil and criminal offences excluding those convicted on terrorism related charges. Pakistan is currently completing codal formalities to share a draft agreement with the Afghan side for their consideration.
In the meantime, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during his visit to Kabul on December 15, 2018 requested the Afghan authorities to release Pakistani prisoners who have already completed their sentences, in Afghanistan and still remain detained for non-payment of financial penalties. Afghan side has assured to take steps to waive the financial penalties to pave the way for early release of these detainees. It is expected that soon some of the Pakistani prisoners in Afghan jails will be released.
In your previous briefing, you mentioned about five Pakistanis who remain incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay prison. One of the Pakistani is Ahmed Rabbani, who remains detained at Guantanamo for the past 14 years. Has the Pakistan Government raised this issue with American side? If yes, what is the progress on the matter? (Mr. Muhammad Jaleel – VoA)
We continue to raise this issue with the US side. Our negotiations are ongoing.
My question relates to Aasia Bibi. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has fixed her Review Petition for 29th January 2019. In case, the decision of the Court is in favour of Aasia Bibi, will she be allowed to fly abroad? (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)
The Government of Pakistan will implement the decision of the Supreme Court.
How Pakistan aims to balance its relations between Iran and Saudi block with growing economic dependence on the latter? (Syed Asif Ali – G-TV)
Pakistan believes in brotherly relations with the Muslim Ummah and has been very successful in this endeavor. It is no doubt, a success of Pakistan’s diplomacy.
Firstly, is the Foreign Minister travelling to London for the Kashmir Conference?
Secondly, US Special Representative Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, while addressing the media in Kabul, stated that if Taliban want to continue war we will support the Afghan forces in that case. Do you think that such statements can have negative implications for the peace negotiations? (Mr. Majid Jarral – News One)
Yes the Foreign Minister will be visiting London for the Kashmir Conference.
Regarding your second question, Pakistan’s role and position is very clear that all matters should be resolved through political dialogue and negotiations.
There is a conference scheduled to take place in Warsaw next week on Middle East. Iran has not been invited to this conference. Do you think that the crisis in Middle East can be resolved keeping Iran out of the decision making process? Has Pakistan been invited to this conference? (Mr. Sheeraz Asghar – Iranian News Agency)
I do not have information of this conference.
Under Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), five to six Working Groups were formed. However, we have not heard any news related to the activities of these Working Groups. Is the APAPPS mechanism still active? (Mr. Naveed Akbar – Aaj TV)
The APAPPS is working actively. Pakistan remains hopeful of positive progress through this initiative of APAPPS.
My question relates to the first Pakistani Jew who is travelling to Israel. You said that Pakistan’s position regarding Israel has not changed. If so, on what basis then is Mr. Fischel travelling to Israel? Has he been given a special permission or a letter or an amendment has been inserted into his passport? (Mr. Bashir Chaudhry – 24 News)
In your previous briefing, you said that if there is a special case we can discuss about it. Mr. Fischel has claimed that the government has allowed him to travel to Jerusalem. Also if any of the Christians from Pakistan want to visit Bethlehem in Jerusalem, what course should they adopt? (Mr. Shamim – Online News Agency)
I will reiterate yet again what I said earlier – On Israel, Pakistan’s position remains same.