India is imperiling regional peace and security and also giving rise to an arms race in the region, Zahid Hafeez

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 10 December, 2020

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

Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Welcome to Weekly Press Briefing at the Foreign Office,

Let me begin with our strongest condemnation of India’s reprehensible tactics against Pakistan that have, once again, been exposed by the EU DisinfoLab, in its latest Report titled, “Indian Chronicles – Subsequent Investigation: Deep Dive into a 15 Year Operation Targeting the EU and UN to Serve Indian Interests”.

The Report is a follow up of the DisinfoLab’s 2019 Report titled, “Influencing Policymakers with Fake Media Outlets (An Investigation into a pro-Indian influence network)”.

According to the Report, there is a vast network of fake media outlets, think tanks and NGOs serving Indian interests.

The report had previously uncovered the Indian propaganda body carrying out anti-Pakistan activities and cyber warfare against Pakistan led by Srivastava group of India and propagated by the Indian news agency ANI, since 2005.

India not only spread disinformation but abused international institutions in its desire to malign Pakistan.

The Indian actors carrying out the latest malicious operation resurrected more than 10 defunct Human Rights Council accredited NGOs, registered with the names of deceased analysts and experts, created hundreds of fake journalists identities, generated more than 750 media outlets and registered more than 550 fake domain names.

The Indian news agency, ANI, repackaged and amplified the malicious content produced in Brussels and Geneva.

The Government of Pakistan views these mischievous activities of launching unsubstantiated propaganda as part of India’s preoccupation with maligning Pakistan.

Pakistan has already put forth irrefutable evidence, extensively documenting India’s active planning, promoting, aiding, abetting, financing and executing terrorist activities in Pakistan.

Publication of the recent report by EU DisinfoLab only substantiates Pakistan’s position in front of the International community.

The Government of India is urged to eschew the use of false propaganda as an instrument of state policy.

Such Indian ploys of spreading misinformation are doomed to fail.

By spreading such falsehoods, India can neither cast a shadow on the international stature of Pakistan nor can divert the attention of the international community from India’s horrendous human rights record.

Instead of wasting more time in peddling falsehoods and fake news, India would be well-advised to put its house in order and take care of its own issues of poverty, grave human rights violations, exploitation of minority rights and rising radicalism.

The exposé on Indian disinformation campaign by EU Disinfolab requires global attention. India’s subversive activities against Pakistan have been ignored for far too long.

Pakistan strongly condemns the arrests of Muslim youth in India under the newly promulgated discriminatory and inhuman law, which penalizes members of the religious minorities to marry as per their own free will.

This law is further manifestation of the mindset of Hindu supremacist RSS-BJP regime, which takes pride in degrading and humiliating minorities, particularly Muslims in India, and relegating them to second-class citizens.

Pakistan calls upon the International community to take note of such steps by the RSS-BJP regime, which are fuelled by its hatred of the minority communities.

Rather than giving in to the fantasy-driven ‘Love Jihad’ allegations of its fanatic cadres, the current regime should ensure protection of fundamental human rights of all of its citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliations.

As you are aware, 8th of December marked the 36th SAARC Charter Day.

In his message on the occasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan underscored that SAARC symbolizes the hope that the challenges faced by the region can be overcome through regional cooperation.

The Prime Minister stressed that the global Pandemic is a grim reminder that we need to work together and cooperate on issues of common interest more than ever before.

The Prime Minister reiterated that it is only through adhering to the principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect among Member States, that we would be able to utilize the true potential of SAARC and achieve our cherished goal of a prosperous and developed South Asia.

Pakistan, being a founding member of SAARC, attaches great importance to the Organization’s success and reaffirms its commitment to the objectives and purposes of its Charter.

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by Pakistan and the Philippines on the “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue” by an overwhelming majority.

This resolution is part of Pakistan’s global efforts to promote interfaith harmony, tolerance, respect for each other’s religions and values, and peaceful co-existence.

The resolution welcomes the “Kartarpur” initiative by Pakistan, referring to it as a “landmark initiative for interreligious and intercultural cooperation for peace”.

Due to the efforts of Pakistan, the resolution for the first time also acknowledges the significance and respect for religious symbols.

In the wake of growing religious intolerance and racism, especially Islamophobia around the world, this resolution is important for mainstreaming these contemporary challenges and taking the necessary steps to curb such trends.

With regard to recent developments in the Gulf region, Pakistan welcomes the progress towards resolution of the rift in the Gulf region and appreciates Kuwait’s sincere efforts for helping in promoting reconciliation among the countries in the dispute.

Pakistan hopes that enhanced confidence and understanding among these countries will foster durable peace and prosperity in the region.

Coming to the situation in IIOJK, the Kashmiris are continuously subjected to a brutal military siege and inhuman restrictions for 493 days, since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5thAugust 2019.

In brazen manifestation of state terrorism, the Indian occupation forces yesterday martyred 3 more Kashmiri youth in Pulwama district of IIOJK.

It is documented that 95,728 innocent Kashmiris have been extra-judicially killed by the Indian occupation forces in fake “encounters” and staged “cordon-and-search” operations since January 1989. 7,155 of these innocent Kashmiris have been killed during illegal custody.

During the same period, 161,163 civilians were arrested, 110,376 houses and structures were destroyed, and 11,231 women were molested by the Indian occupation troops.

The killing of innocent Kashmiris is a part of the Hindutva agenda of the RSS-BJP combine, which is attempting to target defenceless Kashmiris with mindless violence and perpetuating collective punishment to break their will.

Afraid of the struggle of Kashmiri people for their inalienable right to self-determination – a right enshrined in international law and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, the BJP Government is desperately trying to malign the indigenous Kashmiri freedom movement.

Having failed to subjugate the Kashmiri people despite unabated extra-judicial killings, custodial tortures, burning and looting of Kashmiri houses to inflict collective punishment and perpetration of worst human rights violations, the Indian deep state has now started paddling “fake news”, alleging transfer of foreign fighters to IIOJK.

The completely baseless allegations and fabrications of so-called “foreign fighters from Syria” serve only to further illustrate the virulent anti-Pakistan tirade that is the hallmark of the RSS-BJP dispensation.

Pakistan calls upon the international community, including the United Nations, human rights organizations and the global media, to hold India accountable for its crimes against the Kashmiri people.

The world community must also work for peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC Resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people for durable peace and stability in the region.

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

Question: You have already briefed us about EU Disinfolab’s disclosure of activities by the Indian deep state, which includes creation of fake IDs of journalists, propagation of fake news items etc. Beyond condemnation, will Pakistan raise this matter at relevant international forums, as it directly affects Pakistan’s image in the international community? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Supplementary Question: As this is the second report by EU DisinfoLab regarding India’s subversive activities against Pakistan, are we planning to raise this matter with the concerned quarters internationally?

Secondly, the creation of fake journalist IDs for dissemination of fake news on social media and other platforms is a problem in Pakistan as well. How are we, particularly the Foreign Office, planning to curb this menace? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Supplementary Question: Yesterday, some news reports suggested that India was preparing for another false flag operation against Pakistan, and that armed forces of Pakistan were on high alert. Any comment please? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

Answer: Let me first respond to the question about threat of a false flag operation by India.

The current Indian Government’s irresponsible behavior is very well known to the world.

This RSS inspired BJP Government has a history of using “Pakistan Card” to score political points and to shift focus from its profound failures of governance, faltering economy, state sponsorship of terrorism and violation of minority rights.

Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the international community regarding the possibility of India resorting to a false flag operation and we take this opportunity to forewarn the world yet again.

Our forces remain vigilant and are ready to respond to any misadventure by India.

Coming to the question about EU DisinfoLab, I have already spoken about that in my opening statement in detail. Let me reiterate that this is a very serious issue, because a state is abusing the cyberspace and media domain for its vile propaganda, which is directed against another member of the international community.

Pakistan has already put forth irrefutable evidence, extensively documenting India’s active planning, promoting, aiding, abetting, financing and executing terrorist activities in Pakistan.

Publication of the recent report by EU DisinfoLab only substantiates Pakistan’s position in front of the International community.

Pakistan will continue exposing India at every possible platform.

Question: The current situation of minorities in India is very concerning. India has not only been violating the fundamental human rights of the Kashmiri people, but it has also resorted to implying the same tactics against Sikh community members. How do you comment?

Secondly, five terrorists have been arrested from Lahore. These terrorists have also been reportedly in contact with Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies. Your comments, please? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: President Voice of Freedom Dr. Amar Jeet Singh in a video message stated that the Sikh community has always raised its voice for Muslims in Indian, as well as highlighted the plight of people of IIOJK. He said that the Sikh Community expects Pakistan to at least raise the issue of injustice with Sikhs in India at the level of UN. Is Pakistan planning on taking any such step? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY)

Answer: Regarding your question about situation of minorities in India, let me state that India’s human rights credentials stand fully exposed before the International community. India’s credibility has sunk to sub zero levels. I recently saw a statement by an Indian Union Minister, in which he accused Pakistan and China for the ongoing protest by farmers for their just demands. Such laughable assertions made by the Indian leadership give further credence to the fact that India has lost all its credibility.

The Gujarat massacre, Samjhauta Express, Delhi pogrom, demolition of the historical Babri Mosque and anti-minority legislations are glaring examples of systematic campaign against minorities in India. The desecration and vandalization of places of worship of minorities is reprehensible. These instances have been extensively documented in the Indian and international media.

Such Indian actions are manifestation of the mindset of Hindu supremacist RSS-BJP regime, which takes pride in degrading and humiliating minorities, particularly Muslims in India, and relegating them to second-class citizens.

Pakistan calls upon the International community to take note of such steps by the RSS-BJP regime, which are fuelled by its hatred of the minority communities.

Regarding your question about arrest of terrorists from Lahore, the matter is being investigated. Unlike India, which immediately blames Pakistan for any such incident without any evidence, Pakistan has always adopted a responsible approach. Our law enforcement and investigation agencies carry out an objective investigation before making any public announcements. This is the reason that the Dossier presented by Pakistan, providing irrefutable evidence of India’s state sponsorship of terrorism, is being looked into seriously by the world community.

Question: Azerbaijan is celebrating a Victory Day Parade in Baku today. Turkish President has been invited as a Chief Guest in the ceremony. Was there any invitation extended to Pakistan as well? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)

Answer: I will have to check and revert to you.

Question: I have two questions. Firstly, Russia has offered Pakistan its Sputnik Vaccine, according to reports doing rounds on social media. Can you confirm?

Secondly, on 19th November, the Australian Defence Forces released an inquiry which found that its special forces murdered 39 prisoners, mostly civilians, in Afghanistan. What is Pakistan’s position on this matter? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: Let me first respond to your question about Russian Sputnik Vaccine.

The Government of Pakistan remains committed to timely procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine. The two important factors for us in this regard are the efficacy of vaccine, and its price compatibility. We are in contact with multiple sources in this regard. We have also received a proposal from Russia, which has been forwarded to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, for examination.

Regarding your question about the findings of an inquiry by the Australian Defense Forces, we have seen the press reports, which are deeply concerning. We understand that both countries, i.e. Australia and Afghanistan are in touch on this matter.

Question: I have two questions, the first one is regarding Ahmed Rabbani, a Pakistani National detained in Guantanamo Bay since 2004. A UK based human rights organization has reported that Ahmed Rabbani has no links with Al Qaeda, as was alleged at the time of his arrest. Any further updates?

Secondly, a Pakistani car importer and gold trader Ali Muhammad was arrested in Zimbabwe. Can you update us about this as well? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: Pakistan remains committed to protecting the legal rights of all its citizens. As for these two specific cases, I will have to ascertain the facts and revert to you.

Question: Pakistan and China are making joint efforts to maintain stability in the region. India on the other hand has been trying to disturb regional peace by carrying out subversive activities from other countries’ soil. Is there any plan to counter Indian designs in the region? (Zaheer, Samaa TV)

Answer: China and Pakistan’s cooperation is an anchor for peace and stability in the region. Chinese Defence Minister’s recent visit to Pakistan was a part of regular high level exchanges between the two countries, aimed at deepening and expanding Pakistan-China ties. The MOU signed between Pakistan and China during the visit will further strengthen cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the areas of defense and security. The cooperation between Pakistan and China is aimed at promoting regional peace and stability.

India, under its current leadership with hegemonic designs, “Akhand Bharat” is indeed a threat to regional peace and security. The regional countries cannot afford to be oblivious of the Indian hegemonic designs.

Question: US has designated 9 countries including Pakistan as “Countries of Particular Concern”. My question relates to the agenda hidden behind such designation, as Pakistan has been designated whereas India has been exempted?

Secondly, we also witnessed instances where banners having ISI inscribed on them were highlighted by Indian media in IIOJ&K. Do you think India’s plans to carry out a false flag operation against Pakistan stem out of such incidents? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Supplementary Question: The USCIRF report published in April 2020 recommended putting India on the “Countries of Particular Concern” list. The report also recommended sanctions against some agencies and individuals of the Indian Government. In September, we saw another bipartisan recommendation from 14 US Senators to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to un-list India. In the wake of these actions do you think USCIRF holds any credibility to assess religious freedom standards maintained by different countries? (Essa Naqvi, Indus News)

Answer: I would first request you to refer to our detailed Press Release on the issue. Pakistan rejects the U.S. State Department’s arbitrary and selective assessment under a U.S. domestic legislation on religious freedom. We have raised serious questions regarding the objectivity of this assessment.

With regards to the recommendations of USCIRF, it is regrettable that the findings and recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as well as the U.S. Congressional hearings on the maltreatment of minorities in India and the violation of religious freedom all over the country including in the Muslim-majority Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) were ignored by the U.S. State Department.

Pakistan’s views in this regard have been conveyed to the US side.

Regarding your question about the false flag operation, Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the international community regarding the possibility of India resorting to a false flag operation to divert attention from its internal and external failures. We take this opportunity to forewarn the world yet again.

Question: There were news reports from IIOJ&K which indicated that Indian occupation forces had cut down thousands of apple trees in orchards owned by local Kashmiris. How does Pakistan see this development? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj TV)

Answer: India has been using every possible tool of oppression and violating every single human right of the Kashmiri people to break their will. However, no amount of Indian brutalization has been able to subjugate the Kashmiris. Economic strangulation of the Kashmiris is just another manifestation of India’s illegal and inhuman policies in IIOJK.

India must realize that it cannot escape international censure for its egregious behavior involving gross and systemic violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people and the denial of their inalienable right to self-determination.

Question: I have two questions. One is in continuation of the question of Essa Naqvi that how can a government which is going to finish its term on 20th of January designate Pakistan as a country of particular concern? Are we taking this issue with the new U.S. administration?

Secondly, regarding the meeting of Saudi Ambassador with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the press release issued by the Ministry is a proto type. There were rumors that 1500 Pakistani nationals have been deported to Pakistan and some more are in the pipeline. We did not see any efforts from Pakistan’s side to engage with Saudi authorities in this regard. How do you comment? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: Regarding the question of Essa Naqvi, my statement was fairly comprehensive. Let me reiterate that we have rejected the report and have taken up this issue formally with the U.S. Government.

As for our relations with Saudi Arabia, the two countries enjoy close cooperative and brotherly relations. The deportations of people from various countries on work visas under the ‘kafala’ system of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are a routine matter.

Due to COVID-19 related restrictions on international flights, our deportees faced delay in their travel back to Pakistan. As a result, they were held up in the Kingdom and their number increased. Recently, our Missions in KSA, in coordination with the Saudi authorities, made special efforts enabling Pakistani deportees to return to Pakistan.

Question: India is acquiring from Russia S-400 Defence System and also getting stealth fighter planes. How do you see this development?

Answer: We have repeatedly stated that India is acquiring weapons system and defense capabilities beyond its legitimate needs. By doing so, India is imperiling regional peace and security and also giving rise to an arms race in the region, which needs to be discouraged.

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