Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 21 January, 2021
[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 by congratulating the nation, on the conduct of successful flight test of Shaheen-III surface-to-surface ballistic missile, with a range of 2,750 kilometers.
We deeply appreciate the dedication, commitment and technical prowess of the scientists, engineers and the armed forces of Pakistan in making the launch successful.
The successful flight test was part of Pakistan’s strategic capability manifestation, which is aimed at ensuring credible deterrence against any aggression.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has congratulated the 46th President of the United States, Joseph R Biden on the occasion of his inauguration.
In his congratulatory Tweet, the Prime Minister, has stated that Pakistan is looking forward to working with President Biden in building a stronger Pakistan-United States partnership through trade and economic engagement; countering climate change; improving public health; combating corruption; and promoting peace in the region and beyond.
The Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Azerbaijan visited Pakistan last week.
During the visit, they held delegation level talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
They also separately called on the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan and other dignitaries.
During the meeting with his Turkish counterpart, the Foreign Minister underscored the importance of building a stronger economic partnership, including by realizing the vision of the Strategic Economic Framework (SEF).
Thanking Turkey’s firm support on the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir dispute, the Foreign Minister briefed his Turkish counterpart on the grave human rights situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK).
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), relating to cooperation in the field of education was also signed.
During his meeting with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Foreign Minister Qureshi congratulated the government and the people of Azerbaijan on their historic victory in the recent conflict on Nagorno Karabakh.
He also expressed support for rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in the newly liberated territories.
The two Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the mutual resolve to comprehensively upgrade cooperation in the political, security, trade, economy, energy, connectivity, education and cultural arenas.
Foreign Minister Qureshi expressed appreciation for Azerbaijan’s steadfast support to the just and legitimate cause of the Kashmiri people.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the field of natural emergencies/disasters was also signed.
Pakistan hosted the 2nd Trilateral Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of Turkey.
The 1st Trilateral Meeting was held in Baku in 2017.
The Trilateral Meeting concluded with the signing of the “Islamabad Declaration” by the three Foreign Ministers.
The three sides;
Agreed to enhance joint efforts on combating Islamophobia and discrimination and persecution of Muslim minorities.
Decided to intensify and deepen cooperation for enhancing trilateral trade & investment and regional connectivity.
Reiterated their principled position for a peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.
Leader of Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami, Afghanistan, Ustad Karim Khalili, visited Islamabad along with his delegation.
During the visit, Ustad Khalili called on the Prime Minister and met with the Speaker National Assembly, the Foreign Minister and other dignitaries.
The visit of Ustad Khalili was part of Pakistan’s ongoing policy to reach out to political leadership in Afghanistan to forge common understanding on the Afghan peace process and deepen people-to-people linkages.
As part of his regular engagement, the Foreign Minister held telephone conversations with his counterparts from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.
Congratulating his counterparts on the successful GCC Summit held at Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Minister appreciated the positive steps taken by all members of the organization that led to successful resolution of the outstanding issues.
The Foreign Minister discussed with his counterparts ways to further strengthen and diversify the respective bilateral relations and enhance collaboration in multilateral organizations.
The RSS-BJP regime continues to be exposed internationally for its negative propaganda against Pakistan and irresponsible actions, imperiling peace and stability in the region.
The recent developments regarding Arnab Goswami’s WhatsApp chats leaks have further exposed India’s sinister designs against Pakistan and vindicated our long held position.
The latest revelations confirm what Pakistan has consistently pointed out that the BJP government stages “false flag” operations; maligns Pakistan with terrorism-related allegations; stokes hyper-nationalism in the country and then deviously manipulates national sentiment in its bid to win elections.
We had, at the outset, rejected India’s malicious propaganda against Pakistan and highlighted that the biggest beneficiary of the Pulwama attack in February 2019 was the BJP government, as it secured landslide victory in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.
The transcripts also illustrate the unholy nexus between the ‘Hindutva’ regime and its cronies in the Indian media.
We hope that the international community would take full cognizance of the situation and hold India accountable for its actions vitiating the regional environment and endangering peace and security in South Asia.
India continues to remain evasive on the horrific incident in Jodhpur, where eleven members of a Pakistani Hindi family died in India under mysterious circumstance.
A group of Pakistani Hindu Community from all across the country, including the family members of the deceased and the Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Hindu Council called on the Foreign Minister yesterday.
They handed over a petition, expressing serious concerns over the continuing failure of the Indian Government to carry out a transparent and credible investigation to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice.
The family of the deceased has raised serious concerns, hinting at the involvement of Indian Agency ‘Research and Analysis Wing’ in the incident.
India has not explained as to why the bodies of the deceased were hastily cremated without informing the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi (PHC) and why a postmortem in the presence of Pakistan High Commission’s doctor was not permitted despite repeated requests by the High Commission.
The Foreign Minister assured the delegation that the Government of Pakistan will continue urging the Government of India to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the matter and share its findings with Pakistan without further delay.
The Minister of Human Rights, Dr. Shireen Mazari, has also addressed a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), calling for constitution of an investigation team under the auspices of the United Nations to investigate the deaths of eleven Pakistani Hindus.
Since the deceased were Pakistani nationals, it is incumbent upon the Government of Pakistan to be fully aware of the circumstances under which its nationals died in India.
The Government of India is obligated to fully cooperate with Pakistan.
Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK), the military siege, communications blockade, media blackout and every possible violation of the human rights of Kashmiri people continue for 535 days since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019.
In a new low, the RSS-BJP regime has merged the civil services in IIOJK with civil services of certain other Indian states in violation of the international law.
India cannot hide its true intention behind such decisions, which is further disempowerment of the Kashmiris through weeding out of Kashmiri civil servants from IIOJK.
Pakistan firmly condemns the framing of Mr. Shabir Ahmad Shah, by the Indian authorities in a fake (six-year-old) case under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
It is immediately obvious that Mr. Shah’s prosecution has nothing to do with the maintenance of justice but is being undertaken by the RSS-BJP combine to muzzle the Kashmiri voices.
Pakistan demands that the fake charges against Mr. Shah be immediately withdrawn, the political victimization of Kashmiri political leaders be seized and Mr. Shah and other incarcerated Kashmiris leadership be released without further delay.
Pakistan has also approached the United Nations Secretary General in New York to seek immediate release of Kashmiri leader, Mr. Muhammad Yasin Malik.
Mr. Malik has been charged on counts of terrorism under the notorious Public Safety Act (PSA), without due process and in violation of his fundamental human rights.
Independent voices continue to call out India on its gross and systemic violations of human rights in IIOJK and the minority rights inside the country.
Human Rights Watch in its report of 11 January 2021 underlined that seven human rights and humanitarian organizations had called upon the European Union to take a strong stand and press India to immediately end systemic human rights violations.
These organizations include: Amnesty International; Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW); International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN); International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); Front Line Defenders (FLD); Human Rights Watch (HRW); and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).
The report also called upon India to free all detained human rights defenders and others arrested on politically motivated charges.
On 11 January, the UK parliamentarians and Chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group wrote a letter to the British Prime Minister and highlighted the egregious human rights violations in IIOJK.
The letter also drew attention to India’s crackdown on minorities, the forced shut down of Amnesty International operations last year, the security dimension of Jammu and Kashmir dispute and urged that these matters be taken up with Prime Minister Modi.
A major development in this regard was the debate moved in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom by Sarah Owen on the situation in IIOJK.
The debate by the UK parliamentarians and voices like these across the world indicate that India can no longer hide its atrocities in IIOJK and escape international censure.
I thank you for your attention and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.
Question: Few days ago, the Senate of Pakistan had passed a Resolution calling for immediate release of Kashmiri leadership languishing in Indian jails. In this regard, the resolution called upon the Foreign Office to respond within forty days on this issue. Is there any short term and long term plan prepared by the Foreign Office in the matter?
Secondly, there are also reports that the Government of India is conspiring to hang the incarcerated Kashmir leader Mr. Yasin Malik. Do you have any information or update on this? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)
Answer: I have already spoken in detail regarding the illegal incarceration of the Kashmiri leadership by the BJP-RSS regime on frivolous charges in violation of fundamental human rights and international law.
Imprisonment and torturing of Kashmiri leaders on the basis of their political ideology and struggle against illegal Indian occupation is a true reflection of the extremist mindset of the RSS-BJP regime which has no respect for the human rights of the Kashmiri people and international humanitarian laws.
As for Hurriyat leader Muhammad Yasin Malik, Pakistan strongly condemns the framing of concocted, fabricated and politically motivated charges against him. This is a repeated pattern by the India. A similar fictitious case related to the gunning down of four IAF personnel was lodged against Mr. Malik in March last year by the TADA court. Mr. Malik is currently in Tihar Jail. We are concerned about his health condition as he has a number of medical ailments which require appropriate medical treatment.
The timing of re-opening of the old cases suggests that the BJP Government is determined to frame the Hurriyat leadership for resisting the illegal Indian occupation of the Jammu & Kashmir.
Pakistan has also approached the United Nations Secretary General in New York to seek immediate release of Kashmiri leader, Mr. Muhammad Yasin Malik.
We urge the international community, especially the United Nations and relevant human rights and humanitarian organizations to take note of egregious human rights situation in IIOJK and illegal incarceration of the Kashmiri leadership.
Question: Would you please confirm the appointment of General Bilal Akbar as Pakistan’s envoy to Saudi Arabia? (Rashida Siyal, Abb Tak)
Supplementary Question: What is the reason that the retired Generals are posted abroad and their most favourite place is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Supplementary Question: Why the retired Generals are posted in important countries with which our relations are important in bilateral and regional context? Has the input of Foreign Office been taken in this regard? (Aun Sheerazi, Such TV)
Answer: It is an administrative matter and as a policy we do not comment on administrative matters.
Question: Pakistan has demanded the United Nations to investigate the attack by India on the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) Observers and their vehicle along the Line of Control (LoC). Has the inquiry in this regard been completed?
Secondly, Pakistan also raised the issue of release Asiya Andrabi with international community, including the United Nations. What is the update in the matter? (Raziq Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)
Answer: As for the attack on the UNMOGIP vehicle and Observers, we believe that matter is being investigated.
Regarding Ms. Asiya Andrabi, Pakistan has approached the United Nations Secretary General in New York and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to seek her immediate release.
Ms. Andrabi has been under illegal and inhuman incarceration for more than 15 years on fabricated charges under draconian laws aimed at further perpetuating India’s illegal occupation of IIOJK through brutalization of the Kashmiri people.
India’s blatant attempts to portray the legitimate Kashmiri struggle as “terrorism”, and to prosecute its leaders through concocted cases, is a clear violation of the UN Charter, UN Security Council and UN General Assembly resolutions, and international human rights and humanitarian law.
Pakistan has called upon the United Nations to urge India to drop all fabricated charges against Ms. Andrabi, her husband and her associates, and provide them complete legal protections, including the right to a free and fair trial.
Question: It has been reported that the King of Bahrain and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi are visiting Pakistan on private trips over the next few days for houbara bustard hunting. Is there any scheduled meeting of the visiting leaders with the Pakistani leadership? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn TV)
Supplementary Question: Is there any exact date of lifting visa ban by the UAE for Pakistani nationals? (Kausar Lodhi, Prime News)
Answer: As for visas for Pakistani nationals by the UAE, during his recent visit, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi discussed the issues related to the welfare of Pakistani community in his meetings with the UAE leadership. He also raised the issue of visa restrictions with the Government of the UAE. He was assured that the visa restrictions were temporary in nature.
Following the visit, the Foreign Minister of the UAE also stated that the restrictions on visa are temporary. I would refer you to the statement made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
As for visit of the Gulf leaders, I will revert to you.
Question: Are Pakistan and India in contact at any level regarding the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine? Yesterday, SAPM on NSA has said that Pakistan would be directly in-touch with the companies producing vaccine. We understand Bharat Biotech has written to the Ministry of Health through diplomatic channels with regard to procurement of vaccine. In September 2019, the Government of Pakistan issued an order to import essential drugs from India despite ban on import? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)
Answer: The procurement of vaccines pertains to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination. The Government of Pakistan has also constituted a Special Cabinet Committee as an oversight body for procurement of the Covid-19 vaccine. For further details I would refer you to the concerned Ministry.
Question: Millions of dollars have been transferred from the bank accounts of the High Commission of Pakistan, London in Broadsheet Case. What is Pakistan’s stance on this? (Adeel Warraich, Foreign Affairs News Diplomacy)
Answer: The matter pertains to the Office of the Attorney General for Pakistan and the National Accountability Bureau.
Question: Iran has said that it would comply its obligations under the JCPOA if the sanctions are removed. The President of the United States Joe Biden has also hinted that he will return to the Nuclear Deal. What is Pakistan’s position? Secondly, U.S. former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had claimed that Al-Qaeda has new base in Iran. The Trump Administration was basically creating problems for the new administration to deal with Iran. How do you comment? (Sheeraz Asghar, IRNA)
Answer: Pakistan has a principled position on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). We believe JCPOA represents a good model of mutually agreed and negotiated settlement of issues at the international level. We hope that all parties to the agreement will comply with their part of obligations under the agreement.
Question: India will chair three key UNSC committees, including the Taliban Sanctions Committee. How do you comment on the development?
Secondly, the US has had an immensely important role in the region for decades what are your expectation from the new US Administration? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: The UNSC has around 30 subsidiary bodies/committees. Allocation of chairs for these bodies is a routine process and is generally done by consensus among Council members. Chairs of these bodies are required to have sound credentials and requisite experience.
However, India’s negative role in maintenance of international peace and security- the prime mandate of the UNSC – is well known. It’s state-sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan and its elaborate schemes and global network for spreading disinformation about Pakistan have also been fully exposed.
It is important that members of the Security Council ensure that India is not allowed to abuse its position as a non-permanent member of the UNSC.
Regarding your second question, I referred to the congratulatory message by the Prime Minister of Pakistan on the occasion of inauguration of President Joe Biden. You may kindly refer to that.
Question: Regarding Aafia Siddiqui, is our Embassy in US in contact with the relevant US authorities on the matter? Is Pakistan working with the US authorities regarding her release? (Saad Butt, Daily Patriot)
Answer: The Government of Pakistan has been regularly seized of the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and has consistently raised the issue of respecting the human and legal rights of Dr. Aafia with the U.S. authorities. Pakistan’s Consul General in Houston regularly visits Dr. Siddiqui, to inquire about her well being.
Question: February will mark two years since the Balakot strike. Do you see the possibility of a false-flag operation to be orchestrated by India? How would you comment on Pakistan’s military preparedness to ensure regional stability? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)
Answer: We believe that irresponsible and irrational policies and actions of the current RSS-BJP regime in India are severely imperiling regional peace and security. We have repeatedly stated that the BJP government stages “false flag” operations; maligns Pakistan with terrorism-related allegations; stokes hyper-nationalism in the country and uses it for petty political gains
Indian attempts to finds a pretext for military misadventure against Pakistan stand fully exposed. On our part, we remain fully vigilant and prepared to respond to any Indian misadventure. Our response in Balakot incident was a manifestation of the capability and preparedness of our Armed forces and our national resolve to defeat Indian ill designs.
Question: Reportedly, Pakistan has not submitted its OIC membership fee for the past 2 years. Is this true? (Nouman Ashfaq, Parliament Times)
Answer: Pakistan is a founding member of OIC and attaches great importance to this organization. Pakistan regularly makes payment of its contributions. I am not aware of any outstanding payments. However, I will check and revert.
Question: Lloyd Austin during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Committee appreciates Pakistan’s effort for peace in Afghanistan. He also acknowledged Pakistan action against anti-India groups such as LeT and JeM but said that they are incomplete. Is this a ‘do-more’ demand from the US? Also, he signaled the resumption of military assistance to Pakistan? What are your views?
Secondly, Foreign Minister had earlier announced the visit of Saudi Foreign Minister in the month of January. When is he expected to arrive? (Eissa Naqvi, Indus News)
Supplementary Question: What is the status of the expected Saudi Foreign Minister to Pakistan? Have the dates being postponed, rescheduled or they are yet to be decided? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: If you look at the full statement of Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, he appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process. He clearly stated that if confirmed, he will encourage a regional approach having support from neighboring countries like Pakistan. Additionally, he also stated that he will “focus on our shared interests which include training future Pakistan military leaders through the use of International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds”. I would suggest looking at the overall context of the statement.
We look forward to working with the new US Administration.
As for visit of Foreign Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, regular exchange of high level visits is the hall mark of Pakistan-Saudi relations. We will share the details with you as soon as we receive any details