ISSUE OF HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN IIOJK GOING TO BE RAISED DURING THE VISIT OF THE US DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE; ASIM IFTIKHAR

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 07 October, 2021

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to our press briefing. 

At the outset, let me join all of you in conveying our condolences on the sad loss of life in the earthquake that occurred this morning in Balochistan.

Coming to the briefing, this has been a pretty busy period in terms of diplomatic activity.

Just by way of a run down, as you are aware, the Foreign Minister was in New York for the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). On the way back, he also had a number of official engagements in London.
 
The Prime Minister’s address to the General Assembly, and a host of engagements and outreach by the Foreign Minister served well to advance Pakistan’s key objectives, and to share our perspective on important regional and international issues from the global platform of the United Nations. 
 
In his policy address, the Prime Minister deliberated on a range of issues that are of common interest for the international community, such as COVID-19, economic recovery, and Climate Change. He once again alerted the international community about the dangers posed by Islamophobia, that was manifested particularly in the BJP-RSS led Hindutva ideology and persecution of minorities particularly Muslims in India. 
 
The Prime Minister also shared Pakistan’s perspective on the developments in Afghanistan, the immense sacrifice and losses we have incurred over the years, our constructive role and sincere advice throughout, and the imperative of engaging with Afghanistan now to ensure durable peace in that country.
 
On Jammu and Kashmir, the Prime Minister’s forceful and passionate presentation drew attention to India’s egregious human rights violations in IIOJK, as also evidenced by the comprehensive Dossier presented by Pakistan, and India’s unilateral and illegal measures aimed at altering the demographic structure of the occupied territory. He urged the international community to shun selectivity and double standards on human rights. The Prime Minister spelt out our position clearly – that we were desirous of peace with India, but sustainable peace in South Asia was contingent upon resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people. The onus was on India to create a conducive environment for meaningful and result oriented engagement with Pakistan.   
 
Also from the perspective of Jammu & Kashmir, most significant was the Ministerial Meeting of the OIC Contact Group, which unanimously adopted a strong Communiqué that inter-alia:

reaffirmed OIC’s solidarity and support for the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people for realization of their inalienable right to self-determination and freedom from Indian occupation, and 

demanded that India reverse all illegal and unilateral measures taken on or after 5 August 2019, immediately stop human rights violations, and halt and reverse the illegal demographic changes in the occupied territory
  
Let me also state that in the Foreign Minister’s various interactions in New York, key messaging was on Jammu and Kashmir, Afghanistan, the importance of multilateralism to address the global challenges, and Pakistan’s policy shift to geo-economics based on peace, partnerships and connectivity. 

You have also followed the Foreign Minister’s engagements in the UK. Then we had the Danish Foreign Minister in Islamabad last week, and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs earlier this week, all reflective of our continuing engagements with the international community.

The US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is visiting Pakistan on 7-8 October 2021. Her visit follows the recent meeting between the two Foreign Ministers in New York. During the visit, views will be exchanged on all issues of mutual interest including the bilateral relationship as well as the regional situation.

Close and regular engagement between Pakistan and the United States has always been mutually beneficial and a factor for stability in South Asia. We look forward to reinforcing a balanced Pak-US relationship that is anchored in mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas including security, trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity.

We remain deeply concerned on the grave situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where the brutality, state-terrorism, war crimes and systematic violations of human rights continue unabated by the Indian occupation forces.

A young Kashmiri Mujeeb Lone was martyred during cordon and search operation in Shopian district recently. 14 innocent Kashmiris were martyred by Indian Occupation Forces in month of September alone, while over 440 Kashmiris have been killed by the Indian troops since 5 August 2019.

The extra-judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris and the blatant attempts to turn Muslims into a minority in the IIOJK through distribution of fake ‘domicile certificates’ is another testimony of India’s rapid descent into fascism.

Indian illegal actions in IIOJK and the unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute have serious consequences – in terms of threat to international peace and security, and the human rights violations. We continue to sensitize the international community in this regard, utilizing all occasions, including in the ongoing debates at the UNGA in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Incidentally, we are also extremely concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation of human rights and rights of minorities in India. Not only Muslims but also Dalits, Christians and other minorities in India live in an environment of perpetual fear and intimidation.

In an extremely disturbing incident on 3 October, a mob of around 500 violent Hindu extremists ransacked and vandalized a Christian prayer house in Roorkee, Uttarkhand and harassed the Sunday Mass attendees. On August 29, in an equally reprehensible incident, a right-wing Hindutva group tried to attack three churches in the district of Kawardha in Chattisgarh.

Targeting of Muslims also continues with complete impunity in India, aided by the highly discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Hindutva driven RSS-BJP Combine’s hostility towards Muslims. The brutal eviction drive against the Muslims of Assam which has rendered thousands of Muslims homeless is a despicable example of this policy.

Recent incidents of demolition of the ancient Bilal mosque in Haryana and Masjid Ghareeb Nawaz in Uttar Pradesh are glaring examples of Indian State complicity in the acts of repression against Muslims.

Minorities in India are being willfully targeted by fascist Hindutva mobs on flimsy pretexts. All of this must be an eye-opener for the world. Beneath the veneer of democracy, the reality of today’s India is morbid. The world must arrest India’s open and remorseless transgressions before it is too late.

I thank you all and am happy to take questions.

Question: Please comment on the recent discussions in the US House regarding Afghanistan and its implications for Pakistan. (Khalid Mehmood, Express News)

Supplementary Question: US Senate Committee has discussed Afghanistan. Later a bill has been presented to the Congress where Pakistan has been discussed and it has been mentioned that the countries that have supported Taliban be asked to explain their position. Does Pakistan think that its contributions have been ignored?

Secondly, American Deputy Secretary of State Ms Wendy Sherman is undertaking a visit to Pakistan, will Pakistan raise these matters with her? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: You would have seen the press release issued by us in this regard. Let me reiterate that the U.S. Congressional hearings represent a continuation of the debate underway in Washington to reflect on and draw lessons from the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. While the views being expressed by lawmakers and experts during these hearings do not necessarily reflect the United States’ official position, they are a matter of concern, and are nonetheless inconsistent with the reality of the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and the United States on Afghanistan.

The two countries are maintaining high-level engagement on a broad range of bilateral and regional issues, including Afghanistan. In his regard, as I said, we look forward to the visit of the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and continuing our discussions on these important issues.

Question: For past 74 years, Human Right Violations are occurring in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) despite Pakistan’s efforts towards peace. What are your views on this? Will the issue be raised with the U.S. during the visit? (Shakeel Ahmad Kalyana, Relation Times)

Answer: As you have rightly pointed out, this is an ongoing situation, and I spoke in detail on our concerns on this. We are taking it up at all levels – through bilateral and multilateral channels, including particularly with the UN leadership. I am certain this issue is going to be raised during the visit of the Deputy Secretary of State. We think that important countries like the US have a very special responsibility – as the permanent member of the UNSC and as advocates of human rights globally – in addressing the grave concerns regarding the human rights situation in IIOJK.

Question: I have two questions:

Firstly, American Deputy Secretary is visiting Pakistan and just a few hours prior to her visit a fake letter was spread in the media. Will the Foreign Office investigate the matter?

Secondly, Pakistani students want to go to China but are unable to do so. Is the Foreign Office undertaking any steps to help the students? (Zulqernain Haider, ARY News)

Answer: You referred to a fake letter that was circulating in the media yesterday. It has been rebutted. We have also issued a Press Release stating that this letter was completely fake and baseless. Its origin is also being looked into.

On your second question about the Pakistani students who are studying in China, this has been under discussion and review. Let me say that Pakistan and China have a very robust bilateral cooperation and that includes people-to-people exchanges and education. China is one of the major destinations for our students. There are over 28,000 Pakistani students undertaking studies in different Chinese educational institutions. Pakistan is also one of the biggest recipients of the Chinese scholarships.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, China extended maximum facilitation to our students for their well-being and continued study. China also extended full support in our efforts to look after our students in Wuhan and in their travel to Pakistan after the restrictions were lifted. We appreciate the cooperation extended by the Chinese side.

The two countries attach great importance to the well-being and the continued education of Pakistani students. We believe that these students are an asset for our time-tested friendship and a bridge between the two countries.

Both the countries are constantly engaged in resolving the important issue of the return of Pakistani students to China. And the issue has been discussed at various levels with the Chinese authorities both in Beijing and Islamabad.

We understand the measures taken by China to curtail the spread of the virus.

We are also exploring the possibility of addressing the issues of research, lab work, scholarship etc. with the relevant Pakistani and Chinese authorities and institutions.

Meanwhile, we expect all Pakistani students to continue regularly attending the online classes to meet the academic requirements. We shall keep the students informed.

Question: Pakistan had given a list of wanted TTP individuals to Afghan Taliban. Later, Prime Minister gave a statement that negotiations are underway with some factions of TTP. Has TTA refused to hand over the people to Pakistan and what is the status of these negotiations? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)

Answer: I don’t see any linkage in this. In any case, with regard to our concerns on the TTP, the matter is being regularly taken up with the new authorities in Afghanistan. On the issue of talks or negotiations with TTP, I have nothing to add to what has already been said at the highest levels.

Question: What impact does changeover of ISI chief have on talks with TTP and the security situation? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)

Answer: Well, that’s not a question for me to address. Anyhow these are changes that take place institutionally and normally do not affect policies.

Question: Is there any upcoming visit from Iranian or Saudi top authorities to Pakistan? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: As you would be aware there was a visit earlier this week from Iran. I don’t have additional information at this stage on any forthcoming visits.

Question: Indian military leadership is making provocative statements against Pakistan and Pakistan’s military leadership has already taken note, at corps commanders meeting. What answer would you like to give at the diplomatic level to India, what is the motive behind making provocative statements against security and territorial integrity of Pakistan? Do you think there is some sort of adventure that Indian military planning in the future against Pakistan, and if so, to what extent are we capable of giving a befitting response? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Supplementary Question: On Saturday, Indian Army Chief was in Laddakh and he said that there have been two Cease Fire Violations (CFVs) in the last week after 8th of September along the Line of Control (LOC). Can you confirm that? He has also alleged that since early July there have been infiltrations from the Pakistani side into IIOJK, but they were not backed by any CFVs by Pakistan. So how do you see this statement because he said it has been conveyed via the hotline between the two DGMOs. (Essa Naqvi, Independent)

Answer: Both these questions are linked in a way. As I stated in my opening remarks and what we have been saying previously, this is all part of the hostile policy that India has adopted towards Pakistan. There are obvious political considerations behind that approach. They also want to hide what they are doing in IIOJK, the human rights violations and state terrorism in the occupied territory, as well as the excesses committed against the minorities in India. So there is a very clear track record of India to malign Pakistan and to undermine the legitimate Kashmir freedom movement by making such baseless allegations from time to time. We have exposed these Indian tactics, including through the recent dossier on Indian human rights violations in IIOJK presented on 12th September. We have informed the international community about India’s false flag and stage managed operations and fake recovery operations. These issues have also been specifically addressed in our recent statements. We have drawn the attention of the international community to this continuing irresponsible behavior of the Indian Government. We also remain open to independent investigations of ceasefire violations by UNMOGIP.

As regards preparedness, it is clear and proven as was evident from recent past. We have the capability and the national resolve to depend against any aggression. The entire nation is unanimous on this and stands together with our valiant armed forces. There should be no doubt on the level of our preparedness to respond to any misadventures.

Question: There are reports of gifts received by the Prime Minister. The Foreign Minister is also presented with gifts. Does the Foreign Office have any record? (Aun Sherazi, Such News)

Supplementary Question: Are any higher-ups involved in the Pandora Papers from the Foreign Office? If so, will Foreign Office extend cooperation to the cell set up to investigate this matter? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: I have no particular comment to offer on this second question. But would like to note, as you are aware, what the Prime Minister stated that everyone will be investigated.

The question on the gifts pertains to the relevant authorities. I do not have any information on this matter.

Question: I have two questions. Muhammad Ghulam Rabbani, a Pakistani citizen from Karachi, is incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay for the past 17 years on alleged links with Al-Qaeda, even though those charges could never be ascertained. A UK-based human rights organization is dealing with his case; and there was word that his case in under review, but nothing has been finalized. Can you please share details? Can you also share the number of Pakistani inmates still there in Guantanmo Bay?

Secondly, there are confirmed reports that lots of Chinese fishing trawlers are fishing in Pakistani continental shelf and they are time and again crossing Pakistan’s waters, and staying there. Reportedly, they are using environmentally harmful nets that are detrimental to maritime life. How do you see this particular aspect? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: On your first question, we are ascertaining the information which will be shared as soon as we have the details.

On your second question, I would refer you to the relevant authorities.

Question: How do you see the recent halt of movement through Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Taliban’s tenure, which is causing a lot of inconvenience? (Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination)

Supplementary Question: There are a lot of trade prospects between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and currently the two sides are engaged in various negotiations. What facilities does Pakistan not want to provide to the Afghan side in terms of trade? (Sofia Siddiqui, Pro Pakistani Glory Magazine)

Supplementary Question: Afghan side is complaining that Pakistan is not allowing ambulances to cross over. Has there been any progress in resolving this issue? (Zargoon Shah, GEO News)

Supplementary Question: While there are issues on border movement despite valid visas, station passes are being issued on the other side. How do you comment? (Tariq Ullah Wardak, Freelancer)

Answer: We naturally want to have the border open and regulated. Some measures are of temporary nature necessitated by security and effective border management. We remain in touch with the Afghan side in order to make the movement smooth.

As far as humanitarian and other aspects are concerned, Pakistan has always been very open and very accommodative. You are aware that we let cross-border movements take place even during the COVID situation, and we are fully responsive to the humanitarian needs of Afghanistan.

Some of the measures are coordinated by other concerned ministries, such as the Ministry of Interior and they keep re-visiting these from time to time.

Our aim is to facilitate a regulated cross-border movement with Afghanistan which is in the best interest of our two countries.
Question: I have two questions.

Regarding the Deputy Secretary of State’s visit to Pakistan, you said in your opening remarks that Pakistan is looking forward to a balanced relationship with the U.S. What is a balanced relationship in Pakistan’s viewpoint?

Secondly, the Foreign Minister mentioned during his joint press stakeout with an incoming dignitary that United States is asking for an air corridor. What will Pakistan’s position on the issue be if the U.S. takes up the matter? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: As for your first question, I think it is very clear and we have been saying it for quite some time that we desire a relationship that takes into account the interests of both countries, and we do have many shared interests with the U.S. There is a desire on part of Pakistan, and I believe on part of U.S. as well, to make this relationship broad-based and forward looking, moving away from looking at it mostly from the perspective of Afghanistan. As I said before close engagement between Pakistan and the U.S. has always been mutually beneficial and a factor for stability in the region.

On the second question, I do not have any thing further to add.

Question: I have two questions.

Firstly, Prime Minister said in an interview that we are having talks with the interim Afghan government, and we want the Afghan government to include all factions including those having differences of opinion. How much progress has been made in this regard?

Secondly, a letter is being circulated in the media for two days that American Deputy Secretary of State will be exempted from COVID restrictions. Is it an attempt to ‘balance’ the relationship as well? (Eijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: On your first question, there is this continuing effort by the international community, including Pakistan, with regard to the expectation for an inclusive set-up which is in the interest of Afghanistan itself. In the recent expansion to the Afghan interim cabinet, you can see some progress. It is an ongoing effort.

On your second question, there is nothing in terms of any exceptional treatment to any particular country. Being an official guest, as per policy of the Government of Pakistan and on reciprocal basis, regular diplomatic and protocol courtesies are accorded, and that is the case with many other counties as well.

Question: The Australian diplomats who were evacuated from Afghanistan are now finally going back to their country. What was the reason of these diplomats staying in Pakistan for this long? How many such foreign nationals are presently in Pakistan?

Secondly, one of our beat reporters was mistreated in New York. She was invited to Foreign Minister’s press conference and then she was told to leave. The Foreign Minister later assured that it would be investigated. Can you share progress of these investigations? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: As you are aware, nationals of many countries were allowed to transit through Pakistan for different time durations. This was being managed by the special facilitation cell at the Ministry of Interior. They would have the details of individual cases.

As for your second question, we will ascertain details.

Question: Saleem Mandviwalla, in a press conference, expressed concern on the halt in CPEC progress. What are your comments on it? (Nayyar Ali, News One TV)

Answer: CPEC is progressing well. The recent high-level press briefing has clarified different aspects. The commitment of both countries to take CPEC forward has been very clearly articulated at the highest levels. We also had the 10th JCC meeting on 23rd September, with substantive outcome and major progress across all areas. It was a strong signal of continuing vitality of CPEC as a pillar of Pak-China All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership. The JCC firmly dispelled any notion of a slow-down in CPEC.

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