Jammu and Kashmir Dispute as well as the Palestine issue are the longest unresolved agenda items of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Zahid Hafeez

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 20 May, 2021

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

 

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

Let me begin by reiterating Pakistan’s strong condemnation of the continuing Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people.

In clear violation of all humanitarian norms and international human rights laws, Israel has staged series of heavy airstrikes in Gaza, attacked innocent civilians in and outside Al-Aqsa Mosque, forced evictions, and imposed restrictions on fundamental freedoms of the Palestinian people.

The indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli forces has resulted in deaths and injuries to a large number of innocent Palestinians, including women and children.

Since the current escalation in Palestine, Pakistan is at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to highlight the worsening situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Our outreach efforts are aimed at formulating a unified and unequivocal response from the international community against the Israeli aggression.

Prime Minister Imran Khan held telephonic conversations with President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also held interactions with his counterparts from a number of countries including Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey and the U.S.

The Foreign Minister also represented Pakistan at the Virtual Open-ended Emergency Meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Executive Committee to discuss Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians.

During all these interactions, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister condemned the indiscriminate use of force and attacks by Israeli forces in Al-Aqsa and Gaza, called for protection of civilians, and underscored the need for the international community to take urgent steps to address the grave situation in the occupied territories.

They also reaffirmed Pakistan’s abiding commitment to the Palestinian cause and called for establishment of a viable, independent, and contiguous State of Palestine:

• On the basis of internationally agreed parameters;
• With pre-1967 borders; and
• Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

As part of Pakistan’s intensive diplomatic outreach efforts to mobilize international support, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is currently in New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting on the Palestine issue, today.

We hope that the special meeting of the UNGA would help send a strong message on behalf of the OIC to the international community to help end the Israeli aggression and to take concrete steps to find a just solution to the Palestinian issue.

On his way to New York, the Foreign Minister visited Turkey and called on the President of Turkey.

The Foreign Minister also met with his Turkish counterpart.

During these meetings, the Foreign Minister discussed the entire gamut of bilateral and regional issues including:

• The ongoing crisis in Occupied Palestinian territories, and Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts in this regard,
• Pakistan-Turkey bilateral ties,
• Rising Islamophobia,
• Pakistan’s role in the Afghan Peace Process, and
• The Jammu & Kashmir Dispute.

President Erdoğan appreciated Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts and its steadfast support for the Palestinian people.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had a telephone conversation with the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, today.

During the call, 70th anniversary of establishment of Pakistan-China diplomatic ties, bilateral relations and vaccine cooperation were discussed.

The Prime Minister congratulated Premier Li and the Chinese leadership for successful landing of the Chinese spacecraft on Mars, which showed rising technological prowess of China.

Prime Minister Imran Khan emphasized that with collective and tireless efforts over the years, Pakistan and China had transformed their relationship into an “All-Weather Strategic Co-operative Partnership”.

The Prime Minister highlighted Pakistan-China cooperation in fighting COVID-19 and deeply appreciated China’s continued support to Pakistan in supply of COVID vaccine.

The 2nd round of Pakistan-Thailand Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) was held virtually.

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and Permanent Secretary of Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs led their respective delegations at the meeting.

Both sides reviewed the bilateral relations in all areas of cooperation including political, defence, security, economic, trade and investment.

They also discussed the regional situation including the efforts by Pakistan to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and the imperative of resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

The Foreign Secretary reiterated Pakistan’s desire for Full Dialogue Partnership with ASEAN and thanked Thailand for its consistent support in this regard.

Pakistan strongly condemns the despicable act of demolition of 100-year old Ghareeb Nawaz Masjid in Uttar Pradesh, India with the complicity of the local administration.

This reprehensible act echoes the demolition of the centuries old Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 at the hands of radical Hindu mob.

Pakistan once again urges the Indian government to ensure safety, security and protection of minorities, particularly Muslims and their places of worship.

India must fulfill its responsibilities under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments.

We also call upon the international community, the United Nations and relevant international organizations to play their role in preserving the Islamic heritage sites and ensure protection of minorities in India.

Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK).

We are deeply grieved on the demise of Ashraf Sehrai, who passed away in Indian custody.

Ashraf Sehrai was the senior leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and Chairman of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir.

He was arrested last year on trumped up charges under the draconian Public Safety Act in IIOJK.

Mr. Sehrai remained incarcerated in Indian jail under squalid conditions despite serious deterioration of his health and the prevailing COVID-19 crisis.

Like him, a number of Kashmiri leaders continue to languish in Indian jails, with many at undisclosed locations.

As the COVID-19 situation in India deteriorates, we also remain deeply concerned over the health and safety of these Kashmiri leaders.

As you may all know, 21st May marks the martyrdom anniversaries of prominent Kashmiri leaders Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Farooq, Khawaja Abdul Ghani Lone and the martyrs of Hawal.

It was on 21st May 1990 that Mirwaiz Farooq was shot dead by the agents of Indian agencies at his residence in Srinagar.

On the same day, seventy mourners were killed when Indian troops opened indiscriminate fire on his funeral procession in Hawal area of Srinagar.

Then on 21 May 2002, Khawaja Abdul Ghani Lone was also martyred by the agents of Indian agencies.

These heinous crimes and extrajudicial killings of innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters and so-called ‘cordon-and-search’ operations continue unabated to date.

Most recently, Indian occupation forces extra-judicially killed two more innocent Kashmiris in Khanmoh area in the outskirts of Srinagar.

The impunity granted to the Indian Occupation Forces has resulted in the systematic targeting of Kashmiri youth through extra-judicial killings, torture in custody, enforced disappearances and incarcerations.

Pakistan has consistently emphasized that the gross and systematic violations of human rights being perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces warrant an investigation by a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, as recommended by the OHCHR in its reports of 2018 and 2019.

Pakistan reiterates its call for independent inquiry under international scrutiny to:

• Investigate the unabated extra-judicial killings of Kashmiris by Indian Occupation Forces; and
• Bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice.

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

Question: Do you think that lack of unity amongst Muslim Ummah and partisan approach of the United Nations towards Muslim causes are the main reasons behind the non-resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute and Palestine issue?

Secondly, do you think that social media is especially targeting accounts of Pakistani users supporting just causes like Palestine and Kashmir stating ‘community standards’ as reasons. However, no such standards apply in case of Indian fake accounts. How do you comment on this discrepancy and what can the Government of Pakistan do in this regard? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: It is ironic that while Turkey is making efforts to ensure peace in Palestine, it has strong defense relations with Israel and has diplomatic presence in Tel Aviv as well. How do you comment? (Anwer Abbas, Bol News)

Supplementary Question: Palestine is the longest unresolved agenda item of the United Nations Security Council. How do you see the role of Pakistan, OIC UN and international community in resolving this long standing dispute? (Mazhar Iqbal, Public News)

Answer: The Jammu and Kashmir Dispute as well as the Palestine issue are the longest unresolved agenda items of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

As for Pakistan’s efforts are concerned, Pakistan continues to condemn:

• Israel’s deliberate and systematic assault against Palestinians;
• Its violation of the sanctity of holy places;
• Its continued policy of expansion of illegal settlements;
• Its forced evictions of Palestinians; and
• Demolition of their homes as well as targeting of journalists and international media outlets in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Following the escalation of violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Pakistan has joined the call for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the deteriorating situation in Palestine. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is currently in New York to participate in the UN General Assembly meeting that is taking place today.

Pakistan participated in the open meeting of the UNSC held on 16 May 2021 in the backdrop of escalating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Pakistan deplored Israel’s use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force, including aerial bombing as well as destruction of civilian infrastructure.

We urged the Security Council to fulfill its Charter obligations, initiate steps to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity and above all, realize the full implementation of relevant UN resolutions.

Pakistan has always unequivocally condemned the Israeli brutalities against unarmed Palestinian people and have sponsored, co-sponsored or supported every resolution on Palestine, including at the United Nations and the OIC.

You may recall that Pakistan co-sponsored the UN General Assembly Resolution, upgrading Palestine to a non-member observer state of the UN in 2012.

As for the role of international community, we firmly believe that the international community, particularly the OIC being the second largest international organization, has a significant role to play in addressing this longstanding issue.

Regarding your question on Turkey’s role, Turkey’s unequivocal support for the Palestinian cause is well known. I don’t have any further comment to add.

As for the policy of social media platforms, I would refer you to the concerned authorities who do take up such issues with the relevant social media platforms.

Question: How do you see the recent anti-Pakistan statements from Afghan leadership, especially given the critical juncture in Afghan Peace Process? (Anwer Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Pakistan has conveyed its serious concerns to the Afghan side by making a strong demarche with the Ambassador of Afghanistan in Islamabad on the recent irresponsible statements and baseless allegations made by the Afghan leadership.

Pakistan has emphasized that groundless accusations erode trust and vitiate the environment between the two brotherly countries and disregard constructive role being played by Pakistan in facilitating the Afghan peace process.

The Afghan side has been urged to effectively utilize the available forums like Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) to address all bilateral issues.

Question: What is the total death toll of Palestinians in the recent escalation by Israeli side?

What kind of assistance Pakistan is going to send to Palestine and when it will be sent? (Sardar Amer Hussain, Royal News)

Answer: According to media reports, around 240 Palestinians have been martyred, including a number of women and children. Over 1200 people have been seriously injured in the recent escalation.

You might have seen that some non-governmental organizations and humanitarian organizations from Pakistan have made offers of assistance to Palestinian side. We will continue to extend all possible assistance to our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

Question: While Pakistan continues to highlight the human rights violations taking place in IIOJK and Palestine, minorities in Pakistan continue to face discrimination. On 30 April, Pakistan also issued a statement on the EU Parliament resolution in this regard. How do you comment? (Shamim Mehmood, Online News Agency)

Answer: Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy with a vibrant civil society, free media and independent judiciary, which remains fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights for all its citizens without discrimination.

We are proud of our minorities who enjoy equal rights and complete protection of fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution. Judicial and administrative mechanisms and remedies are in place to guard against any human rights violations.

We are constantly taking measures to further improve our current systems in this regard.

Drawing a comparison with the ongoing humanitarian crisis in IIOJK is unfortunate. The systematic and gross violations of human rights taking place in IIOJK and Palestine are well documented. The international human rights and humanitarian organizations, UN human rights machinery and global media are all seized of the situation.

Question: At the Islamabad High Court, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its written statement maintained that for upcoming postings and the plan, the posting policy of 2015 would be followed in letter and spirit. Given the recent recall of the Pakistani diplomats from Saudi Arabia, would the Ministry of Foreign Affairs follow its written statement and do postings as per the written commitment to the court or will the Ministry be going for contempt of court and do the postings as per ones wishes?

Secondly, yesterday a former employee of Pakistan Consulate Barcelona leveled serious allegations on the Pakistani Consul stationed there. What is the Ministry’s response on this?

During the recent hearing of the US Committee on foreign Affairs, Ambassador Khalilzad said, “The US is exerting pressure on Pakistan to pressurize the Taliban to release Mark Frerichs, Secretary Blinken is also very concerned”. Frerichs, an alleged US contractor went missing in Jan 2019. What is Pakistan’s response? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: The Ministry has been following the existing posting policy guidelines in the past and would adhere to these in future, too.

Regarding the allegations made by a former employee of Pakistan Consulate Barcelona, our Consul General in Barcelona had intimated the Ministry while terminating the contract of the official. The action was taken on disciplinary grounds.

As for the remarks by Ambassador Khalilzad, we will revert to you.

Question: I have three questions. Firstly, there are media reports that Israeli Prime Minister spoke to the Saudi Crown Prince. Do you have any such information, as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are both monitoring the situation in Palestine?

Secondly, SAPM on National Security has recently been elevated to the rank of National Security Advisor (NSA). Is there any possibility of talks between India and Pakistan at the level of NSA?

Thirdly, do you condemn the airstrike on the journalists in Palestine by Israel? Yesterday the house of a Palestinian journalist was specifically targeted. Earlier various media houses were also attacked. What does Israel want to achieve through such attacks on journalists and media houses? (Mateen Haider, GNN News)

Answer: As for any possible contact between the Saudi Crown Prince and Israeli Prime Minister, I have no such information, and I am in no position to comment on this.

As for engagement with India, we have consistently maintained that there is a need for a ‘meaning dialogue’ with India for peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues including the core issue of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Israel’s intention behind targeted attacks on media is clear – intimidation of the journalists and muzzling their voices. It is an act of aggression and we strongly condemn such actions. We also hope that the international community will also take notice of such actions and hold Israel accountable.

Question: It has been reported that Saudi Arabia will revive deferred oil facility to Pakistan. Can you please confirm? (Naveed Akbar, G News)

Answer: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have deep engagement in multiple areas. Our relevant Ministries are also directly in contact for strengthening bilateral cooperation in diverse fields. The specific question asked may be directed to the concerned Ministry.

Question: In Prime Minister’s recent Address to the Envoys, he said that Indian Diplomats are better than Pakistani diplomats. He also made mention of complaints regarding public service delivery by Pakistan Missions abroad. How do you comment? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)

Supplementary Question: Can you share the findings of the inquiry Committee regarding Pakistan’s Embassy in Riyadh? From what I understand, the report had to be presented to the Prime Minister this week. (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: An Inspection Commission has been constituted by the Prime Minister’s Office, which is investigating the matter as per Prime Minister’s instructions.

As for the contributions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have furthered Pakistan’s core national interests, such as projecting the Kashmir Cause among others, which have been acknowledged widely. You would have seen the remarks by the Prime Minister of Pakistan in this regard.

Pakistan Foreign Office and Foreign Service of Pakistan have a rich and proud history of national service.

We, as an institution, take immense pride in our professionalism, dedication and commitment to public service.

Serving the Pakistani community is a key function of our diplomatic outposts around the world.

Overseas Pakistanis are our greatest asset. Their role in national development is indispensable.

The Government of Pakistan attaches high importance to the welfare of overseas Pakistanis. There is zero tolerance for any lapse in the public service delivery.

The Foreign Minister, himself, oversees the working of all our diplomatic missions, particularly with regards to the services being provided to the Pakistani community.

In this regard, Pakistan’s Missions, all across the world, have standing instructions to extend maximum facilitation to the Pakistani community in their respective jurisdictions.

Owing to its commitment to public service delivery by Foreign Office and Missions Abroad, in the two yearly review of the Prime Minister’s ‘Pakistan Citizen Portal’, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stood out as the most responsive towards complaints registered on the Portal.

Public satisfaction of this Ministry’s performance is a matter of immense pride for the Foreign Service Officers.

To further improve public service delivery, a taskforce has recently been created under the Foreign Secretary. A new complaint portal is also being established in the Foreign Minister’s Office for prompt redressal of public complaints.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to serve the nation to the best of its ability and in line with the directions of the Prime Minister.

Question: What does Pakistan want to achieve on Palestine with its participation in UNGA Session? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: We believe there is a need to mobilize the international community including the United Nations and the OIC on the Palestine issue to formulate a collective strategy to bring an end to the ongoing Israeli aggression and seek a just resolution of the Palestine issue.

We believe that:

i. Attacks by Israeli forces in Gaza and the West Bank should immediately stop;
ii. Israeli actions such as forced evictions which are in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, must stop immediately;
iii. Israel should be held accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people;
iv. Creating false equivalence between Israel – the aggressor and Palestinians – the victims is inexcusable. The Israeli actions must clearly be recognized as acts of aggression; and
v. The longstanding issue of Palestine be resolved as per international parameters of a two-state solution based on the UN and OIC resolutions, with pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Shareef as the capital of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian.

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