Pakistan and U.S. have a long and rich history of mutually beneficial partnership; Asim Iftikhar

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Friday, 15 October 2021

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

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin with the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where our Kashmiri brothers and sisters continue to be tormented by a brutal military siege for over 26 months now.

India’s naked state terrorism in IIOJK has exposed its real face to the world. In an environment of complete impunity, communication blackout and absence of international access, systematic violations of human rights are taking place, with increasing number of arbitrary arrests and detentions and extrajudicial killings.

During the last week alone, 10 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred in fake encounters and so-called “cordon-and-search-operations”. A Kashmiri civilian was taken into custody and then brutally murdered in a fake encounter in Bandipora.

It is reprehensible that even mortal remains are not being returned to families, and proper burials are being denied. Kashmiri youth are the main target of India’s repression. We have strongly condemned the arrest of over 1400 Kashmiris on false charges in one of the biggest ever crackdowns in IIOJK. This is a serious concern for the international community.

India has simultaneously stepped up its nefarious smear campaign against Pakistan and Kashmiris. For example, the baseless allegations of so-called ‘infiltrations’ across the LOC and fake arms recovery operations. Also allegations surrounding the arrest of alleged Pakistanis in IIOJK and India have no takers, as these are part of India’s well-known efforts to divert the world’s attention from its egregious human rights violations and illegal actions in IIOJK, and well-documented oppression of Muslims and other minorities in India.

India would be well advised to stop peddling falsehood, and change its behaviour that could otherwise further undermine regional peace and security. A case in point is the recent irresponsible and provocative statement reportedly made by Indian Home Minister threatening so-called “surgical strikes”. As you are aware, we have condemned this delusional statement that only goes to further demonstrate the BJP-RSS combine’s propensity to stoke regional tensions for both ideological reasons and political expediency, based on enmity towards Pakistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly drawn the attention of the international community to India’s sinister designs of staging “false flag” operations to implicate Pakistan and Kashmiris.

Let me reiterate that while Pakistan is a peace-loving country, we will spare no effort in resolutely thwarting any aggressive Indian designs, as was evident from Pakistan’s swift response to India’s Balakot misadventure in 2019, including the downing of Indian combat aircraft and capture of Indian Air Force pilot.

Pakistan continues to urge the international community to hold India accountable for its egregious human rights violations in IIOJK, and its persecution of minorities elsewhere. We welcome the recent statements by the OIC General Secretariat on the treatment of Muslims in Assam, and the IPHRC’s call for accountability for increasing Islamophobia, and systematic and targeted violence and mob attacks against Muslims in India.

Let me reiterate that Pakistan will continue to provide all possible support to the Kashmiri people in their legitimate struggle for self-determination. Pakistan’s principled position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute remains anchored in the relevant UN Security Council’s Resolutions. We are firmly committed to the resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute through free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices as enshrined in the UNSC Resolutions.

Coming to the situation in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly underlined its commitment to a peaceful, stable and sovereign Afghanistan, that is also in the best interest of the region and the world as a whole. Peace in Afghanistan is also critical for reaping the dividends of regional connectivity that is in line with Pakistan’s renewed focus on geo-economics and economic security.

Continued, constructive engagement of the international community with Afghanistan is crucial for addressing the immediate humanitarian needs, ensuring economic stability, and durable peace.

We note the recent international engagements with Afghanistan as positive steps.

On its part, Pakistan stands with the people of Afghanistan. We are continuing our humanitarian assistance. Over 900 Afghan students enrolled in Pakistan are being facilitated to travel to Pakistan to resume their studies.

Talking about our focus on geo-economics, you would have followed the overwhelming response to the Pakistan Pavilion in Dubai Expo 2020, which is a wonderful projection of soft image and rich cultural heritage of Pakistan.

President Arif Alvi visited UAE to inaugurate the Pakistan Pavilion. The President also met Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, attended the launch event of Roshan Apna Ghar in the UAE, an investment conference organized by Pakistan Special Technology Zones Authority, besides interacting with media and the Pakistani community.

The visit was instrumental in refreshing leadership-level contacts with the UAE. Promotion of trade and investment, and focus on tourism and technology were amongst major goals of the visit.

Pakistan’s focus on geo-economics was also underlined by the Foreign Minister at the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) through a video statement.

The Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of forging development partnerships and enhancing regional connectivity, and highlighted the need to bring the Asian continent at par with other, more integrated regions of the world.

The Foreign Minister also delivered a video statement at the High-Level Commemorative Meeting to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), wherein he shared Pakistan’s perspective on contemporary global issues, and the need for collective response. Both in NAM, and CICA, the Foreign Minister also raised the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Let me also recall that this year we are celebrating anniversaries of establishment of 70 years of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and various countries, including China, Argentina, Spain, Germany and Thailand. In this regard, you would have followed the logo-reveal ceremony with Thailand last week. We also had a gala reception last evening celebrating the establishment of 70 years of diplomatic relations with Germany.

Let me stop here and take your questions on these or other foreign policy related matters.

Question: You would be aware that the minority rights are being blatantly violated in India. OIC-IPHRC (Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission) has also condemned the situation. How do you comment? (Nimra Sohail, PTV News)
Answer: As I have mentioned in my opening statement and we have been observing for quite some time that there is this grave situation of human rights in IIOJK. We have seen a progression since 2014, since the coming into power of the BJP-RSS regime in India, an upward trend in human rights violations and atrocities across India against minorities and vulnerable groups including Christians, Dalits and particularly Muslims.
We also note that the deteriorating situation of human rights in India has increasingly gained attention of the international community, and various international organizations, governments and parliamentarians have raised concerns. It is pertinent to mention the reports by OHCHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch among others in this regard. India’s stature as the so-called largest ‘democracy’ has come under scrutiny, as India has suffered a huge reputational cost.
We appreciate the fact that there is this attention on part of the international community with regard to the rapid escalation of human rights violations in India.
In this context, we welcome the recent statements by the OIC, both by the OIC General Secretariat about the situation in Assam, and the detailed statement by OIC-IPHRC that has strongly condemned lack of accountability against increasing systematic and targeted violence, mob attacks, public lynching and dehumanizing political tirade against Muslims in India and calls on the Indian government to protect its Muslim minority in line with international obligations. There is an entire list of concerns that the IPHRC has raised including Islamophobia, hate speech and hate crimes motivated by the Hindutva ideology, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and rights violations of various kinds. This is very much required, and this kind of international scrutiny must continue. With the Gujrat pogrom, the Delhi pogrom, the dire situation in Assam, not to forget IIOJK, the international community must keep a close watch.

Question: I have two questions.
Firstly, how do you see the talks between U.S. and Taliban in Doha?
Secondly, can you please enlighten us about the significance of the visit by US Deputy Secretary of State to Pakistan? You might have seen that the Indian propaganda machinery was very active in undermining the visit? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: Pakistan supports continued engagement of the international community with the Afghan authorities. U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha are important in that regard. A sustained engagement will help achieve desired objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
As for your question on the visit of Deputy Secretary of State’s visit to Pakistan, the significance of Pakistan-U.S. ties, and the machinations by certain quarters, let me say that Pakistan and U.S. have a long and rich history of mutually beneficial partnership.
Deputy Secretary Sherman during her recent visit to Pakistan underscored the importance of long-standing relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. There were wide ranging discussions that touched on various areas of bilateral cooperation. State Department’s read outs and Deputy Secretary’s own tweets about the meetings confirm the broad nature of those discussions.
It was agreed to continue close communication and coordination on the situation in Afghanistan, security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, climate change, economic cooperation, and regional connectivity.
Beyond Afghanistan, our relationship is progressing in a healthy manner. We are focusing on building a stand-alone and comprehensive partnership that taps the inherent merits and benefits of a broad-based relationship between our two countries, which as you know, has also been mutually beneficial in the past and has helped advance our shared interests.
As you have noted, there are deliberate attempts by certain quarters to undermine this relationship, and they have often tried to do this through misrepresentation and twisting of facts. For instance, during Mr. Modi’s recent visit to Washington, the Indian Foreign Secretary attributed certain remarks to the U.S. Vice President with regard to Pakistan, which we checked with the U.S. side, and were given to understand that it was not the case.
Question: I have two questions.
Firstly, there is a protest in IIOJK demanding the United Nations to investigate the issue of extra-judicial killings. Is Pakistan helping in this regard?
Secondly, PIA flights to Kabul have been suspended. What are the reasons due to which we are curtailing our contact? (Ghulam Abbas, Daily Zakawat)
Supplementary Question: Reportedly, some of the PIA staff was held hostage by Taliban. It has also been reported that the Taliban government has written a letter to the Government of Pakistan, copying it to OIA, demanding that the fares be reduced. Can you please confirm? (Naveed Siddique, Dawn TV)
Answer: As for your question on the latest developments in IIOJK, obviously that is a natural response to the kind of situation that has developed there. The Kashmiris have had enough – of the atrocities and the scale of human rights violations that are being committed there, and as you are aware we have raised this issue on a consistent basis and in a very concerted manner at all levels; here in Islamabad, bilaterally with our international partners in world capitals, at the UN both in New York and Geneva, and other fora.
The Foreign Minister unveiled a comprehensive dossier on Indian human rights violations in IIOJK on 12 September. The dossier also focused on extra-judicial killings, among other issues. We have been disseminating it widely, sharing it with member states, and the UN system, including with the UN Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
We have been urging the international community, including the major countries, UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Procedures/Rapporteurs of the HRC to hold India accountable, and to press for access of international organizations, human rights organizations and international media to IIOJK. As you recall the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had presented two detailed reports in 2018 and 2019, and had proposed a Commission of Enquiry to investigate human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, and had asked for access. OIC has also been demanding investigation of human rights violations in IIOJK.
So this is an ongoing effort, that we will be taking forward, bilaterally and at all international fora, utilizing all opportunities, as I said, for example, the Foreign Minister recently spoke at NAM and CICA where he effectively raised the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
As for questions regarding PIA, these involve operational and technical aspects, and it would be best for PIA to respond to these queries, and I understand that they have already done so, and they have clarified the reasons for temporary suspension of operations, most of which are technical in nature, such as the insurance costs and other issues. They have also clarified that PIA flights were being operated for humanitarian reasons.
On our part, our Ambassador in Kabul has also issued a brief statement earlier today and is in contact with the relevant authorities in Kabul in order to address the matter.
Question: What is the status of friendship between Pakistan and Iran, particularly in regard to the situation in the region? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)
Supplementary Question: We have seen warmth between Pakistan and Iran after quite sometime during the visit of the Iranian Chief of Staff. Did the two sides also talk about Iran-Saudi relations? Do you think this visible warmth with Iran will impact our relation with Saudi Arabia? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)
Answer: There has been very good interaction with Iran during recent visits. I would tend to disagree with what you said about warmth being displayed after quite some time. Pakistan-Iran ties have been fraternal and friendly. As immediate neighbor, we attach great importance to this relationship. We also have dialogue to address matters of mutual concern. All of this goes with our policy of friendly neighborhood. We have also been collaborating closely on Afghanistan.
You are also aware of our longstanding, fraternal and special relationship with Saudi Arabia, and that needs no elaboration. The government and people of Pakistan have special reverence and hold in highest esteem the Saudi leadership as the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques. Our two countries have always stood by each other.
Let me add that our bilateral ties with the two countries are not mutually exclusive.
We also hope that enhanced confidence and engagement between the two countries would foster durable peace in the region and this would be a very positive development.
Question: There have been talks between U.S. and Afghanistan in Doha. Was Pakistan involved in any way and what is your assessment about the outcome of these talks?
There are speculations that Prime Minister wants to retain the current DG ISI because of the situation in Afghanistan? We understand that Foreign Office deals with inter-state relations. Do these developments about DG ISI show that Foreign Office is no longer involved, hence leading to the situation with regard to the appointment? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: You are perhaps reading too much into it, but in any case, the question of DG ISI appointment is not in my purview and as such I have nothing to add to that.
As for your question on the talks between U.S. and Taliban, as I said earlier, Pakistan supports continued, constructive engagement between Taliban and the international community. Therefore in our view the U.S.-Taliban talks are significant and should continue. And there have been other engagements as well, with the EU, and other countries, and we think these are positive developments.
Pakistan has been consistent in suggesting that continued, constructive engagement of the international community with Afghanistan is necessary. We note that this message has got receptivity, and this is the way forward.
Question: It has been (48) months since Prime Minister Imran Khan came into power. How many ceasefire violations have been conducted by India during this period? How many times has Pakistan lodged official protest by summoning Indian diplomats? Has India responded to any demarche handed over to them? How many times has India summoned our diplomats in New Delhi? (Aun Sheerazi, Such News)
Answer: The exact number of ceasefire violations, we can let you know.
As a matter of policy, Pakistan wants ceasefire to be observed and respected. At the same time, we take all and any ceasefire violations by India seriously, and this has been a very high number in recent years. While we know how to respond to the situation, we have always favoured de-escalation. The understanding reached between DGMOs in February can be seen in that context.
With regard to ceasefire violations, a sad aspect is the impact on the civilian population and that also explains our restraint, and observance of ceasefire. Another aspect to note is that Pakistan cooperates closely with UNMOGIP, which has the mandate from the UNSC to observe the ceasefire along LOC and to investigate any violations. This is an important international mechanism that needs further strengthening. We also urge India to cooperate with UNMOGIP.

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