Pakistan has consistently maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Zahid Hafeez

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 01 July, 2021

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

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

Let me begin with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s message of felicitation to President Xi Jinping of China on the occasion of Centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

In his message, the Prime Minister highlighted that the founding of the CPC was a seminal event with far-reaching impact on the world history.

The Prime Minister lauded CPC’s efforts for the well-being of the Chinese people, particularly in the area of poverty alleviation and economic development.

He also appreciated CPC’s role in nurturing Pakistan-China friendship and transforming it into an “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership.”

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood received a telephone call from U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador Victoria Nuland.

They discussed bilateral relations and key regional issues.

The Foreign Secretary underlined Pakistan’s commitment to forging a broad-based and long-term bilateral relationship with the United States.

Underlining Pakistan’s focus on geo-economics, the Foreign Secretary highlighted the progress made by Pakistan in improving the ease of doing business and promoting a more conducive environment for foreign investment in Pakistan.

Discussing the regional situation, the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s continued support for the Afghan peace process.

He stressed that there was a fundamental convergence between Pakistan and the United States on the need for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Secretary also thanked the Under-Secretary for the COVID-related support extended to Pakistan by the United States.

The 8th Round of Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue was held in virtual mode.

The Security Dialogue is a part of the comprehensive institutional framework of cooperation between Pakistan and Japan.

The Dialogue has two components: Politico-Military Talks; and Military-Military Talks.

During the dialogue, the entire spectrum of politico military, and defense and security relations between the two countries was discussed.

The two sides exchanged views on: diplomatic and security policies of both Pakistan and Japan; counter-terrorism efforts and cooperation between the two sides; disarmament and non-proliferation issues; and recent Developments in the region.

As part of our continued efforts to enhance engagement with the Pakistani Diaspora, and to improve public service delivery, the Foreign Minister’s Portal (FMP) for complaints and suggestions has been launched.

In its pilot phase, the portal is available online for overseas Pakistanis and foreign nationals residing in the jurisdiction of five Pakistan Missions abroad, including Barcelona, Dubai, Jeddah, London, and New York.

The Pakistani Diaspora living in these jurisdictions is encouraged to use the portal to register their complaints and share their valuable inputs.

The scope of the Portal will soon be expanded to all Pakistan Missions abroad.

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

We welcome the United Nations Secretary General’s recent report titled “Children and Armed Conflict.”

The report documents grave concerns of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Human Rights Violations of children in IIOJK.

The indiscriminate targeting of Kashmiris with pellet guns, causing excessive and permanent injuries has been particularly highlighted in the report.

We call upon the international community to take cognizance of the plight of oppressed children in IIOJK.

We also urge India to immediately stop its illegal practices that are in contravention of its obligations under the international law.

Pakistan strongly condemns the continuing Indian machinations aimed at denying the Kashmiri people their inalienable right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

The meeting held in New Delhi last week was yet another attempt by the BJP government to further marginalize the Kashmiri people to perpetuate India’s illegal occupation in IIOJK.

The true representatives of the Kashmiri people, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), were not even involved in this futile exercise.

The leadership of APHC has been clear in demanding the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination in accordance with the relevant UNSC Resolutions.

It is evident from what has been said by the participants after the meeting that reversal of the actions of 5 August 2019 and full restoration of statehood is a unanimous demand.

The meeting has also further exposed the falsehood of the Indian narrative of so-called normalcy in IIOJK.

According to the bi-annual human rights report released by the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, since January this year, the Indian occupation forces have:

Conducted 202 so-called ‘cordon-and-search’ operations;
Destroyed 58 houses of the Kashmiri people;
Extra-judicially killed 57 innocent Kashmiris; and
Arbitrarily detained and arrested 350 Kashmiris.
India must realize that despite applying all tools of oppression and using state terrorism as a policy, it has failed to subjugate the will of the Kashmiri people.

It should now be clear to the Indian government that any steps that are aimed at bringing further illegal changes in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) will not be accepted by the Kashmiris and will also be resolutely opposed by Pakistan.

Steps taken in the direction of just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute as per the UN Security Council Resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people are the only viable option.

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

Question: The security situation in Afghanistan is continuously deteriorating. Although Foreign Minister Qureshi has spoken on this issue in detail, I would want to know how you see the situation in Afghanistan and what is Pakistan’s future strategy towards promoting peace and reconciliation process? Do you think that Taliban and Afghan Government will show any flexibility as far as intra-Afghan dialogue is concerned? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Supplementary Question: Given the current situation in Afghanistan, do you think that Pakistan’s position and its role is being undermined? Could you also provide your comments over the recently published report by ICG. Would also request your comments on the recent meeting between the Presidents of US and Afghanistan? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: Taliban are getting stronger in Afghanistan and have started to capture more districts. Given this situation, what are the steps being taken by the government to ensure the safety and the security of our embassy personal in Afghanistan? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)

Supplementary Question: Will the US and NATO forces use Pakistan’s air space while they are planning their exit from Afghanistan. (Sehar Baloch, BBC Urdu)

Supplementary Question: What is Pakistan’s strategy to send back Afghan refugees? (Sardar Amer Hussain, Royal News)

Supplementary Question: As per media reports, dead bodies of Afghans are brought here in Pakistan for burial purposes which often leads to Pakistan being implicated for internal security situation in Afghanistan. How do you comment on this? (Allah noor, Mushriq TV)

Answer: Pakistan has consistently maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

We believe that the Afghan Peace Process is at a critical juncture and the Afghan leadership must seize this historic opportunity and workout an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement for durable stability in Afghanistan.

We also believe that a meaningful engagement of the international community for promoting reconstruction and economic development in the post-conflict Afghanistan is important for ensuring sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have also made a number of statements on this issue.

As for the return of Afghan refugees, as you are aware Pakistan continues to host over 3 million Afghan refugees for decades. We believe that peaceful settlement of the Afghan dispute should lead to a dignified and time-bound return of Afghan refugees.

Regarding the meeting between the Presidents of Afghanistan and the United States, we would not like to comment on bilateral issues between the two countries.

As for the security of our Mission and officials, we believe that security of all diplomatic missions is the responsibility of the host Government under Vienna Convention. We hope that this responsibility will be fulfilled in letter and spirit.

Regarding the Lines of Communication, I would refer you to the Ministry of Defense as the matter pertains to them.

I would choose not to comment on speculative reports regarding burial of bodies of Afghans in Pakistan.

Question: According to CBS news, the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani during his recent US visit while at the Capitol Hill in his meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other law makers said that “He complained about Pakistan’s role in the conflict, Ghani said that Taliban are the brains but Pakistan is the hands” – How do you comment on this?

Amidst reports of downsizing of different diplomatic missions of its staff in Afghanistan, does Pakistan plan on doing so as well?

Today is the 1st of July, the bi-annual exchange of lists of prisoners between India and Pakistan. Has that happened yet? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: Regarding the statement by President Ghani that you referred to, we believe that negative statements erode mutual trust, vitiate the environment between the two brotherly countries and disregard the constructive role being played by Pakistan in facilitating the Afghan Peace Process. Such statements need to be avoided. I think at this critical juncture, the Afghan leadership must dedicate all its energy and efforts towards taking the Afghan peace process forward.

We urge and expect the Afghan side to effectively utilize the available forums like Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) to address all bilateral issues.

Pakistan has played a constructive role in the Afghan peace process and we will continue to play our part.

Regarding downsizing of our diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, as of now, no such proposal is under consideration.

We believe that our presence in Afghanistan has its significance for overall peace and development efforts in Afghanistan.

As for the exchange of list of prisoners with India, the lists of prisoners were exchanged today simultaneously in Islamabad and New Delhi. We will shortly be issuing an official statement on this issue.

Question: I have three questions.

Firstly, can you please comment on the report by International Crisis Group (ICG) on Afghanistan?

Secondly, can you please confirm if Russian President is visiting Pakistan?

Thirdly, are Pakistan and Israel participating in joint Naval Exercises? Can you please comment? (Naveed Siddique, Dawn)

Supplementary Question: We have seen for the past 6 months that certain quarters from within and without Pakistan are reporting on the regional collaboration between Pakistan and Israel.

Recently, Ahmad Qureshi wrote an article in an Israeli newspaper mentioning Pakistan’s participation in Sea BREEZE-2021 Naval Exercise hosted by Ukraine. He also mentioned the alleged visit of PM’s aide to Israel. How do you comment? (Faisal Raza, 92 News)

Supplementary Question: Russia has raised serious concerns on the Sea Breeze-2021 exercise and we are participating as observers. Can this impact our bilateral relation with Russia? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: As for the ICG report, please indicate which particular part of the report you want us to comment on.

As for the questions related to Israel, I understand these are three different questions: participation in the naval exercise by Pakistan; alleged visit to Israel by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM); and Pakistan’s position on Palestine issue.

As for the alleged visit by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, we have already issued a detailed statement. Let me reiterate that no such visit from Pakistan did take place.

Regarding the participation in the naval exercise, our Defence Attache is participating as an observer in Sea BREEZE 2021 hosted by Ukraine, keeping in perspective our defense ties with the host.

It may be recalled that Ukraine had also participated in AMAN-2021, hosted by Pakistan Navy earlier this year.

Sea Breeze 2021, hosted by Ukraine is a multilateral exercise participated by over 30 countries. Therefore, any insinuation that Pakistan’s participation in the exercise is a shift in its policy towards another country or on an important foreign policy issue is baseless and unwarranted.

As reiterated earlier, there is no change in Pakistan’s principled position. Pakistan has consistently called for a two-state solution, with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of Palestinian State.

Question: I have two questions.

Firstly, while addressing a press conference in Multan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi confirmed that while he was in Turkey, the Turkish Foreign Minister shared a proposal regarding the security of the Kabul Airport. Is Pakistan ready to be a part of this plan of ensuring security of Hamid Karzai International Airport?

Secondly, when Prime Minister interacted with the Chinese media on Tuesday, he clearly mentioned that US in some of the Western Countries are exerting pressure on Pakistan to downgrade its ties with China. Can you please share what kind of relations do these countries want Pakistan to have with China? (Essa Naqvi, Freelancer)

Answer: As for your first question, we have always acknowledged and appreciated Turkey’s role in the Afghan Peace Process. Pakistan has been participating in Turkish led initiatives related to peace in Afghanistan including the Heart of Asia-Istanbul process.

We will continue to work with Turkey and the larger international community for promoting peace in Afghanistan. Regarding this specific proposal, I have nothing specific to share.

As for statement of the Prime Minister with regard to our relations with China, we have close cooperative relations with China. The two countries have an all weather strategic cooperative partnership nurtured over decades.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has taken this relationship to new heights. It has contributed significantly to the development of port, roads and energy infrastructure in Pakistan.

CPEC has now entered into second phase with focus on industrial cooperation, trade, agriculture and socio-economic development.

We believe that our relationship with China is not an impediment to our relations with other countries. We want close cooperative relation with all others. Our Foreign Policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.

We desire close cooperative relations with the US. We want to broaden the scope of these relations, particularly in the areas of trade and investment. We have convergence with the U.S. on number of issues, particularly the Afghan Peace Process. Close cooperation between Pakistan and U.S has contributed to the progress achieved in Afghan Peace Process so far.

Question: Two Indian channels reported that the Indian Army had detected a number of Pakistani drones entering the Indian Territory. They have also alleged that China and Pakistan colluded for this. How do you comment?

Secondly, an Afghan Parliamentarian used very aggressive language about Pakistan, stating that the Pakistani traders present in Afghanistan should be killed and their houses be burnt. He also mentioned that Afghanistan should declare Jihad against Pakistan. Your comments please? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Khyber News)

Supplementary Question: Indian media is also claiming that the drones used by Pakistan were the ones earlier employed by China for medicines supplies to Pakistan. How do you comment? (Essa Naqvi, Freelancer)

Answer: As for the reporting by Indian media, these are irresponsible statements to which we responded through a Press Release issued, yesterday. We have repeatedly underlined that such belligerent rhetoric imperils the already fragile peace and security in the region.

As for the statement by the Afghan Parliamentarian, we believe that statements that erode mutual trust must be avoided.

Question: The Interior Minister and Chief Minster Punjab have claimed of possessing tangible evidence of the involvement of our neighoubring country in the recent attack in Lahore. How will this matter be raised through diplomatic channels? (Khalid Azeem Chaudhry, Samaa TV)

Answer: Relevant law enforcement and security agencies are carrying out thorough investigation in this matter. Any outcome in this regard will be shared in due course.

Question: Iran’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan has recently commuted to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. During his visit to Kabul, he proposed the revival of the trilateral mechanism among Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. How do you see this development? (Sheeraz Asghar,IRNA)

Answer: Iran is an important regional country and a neighbor of Afghanistan.

We believe that Iran has an important role to play in the Afghan Peace Process.

In the past too, Pakistan has worked with Iran on the Afghan Peace Process, and we are ready work with Iran in future also toward our shared objective peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Question: The official spokesperson of the Indian MEA has recently stated that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter of India. He also cited India’s role in the development of Afghanistan and mentioned that World knows what Pakistan has brought to Afghanistan. How do you comment? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY News)

Answer: As for Jammu and Kashmir, I wish to remind India that:

It is an internationally recognized dispute and the longest outstanding item on the UN Security Council’s agenda. A number of UNSC resolutions call for just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute through a plebiscite held under the UN auspices.
The issue has been discussed thrice at the UNSC since India’s illegal, unilateral action on 5th August 2019.
The UN Secretary General and the UN General Assembly’s President have underscored the need for resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute as per the UN Charter and the relevant UNSC resolutions.
No amount of Indian propaganda can change the disputed nature of the Jammu and Kashmir or negate the Kashmiris’ inalienable right to self-determination.
I would also like to reiterate that lasting peace and stability in South Asia is contingent of the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.
As for remarks on Afghanistan:

Pakistan’s positive contribution to the Afghan Peace Process has been acknowledged and greatly appreciated by the world community.
As a result of Pakistan’s efforts three key milestones i.e. US-Taliban Peace Agreement, the initiation of Intra-Afghan Negotiations and the Agreement on Rules and Procedures were achieved last year.
Pakistan has also contributed to the development efforts of Afghanistan through number of development projects including construction of roads, hospitals and educational facilities.
Pakistan has also hosted over 3 million Afghan refugees for decades.
As for India, its role as a spoiler in the Afghan Peace Process is widely known and needs no elaboration.

Question: After 9/11, the U.S. compelled Pakistan to follow the U.S. Afghan Policy. Now, U.S. is again intending to engage Pakistan to ensure the fulfillment of its objectives in Pakistan. How do you comment? Do you think that Pakistan-U.S. relationship is also getting deteriorated due to the same? (Abbas Jaffer, Daily District News)

Answer: I don’t agree that Pakistan-U.S. relationship is deteriorating. The two sides remain committed to maintain close coordination on all matters of common inertest. The two sides also continue to work closely on the Afghan Peace Process.

Question: Yesterday, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated that Pakistan will continue to play its role in the Afghan Peace Process. What kind of role will Pakistan play?

Secondly, given the recent escalation of violence in Afghanistan, how do you see the situation impacting Pakistan? (Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination)

Answer: Pakistan is the only country that has consistently maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Now, the entire international community has come to the same conclusion.

We have played an important role in the Afghan Peace Process. As a result of Pakistan’s efforts three key milestones. i.e. US-Taliban Peace Agreement, the initiation of Intra-Afghan negotiations and the Agreement on Rule and procedures were achieved last year.

Pakistan has also played an important role in the development efforts of Afghanistan through a number of development projects including construction of roads, hospitals and educational facilities. We have offered over 6,000 scholarships to the Afghan students as part of our efforts to help build human resources in Afghanistan,

As for the security situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan has suffered the most due to the security situation and instability in Afghanistan. We have lost over 70,000 lives and suffered economic losses of over US$150 billion.

We remain concerned at the security situation in Afghanistan. We have been consistently calling for reduction in violence leading to permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.

We believe progress in the Afghan peace process is critical for peace and stability in Afghanistan. An inclusive, broad based and comprehensive political settlement is, therefore, the best way forward and to achieve that all Afghan sides need to show flexibility.

Question: Pakistan and Japan had a security dialogue. Since Pakistan is very active on Climate Change, has Pakistan shared its concerns regarding the discharge of radioactive material along its East Coast? (Ali Jaswal, Xinhua News Agency)

Answer: We have shared the details of the Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue through our Press Release issued, yesterday.

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