Pakistan Will Take Every Such Step That Will Further its National Interests. Zahid Hafeez

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

Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Good afternoon,

Let me begin by sharing with you the current situation in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The inhuman military siege, communications blockade, media blackout and continued restrictions on all forms of freedom of Kashmiri people in IIOJK continue unabated for 395 days.

In further acts of unabated state terrorism over the past one week, Indian Occupation forces have martyred twenty more Kashmiris, in fake and staged encounters.

Over three hundred innocent Kashmiris, including women and children, have been martyred in fake encounters and so-called “cordon and search” operations during the last one-year.

Pakistan strongly condemns the use of tear gas shells and firing of pellets on Muslims taking part in the Muharram procession in IIOJK.

Due to the illegal and indiscriminate use of pellets, dozens of Kashmiris were seriously injured, including eye injuries, causing permanent blindness.

Indiscriminate targeting of civilians with pellet guns, causing excessive and permanent injuries and even deaths, is a clear violation of human rights and humanitarian law.

The government of India is in clear violation of the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.

The BJP leadership is directly responsible for these illegal actions of the Indian occupation forces.

No illegal Acts, such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA), can provide a legal cover to a crime recognized as such by international law.

Pakistan condemns the Indian government’s decision to forcibly impose Hindi language on the Kashmiri people in IIOJK through the “Jammu and Kashmir Languages Bill, 2020”, approved by the Indian cabinet.

The decision is a part of BJP regime’s condemnable design to deprive the Kashmiris of their distinct culture and identity.

The move is also aimed at facilitating the illegal change in the demographic structure of the occupied territory in violation of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.

Pakistan and the people of Kashmir reject Indian attempts to impose illegal and unilateral decisions in IIOJK against the wishes of the majority.

The international community must take cognizance of the series of illegal Indian decisions and actions taken since August 5, 2019 and act in support of the human rights of the Kashmiri people.

Pakistan is also deeply concerned at the worsening human rights situation and treatment of minorities in India under the BJP’s “Hindutva” inspired regime.

The findings of Amnesty International’s Investigative Briefing of 28 August 2020, has documented serious and systemic human rights violations committed by Delhi police during the February 2020 Delhi riots.

These findings are both worrisome and challenging for the collective conscience of the international community.

The violations documented by Amnesty International field investigation include Delhi police officers indulging in violence with the rioters; torturing in custody; using excessive force on protesters; dismantling protest sites used by peaceful protesters and being mute bystanders as rioters wreaked havoc.

The field investigation is a reaffirmation of Pakistan’s stance that the large-scale, targeted violence against Muslims that took place in New Delhi in February 2020 was a direct result of the exclusionary and extremist rhetoric and policies of the BJP-RSS combine.

The investigation is also a sad testament to how India’s entire state security apparatus has been compromised to serve the ideologically motivated objectives of current political dispensation. It also reflects how the extremist ideology has permeated the state institutions of India.

Pakistan seconds the investigation’s recommendation that a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation needs to be launched into all allegations of human rights violations by law enforcement officials.

As you are aware, Pakistan had proposed designation of Indian nationals under the United Nations Security Council’s ISIL and Al-Qaeda Sanctions list in 2019.

We regret the decision by some members of the UNSC Sanctions Committee to block the designation of two Indian nationals, Gobinda Patnaik and Angara Appaji, to the sanctions list on 2 September 2020.

Pakistan has always stressed the need for de-politicization of and transparency in the UN sanctions regime for its effectiveness and credibility.

These Indian nationals are wanted criminals in Pakistan for their involvement in many high-profile terrorist attacks and are currently residing in India under state protection.

Pakistan had provided sufficient evidence to the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee including information about financial support, travel record and training camps established by this Indian terrorism syndicate to foment terrorism and instability in Pakistan.

Pakistan will continue to expose Indian sponsorship of terrorist entities like TTP, JUA and others.

Today, Foreign Minster Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a telephone conversation with the Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Mr. Mohammad Haneef Atmar.

The Foreign Minster underscored the need to further strengthen bilateral relations as well as progress in the ongoing Afghan peace process.

The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s continued support for the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

He expressed the hope for early initiation of intra-Afghan negotiations leading to an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan.

The second review meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) was held in Kabul on 31 August.

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood led the Pakistan delegation while the Afghan side was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab.

During the meeting, the entire spectrum of bilateral relations was reviewed.

The five Working Groups, including politico-diplomatic, military cooperation, intelligence cooperation, economic and trade cooperation and refugee issues held in-depth discussions on key tracks of bilateral relations.

The Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s abiding commitment to a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

He also reassured Pakistan’s continued support to the ongoing Afghan peace process.

While focusing on strengthening bilateral relations and expanding trade, the Foreign Secretary reiterated that the ongoing peace process offered a unique opportunity to address the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour.

The need for a time-bound and well-resourced roadmap for return of Refugees was underscored.

Regarding the recent Islamophobic instances of this week, Pakistan strongly condemns the incidents of desecration of Holy Quran in Malmo Sweden & Oslo Norway and the decision by the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, to reprint deeply offensive caricature of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Such deliberate acts to offend the sentiments of over a billion Muslims around the world cannot be justified as an exercise in press freedom or freedom of expression.

Such actions undermine the global aspirations for peaceful co-existence as well as social and inter-faith harmony.

Pakistan will continue raising the issue and underscoring the need for respect for all religious beliefs and inter-faith harmony.

I will be happy to take any questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.

Question: Media reports are suggesting a fresh flare up between Indian and Chinese troops at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. How does Pakistan see this situation? (Tariq Mehmood, Hum TV)

Supplementary Question: It has been reported widely in the international media that joint intelligence base has been set up by the intelligence agencies of Israel and the UAE in an island of Yemen to monitor China, Pakistan and Iran. How do you see this development and what is your comment? (Mateen Haider, GTV)

Answer: Pakistan has been repeatedly emphasizing that India’s expansionist and unilateral actions, particularly since 5th August 2019, have been imperilling regional peace and security. The latest incidents in the China-India border areas validate Pakistan’s concerns and demonstrate that India’s belligerence remains a major impediment in resolving the issues at its borders.

It is imperative that China-India border issues are resolved in line with agreed understandings and bilateral agreements through established mechanisms, and peace and tranquillity is maintained in the region.

Pakistan and China are “All-Weather Strategic Co-operative Partners” and remain committed to promote peace, stability, and development in the region.

Regarding the second question, I do not want to comment on the media reports.

Question: Would you please update us regarding 11 members of Pakistani Hindu family who died in suspicious condition in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur district? What are the reasons of their death? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

Answer: On 9th August, eleven members of a Pakistani Hindu family were found dead in suspicious condition in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur district.

Our High Commission in Delhi immediately contacted the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and asked them to share details including circumstances of death, copy of the FIR and Investigation report.

The Indian side was also asked to provide immediate consular access to the family and the physical presence of Mission’s doctor and staff member during post mortem.

Since those who died were Pakistani nationals, it is incumbent upon us to ensure the incident is properly investigated and the findings of the investigation are shared with us.

We would, therefore, once again call upon the Government of India to provide the information requested by our Mission in New Delhi without further delay.

Question: As per my understanding the pace of withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan is very important for Afghan peace process. Would you please comment on the pace of withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and Afghan Peace Process? (Mazhar Iqbal, Public TV)

Supplementary Question: It has been reported in the Afghan media that the Taliban delegation that has visited Pakistan last week was controlled by Pakistan through a counsel in Islamabad. Would you please comment on it? (Adeel Bashir, Roz News)

Answer: Pakistan has consistently maintained that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. The only viable, durable and workable solution of the Afghan conflict is an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led politically negotiated settlement. Pakistan has been and will continue supporting the Afghan peace process.

The Afghan Peace Process has reached a critical stage. The US-Taliban Peace Agreement has provided a historic opportunity, which the Afghan leaders must seize. We hope that the relevant parties will take concrete step towards early initiation of intra-Afghan negotiations, leading to an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan. Every genuine effort towards building peace in Afghanistan should be welcomed.

As for withdrawal of foreign troops, there is an agreement between the Taliban and the US. It is important that requisite steps are taken to implement the agreement in letter and spirit.

Question: It has been reported by a Pakistani journalist Tariq Mehsood that TTP is reasserting under its leadership in Afghanistan. Has Pakistan been raising this issue with the Afghan authorities? Did Pakistan also raise the matter with the Taliban delegation during its recent visit because this development is extremely dangerous for Pakistan’s security? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: While reaffirming our strong commitment to the ongoing Afghan Peace Process, we have been sensitizing Afghan side about Pakistan’s own security. We have repeatedly conveyed our concerns regarding the use of Afghan soil against Pakistan. There are established mechanisms, including APPAPS, to discuss all issues. We hope that every effort would be made by the Afghan side to not let the Afghan soil be used against Pakistan.

Question: The Islamabad High Court has given another opportunity to India to appoint a counsel for Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav? What is Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ comment on it?

Secondly, the meeting of Foreign Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is going to be held in Russia on 10th September 2020. Is Foreign Minister Qureshi attending it? What will be his other engagements? Are there any meetings with his Chinese and Indian counterparts?

Lastly, the US has recently imposed sanctions on Chinese diplomats on reciprocal basis. What is your position on this? (Anas Mallick, WION TV)

Supplementary Question: Pakistan offered third consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav. Has there been any response from the Indian side on this? (Khalid Mehmood, Express TV)

Answer: Pakistan remains fully committed to the implementation of ICJ judgment. Our position is consistent that the Indian government should come forward and cooperate with the courts in Pakistan so that full effect could be given to the ICJ Judgment.

Sadly, India has so far been evasive and been looking for a pretext to somehow frustrate Pakistan’s efforts to implement the ICJ judgment. It may be recalled that during the second consular access, the Indian consular team had left the meeting on flimsy grounds without listening to Commander Jadhav, despite his repeated requests. We have offered consular access to Commander Jadhav for third time as well.

As for legal representation of Commander Jadhav, India should still come forward and arrange legal representative for Commander Jadhav for effective review and reconsideration. Islamabad High Court has today again provided India another opportunity.

As for Foreign Minister’s participation in SCO, Pakistan views SCO as an important trans-regional forum to foster mutually beneficial cooperation among its member states in political, security, economic and cultural spheres. The SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (SCO-CFM) is being held in Russia on 10th September 2020. Details of Pakistan’s participation are being worked out.

As for your third question, I will have to check the details and revert to you.

Question: In the context of changing geopolitics and alliances between different countries; and increase in the risk of conflict between China and US, China and India, and increase in Chinese influence in the Middle East, does Pakistan feel threatened by the changing world order?

Secondly, can you kindly comment on the Pakistan’s compliance with FATF?

Thirdly, your views on the Israeli attack on Syria? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: With regards to your first question, it is natural for countries to realign themselves according to changing global realities and politics. Regarding China Pakistan friendship, we are “all weather friends” with a deep strategic understanding on core issues of national interest to both the countries. Cooperation between Pakistan and China in all areas continue to grow to the mutual benefit of the two countries.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi recently visited China, where all aspects of bilateral cooperation were brought under discussion, and further strengthening of bilateral ties was agreed upon.

Pakistan will take every such step that will further its national interests.

Pakistan is implementing the FATF Action Plan since 2018 and we have made significant progress in this regard. Our entire AML/CFT regime has been revamped in compliance of the Action Plan to bring it to the international standards set by FATF. The substantial progress made by Pakistan under a huge national effort includes steps in legislative, regulatory and operational domains. FATF has also acknowledged Pakistan’s political commitment and the progress made by us in a number of areas in the Action Plan. We are committed to and moving towards completion of the Action Plan.

We believe that for peace in the Middle East region, the regional countries should refrain from any provocation and adopt internationally agreed principles.

Question: As you have already talked about APAPPS, is there any chance of a free trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan? (Hassan Riaz, JNN)

Answer: APPAPS has five working groups, out of which one deals with economic and trade related cooperation. All discussions related to trade are held in this working group. Pakistan and Afghanistan already have APTTA (Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement) signed between them. Pakistan remains committed to enhance economic and trade cooperation with Afghanistan.

Question: In Islamabad High Court’s today’s hearing of the Kulbhushan Jadhav case, the bench remarked that if Kulbhushan Jadhav himself or anyone appointed by the Indian Government did not appeal before the court, the whole process could be rendered ineffective. Pakistan on its part has complied with all the directives of the ICJ including legislating on the matter, and provision of consular access. If the concerns of the court turn out to be true in case of non cooperation by the Indian Government, shouldn’t Pakistan approach the ICJ and inform them of the situation, so that the process that may be followed could be upto ICJ’s satisfaction? (Khalid Azeem, SAMAA TV)

Answer: I will not be able to comment on the remarks of the Honourable Justice. I have already shared with you earlier that Pakistan’s stance in the matter is very clear. Pakistan wants complete implementation of the ICJ’s judgment. As already shared, there are three ways to ensure implementation; first, Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav himself files a review and reconsideration petition; second, the Government of India does so on his behalf; and thirdly, that the Government of Pakistan arranges legal representation for Commander Jadhav. The very purpose of the Government of Pakistan’s going to Islamabad High Court was to ensure implementation of the ICJ judgment.

Question: US blogger Cynthia Ritchie has threatened about opening up a new Pandora’s Box if she is deported by the Government of Pakistan. What is your take on the matter? (Adeel Wariach, Duniya TV)

Answer: I do not want to comment on her statement.

Question: As we have approached September, can you kindly confirm PM’s participation in the UNGA session? Will this participation will be virtual or will he proceed to New York? Also, in the order of speeches, will his turn be after Indian Prime Minister’s speech or before? What are the issues that he is expecting to highlight? (Mateen Haider, GTV)

Answer: Regarding the UNGA session, arrangements are still being made. Regarding any decision on the level of participation and who will be representing Pakistan, we will share the details with you in due course.

Pakistan’s agenda encompasses economic, developmental, social and regional security issues, as well as Jammu and Kashmir dispute, which remains central to Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.

Question: There was a recent UN report which suggested that ISIS is active in the Indian state of Kerala. Was there any international pressure on India and what is Pakistan’s position on this? (Khalid Mehmood, Express News)

Answer: I will revert to you on this specific report.

Question: There are reports about military retreat of India from Galwan valley. India channels are propagating that the military should take its territory back. In case of any such eventuality, will Pakistan support China?

Secondly, are we going to summon the Ambassadors of Sweden and France on the issue of caricatures as we did in earlier similar incidents? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Pakistan believes that India’s irresponsible and belligerent rhetoric is a threat to regional peace and security. We hope that India will rectify its current course and stop imperiling regional peace and security.

As for your second question, you must have seen Government of Pakistan’s official responses condemning the recent Islamophobic instances. I can confirm that Pakistan has raised this matter with the concerned governments through diplomatic channels.

Question: India is continuously building up in the Indian Ocean region. There are reports that it is involved in subversive activities in the region and beyond? Pakistan being a part of Indian Ocean region, particularly its vicinity with the Straits of Hormuz, how does it plan to counter Indian designs in the region? There are reports that India has established a radar station in Maldives, and is engaged in other activities that may threaten Pakistan’s national security interests especially on its southern borders. How do you see this situation? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: Indian irresponsible policies and hegemonic designs are imperiling regional peace and security. Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the international community about the risks posed by Indian belligerence.

However, Pakistan is aware of its security needs and is fully prepared to safeguard its national security interests. We all witnessed Indian acts of misadventure in the past, and Pakistan’s effective response to such acts. Pakistan has the resolve, capacity and preparedness to effectively deal with any threat to its national security.

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