[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,
Today is the 257th day of the continued oppression and communication blackout faced by the people in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir since India’s illegal and unilateral action on 5 August 2019. It is regrettable that while the world grapples with the global health emergency, over 900,000 Indian occupation troops in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K) continue their atrocities against innocent Kashmiris. In complete disregard for fundamental humanitarianism, RSS inspired BJP Government is busy exploiting international focus on the Covid-19 pandemic to pursue its exclusionary ‘Hindutva’ agenda.
Pakistan is particularly concerned over continued restrictions on movement and information in IOJ&K despite growing number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and resulting fatalities. Internet restrictions have prevented dissemination of information and impeded containment and relief efforts in IOJ&K. The blockade has compromised supply of critical medical equipment and medicines. Children are unable to avail virtual education unlike the rest of the world due to unprecedented blockade of 4G internet. The international community including human rights organizations and civil society continue raising its serious concerns in this regard.
We strongly reject the irresponsible, spurious and totally false allegations against Pakistan made by the Indian Army Chief this morning. These baseless Indian allegations are patently designed to divert global and domestic attention from India’s state-terrorism and egregious human rights violations and clamping of fundamental freedoms in IOJ&K, particularly post August 5, 2019.
This year alone, Indian occupation forces in IOJ&K have committed over 765 ceasefire violations resulting in shahadat of 3 civilians as well as serious injuries to 54 innocent civilians. In 2019, India violated the ceasefire agreement 3351 times. Pakistan continues to respond to Indian belligerence in a firm and responsible manner.
In the interest of regional peace and security, India is once again reminded to respect the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding and maintain peace along the LoC. It must also allow the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play its mandated role as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.
On 12 April 2020, the Prime Minister of Pakistan appealed for a Global Initiative on Debt Relief. While noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented health and economic challenges, the Prime Minister underlined that a global recession was certain and the pandemic could not be contained without a strong and coordinated global response. In order to take Prime Minister’s initiative forward, the Foreign Minister and the Adviser on Finance will continue reaching out to their respective counterparts for a strong and coordinated global response.
The Prime Minister’s global initiative has found resonance internationally, and various announcements have been made by multilateral institutions such as the UN, IMF and World Bank subsequently. On 15 April, G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Banks’ Governors in their meeting have extended support to a time bound suspension of debt service payments for the developing countries. They also called upon all multilateral development banks to further explore options for the suspension of debt service payments while maintaining their current rating and low cost of funding. Pakistan has welcomed the Joint Communiqué of G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and their call to drive forward international economic cooperation towards sustained and inclusive global economic recovery.
In this context I would like to refer you to the Foreign Minister’s detailed press briefing yesterday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is providing Pakistan Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine, biohazard safety cabinets, test kits and related consumables to help fight the novel Coronavirus through the use of a nuclear derived machine. The provision of this equipment will augment Pakistan’s national capacity to conduct Covid-19 tests which are crucial in containing the spread of the disease. The Embassy of Pakistan in Vienna is coordinating with the IAEA for the equipment’s early shipment to Pakistan. Pakistan deeply values the contribution of the IAEA and its leadership in helping Member States in their efforts to fight the global Covid-19 pandemic. We also acknowledge the generous contributions of the IAEA Member States which have enabled the Agency to boost scientific and technical capacities of countries in combating this global crisis. Pakistan has a long-standing relationship with the IAEA. As a founding member of the Agency, Pakistan has continued to benefit from its technical assistance in various fields including health, agriculture and energy while also contributing to Agency’s work in promoting peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.
In the wake of Covid-19 outbreak, and as part of the national effort under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and the direction of the Foreign Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Missions abroad have established a robust and round the clock out-reach initiative to provide our overseas communities with relief and assistance wherever required. Food rations are being supplied by all Missions where ever overseas Pakistanis are facing hardship due to the prevailing pandemic situation.
Approximately 43,000 Pakistanis in different countries need to be brought back to Pakistan for which a comprehensive and phased repatriation plan for our nationals from different countries is underway. So far, 2287 stranded Pakistanis have been repatriated home through 12 PIA special flights from Doha, Dubai, Bangkok, Istanbul, London, Baku, Tashkent, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The second phase for repatriating our nationals has been initiated from 14-18 April through nine special flights that will bring approximately 2000 Pakistani nationals back home. This includes approximately 474 nationals, mostly Umra Zaireen from Saudi Arabia; 271 from Oman; 634 from UAE; 270 from Japan and Thailand (who arrived yesterday) and 225 from Indonesia. In this second phase, these special flights will also land at Lahore, Multan, Karachi, Peshawar and Faisalabad Airports in addition to Islamabad International airport. We take this opportunity to thank all the collaborating agencies of the Host Governments of all these countries for their cooperation in facilitating a safe and smooth return home of our people.
Question: On 13th April 2020, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a statement showing concerns for alleged denial of food aid to Pakistani Hindus and Christians amid the Covid-19 lockdown situation in Pakistan. How do you respond to these allegations? (Tariq Mehmood, Hum TV)
Answer: The statement issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on 13 April claiming denial of food aid to minorities is not based on facts and seems to have relied on inaccurate sources.
In response to the unprecedented challenge posed by COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Pakistan is protecting all of its citizens without any discrimination. For the Government, all citizens regardless of their faith are equal. Under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, which is the official social protection programme of the Government, every eligible citizen has an equal opportunity to seek financial assistance. Out of the 6.5 million beneficiaries that have received cash assistance in Category-I, 400,000 (6.15%) are non-Muslims.
A number of civil society organizations are working actively all over the country in support of the efforts of the Federal and Provincial Governments. They have launched a range of initiatives for distribution of basic food items to the needy people.
Pakistani nation stands united to deal with the challenges posed by COVID-19 situation. It is important that international community should also come together and share experiences and best practices to overcome this common threat to humanity.
Question: Afghanistan has turned down Pakistan’s request for extradition of Daesh leader Farooqi and insists on intelligence-sharing to fight terrorism under APAPPS mechanism. What is Pakistan’s position on Afghanistan’s suggestion? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)
Answer: The Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan was called to the Ministry of Foreign affairs on 9th April and our views were conveyed with regard to the arrest of ISIS-K leader, Aslam Farooqi, by the Afghan authorities on 5 April 2020.
It was emphasized that Pakistan had been expressing its concerns over the activities of this group, which were clearly detrimental to Pakistan. Pakistan’s position in this regard has been regularly shared with the Government of Afghanistan and others concerned. We have underlined that the two sides should coordinate actions against the menace of terrorism, including through established mechanisms. A Press Release has also been issued in this regard.
Question: Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Atmar in his recent meeting with Pakistan Ambassador to Kabul discussed the upcoming APAPPS meeting. Is there any date decided about the APAPPS meeting? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)
Answer: The dates for the next APAPPS meeting are being worked out between both sides.
Question: Reports suggest that many Pakistanis are stranded in Afghanistan who want to come home. Pakistan allowed thousands of Afghan nationals to return. As Pakistan is bringing citizens from other countries, any plan to bring nationals from Afghanistan? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)
Answer: The Government of Pakistan is aware of the situation being faced by Pakistani community around the world. The Government is taking all necessary measures to bring them back in an orderly and safe manner.
Question: Could you please comment on US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Pakistan? Has he sought Pakistan’s help to encourage Taliban reduce violence as it seems US faces challenges in implementation of the agreement? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)
Answer: Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation & General Austin Scott Miller, Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan visited Pakistan yesterday and called on the Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, overall regional security situation including Afghan refugees issue and Afghan reconciliation process were discussed. COAS emphasized that amidst COVID-19 situation, we should not lose track of hard-earned achievements for Afghan Peace Process and Peace & stability in the region.
Question: As per a U.S. Defense Department News Release on 13th April 2020, the U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a military sale of 10 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II Air Launched Missiles, along with technical assistance and other related elements of logistics and program support to Government of India, for an estimated cost of $92 million. This program aims to strengthen U.S.-India strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region. This may also impact regional strategic balance in South Asia. What will be Pakistan’s reaction to this proposed sale? (Ayaz Gul, VOA)
Answer: The sale of such missile systems, along with technical assistance and logistic support at the time when there is a global effort to fight the pandemic is particularly disturbing. Pakistan has articulated its concerns regarding the sale of sophisticated weapons to India which would further destabilize the region. Pakistan has alerted the international community many times about India’s aggressive designs not only towards Pakistan but also towards other neighboring countries in South Asia. This will destabilize the already volatile situation in South Asia. There is a high possibility of India conducting a false flag operation while global efforts are directed towards combating the pandemic.
Question: What is the latest number of stranded Pakistanis in different countries? How many were brought back? What is the plan for the remaining Pakistanis? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)
Answer: Total number of stranded Pakistanis stand at 43,067 (including 30,000 from UAE). Total repatriated till now are 2287. Government has completed the first phase of bringing back stranded Pakistanis and now the second phase has begun during which flights to various destinations will be operated to bring back stranded Pakistanis. These flight operations have been designed keeping in view the difficulties being faced by Pakistanis stranded abroad as well as the testing and quarantine facilities available in different cities of Pakistan. Meanwhile, Embassies are in regular touch with the stranded Pakistanis and providing them with assistance including financial support wherever needed.
Question: Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, Pakistan and China helped each other in the difficult time. Pakistani President visited china to support China to fight Coronavirus. China also sent medical supplies and medical teams to Pakistan. The Foreign Ministers of the two countries called each other yesterday. How do you comment on Pakistan and China working together to fight Coronavirus? (Ms. Liu Chang, China Radio)
Answer: Pakistan and China are All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partners. Both countries have the finest traditions to stand by each other particularly in challenging times. Pakistan expressed its fullest support to Chinese brothers after the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan and also donated PPEs to help China fight the Coronavirus. President Dr. Arif Alvi visited China to express Pakistan’s solidarity with its “iron brother”. Similarly, China donated medical supplies as well as a team of medical experts visited Pakistan to help fight the pandemic.
Foreign Minister recently had a telephone conversation with his Chinese counterpart. During the conversation Foreign Minister thanked China for sending a team of medical experts to Pakistan to help fight the pandemic. The Chinese medical team, has strengthened Pakistan’s capacity to control Covid-19 through sharing their experience and expertise with our medical community.
State Councilor Wang Yi underlined that Covid-19 had posed great danger to global economy and stability. State Councilor Wang Yi maintained that during President Dr. Arif Alvi’s recent visit to China, Pakistani and Chinese leaders had reached a consensus to jointly fight Covid-19. Beijing was thankful to Pakistan for the support it extended to China in battling Covid-19 and now Chinese people and government were extending support to Pakistan to help it to contain the pandemic. Pakistan and China will continue to strengthen their cooperation to fight Covid-19.
Question: How Pakistan sees the de-funding of WHO by USA in the middle of a Pandemic. How much this can affect the efforts to control the pandemic especially in developing world? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)
Supplementary Question: US President Donald Trump said he had instructed his administration to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) and said the WHO had “failed in its basic duty” in its response to the Coronavirus outbreak. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said now was “not the time” to be cutting resources for the WHO. How do you comment on this event? What role do you think WHO has played in helping the world including Pakistan to fight Coronavirus? (Ms. Liu Chang, China Radio)
Answer: The Covid-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to the world. It has infected more than 2 million people around the world with loss of thousands of precious lives.
WHO is at the forefront of international efforts to contain the pandemic. The virus knows no borders. The international community will have to work together in a coordinated manner to defeat the Coronavirus.
Pakistan urges the international community, world leaders, UN, WHO and other stakeholders to come together to combat the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Question: Indian Military officials have alleged that the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) targeted Indian fishermen on board the fishing boats ‘Omkar’ and ‘Mahasagar’ on 12 April near Indo-Pak maritime border in the Arabian Sea, in which one fisherman was injured. In a statement issued later, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) asked Pakistan to instruct its forces to refrain from such acts of “unprovoked violence”. How would you respond to these allegations? (Ayaz Gul, VOA)
Answer: Pakistan as a matter of policy does not target civilians or fishermen and abides by all bilateral understandings and international conventions. The concerned authorities are looking into the baseless Indian allegation.
Question: How many times has India carried out Ceasefire Violations (CFV’S)? Please give break up of last four years since 2017? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)
Answer: India has been violating the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding, in complete disregard of International Human Rights and International law. The total number of cease fire violations for the past 4 years is 7766. The breakdown is as follows:
Total CFVs 2017 (1300)
Total CFVs 2018 (2350)
Total CFVs 2019 (3351)
Total CFVs 2020 (765) till April 14, 2020
Question: Is there any chance to restore diplomatic relations up to High Commissioners level between Pakistan and India? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)
Answer: Pakistan has always wanted good relations with all neighboring countries. The illegal and unilateral Indian action of August 5, 2019 and the continuing restrictions and human rights violations in IOJ&K have further vitiated the environment. India needs to create enabling environment for a meaningful engagement that could lead to resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.
Question: What is the latest update on Kartarpur border point, is it opened or closed in context of COVID-19? If closed, when will it be opened? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)
Answer: Kartarpur border point has been closed till 24th April, 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic. Reopening of the Corridor depends on the situation with regards to the global health emergency.
Question: The whole World is busy with Coronavirus whereas India is active in Anti Pakistan activities on the LOC. Pakistan also shot down the Indian Quadcopter. What are your Comments? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)
Answer: Pakistan Army has shot down the Indian Quadcopter which crossed LOC. Such anti-Pakistan activities of the Indian Armed Forces are irresponsible. Pakistan will continue to respond to such violations in a befitting manner.
Pakistan has no desire to escalate the situation and we have reacted with maximum restraint. We have continuously urged the international community to take notice of Indian provocations. However, our Armed Forces remain ready to defend the mother land against any threat