[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 228th day of the lockdown faced by the people in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. They continue to be deprived of their fundamental freedoms; their right to liberty, health, education and food.
In the last few days, the Indian Occupation forces martyred five innocent Kashmiris Mudasir Ahmad Bhat (a Hafiz), Muzaffar Ahmed Bhat, Eng Omar Ameen Bhat, Sajad Ahmed Bhat and Gulzar Ahmed Bhat in Baramulla and Islamabad areas.
Pakistan condemns the inhuman and brutal repression of the people of IOJK by India security forces. We call upon the Indian government to lift the communication blackout. Especially in view of the outbreak of Covid-19 and reported cases of affected people in IOJK, Pakistan urges India to lift the blockade in the region in order to obtain full information on affected people and provision of essential items and medical supplies to the affected people.
Pakistan also rejects all attempts by the Indian government to call the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir an “integral part” of India, which is a clear violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
At the invitation of H.E. President Xi Jinping of China, President Dr. Arif Alvi, visited Beijing from 16-17 March 2020. The President was accompanied by the Foreign Minister, Minister for Planning and Development as well as the Foreign Secretary and other senior officials.
Given the depth and breadth of Pakistan-China ties and the finest traditions of both countries to always stand by each other particularly in challenging times, President Dr. Arif Alvi’s first visit to Beijing was a singular expression of Pakistan’s solidarity with its “iron brother.”
The two sides reaffirmed their resolve to further strengthen China-Pakistan All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership aimed at building a Community of Shared Future in the New Era. The Joint Statement on “Deepening Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Relationship has been shared with Media. President Alvi and President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of two MoUs “on Establishing Joint Working Group on Science and Technology and Agriculture. The second “MoU signed between Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China (MARA) and Ministry of National Food Security and Research of Pakistan (NFS&R) on Strengthening Cooperation on Plant and Disease Control”.
During the visit, the President, Foreign Minister and Minister for Planning spoke to Pakistani students in Wuhan and other parts of China through video link. The President and the Foreign Minister inquired about their well being and health individually and informed them that the Chinese leadership at the highest level had reassured them of the continued welfare of Pakistani students.
In view of the outbreak of Covid -19 pandemic globally the government and all departments at the federal level and in all the provinces are undertaking a series of measures to prevent and contain its spread. It is a rapidly evolving situation. The Government and all stakeholders are monitoring, evaluating and coordinating all mechanisms and systems to ensure safety of the citizens. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also decided to take precautionary measures against any potential public exposure and has therefore suspended all walk-in Consular Services except the attestation of Power of Attorney. Attestation of documents can be carried out through courier companies during this period. Walk in Consular Services would remain suspended from 18 March till 3 April, and would be reviewed subsequently.
The Ministry has also established a Crisis Management Unit for coordination on Covid-19 under the supervision of Special Secretary (Administration) to liaise with the diplomatic corps in Pakistan as well as with our Missions abroad and their respective outreach to our Diaspora communities worldwide. Hotline numbers of the Crisis Management Unit have been shared on our website.
Pakistan Embassies and Consulates have established 24/7 hotlines and nominated focal persons to facilitate our overseas communities in their respective countries. All these contacts details are available on our social media platforms and on the website of the Ministry.
We advise our Diaspora communities to exercise caution and personal responsibility for their personal health as well as of those in their family and communities in line with the advisories of local authorities wherever they may be. We also advise all our community members abroad to avoid all non- essential travel as well as avoid public places and points of congregation and practice social distancing in a responsible manner for their own safety and the safety of all around. The role of the media in building public awareness on safety and precaution during this difficult time is crucial and deeply valued. This challenge can only be tackled through collective action. Thank you for your support.
I have received all your questions. Response to all of them will be uploaded on our website later today.
Thank you so much.
Question: Could you please let me know the current status of Pak-Afghan relations especially after the inauguration of President Ashraf Ghani for second term? And any chance of APAPPS meeting that was earlier agreed to be held in December and then in January? Is Pakistan concerned about postponement of the intra-Afghan dialogue scheduled for March 10 over prisoner issue? Do you think political confrontation in Kabul could affect the peace process as the government has yet to form a consensus team for intra-Afghan dialogue? (Tahir Khan, NNI News Agency)
Answer: The dates for next meeting of APAPPS are still under discussion. We hope to see implementation of the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement and hope that leads to the Intra-Afghan negotiations.
Question: In the outbreak of COVID-19, Pakistan restrained from bringing its nationals and other students back from China. Why the same policy was not adopted for western borders, especially for Iran? (Waqas Ahmad, Capital TV and Tribal Post)
Answer: The Pakistani Zaireen were allowed to return after putting in place requisite infrastructure on our side of the border.
Question: During the Afghan negotiation process, before reaching a peace deal we witnessed that some Taliban leaders (Anas Haqqani and co) were set free from Pakistani jails to push the Peace Process forward. As, the Peace Deal has been reached and now as per Agreement there will be expected prisoners swap. Can you please notify if any of the Taliban members/leader who could be set free from Pakistani jails?
Secondly, it has been observed that implementation on the agreement has not started yet. There are reports that both the parties have violated the terms and conditions of the Agreement. The follow-up talks (intra-afghan dialogues) are still at halt. What is Pakistan’s expectation from the peace deal? And how do you see the whole situation? Will Pakistan be playing further role to bring Afghans and Taliban on one table?
(Waqas Ahmad, Capital TV and Tribal Post)
Answer: Pakistan has always supported an Afghan led and Afghan owned Peace Process. We hope after the Peace agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020 all sides will move towards Intra-afghan negotiations to establish long-lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Question: How many Pakistani Missions abroad have suspended visa services? What arrangements are being done to bring back Pakistani students stranded around the world as educational institutes are closed in most of the countries, biggest issues are that most of the universities worldwide are short of necessary items, students are worried and so are their parents in Pakistan. What is your take on it? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)
Answer: As of now, visa services have not been suspended by any Pakistani Missions abroad. All Missions are providing essential consular services to overseas Pakistanis. Our community members have been advised to obtain consular services through online mechanisms and to try and avoid all non essential travel and visit the Embassies/Consulates only in emergency situations after obtaining appointment.
Pakistani overseas communities (including students) have been advised to comply with advisories by local authorities and take necessary precautions.
Question: My question is about coronavirus and its impact on the economy of Pakistan. Coronavirus is an international pandemic, how does it affect the CPEC? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)
Answer: CPEC comprises long-term projects whose completion, in many a cases, is spread over years. We are quite confident that we will be able to complete CPEC projects in time and, going forward, the short-term impact by the spread of Covid -19 will be counterbalanced by effective and swift mobilization of resources for timely completion of CPEC.
Question: Has Pakistan requested China to help in the fight against COVID-19? (Adeel Warraich, Dunya News)
Answer: Pakistan and China have always stood by each other particularly in challenging times. During the recent visit of President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi, letters of exchange were signed between the two countries, which aim at building capacity and address the challenges posed by COVID-19 in Pakistan.
Question: Please if you can share some details about number of Pakistanis currently residing in Italy, and if you can provide information about their well being as well. (Waqas Ahmad, Capital TV and Tribal Post)
Answer: Italy is home to about 150,000 Pakistani nationals, concentrated mostly in the North of Italy (Lombardy region with its capital as Milan). Our Embassy in Rome and Consulate General in Milan are in constant contact with the Pakistani community. The Embassy as well as Consulate General had set up 24/7 help lines to provide services and information to the Community at the start of the outbreak. Our Embassy and Consulate General are also coordinating with educational institutes where Pakistani students (1500-2000) are studying. So far we know about the unfortunate death of one Pakistani origin person who lived near Milan, Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed.
Question: Former Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam in her recent Interview said that Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif barred Foreign Office from speaking against India and Kalbhushan Jadhav. Your comments please? (Adeel Warraich, Dunya News)
Answer: No comments.