Press Briefing by Aisha Farooqui Spokesperson on Thursday 21 May, 2020.

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

Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,

Assalaam-o-Alaikum,

 

Today marks 291 days of the continued oppression, deliberate acts of terrorizing, inhuman lockdown and military siege faced by the innocent people in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. In recent acts of state terrorism, the Indian occupation forces have staged “fake encounters” and so-called cordon and search operations have continued. Kashmiri youth has been targeted and martyred. A12 years old Basim Aijaz, who was injured in a house collapse in Srinagar, succumbed to his injuries. Junaid Ahmad Sehrai, Tariq Ahmad Shaikh, Tahir Ahmad Bhat were martyred in Srinagar and Doda areas. The collective punishment of innocent communities is a further reflection of heartless brutalization of Kashmiri people and tantamounts to war crimes.

 

Pakistan strongly condemns and rejects the Indian Government’s sinister design to further deprive the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir through “Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure), 2020.” This domicile law is aimed at changing the demographic structure of IoJ&K and undermining the exercise by the Kashmiri people of their right to self-determination through free and impartial plebiscite in accordance with UNSC Resolutions. The timing of this illegal Indian action in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic is particularly reprehensible and reflects the opportunistic and morally bankrupt mindset of RSS-BJP combine.

 

In attempts to divert world attention from its egregious human rights violations in IoJ&K, India again resorted to indiscriminate and unprovoked firing along the Line of Control (LoC) in Khuiratta and Nikial Sectors on 17 and 18 May 2020 respectively, resulting in serious injuries to four innocent civilians. The Indian occupation forces along the LoC and the Working Boundary (WB) have continuously been targeting civilian populated areas with artillery fire, heavy-caliber mortars and automatic weapons. In 2020, India has so far committed 1101 ceasefire violations.

 

Voices from around the world continue to condemn the inhuman oppression of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and discrimination against minority communities in India. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng also expressed concerns over increased hate speech, dehumanization and discrimination against minority communities in India in contravention of international human rights norms and values. He noted with concern that “statements such as those expressed by Member of Parliament Subramanian Swamy that all people are not equal, and that Muslims are not in an ‘equal category’ as others are extremely alarming.” The statement by the UN Special Advisor reinforces our consistent position that hate speech, violent targeting and relentless campaign of brutalization against minorities, especially Muslims, are serious and growing problems under the Hindu Nationalist BJP Government.

 

Pakistan welcomes the recent statement issued by the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the OIC strongly condemning and categorically rejecting the Indian Government’s recently introduced ‘Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules’ to alter demographics of IOJ&K and termed it as `Settlement Colonialism` in violation of the OIC, UNSC resolutions, fourth Geneva Convention, International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. 

 

We also welcome the OIC statement issued yesterday, expressing deep concerns over India`s unilateral actions of 5 August 2019 and subsequent measures to alter demographics of IOJ&K. It also calls on the international community to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir Dispute as per the UNSC Resolutions and aspirations of the people of Kashmir.

 

As part of his diplomatic outreach, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a telephone conversation with his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, on the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath. The two Ministers exchanged views about the socio-economic ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic. Highlighting that the developing countries had to fight on two fronts, i.e., containing the virus, and staving off starvation, the Foreign Minister briefed Foreign Minister Motegi about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” for developing countries.

 

Pakistan welcomes the signing of the agreement between political leaders in Kabul regarding formation of inclusive government and High Council of National Reconciliation. At this critical juncture, it is vitally important that all Afghan leaders work together constructively in the supreme interest of the Afghan people and help bring lasting peace and stability to the country affected by decades of violence and conflict. While reaffirming our abiding solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan reiterates its commitment to continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and its neighbors.

 

On 18 May 2020, the Special Representatives on Afghanistan Affairs from Pakistan, China, Russia, and Iran held a virtual meeting, and exchanged views on the current situation in Afghanistan and the peace and reconciliation process thereof. The joint statement issued subsequently reiterated support for an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” peace and reconciliation process, and noted that an end to the long-drawn conflict in Afghanistan was only possible through inclusive Intra-Afghan negotiations.

 

In the context of providing relief and assistance to Pakistani nationals abroad, our Embassies and Consulates are working round the clock in facilitating repatriation of our citizens.

 

In the past few days, 445 Pakistani citizens were repatriated from Dubai, 150 from France and other neighboring countries, including Belgium, Italy and Poland, 105 from Spain, 250 from Canada, 257 from Iraq, 249 from Sudan, 250 from Jeddah, 237 from Indonesia and 331 Pakistani prisoners were brought back from Malaysia. We thank the governments and relevant authorities in these countries for their cooperation for the smooth repatriation of our nationals.

 

In addition to this, a special PIA flight carrying 274 Pakistani students from Wuhan city in China arrived in Islamabad on 18 May 2020. During the period of lockdown in Wuhan, the Chinese authorities took extraordinary measures to ensure the safety and security of the Pakistani students. The Government of Pakistan highly appreciates the efforts of the Government and people of China for extending full support and co-operation to our students.

 

As of 20 May 2020, 32,883 Pakistani nationals have been repatriated from 39 countries. The repatriation process will continue as per the comprehensive plan.

 

Thank you

 

Question:   Taliban have rejected Indian role in Afghan peace process while Indian establishment is constantly seeking it. The Indians have a history of using Afghan soil to disrupt regional peace and a former US Secretary of State Mr.Chuck Hagel is on record to have confirmed it. What are your views please? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, the Daily Mail International Islamabad /PPA NEWS AGENCY ISLAMABAD)

Answer:      In view of the Taliban’s statement on this issue, there is nothing further to add. For its part, Pakistan has regularly reminded international community to be watchful of the role and machination of spoilers working against establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Question:   Pakistan always condemns terrorism in all its forms and continues to support a peaceful Afghanistan, While Kabul blames the Taliban for last week’s hospital attack, and Washington accuses the Islamic State (IS).  Some sections of media are claiming that India is using IS to derail the Afghan peace process. What kind of help Islamabad is providing after US-Taliban Doha landmark agreement to end the 19-year-long Afghan war? Your comments please? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, the Daily Mail International Islamabad /PPA NEWS AGENCY ISLAMABAD)

Answer:      Pakistan has always emphasized the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, at peace with itself and its neighbors. Pakistan will continue its efforts to facilitate the Afghanistan peace and reconciliation process for bringing an end to the 19-year-old conflict through a comprehensive and inclusive, negotiated political solution that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

  

Question:   Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in the Parliament that Iran ignored Pakistan’s request for holding Pakistani pilgrims till Pakistani side could make quarantine facilities on Pak Iran Border. Iran Pushed thousands of COVID infected Pakistani Pilgrims. Did Pakistan lodge any formal protest with Iranian authorities? (Tariq Mahmood Malik, Hum TV)

 

Answer:      Pakistan and Iran have been maintaining frequent exchanges to regulate the flow of movement at Pakistan Iran border. This coordination has been further enhanced in view of COVID-19 outbreak. The Foreign Minister, during his statement in the Parliament, expressed understanding of the predicament which Iran is facing in view of outbreak of coronavirus. Following the establishment of appropriate quarantine facilities in Pakistan, the flow of movement of people is being managed through coordination.

 

Question:   Pakistan has been saying that peace in Afghanistan is a “shared responsibility.” In this context how Pakistan sees US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s quest for India’s “more active role” in the Afghan reconciliation process? Does Pakistan see any role for India in the peace process? (Tahir Khan, NNI news agency)

Answer:      Following the signing of the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement, the Afghan peace process has gained momentum. It is extremely critical to focus on the implementation of the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement in order to arrive at broad-based and inclusive settlement in Afghanistan. At the same time, it is also important to guard against spoilers working against the peace process.

Question:   Would you like to comment on the current situation in Afghanistan? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer:      Pakistan has always accorded top priority to its bilateral relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan hopes that the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement is implemented which will lead to Intra-Afghan negotiations. Pakistan has welcomed formation of negotiation team and the recent agreement between President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. We hope that the Afghan leaders would work together for the ultimate aim of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Question:   Any dates for APAPPS meeting, Pakistan reaction to new power sharing formula in Afghanistan? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer:      The dates for the APAPPS are being worked out. We have issued a press release on the agreement between President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

Question:   Indian forces violated the Ceasefire line again by shelling on innocent civilian at LOC, how many times this year Indian forces violated the LOC. Your comments please? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, the Daily Mail International Islamabad /PPA NEWS AGENCY ISLAMABAD)

Answer:      The Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary (WB) have continuously been targeting civilian populated areas with artillery fire, heavy-caliber mortars and automatic weapons. In 2020, the Indian occupation forces have so far committed 1101 indiscriminate and unprovoked ceasefire violations. The deliberate targeting of innocent civilians is particularly deplorable and has resulted in 07 shahadats and 86 injuries. These violations by Indian Occupation forces are against all established humanitarian norms and professional military conduct.

Pakistan strongly condemns these egregious violations of international law and continues to call on India to respect Ceasefire Understanding (2003), investigate this and other such incidents of deliberate ceasefire violations and maintain peace along the LoC and the WB. Pakistan also urges the Indian side to 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. By raising tensions along the LoC and the WB, India cannot divert attention from the grave human rights situation in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K).

Question:   How does Pakistan see settler-colonial projects of India and Israel in occupied territories of Jammu & Kashmir and West Bank amid COVID’19 pandemic? Will Pakistan effectively lobby with Muslim bloc in days to come to stop India and Israel from their unilateral actions?  (Nuaman sIshfaq Mughal, Daily Parliament Times)

Answer:      Pakistan strongly condemns and completely rejects the Indian Government’s attempts to further deprive the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) through “Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure), 2020.” The new domicile law is illegal and in clear violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, international law including the 4th Geneva Convention and bilateral Agreements between Pakistan and India.

The timing of this illegal Indian action is particularly reprehensible as it uses the world community’s preoccupation with the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the opportunistic and morally bankrupt mindset of RSS-BJP combine.

The Jammu & Kashmir dispute and Palestinian issue continue to be the longest standing items on the UN and OIC agenda. The attempts being made by the occupying powers in Palestine and Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir are essentially similar, particularly with reference to human rights violations, seeking to alter the demographic structure, and posing threat to peace and security. Both these situations are worsening and call for urgent attention of the international community.

Question:   There are media reports regarding Indian Agencies created Gilgit Baltistan twitter account named Gilgit Baltistan, Ladakh (U.T) India, and spreading false propaganda against Pakistan. What are your comments? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)

Answer:      Pakistan rejects all baseless Indian assertions and actions aimed at misrepresenting facts. Like the so-called “political maps” issued last year by India, this move is also legally void, contrary to reality, and in violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions. Such actions are testament to India’s irresponsible behavior.

No illegal and unilateral steps by India can change the “disputed” status of Jammu and Kashmir, recognized as such by the international community including the United Nations. Pakistan would urge India not to make baseless assertions and to abstain from misleading the world community through unfounded claims on regions that constitute internationally recognized disputed territories.

Question:   Indian Occupation forces areusing inhumane weapons like pellet guns against women & children imposing an inhumane lockdown depriving Kashmiris of basic necessities from food to medicines; and mass arrests of Kashmiris especially youth & isolating IOJ&K from the world by cutting off all communication links.What are your comments on the situation?  (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer:      It is a matter of grave concern that the situation in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) continues to deteriorate due to the brutal military crackdown by Indian occupation forces.

Pakistan strongly condemns the ongoing state-terrorism and extra judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters and so-called “cordon-and-search” operations in IOJ&K.

Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases in IOJ&K, Indian occupation forces continue their relentless campaign of oppression and brutalization of the Kashmiri people. Thousands of Kashmiri men, women and children are taking to the streets to protest against Indian brutalities and to let the world community know that they reject illegal Indian occupation.

Pakistan has been assiduously highlighting at all international fora the gross and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Kashmiri people by the Indian Occupation forces. Pakistan urges India to realize that it cannot break the will of the Kashmiri people and suppress their indigenous resistance through the use of force.

Question:   What steps Pakistani missions abroad are taking to highlight Kashmir issue? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer:      Pakistani Missions abroad are constantly engaging with the host governments, Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora and international organizations, apprising them of the emerging human rights and humanitarian situation in IOJ&K since the 5 August lockdown and seeking their support for the just resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute.

In this regard, Pakistan Missions abroad organize different seminars, conferences, and hold exhibitions and public rallies.  Kashmir related events like Kashmir Black Day and Kashmir Solidarity Day are commemorated with full zeal and dedication by all our Missions while separate events are also held to apprise the diplomatic and local community regarding the issue. Despite the limitations imposed by COVID-19, the Missions remain actively engaged in efforts to advance the Kashmir cause.

Question: When India declared Gilgit-Baltistan as its part, why was it not considered appropriate by Pakistan to highlight the Resolution of Accession of Gilgit-Baltistan region to Pakistan, in the GB Assembly? (Fida Hussain, Reporter, Radio News Network (RNN) FM99 Islamabad)

Answer:      Pakistan has rejected all baseless statements from India regarding Gilgit-Baltistan. Our stance on Jammu & Kashmir dispute has been clear, consistent and in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. The dispute can only be resolved through implementing the relevant UNSC Resolutions, calling for the exercise of Kashmiris right to self-determination through free and impartial plebiscite.

Question:   Pakistan is going to start construction of Dia Mir Bhasha Dam in Gilgit-Baltistan with the participation of China and in this regard a spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has also issued a statement stating that Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed area. There are concerns over the construction of the dam in Baltistan. Give Pakistan’s position on the statement of the Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman. (Ishtiaq Ahmed, News One TV)

 

Answer:      We reject the Indian statement. Pakistan’s position on the matter is consistent, clear and based on principles and precepts of international law. India does not have any locus standi in the matter and cannot raise objections to the project.

Question:   Could you please share the possible impact of COVID-19 on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy choices? (Tahir Khan, NNI news agency)

Answer:      The Covid-19 pandemic, a widespread and unprecedented crisis, has brought forth new challenges, both in terms of health and socio-economic impacts. In the realm of foreign policy, our key objectives continue to be the promotion of national interests, pursuit of regional peace and security, and fostering partnerships for peace and development in the region and beyond.

We have endeavored to strengthen international and regional cooperation to combat the disease and build consensus on issues of common interest. In this regard, Prime Minister Imran Khan has conferred with several world leaders while the Foreign Minister has held conversations with 40 counterparts and heads of international organizations. 

In this regard, Pakistan’s all-weather strategic partnership with China has been further enhanced; Pakistan has further facilitated the Afghan Peace Process; our traditionally close ties with brotherly Islamic countries have been strengthened; Pak-US engagement on key issues of mutual interest has been pursued; and contacts with partners in Europe and Africa have been maintained.

Pakistan is also actively engaged in intergovernmental and regional platforms including UN, SCO, SAARC, OIC and with WHO, to coordinate response strategies.

To mitigate the economic fallout, Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched the “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” for developing countries. The initiative aims to come up with a comprehensive and coordinated, multi-stakeholder plan of action for debt relief and restructuring to enable developing countries to tackle the crisis, shore up economies and ensure sustainable growth. The idea has found traction, and is being appreciated globally. It remains a work in progress.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, diplomatic and material support is being mobilized. Our Missions are actively engaged in galvanizing resources, liaising with suppliers and extending all possible facilitation to Overseas Pakistanis, particularly those stranded as a result of travel restrictions.

In the Foreign Office, a permanent Crisis Management Unit, manned 24/7 is undertaking coordination in real-time with various stakeholders. As of 20 May 2020, 32,883 Pakistanis have been brought back to Pakistan of whom 28,714 have been repatriated through special flights.

To strengthen the resilience of our health system, the Pakistan Preparedness and Response Plan (PPRP) worth $ 595 million has been launched.

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