Press Briefing by Ayesha Farooqi Spokesperson on Thursday, 16 January, 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,

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Welcome to the Foreign Office.

On the 164th day of the humanitarian nightmare in IoJ&K, and for the second time in 5 months, the UNSC held an in depth briefing on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The session which was attended by all 15 members of UNSC was convened on the request of Pakistan, and with the support of China. The discussions lasted over an hour in which all Council members participated including the P 5 countries.

In the closed meeting of the Council on 15 January, UN and UNMOGIP representatives briefed the Council members and confirmed that India’s 5th August measures have resulted in the rise of tensions and that the “local situation” remains tense. Political leaders remain detained, internet and communications blockage (are) in place. There is also deployment across the LoC. UNMOGIP continues to face restrictions on the Indian side.

During the discussions, several countries including P 5 countries, expressed serious concern regarding the situation in occupied Kashmir, including the continued curfew and blackout imposed on the Kashmiri people and the potential threat of a conflict.

Pakistan is gratified that the Security Council has once again considered the Jammu and Kashmir situation.

The UNSC session yesterday, has once again reaffirmed that Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute, its final disposition must be done in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the popular aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

The item on India-Pakistan Question remains on the UNSC agenda, and the Council remains seized of this matter. We hope that such continuing international scrutiny will exert pressure on Modi Government to reverse its unilateral measures and stop its human rights and ceasefire violations and threats against Pakistan.

In his remarks to the press at the UN Headquarters, the Foreign Minister reaffirmed unequivocally, that Pakistan will continue its efforts and be the voice of the oppressed Kashmiris in the world. We will continue to advance their inalienable right to self determination as provided by several Security Council resolutions.

At the UN Headquarters, the Foreign Minister held three very important meetings with the President of the UN Security Council, with the President of UNGA and with the UN Secretary General.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his meeting with President of the Security Council, H.E Dang DinhQuy welcomed the briefing of the UNMOGIP and the Department of Political and Peace building Affairs on IOJK to the Security Council. He apprised President UN SC on the current situation and devastating impact of India’s over 5-months long draconian lockdown in IOJK that reject all claims made by India of normalcy.

The Foreign Minister underscored that persistent war mongering and aggressive rhetoric from Indian political and military leadership was a threat to regional peace and security with profound risk of miscalculation. He urged the Security Council to act decisively to prevent a disastrous war between Pakistan and India; to call for an end to the grave human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and to enable the Kashmiri people to exercise their right to self-determination promised to them in the resolutions of the Security Council.

Subsequently, briefing the UN Secretary General on the deteriorating situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the Foreign Minister underlined the urgent need for the United Nations to act decisively by taking immediate steps to halt these dangerous policies, discourage India from provoking a conflict with Pakistan and avert humanitarian catastrophe and growing dangers to South Asian peace and stability.

The Foreign Minister also briefed the Secretary-General on Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to defuse tensions in the region through proactive engagement with Iran, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. The UN Secretary General expressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability in South Asia and Gulf region through political dialogue, diplomatic solutions and respect for human rights.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also held talks with the President of UN General Assembly, Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande and exchanged views on a range of issues including developments at the global and regional levels. It was agreed that the United Nations remained an indispensable institution for advancing dialogue, cooperation and pursuing collective solutions to global challenges including poverty alleviation, access to education, agriculture, illicit financial flows, climate change and achievement of 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Foreign Minister apprised the President of UNGA on the launch of landmark national programs by the Prime Minister such as Ehsaas (Compassion) Program on poverty alleviation and the Sehat Sahulat Program on universal health care.

Concluding his important visit to New York the Foreign Minister will be visiting Washington DC also where he will have discussions with American leadership and senior officials including his counterpart Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert O’ Brien and other senior Administration officials. The Foreign Minister will also have meetings on the Capitol Hill, besides engagements with the media, think tank community and the Pakistani Diaspora. In the official talks, the Foreign Minister will focus on the evolving situation in the Middle East/Gulf Region and bilateral cooperation. He will also brief his interlocutors on the prevailing situation in IOJ&K and Pakistan’s role and continued resolve to support the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.

As you are aware, prior to visiting the US the Foreign Minister undertook intensive outreach in the Middle East under the Prime Minister’s direction and as part of our ongoing effort towards peace and stability in the region. We have issued comprehensive Press releases on the Foreign Minister’s interactions in Tehran and Riyadh and his subsequent visit to Muscat to offer condolences on the sad demise of Sultan Qaboos on behalf of the President, the Prime Minister and the Pakistani nation.

Question: Is the visit of Foreign Minister to the United States a part of his continuous diplomatic outreach on the evolving situation in the Middle East as instructed by the Prime Minister or other issues such as Afghanistan, and US-Taliban peace talks etc. are also on the agenda? (Mr. Zahid Farooq, Daily Metro Watch)

Supplementary Question What is the outcome of the recent visits of the Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Secondly, what is the importance of third meeting of the UNSC held yesterday night on the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Supplementary Question Is the Foreign Minister visiting to Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States, in a bid to de-escalate the situation in the region, on the invitation of these countries or is it the initiative of Pakistan? If it is an initiative of Pakistan, how useful these visits would be?

Secondly, SCO Summit is going to be held in New Delhi this year. Will the Prime Minister of Pakistan participate in the Summit?(Rashida Sial, Ab Tak TV)

Supplementary Question Regarding the UNSC meeting on Jammu & Kashmir yesterday night, the Indian journalists are claiming that the United States has stated in the UNSC that it is an inappropriate forum to discuss the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, whereas the United Kingdom and France have stressed that since it is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, therefore, it should not be discussed in the UNSC. What is Foreign Office take on it? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: The fact that the UNSC held an in-depth briefing on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute reaffirms that this is an internationally recognized dispute. It continues to remain on the agenda of the UNSC for over seven decades. In the last five months, this is the second in-depth briefing that the Council members have held, in which all fifteen members participated including the P5 countries. Many countries, including P5 countries expressed their concerns on the ongoing deteriorating situation in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. So I think any debate that whether the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir is an internal matter of India has been put to rest.

Regarding the Foreign Minister’s visits in the region, Pakistan is an important country with strong and historical relations with all the countries in the region. As you know, since the developments in the region after 03 January 2020 Foreign Minister had undertaken intensive outreach in the Middle East under the Prime Minister’s direction and as part of our ongoing efforts towards peace and stability in the region. In this connection the Foreign Minister held very important meetings in Tehran, Saudi Arabia and spoke to a number of his counterparts in the region and beyond. The Foreign Minister put forward Pakistan’s point of view that war is in no one’s interest. Pakistan is a partner for peace. So when the issues of war and peace are at hand, you do not wait for invitation, you go forward and contribute. And that is what Pakistan has always done and what Pakistan will always do.

As for your question regarding SCO Summit in New Delhi, I will check and get back to you.

Regarding Foreign Minister’s visit to Washington, it is the third leg of his present tour. We have already issued a curtain raiser on his visit to the US and I have also referred to its in my opening statement. The Foreign Minister will be holding important meetings with the senior officials in Washington DC, including his counterpart Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert O’ Brien. He will share Pakistan’s concerns on the deteriorating situation in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir, the evolving situation in the Middle East, the Afghan Peace process as well discuss the full spectrum of bilateral cooperation. So the Foreign Minister will have a very comprehensive set of discussions in Washington.

Question:Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to visit Davos to attend World Economic Forum. Would you please share the exact dates and details of the visit? (Saima Shabbir, Aaj News)

Answer: The visit of the Prime Minister to Davos is on the cards. I will share the details in due course of time.

Question: It has been reported that the Foreign Office has asked its Missions in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi to make the payment of $6 million from their social welfare fund for the Hyderabad Fund Case. What is your comment?

Secondly, it has been reported that some British Pakistanis have been arrested in Iraq/Syria due to their links with some militants and they were deported to Pakistan despite having British nationalities. Would you please confirm? (Zarghoon Shah Geo News)

Answer: On your first question, I have seen that news report. The contents of that report are highly inaccurate. They are based on assumption and I am afraid that I have to use the word “fabricated”. There is no such thing, not a single penny has been utilized from the community welfare funds of our Missions.

Regarding your second question, I will have to check the veracity of the report and revert.

Question: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells is expected to visit Islamabad. Would you please share the dates and what issues will be discussed?

There are also reports that US Special Representative on Afghanistan was planning to visit Islamabad to hold meetings with political and military leaderships. Any update on it?(Mr. Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: We are expecting Ambassador Alice Wells in Islamabad. I do not have exact dates with me. But we expect to have discussions in Foreign Office and other Ministries as well on various bilateral issues that are presently on agenda.

Regarding Amb. Khalizad’s visit to Pakistan, there were tentative dates for the visit for last week, which did not transpire. Once we have confirmation of the visit I will let you know.

Question: An Afghan delegation led by Haji Mohaqiq was in Islamabad few days ago. Was this visit a part of the ongoing Afghan peace process? Did the delegation also have meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer: The Afghan delegation was visiting Islamabad on the invitation of a Think Tank to participate in a seminar in Islamabad. I understand they held some official meetings as well.

Question: Reportedly, over 2000 Pakistanis are imprisoned in other countries over trivial offences, such as non-payment of fines etc. Ministry of Finance has also allocated budget in this respect. What steps has the Foreign Office taken in this context? (Zulqurnain Haider Ary News)

Supplementary Question: Prince Mohammad bin Salman during his last visit to Pakistan announced to release more than 2000 Pakistani prisoners languishing in Saudi jails. How many of them have so far been released? And were they convicts or detainees? (Naveed Siddiqui Dawn News)

Answer: There are over 10000 Pakistanis jailed abroad. I want to state that our embassies and consulates, all over the world, are very mindful of our nationals who are imprisoned on various charges, according to local laws. Around half the number are convicted on criminal charges that range from an entire gamut of criminal activities, including violations of immigration law etc. The Government is fully cognizant of its responsibilities and we exert utmost effort to extend support for the release of Pakistani prisoners abroad. Our embassies are consistently engaged with local governments to facilitate our prisoners. In the last few years, our embassies have undertaken over 13,000 consular access meetings, in various countries, in an effort to assist Pakistani prisoners abroad. As a result of these efforts, in the last one year alone over 4,637 prisoners have been released.

On the issue of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi Arabia, our missions in Saudi Arabia have been discussing the issue with the Saudi authorities. We have been informed that 579 prisoners have been released under the clemency announced by the Crown Prince. In addition, around 1500 prisoners have been released under other clemencies and completion of their sentences. This Ministry and our Missions have actively pursued the matter with the Saudi authorities at every bilateral meeting and interaction. The issue was also highlighted at the highest level, by our leadership in their interactions.

Question: We are aware that the United States and the Taliban have been engaged in talks for reaching a peace agreement for reconciliation in Afghanistan, the process has been scuttled many a time for various reasons. However, news is coming that one of the bottlenecks was reduction in violence for reaching an agreement but it has been agreed by the Afghan Taliban now. Do you see this as a development that will eventually bring peace and reconciliation amongst all parties in Afghanistan? (Essa Naqvi, Indus News)

Supplementary Question: There are reports that USA and Taliban are reaching an agreement for the release of prisoners. Whether Islamabad is playing a role in this, your comments please? (Mohammad Jaleel, VOA)

Answer: As you all are well-aware of Pakistan’s position on the Afghan Peace Process. We have welcomed the resumption of US-Taliban peace talks. We hope that the talks would be concluded at the earliest leading the way to Intra-Afghan negotiations. Under this umbrella, all efforts and negotiations whether it is ceasefire or any other aspect of the Peace Process is welcomed by Pakistan.

Question: Recently, the Foreign Minister has visited Oman. Notably, Oman was the first Muslim country which recognized Israel. It is also has a lot of importance in Russia-Iran and US-Israel context. Has Pakistan been conveyed, during this visit, that a diplomatic channel between these countries should be opened as Pakistan has close ties with US, Saudi Arabia, and Iran and the regional issues have been raised during this visit? Asghar Ali Mubarak

Answer: The Foreign Minister’s visit to Muscat was for a specific occasion. You are aware that Sultan Qaboos passed away after ruling Oman for a very long period. He had an important role in the region and the Muslim world. Therefore, the Foreign Minister went to pay the condolences on behalf of the President, Prime Minister and the Pakistani nation. The Foreign Minister was given an audience by the new Sultan of Oman.

Question: Regarding the Security Council’s consultative meeting, I want to ask that several countries, including P5 states, have raised concerns on the human rights and humanitarian situation in IOJ&K, which you have also pointed out. Can you please share details of countries that have raised it as a human rights issue and of those who have condemned the annexation of IOJ&K? Also, has this become a human rights issue or is it still an issue of right to self-determination because if this human rights issue is resolved then will it stay as a right of self-determination in the bigger picture?

Secondly, in what capacity did the Foreign Minister undertake these visits, because previously when such an effort was made, the Saudi Foreign Minister in his interview to Chatham House stated that they had not asked anyone to mediate and if anyone wants to give his suggestions, then they are open to ideas. Your comments please?

Answer: I want to state that this was a closed session of the UN Security Council and the discussion was in-depth in which presentations were made by the Political Affairs Department of the UN and the UN Peacekeeping Affairs Department. Since, it was a closed session and Pakistan is currently not a member of the UNSC, we do not know the exact debate that took place, however, the fact that the debate took place and lasted that long, shows that it was an all-encompassing debate.

In five months, this was the second in-depth briefing given to the UNSC members, in my dictionary that constitutes a success.

Regarding your second question, I have spoken comprehensively on the Middle East situation.

Question: There were reports that five Pakistanis are indicted in United States for exporting material for the nuclear program of Pakistan. What is your opinion on this?

Secondly, a police officer was caught allegedly, in IOJ&K, with Hizb ul Mujahideen’s leadership. The spokesperson of Congress also commented whether it was an attempt to implicate Pakistan in this conspiracy and that Afzal Guru’s hanging was illegal as he was an innocent person who was involved by the Indian agencies. Your comments please? (Abbas Jaffar Disrict News)

Answer: I have not seen the report; I will have to check the veracity of the report.

In response to your second question, we have seen the reports of the arrest of the Indian police officer. I H will revert to you on this.

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