Press Briefing by Ayesha Farooqi Spokesperson on Thursday, 23 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 Foreign Office Press Corps,

Welcome.

We begin today’s briefing with a summary of events in the foreign policy domain since our last interaction.

The inhumane lockdown and communications blackout for the hapless and innocent people in IOJ&K continues unabated. The calendar reminds us that it has been 172 days since the illegal and unilateral actions taken by India. Over 8 million people in the IOJ&K remain cut-off from the world.

Indian Occupation Forces in their recent acts of state terrorism in the last week alone have martyred four (4) innocent Kashmiris in Doda and Shopian districts The names of the martyrs are: Haroon Hameed, Wasim Ahmad Wani, Amir Ahmad Dar and Adil Ahmad Shaikh.

We pay tribute to all the martyred men, women, the elderly and the young ones in IOJ&K who have given their lives for their fundamental right to self-determination and the freedom struggle. Their sacrifices have not gone in vain and despite Indian efforts to cover up its brutalities in IOJ&K, the plight of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is being recognized not only across the world but also voices are beginning to emerge from within India.

Pakistan condemns the unprecedented communication blockade and clampdown in IOJ&K and impresses upon the international community to take cognizance of the blatant human rights violations by the Indian Occupation Forces. We continue to call upon the Indian government to immediately restore internet and mobile phone services, release all prisoners, especially civil society members and the abducted young children, remove Public Safety Act and other draconian laws, and allow the independent media and international human rights observers to visit the region to independently observe the situation of the Kashmiri people.

Pakistan also condemns the highly irresponsible remarks made by Indian Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, at Raisina Dialogue 2020 recently, where he made the repugnant suggestion of putting young Kashmiri children in “de-radicalization camps”, and seeking to place Pakistan on FATF blacklist. These remarks are reflective of the extremist mindset and bankrupt thinking that have evidently and regrettably permeated state institutions of India.

Pakistan also rejects India’s mischievous portrayal of isolated, fabricated incidents involving Pakistani citizens as an issue of minorities’ rights in Pakistan. On 18th January, a senior diplomat from the High Commission of India was summoned to the Foreign Office in this context. We underscored to India that such machinations cannot divert attention from the criticism the Indian Government is facing internationally for its own discriminatory policies against minorities in India and the ongoing state terrorism in IOJ&K.

Later the same day, the Indian Charge d’ Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia was summoned by Director General (South Asia & SAARC) to register Pakistan’s strong protest at the ceasefire violations by Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control (LoC), resulting in serious injuries to an innocent civilian lady who was a resident of village Jugalpal.

On 21st January, Ambassador Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, called on the Foreign Secretary. A range of bilateral issues, including political engagement and economic partnership, were discussed. In these discussions, we emphasized that a strong trade and investment relationship was the key to advancing the shared vision of the leadership of both countries for a long term, broad-based and enduring partnership. The two sides also discussed recent developments regarding Afghan peace and reconciliation process. Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s resolve to continue to support the peace process and to pursue positive development of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.

As you are all aware, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khanalong with the Foreign Minister and other members of the delegation, attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Forum. Over the past half a century WEF has become an important platform for meetings with leaders from the world of politics, business, industry etc.

Two key highlights of the Davos visit included the Prime Minister’s “Keynote Address” at the WEF Special Session, and his interaction at the “Pakistan Strategy Dialogue” with CEOs and corporate leaders.

On the sidelines of WEF, the Prime Minister met the US President, President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Singapore. In these important bilateral interactions, the Prime Minister shared Pakistan’s perspective on the whole spectrum of our relations with these nations. In addition to these, the Prime Minister also interacted with corporate leaders and captains of Industry.

Later today, the Honorable Foreign Minister will share more details of these talks with you as well his visits to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, New York and Washington prior to his visit to Davos. Most importantly he will share his discussions on the Jammu and Kashmir Dispute at the UN in New York and in Washington and Davos.

Question: It has been reported that while talking to a think-tank in her recent visit to Islamabad, Ambassador Alice Wellshas once again alleged that there is no transparency in CPEC project due to the Chinese financing. She further said that companies blacklisted by the World Bank has got contracts in the CPEC and also questioned the immunity for prosecution for the newly formed CPEC authority that serves as focal body to identify new areas of cooperation. What is your response?(Mr. Tariq Mehmood, Hum News)

Supplementary Question: Why the Foreign Office has not responded as yet to the remarks made by Ambassador Wells on CPEC, whereas the Chinese Embassy has reacted strongly on this? Is it not interference in the internal matters between Pakistan and China? (Kausar Lodhi)

Supplementary Question: Chinese Embassy in Islamabad has reacted strongly on the remarks made by Ambassador Wells yesterday. She has also criticized ML-1 project of railways. Would you please comment on this? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Supplementary Question: It is not the first time that Ambassador Wells has expressed her concerns on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Has she also conveyed her concerns on the issue of CPEC during her meetings in the Foreign Office? (Jalil, Voice of America)

Supplementary Question: During meetings in Davos, we witnessed warmth and reinvigoration in relations between the United States and Pakistan. In this backdrop, are the remarks made by Ambassador Wells not interference in the bilateral matters between China and Pakistan? Do you think that we will have to pay a price for the romance with the United States, as we have seen in last 72 years?(C.R. Shamsi, Editor Weekly Pakistan)

Supplementary Question: The remarks by Ambassador Wells and reaction of Chinese Embassy were very strong. What is Foreign Office official take on?

Secondly, after the offer of President Trump to mediate in resolving the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir between Pakistan and India, and Ambassador Wells visited to India before coming to Pakistan. Can we see Ambassador Wells’ visit to Pakistan in this context? (Aijaz, GNN)

Answer: Pakistan and China are “All-Weather Strategic Co-operative Partners”. We have already underscored that the CPEC is a transformational project. The expeditious completion of the CPEC project is the number one priority of our government. In that regard, recently CPEC Authority has been established to oversee completion of projects across the country.

Since the launch of CPEC, in energy sector, 12 power projects have either been completed or are under construction with total capacity of 7,240 MW and investment of USD 12.4 billion. Another 9 projects are at an early stage with total capacity of 6,390 MW. CPEC energy projects contribute over 14 % of total energy supply in Pakistan, which could be supplied to over 33 million people on per capita power use basis. In addition, these projects have paid about USD 250 million in taxes during construction period and have created over 10,000 jobs.

There are a number of projects that are financed through Chinese grants and concessional loans. To claim that CPEC is always in the form of loans or other forms of financing, often non-concessional with sovereign guarantees is not based on facts. The total CPEC debt is about 4.9 billion dollars which is not even 10% of our total debt.

It is reiterated that CPEC, a long-term project negotiated through multi-tiered processes, has helped address development gaps in energy, infrastructure, industrialization, and job creation in Pakistan. It should be perceived in terms of its enormous economic benefits for the people of Pakistan and our socio-economic development. We believe it is also beneficial in the context of both regional connectivity and prosperity. All countries are welcome to invest in SEZs of CPEC.

Question: The United States always had and has expectations from Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan has also expectations from the United States, especially on the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir and FATF. Has the United States given some concrete assurances in this regard? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Answer: The matter of FATF also came up during the leadership-level meeting in Davos between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Trump. Our constant message is that Pakistan has taken a whole range of steps and made huge progress in implementation of the Action Plan. We remain closely engaged with the FATF members, including the US.

As you know Foreign Minister Qureshi in his visit to the US held several meetings at Capitol Hill, including with Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor. During all these meetings, the issue of FATF was raised. Foreign Minister briefed all of them comprehensively regarding the steps taken by Pakistan. Pakistan has been keen to remain engaged with all members of FATF.

Regarding the question on Jammu & Kashmir, Prime Minister Khan and President Trump discussed it in detail in their meeting on the sidelines of WEF. President Trump himself raised this matter during his remarks, in which he stated that “we are working together on some borders and we are talking about Kashmir in relation to what is going on between India and Pakistan.” Pakistan has welcomed this offer of the US and we look forward to progress on this from the US side.

Question: How will Pakistan respond to India’s decision to purchase the S-400 anti-missile system from Russia? How do you see this development in light of escalation of tension and the already fragile environment? How will you react to this and what precautionary measures Pakistan take in this matter? (Farhan Bokhari Financial Times)

Answer: We have in the past expressed our concerns regarding the induction of Ballistic Missile Defence systems in the region. We feel that such destabilizing systems can undermine deterrence and stability in South Asia and lead to an unnecessary arms race. Pakistan has proposed discussions on a Strategic Restraint Regime for South Asia, which includes the proposal to avoid the induction of destabilizing weapon systems.

We would, however, like to underscore that the induction of BMDs should not lead to any false sense of security and any misadventure since Pakistan has the technological capability to ensure the continued efficacy of its deterrence.

We also note that in the context of deployment of Missile Defence Systems in other regions of the world, many states have expressed their concerns. The same applies to South Asia and we hope that extra regional players will be mindful of Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns.

Question: My question is regarding meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Trump and also official statement issued by the Foreign Office, saying that Pakistan has once again sought help from the United States to defuse tension between India and Pakistan, especially on the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir.The US President also reiterated his offer to mediate. It was third time that such requests and offers were made between the two countries, however, nothing concrete has come out as yet. Would you please explain what sought of intervention Pakistan is expecting from President Trump?(Mr. Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer:You are quite right. We have discussed this issue with the US at multiple occasions and at the highest level, including during the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States in July 2019 and subsequently at every interaction be at the Prime Minister’s level or the Foreign Minister, or at Senior Officials level. We have raised this matter across the full spectrum of US Administration, including the Congressional leaders and Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

We have welcomed the offer of mediation by the US President which has been expressed more than once and we hope that these would be translated into some actions.

Question: Pakistan always firmly supports the One-China principle. Taiwan’s election has been held recently. How does Pakistan comment on that?(Li Hao, Xinhua News)

Answer: Pakistan’s position is clear and unequivocal. Let me reiterate it, we support ‘One-China policy’. The affairs related to Taiwan are China’s internal matter. We oppose any notion of “Taiwan Independence” or “One China, One Taiwan”. There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is part of China.

Question: Can you please comment if Pakistan will be participating in the SCO Summit to be held in India, later this year and what would be the level of participation?

Answer: So far no formal invitation has been received on the SCO meeting. Therefore, it is premature to comment on any aspect of this matter.

Question: My first question is related to Mr. Mumtaz Ahmed s/o Ghulam Nabi, he is a resident of Tehsil Liaqat Pur, District Rahim Yar Khan. He has been missing from Mekkah, Saudi Arabia since 20th March 2019. Have any facts been ascertained by our mission in Saudi Arabia?

Secondly, Wuhan city of China has been plagued by coronavirus and the Chinese citizens working in Pakistan frequently travel back to and from China. Since, this virus is contagious and is a serious threat, and no vaccination is available for it, has Pakistan taken any precautionary measures to screen foreign citizens at the airports?

Thirdly, in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, the Afghan National Forces have taken action against the Daesh fighters and captured around 300 of them, including women and children. It has been alleged that they belong to Pakistan and are residing in pathetic conditions in Afghanistan but the Afghan authorities are not willing to hand them over to Pakistani officials but are ready to hand them over to the tribals of Pakistani districts. Your comments please? (Faisal Raza Khan 92 News)

Answer: Regarding your first question, I have taken note of the details and will seek details from our missions in Saudi Arabia and revert.

We have seen the news of breakout of coronavirus in China. I understand that the Chinese authorities, at the highest-level, are seized of the matter and they are taking all precautions and measures to protect people across the country. We are also in touch with our missions in China to see if there is anything our missions can do to help our nationals who may be affected.

I will seek details regarding your third question and revert.

Question: Reportedly, President Trump will visit Pakistan in February after the deal is finalized in Afghanistan, which is ready to be signed. Your comments please?

Secondly, the Turkish President is also scheduled to visit Pakistan in February, have any dates been finalized regarding this visit? (Rashida SialAbbTakk)

Supplementary Question: During the meeting between Prime Minister Khan and President Trump, the issue of Afghan Peace Process came under discussion; will Pakistan be given a role after the US Forces withdraw from Afghanistan? (Khalid Mehmood Express TV)

What is the status of process of repatriation of Afghan refugees? (Chingez Khan Jadoon Daily Khyber News)

President Trump during his meeting with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stated that America urges the Taliban to curb violence for a meaningful peace process. Your comments please? (Jaleel Akhtar VOA)

Answer: As you are aware that Prime Minister Khan had given an invitation to President Trump to visit Pakistan. We hope that this visit takes place soon. During this meeting in Davos, this question was asked from President Trump, to which he responded that he is undertaking a visit to this region, in February, but wants an exclusive visit to Pakistan which is not linked to any other visit in the region because Pakistan has its own distinct place. I cannot give an exact time frame of the visit, as of now, may be it takes place later this year. The two sides are working on it.

Secondly, the dates regarding the visit of Turkish President are being finalized; we will announce them as soon as they are finalized.

Regarding the question on Afghan refugees, this matter is part of our broader engagement and discussions on Afghanistan Peace Process, and is under discussion.

Lastly, Pakistan’s position on Afghan Peace Process is clear and it has been delved upon comprehensively by the leadership as well. There is no other country which would want the Peace Process to succeed in Afghanistan more than Pakistan. We have facilitated the peace process and intra-Afghan reconciliation and look forward to an early intra-Afghan dialogue so that peace is restored.

We have noted and welcomed the talks that are due to take place and the announcement made by Taliban regarding the reduction in violence. We hope that these announcements and agreements move forward so that we can see the return of genuine peace in Afghanistan.

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