Press Briefing by Ayesha Farooqui Spokesperson on Thursday, 13 February, 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.

On the 193rd day of lockdown today, people of IOJ&K remain deprived of their fundamental freedoms; their right to liberty, health, education and food as well as continued restrictions on their freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. The Indian government has turned the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir into the world’s largest open prison and remains the most heavily militarized zone in the world.

India continues to violate the 2003 ceasefire agreement on the LOC. On 8th and 9th February ceasefire violations were committed by Indian forces along the Line of Control (LoC) in Chirikot Sector, Jabbar, Sandhara, Sumbal Gali and Dabsi villages of Kotli District which resulted in the shahadat of an innocent civilian man and serious injuries to several other civilians.

Pakistan has protested in the strongest possible terms at the killing and injury of innocent civilians due to India’s constant ceasefire violations. Our protest was lodged formally, the Indian Charge d’ Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia was summoned by Director General (South Asia & SAARC) Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri consecutively, on 8th and 10th February 2020.

Since the beginning of this year, in just six weeks, India has already committed 272 ceasefire violations along the LoC. As a result of which 3 civilians have embraced shahadat and 25 civilians have sustained serious injuries.

There has been a consistent pattern in BJP government resorting to some provocation or distraction around important international events. For a long time, we have also been warning the international community about the possibility of some false flag operation by India.

We are concerned about the possibility of India seeking to create some distraction during forthcoming high-profile visits to the region, i.e. President Erdogan & UNSG to Pakistan and President Trump to India.

Such provocations are obviously designed to divert global attention from India’s state-terrorism in IOJ&K as well as from Pakistan’s ongoing successful efforts in the counter-terrorism arena and with respect to fulfillment of our obligations under the FATF regime.

The RSS-inspired BJP government’s tactics have become all too predictable; and are being called out and shamed even inside India.

While the credibility of such unfortunate Indian moves is already too low by now, they still carry an inherent risk of further inflaming the bilateral environment and potentially leading to unforeseeable consequences.

While calling upon the International community to beware of any such irresponsible and ill-considered step by the current Indian regime, Pakistan maintains and unwavering resolve to: (a) respond most effectively and immediately to any Indian provocation; and (b) continue our march on the path to national development and regional peace and stability.

Turkish President, H.E Recep Tayyip Erdogan accompanied by a high level delegation comprising Cabinet members, senior officials and CEOs and Businessmen are on a two day visit to Islamabad. Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Erdogan will co-chair the 6th Session of the Pakistan-Turkey High Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) in the joint cabinet format. At the conclusion of the Session, a Joint Declaration will be signed. A number of important agreements/MoUs are also expected to be concluded. The two leaders will also have a joint press stakeout. The High Level Strategic Cooperation Council is the highest level decision-making forum, providing strategic direction to further strengthening of relations between the two countries.

President Erdogan will meet President Dr. Arif Alvi and address a Joint Session of the Parliament on 14th February. Later in the day, together with Prime Minister Imran Khan, he will address the Pakistan-Turkey Business and Investment Forum which brings together leading investors and business-people from both sides.

Pakistan and Turkey have a unique and abiding relationship characterized by mutual support and exceptional mutual trust and understanding. The two brotherly countries have always been each other’s steadfast partners. Turkey supports the cause of self-determination for the people of Indian-Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan stands by Turkey on the question of Cyprus.

On Sunday, from 16-19 February, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UNSG), H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres, will be visiting Pakistan. During the visit, the Secretary-General will call on the President and the Prime Minister. He will also meet Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office. The Secretary-General’s other engagements include interactions with parliamentarians, media and the youth. He will deliver special talk on sustainable development, climate change and peacekeeping.

The next day, on 17th February, the Secretary-General will participate in the international Conference on 40 years of Hosting Afghan Refugees in Pakistan – A New Partnership for Solidarity. The Conference will be attended by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi, as well as Ministers and senior officials from around 20 countries, who have been supporting the Afghan refugees across the globe.

The Secretary-General will also pay a visit to Lahore and travel to the Gurdwara Kartarpur Saheb.

The UN Secretary-General’s participation in the International Conference is a recognition of Pakistan’s exemplary compassion, generosity and resolve in hosting Afghan refugees for the past four decades and our efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan is an ardent supporter of the United Nations and has contributed significantly to the realization of United Nations’ objectives of peace and security and sustainable development in the world.

The international Conference is taking place at an important juncture when efforts at consolidating peace in Afghanistan are making progress. Pakistan is confident that the Conference will reinforce international efforts as agreed to in the UN Global Compact on Refugees and Global Refugee Forum to bring about a renewed focus on the Afghan refugees.

On the occasion of the third International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on 10-14 February 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a booklet on “Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Regime”. This is part of Pakistan’s practice to share information on the measures taken to further strengthen nuclear security and to demonstrate the high-level attention that nuclear security continues to receive in Pakistan. Pakistan has established a comprehensive and effective national nuclear security regime which is at par with international standards and guidelines. The regime is based on an extensive legislative and regulatory framework governing the security of nuclear materials, radioactive substances, associated facilities and activities.

Question: The decision regarding FATF is about to come. Pakistan is hopeful. The relevant Ministries have done a good job. What efforts have made by the Foreign Office in this regard? How many countries are going to support Pakistan? (Adeel Warraich, Dunya News)

Supplementary Question: Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has been charged by ATC in Lahore in terror financing case. How do you see the decision well before the FATF meeting in Paris to be held in next few days? Would it help Pakistan in removing from the grey list? (Naveed Siddiqui- Dawn)

Supplementary Question: Keeping in view the current situation in Jammu & Kashmir and President Trump’s offer for mediation and on the case of Dr. Afia Siddiqui , would you please inform us on any update in this regard?. ( Khawaja Nayyar- Media Today)

Answer: We have seen the reports you are referring to. This matter relates to Ministry of Interior, I would like to refer you to them.

As for FATF, Pakistan efforts/ measures have been widely acknowledged. We are certainly hopeful and working closely with our partners in the international community in this regard.

Question: India is buying an Integrated Air Defence Weapon System for $ 1.9 billion from the US. This would lead to further imbalance in the region. How do you see this development? Tariq Mehmood, Hum TV)

Secondly, the Prime Minister issued instructions to the Foreign Office about the stranded students. What are the basic instructions?

Answer: Pakistan has seen the advance notice issued by United States Defence Security Cooperation Agency, notifying State Department’s approval of Foreign Military Sale to India of an Integrated Air Defence Weapons Systems (IADWS). Sale of such sophisticated weapons system to India at this time is particularly disturbing as it would further destabilize the already volatile region. The U.S. decision would disturb the strategic balance in South Asia with serious security implications for Pakistan and the region.

The International community is fully aware of India’s aggressive policy designs against Pakistan and threatening statements of Indian political and military leaders. South Asia cannot afford an arms race and conflict. It is therefore incumbent upon international community to prevent further destabilization of the region.

On coronavirus, I think you may have seen reports that our four students who had been infected and were under exemplary Chinese medical attention, they have recovered and have been discharged from the hospital. Under Prime Minister’s directive, the Foreign Office and our Missions in China have doubled up efforts to make sure that all our students are taken care of and their welfare and their needs are addressed in close consultation with the Chinese authorities. The Chinese government has taken care of our students and our nationals as their own.

Question: I want to know about the case of Ehsanullah Ehsan. It has been learnt that he is in Turkey right now. Whether Pakistan Foreign Office is considering his repatriation to Pakistan with the consultation of Turkish government especially when the Turkish President is visiting Pakistan? Secondly, whether the option of Interpol can also be considered in this case? (Rashida Sial, AbbTakk)

Answer: This matter pertains to the Ministry of Interior, I would like to refer you to them.

Question: My question is related to Occupied Jammu & Kashmir because of after 2G service which was restored in some areas in the valley. The people who are using VPN are being arrested by Indian forces and are being transferred to different camps outside the valley. How do you see that aspect now as they are alleging those people that they are in contact with Pakistan or other sort of extremist organizations outside Pakistan? They are alleging not only Pakistan but also they are trying to name these movements as terrorist organizations. (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Supplementary Question: There are reports since yesterday regarding the health of Syed Ali Shah Gillani. Could you kindly confirm these reports regarding his health and what sort of medical facilities are being provided to him? (Ashfaq, Aaj TV)

Answer: As you know there is complete communication lockdown and media blackout in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir since the last six months. It is very difficult for people in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir to communicate with the outside world or to obtain any assistance, because of the unilateral actions taken by the Indian government.

We have also seen the speculative reports and rumors pertaining to the health of Syed Ali Shah Gillani since yesterday. We have also seen reports attributed to his son, that he is stable. He is not well but he is stable. However, I reiterate that because of the absolute communication blackout it is very difficult to receive confirmed news of what is happening to the oppressed people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and their leadership who continue to be incarcerated.

Question: What is your comment on BJP Government’s loss in the state election? (Zulqarnain, ARY News)

Answer: This is a choice made by the people of Delhi, on which we do not comment. I would only highlight that during the campaign the BJP leadership again resorted to its familiar tactic of Pakistan-bashing for making electoral gains. Clearly it did not succeed this time.

Question: In the last two or three days that thousands of Pakistani workers who were working legally in Saudi Arabia have been forced to leave and return to their homeland. May I know if this is the kind of repercussion to the Prime Minister’s visit to Kuala Lumpur where he made some bold statements? (Zarghoon Shah, Geo TV)

Supplementary Question: After pulling out from KL Summit, Prime Minister Imran Khan recently visited Malaysia and President of Turkey is also coming to Pakistan today. Can we see these visits in the backdrop of KL Summit? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: As for your question regarding Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia, I will get the details and will revert on it.

Regarding second question I have already addressed this in my opening remarks. Turkey and Pakistan relations are like a relationship between two brothers. The visit of President of Erdogan is part of ongoing efforts on both sides to further strengthen our bilateral ties in all areas.

Question: How do you see the upcoming visit of President Trump to India. Don’t you think that it will further destabilize the region in the current environment? Secondly on Afghan Taliban peace talks, reportedly Turkey is going to be part of it as well. Your comments? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)

Supplementary Question: Is there any defence cooperation under consideration between Pakistan and Turkey during the visit of President Erdogan? Secondly, as Trump has offered time and again to mediate on the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir, do you expect that he will raise the issue in his meeting with Prime Minister Modi who is the stumbling block in reviving negotiations on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute? (Shabbir Ahmed Wahgra, PTV)

Answer: President Donald Trump has offered mediation on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute on several occasions. We hope to see those offers being translated into practical actions. We hope that the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir will be raised during President Trump’s visit to India. Non resolution of this dispute is one of the most destabilizing factors for peace and security in the region.

I have referred to it in my opening remarks also that growing defence ties including purchase of arms between India and the United States would contribute towards further destabilization of peace and security in the region.

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