[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the media, welcome to the Foreign Office for the first weekly press briefing of 2020. Allow me to wish you all and your families a very happy new year. May this be a year of peace and progress for Pakistan, for our region and for the world. Ameen.
I would also like to express on behalf of the Foreign Ministry our appreciation to the Press Corp for the job that you all do. Especially, the spirit and the zeal with which you highlighted the plight of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of the illegal and unilateral actions taken on 5 August 2019.
I also want to take this opportunity to extend my best wishes to Dr. Faisal, Ambassador-designate to Germany and the former Spokesperson. Dr. Faisal has very ably discharged his responsibilities as the Spokesperson for over two years. We wish him great success in his next assignment.
At the outset, I would like to present a few highlights of the work of the Foreign Ministry under the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the leadership of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the foreign policy domain.
Throughout 2019, Pakistan’s foreign policy made significant strides on multiple fronts. New partnerships were forged and the historic and time-tested relationships were further fortified.
The year was marked by a high frequency of leadership level exchanges between Pakistan and several important countries such as Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, Qatar UAE, Iran, Bahrain. The Prime Minister delivered a landmark address at the UNGA in New York in September and held important meetings with a large number of his counterparts on the sidelines.
Our time time-tested, all-weather, strategic, cooperative partnership with China was further enriched, as Prime Minister Khan undertook two important visits to China, in April and October. The CPEC Project is advancing apace. The positive trajectory of relations with US was further strengthened in 2019. Pakistan’s positive contribution to peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan has been acknowledged internationally.
2019 was a busy year in terms of hosting foreign dignitaries in Pakistan. At the highest level, Amir of Qatar, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Vice President of China, His Royal Highness Muhammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, His Highness Sheikh Muhamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands,The Cuban Vice President, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, the High Representative/Vice President of the European Union Ms. Federica Mogherini, President of the UN General Assembly, Ms. Maria Fernanda Espionosavisited Pakistan in 2019. These visits are a testimony to Pakistan’s active engagement with the global community.
Another important development in the foreign policy domain was the inauguration of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 9 November 2019 by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The ceremony was attended by over 12000 Sikh pilgrims and was also attended by dignitaries such as the former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Foreign Minister Qureshi maintained dynamic engagement with his counterparts and other interlocutors around the world throughout 2019 such as China (twice), Saudi Arabia (4 times) Turkey, Oman, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Germany, and Sri Lanka. These interactions were characterized with traditional cordiality, friendship, understanding and sharing of mutual concerns and interests.
During Foreign Minister’s visit to Brussels in June, Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan was signed.
He participated in the Commonwealth Ministers of Foreign Affairs Meeting in July in London.
The Foreign Minister led the Pakistan delegation at the SCO Council of Foreign Minister’s Meeting (SCO-CFM) in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.
We hosted the third China –Afghanistan –Pakistan Foreign Minister’s Dialogue in Islamabad on 7th
The Foreign Minister led Pakistan’s delegation to the 4th review of the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue between Pakistan and the UK held in London from 15 to 19 June 2019.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and the Board of Investment hosted the Engage Africa- Envoys Conference focused on enhancing our relations with countries in Africa on 27-28 November 2019. The Conference deliberated ways and means to enhance foreign direct investment and trade particularly, as part of the “Economic Diplomacy” initiative.
The Foreign Minister also hosted his counterparts from China, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Luxembourg, Turkmenistan, Iran, and the US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad during the year.
Following the unilateral and illegal action by India on 5th August, 2019, our leadership has not only amplified the voice of the suffering Kashmiri people but also raised the conscience of the international community to the atrocities perpetrated by the Indian government. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, through their extensive and sustained outreach to world leaders, have raised awareness of the Hindutva driven policies of the present government in India. Subsequent actions taken by the Modi government related to Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens have vindicated our position internationally.
I would like to recap some of the major developments that took place in the aftermath of the unilateral actions taken by India on 5 August. These developments have served to place the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in the center of international discourse today. These developments are a result of our collective effort spearheaded by the leadership. The consequences of these efforts are unfolding. The global community is now awakened to the threat to regional peace and security that the Hindutva driven policies of Indian government poses.
On 16 August the United Nations Security Council considered the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, after a gap of 55 years. This was a reflection of the “disputed” status of Jammu & Kashmir and a recognition by the international community of the gravity of the situation.
In September, in his address to the UNGA the Prime Minister extensively highlighted the Jammu & Kashmir issue and the danger its non-resolution represented for regional as well as global peace and security.
Foreign Minister Qureshi has to date written seven letters to the President of the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, keeping them apprised of the evolving situation in IOJ&K.
An emergency session of the Contact group on Jammu & Kashmir was called on Pakistan’s request on 6th August, 2019 as a result of which the OIC IPHRC delivered a strong statement condemning India’s atrocities in IOJ&K.
Subsequently, in September, the OIC Contact Group spearheaded by the Foreign Minister issued a Ministerial Communique on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, on the sidelines of the UNGA.
Foreign Minister Qureshi represented Pakistan in the 42nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Joint statement on Jammu &Kashmir was delivered on behalf of over 50 countries on 10th September, 2019.
Two successive public hearings on human rights situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir were held in the U.S. Congress. The Tom Lantos Congressional Committee on Human Rights undertook detailed debate on the situation in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir in November 2019. Two draft resolutions have been tabled by the US House of Representatives. So far, over 80 members of US Congress have issued statements expressing concerns over the situation in IOJ&K.
Kashmir issue was raised in other Parliaments as well, including UK, EU, France, Iran and so on.
International organizations and international media have validated Pakistan’s perspective on the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in occupied Jammu & Kashmir and risks to regional peace & security through their independent reporting.
Today is the 151st day of the humanitarian nightmare in IOJ&K characterized by a continued military lockdown and complete communication blackout. Over 8 million people in the IOJ&K remain cut-off from the world, with continued concerns being raised about lack of medical supplies and other basic needs.
Pakistan calls 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.
And now I will give a brief overview of other recent events on the foreign policy front:
On 18 December, Prime Minister Imran Khan in his key note address to the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in Geneva, warned of an imminent danger of refugee crisis in South Asia due to demographic changes engineered by India in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) following its illegal measures of 5 August 2019 as well as discrimination against Muslims codified in the recent Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in Assam and planned elsewhere in India.
On the sidelines of the Global Refugee Forum, Prime Minister Imran Khan met Ms. Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva and briefed her on the devastating impact of India’s over 4-months long inhuman lockdown of 8 million Kashmiris, as affirmed by independent observers across the world.
On the directives of the Government of Pakistan, a special PIA flight has been arranged to bring Pakistani illegal immigrants from Malaysia on Tuesday, 31 December 2019. As a result of extensive efforts by the High Commission of Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur, over 8000 Pakistanis have returned home safely under this Amnesty Scheme, without facing detention or fines.
The welfare of overseas Pakistanis is a priority of the Government of Pakistan. The arrangement of special flight to bring our nationals back from Malaysia in safety is another landmark step, consistent with the Prime Minister’s directions about the welfare of Pakistani nationals.
I would also like to inform you that the Phase II of China Pakistan Free Trade Agreement became effective from 1 January 2020. Under Phase II, Pakistan has secured enhanced and deeper concessions on products of its export interests, revision of safeguard mechanism for protection of domestic industry, inclusion of the balance of payment clause as a safety valve against balance of payment difficulties, and effective enforcement of electronic data exchange. China will eliminate tariffs on an additional 313 priority tariff lines of Pakistan’s export products which mainly include textiles and garments, leather, sea food, meat and other animal products and a range of other items.
Question: First of all,members of diplomatic press would like to welcome you. We hope to continue to get timely information regarding day to day developments.
It has been reported that OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting is being convened. Would you please confirm it and where will the meeting take place? Whether the sole objective of the meeting is to discuss the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir?(Mr. Mateen Haider, G News)
SupplementaryQuestion After the recent visit of Saudi Foreign Minister, it was widely reported that OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting would be held in Islamabad. However, there has been no official confirmation from OIC Secretariat. Since the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir especially in the wake of 5th August 2019 is quite serious, would you please update us in the matter? (Ms. Kausar Lodhi, Prime News)
SupplementaryQuestion It has been reported that OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting is scheduled to be held in April 2020. Don’t you think it is too late to hold meeting after four months when the people of IOJ&K are suffering? (Mr. Anwar Abbas, BOL News)
Supplementary Question Do you have any information regarding installment of heavy weaponry at the Line of Control as stated by the President of Azad Jammu & Kashmir? (Mr. Anwar Abbas, BOL News)
Supplementary Question How do you see the recent developments such as an important visit of the Crown Prince of UAE today, Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia after cancelling his schedule visit to KL Summit? Do you think that OIC first ever Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Jammu & Kashmir reportedly being convened is the success of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy in the back drop of withdrawal from KL Summit? (Mr. Zahid Farooq, Daily Metro Watch)
Answer: To begin with, I would like to put it on record that the OIC has consistently supported Pakistan on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Two meetings of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu & Kashmir were convened, in the immediateaftermath of 5th August, in which the Foreign Minister participated. The Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan and others attended the meeting in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA, which issued a strong Ministerial Communiqué. I also want to bring to your attention to theOIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission which recently held an unprecedented public session on human rights situation in IOJ&K. We are working to optimally utilize all the OIC mechanisms to highlight the worsening human rights and humanitarian situation in the IOJ&K. In this context, a special session of OIC Foreign Ministers’ is also envisaged, for which work remains in progress.
Meanwhile, the 47th regular Session of Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) OIC is scheduled to be held in Niger in April 2020. Furthermore, Pakistan has already offered to host the 48th regular session of the CFM in Islamabad in 2021 as well.
Regarding your reference to KL Summit, I would like to draw your attention to the Press Release issued by the Foreign Office on 20 December. I would also like to highlightthat our relations with Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Turkey are very important. We value these relationships and continue to work to strengthen them.
Question: Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia visited Pakistan in February last year. During the visit it was announced that 2106 Pakistani prisoners will be released. Was the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners discussed during the recent visit of the Saudi Foreign Minister to Pakistan? Could you please update in this regard?
What is the update regarding the case of Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav?
Recently at Doha Conference, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad thanked Qatar for the 12thtime for its role in the release of two foreign nationals by Taliban. He did not mention Pakistan at all. What is your take on it? (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)
Answer: On the issue of repatriation of Pakistani prisoners from Saudi Arabia, it is a very important issue. I do not have specific details. I will revert to you on this.
Regarding the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, it is ajudicial process and there are important factors involved in it. Therefore, let me get the specific details and will update you accordingly.
Regarding your last question, Pakistan’s positive role and contribution in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan has been widely appreciated and acknowledged.
Question: It has been reported that US and Taliban are set to resume the talks in few days after a break. The US has urged the Taliban for ceasefire and reduction of violence. It has also been reported that delegation of Taliban has visited Pakistan. Is Pakistan playing any role in this regard? (Mr. Muhammad Jalil, VOA Urdu)
Answer: Pakistan has played a positive role towards resumption of the peace process in Afghanistan. It has been our desire to seek an early and successful conclusion of the peace process and US-Taliban talks, which will lead to intra Afghan dialogue. We continue to support and facilitate the process.
Question: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its Press Release on 20 December 2019 stated that the time and efforts were needed to address the concerns of major Muslim countries regarding possible division in Ummah. In this backdrop President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan stated that Saudi Arabia pressured Pakistan to back off from KL Summit. Afterwards, we saw that Minister for Tolerance of UAEand Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia visited Pakistan. Today, Crown Prince of UAE is visiting Islamabad. Is the KL Summit also going to be the part of discussions between the Prime Minister and the UAE Crown Prince today because Prime Minister Imran Khan has been quoted to have discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of Malaysia?(Mr. Essa Naqvi,Dunya News)
Answer: UAE is a brotherly country. Our relationship goes back decades. This is a relationship that is both wide and deep. During the visit, the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common interest will be discussed. Frequent exchange of high-level visits between Pakistan and UAE is reflective of the importance that the two countries attach to their fraternal ties. Whenever the two leadershipsmeetall major issues are discussed in detail.
Question: We have been discussing at this platform the issue of taking India to the International Court of Justice after its illegal and unilateral actions on 5th August 2019. Would you please update us in this regard?
It has been reported that 65 Pakistani are stranded in Iraq due to some visa issues, who desperately look the Ministry of ForeignAffairs of Pakistan for help. Would you please comment on it? (Mr. Zarghoon Shah, Geo TV)
Answer: I have already given you a comprehensive overview of our continuous efforts to highlight the serious humanitarian situation in the IOJ&K. This is an ongoing effort and will be a sustained diplomatic campaign. We will put forward the case of the people of IOJ&K at all relevant international forums after evaluating the pros and cons.
Regarding your second question, let me check with the relevant Division. But I would like to reiterate that looking after our nationals abroad is one of the primary goals of this Ministry and it is done on priority basis. So whatever facilitation and intervention from the Foreign Office and our concerned Mission is required, that will be extended to them.
Question: SAARC Summit was scheduled to take place in Pakistan in 2016 which was cancelled thereafter. Later, in the SAARC meeting on the sideline of UNGA it was reported that the parties agreed to hold the Summit. Afterwards, there has been no update in this regard. (Mr. Shabbir Wagra, PTV World)
Answer: We greatly value the SAARC process. We believe it is a regional organization that is of benefit to all the member states. Unfortunately, we are faced with the situation where the process is hindered because of a certain member. However, this is something on our radar. I do not have specific details; once I have, I will share it with you.
Question: In last few years in all envoys’ conferences held in Foreign Office the focus has been on trade diplomacy. Would you please share any one major achievement in the field of trade diplomacy in 2019? (Mr. Naveed Akbar, Aaj TV)
Answer: Trade, Investment, and promotion of foreign direct investment are a shared goal of not just the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but the entire government. And the lead Ministry in this regard is Commerce and the Board of Investment. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Missions abroad play their role and contribute to this national objective.
Question: Our foreign policy met with certain failures last year, for example, the joint statement issued by Japan and India during the 2+2 dialogue and the report issued by an American institute on religious freedom. These events were mentioned in the press releases issued by our Foreign Office. How far have Pakistan’s concerns been addressed on both these issues?
Secondly, India has deployed heavy artillery weapons along the Line of Control. How do you see the rising tensions between the two states?
(Aijaz Ahmed GNN)
Answer: In response to your first question, I would like to draw your attention to the press release we issued on the matter and there is nothing further to add on this matter.
Regarding your second question, I would like to refer you to the letter that the Foreign Minister has written to the President of UNSC and Secretary General of the UN on 12th December 2019, in which he comprehensively apprised them regarding the threats and challenges faced by Pakistan, due to the ceasefire violations and the deployment along the LOC by the Indian side in various sectors. Also, we have shared our concerns and fears with international organizations and our partners as well.
Question: Pakistani diplomats and nationals have repeatedly been harassed and some of them kidnapped in Afghanistan. Has the Afghan side shared the findings of any investigation with Pakistan? (Khalid Mehmood Express News)
Answer: I believe that you are referring to the incident that took place yesterday. This matter has been taken up with the Afghan side in Kabul and in Islamabad. We are seized of the matter and are aware that such incidents have taken place more than once. The safety and security of Pakistani nationals is of great importance to us and we will keep raising the matter with the Afghan government.
Question: United States historically has been the largest donor of Pakistan in the development sector. However, USAID has pulled out of Pakistan and their programs have been shut down. Can you please provide data regarding the aid previously been given to Pakistan? Similarly, Australian Aid has also halted its operations in Pakistan. What is the response of Foreign Office on the matter and do you think this is a failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy since Prime Minister Khan and President Trump met twice last year? (Tariq Mehmood Hum News)
Answer: I will get more information on the development projects and aid currently underway in Pakistan. I don’t have the budgetary figures regarding AUSAID and USAID but I will get them and revert. We have many development partners across the globe, and this is just one facet of our bilateral relationships with these countries. However, I don’t agree with your assertion that this is a failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy, but I respect your opinion.
Question: What is Pakistan’s stance on the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States? Secondly, you issued a press release yesterday, regarding the exchange of prisoners’ list, how many prisoners has India handed over to Pakistan? (Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)
Answer: Under the Consular Access Agreement 2008 between Pakistan and India, this exchange of lists related to prisoners in each other’s custody is done twice a year, on 1st January and 1st July, respectively. The Government of India handed over a list of 267 Pakistani civilians and 99 fishermen in Indian jails. Pakistan handed over a list of 282 Indian prisoners (55 civil + 227 fishermen), in Pakistan, to India. A press release was issued on this matter.
In response to your first question, I would like to state that we have taken note of the recent developments, but I cannot comment further since it is a bilateral matter between the two states.
Pakistan has globally raised the issue of Indian atrocities and the human rights’ situation in IOJ&K after 5 August. However, we see a slowdown in recent weeks. The international response is also not adequate to the draconian measures undertaken by India in the region. How do you see this?
Secondly, is there any development on the offer of mediation by several countries, including the US, between Pakistan and India on the escalation of tensions between the two states?(Asghar Ali Mubarak)
Answer: I have already given a comprehensive overview of the efforts made by Pakistan to sensitize the international community regarding the sufferings of the people of IoJ&K and the humanitarian crisis brewing there. This is not just Pakistan’s concern but of all those who believe in the rule of law and believe in human rights. I don’t agree that there is a lull in our diplomatic campaign to raise awareness on this matter, our efforts continue. We will continue to raise this matter on every international forum and at every bilateral interaction.