[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 of the Foreign Office Press Corps,
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 since 179 days. Over 8 million people in the IOJ&K remain cut-off from the world.
Indian Occupation Forces in their recent acts of state terrorism have martyred five Kashmiris including Burhan Ahmad Shaikh and Shahid Ahmad in Pulwama and Kulgam.
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.
On 25th January Indian forces once again carried out indiscriminate and unprovoked firing in Chirikot Sector of LoC that resulted in serious injuries to 21 year old Laiba, w/o Naqeeb, resident of village Serian. Consequently, the Foreign Office summoned a senior diplomat of the High Commission of India to register our strong protest at the ceasefire violations by Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control (LoC).
As you are aware of the situation emerging from the outbreak of the corona virus in China. The Chinese government at the highest level has taken extraordinary measures to contain the virus and to take safety and preventive measures for the welfare of all people in China. WHO has also lauded the massive scale of measures taken by the Government of China.
Earlier today, the Foreign Minister in his statement reiterated that the Government, people and leadership of Pakistan stand by the Chinese people and leadership in their valiant efforts to bring the Coronavirus under control and support the measures taken by China in that regard.
The Chinese authorities have made monumental efforts to deal with Coronavirus. China has taken swift, strong and effective measures to contain the outbreak at a scale that is unprecedented in dealing with a challenge of this nature. The top Chinese leadership has been overseeing the disease control efforts.
The global community has widely appreciated China’s efforts. Director General World Health Organization, in his recent visit to China, has appreciated the seriousness with which China has handled the outbreak. Secretary General UN has also lauded China’s efforts in this regard.
For our part, we stand ready to extend every possible assistance to our Chinese brethren to help deal with the aftermath of Coronavirus. We are also extremely thankful to the Chinese government for extending best possible assistance to Pakistani nationals in China. We have no doubt that the brotherly Chinese people will overcome this challenge with their characteristic strength and resilience.
The Government of Pakistan is constantly monitoring the evolving situation. A high-powered Technical Committee has been established with representation of all stakeholders. All possible measures for the safety and welfare of our nationals are being taken and will be taken by the Government. The Embassy and our Consulates have reached out extensively to all students and have been in touch with Chinese officials. We have been ensured that the safety and welfare of our nationals will be assured. We wish to reassure everyone on this matter.
As you are aware, National Health Institute has issued advisories. An emergency center was formed in the Ministry of Health in collaboration with National Institute of Health (NIH). All updated information is available on NIH.org.pk.
The Foreign Minister is currently in Kenya as part of our outreach to African nation states, strengthening bilateral relations and collectively as a region. Republic of Kenya is Pakistan’s top export partner in Africa. Our two countries enjoy excellent bilateral relations. We seek to further enhance and broaden these relations. The Foreign Minister’s visit is part of our initiative to engage deeply with African countries in all spheres of mutual interest including trade and economic diplomacy. Towards this end, the Foreign Minister held several important meetings. In addition to bilateral interactions in Nairobi, the Foreign Minister would be participating in the two day, Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference which has commenced today. The Conference is also in continuation of the Engage Africa Conference held in November at the Foreign Office. Delegates from the public and private sector from more than 20 African countries are attending the Conference, as well as over 100 Pakistani businessmen representing a broad range of sectors including Textile, Agro-foods, Services, Pharmaceuticals, Engineering, Surgical, Cement, Sports Goods, Auto Industry and Cosmetics.
Question: We have seen the statement of Foreign Office on the Middle East Peace Plan announced by President Trump. The President of Palestine has rejected the plan, saying it is biased and favorable to Israel. What is Pakistan’s stance? How Pakistan doessupport its Palestinian brethren? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)
Answer: Pakistan has consistently supported a two-state solution, as enshrined in the relevant Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.
Pakistan continues to support a just and lasting solution of the Palestinian issue, through dialogue and negotiations, that leads to the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including the right of self-determination.
We renew our call for the establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine, on the basis of internationally-agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders, and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
Question: There is a lot of anxiety and concern amongst the families of Pakistani nationals/students,who are struck in Wuhan City, China. Why Pakistan is not evacuating its citizens from the affected areas, whereas other countries have started evacuating their citizens? (Zarghoon Shah, Geo TV)
Supplementary Question: Is there any plan of Government of Pakistan to evacuate its citizens/students from Wuhan and other cities of China? (Aijaz, GNN)
Supplementary Question: The contact details of the Embassy and Consulates have been shared with us. What are they actually doing for Pakistani citizens stranded in China? (Adeel Waraich, Dunya News)
Supplementary Question: It has been learnt that citizens of other countries have been rescued and evacuated, whereas no such thing has been done for Pakistani citizens. I contacted Pakistan Embassy in China and got a response that the Foreign Office would be issuing a statement in this regard. Our Embassy should also be allowed to make such statements. What is your comment please? (Umar Hayat Khan, Bol News)
Supplementary Question: As it was informed that four Pakistanis have been tested positive for coronovirus. Are their families in contact with the Foreign Office? What measures are being taken to facilitate them? Are there any reports of other Pakistani infected with coronovirus? Asghar Ali Mubarak, PPA)
Supplementary Question: Is there any plan to close borders with China or place restrictions on Chinese Airlines? (Naveed Siddique, Dawn News)
Supplementary Question: Pakistani students in Wuhan are expressing concerns regarding their well being and are requesting for their evacuation like students and citizens of other countries, who are being rescued/evacuated. (Mr. Muhammad Jalil, VOA Urdu)
Supplementary Question: There are reports since morning that some Pakistani doctors, engineers and other nationals are stranded at Urumqi due to flight cancellation. Reportedly, they are not accommodated in a hotel and are stranded at airport. (M. Zulqarnain, ARY)
Answer: Regarding flight delay in Urumqi, we have received information that flight has been delayed. We have contacted Chinese authorities and requested for the accommodation and facilitation of Pakistani citizens until the next flight.
As for your questions on coronavirus, I have already said in my opening statement that Pakistan is consistently monitoring the evolving situation. All stakeholders are members of a high-powered Technical Committee,which is reviewing the situation and will be presenting its recommendations for the best possible solutions for the well being and safety of our people.
The Embassy and our Consulates have reached out extensively to all students, who were in the Embassy database, and have been in touch with the Chinese officials. We have also appealed all those Pakistani nationals and students who were not registered with the Embassy to contact the Embassy hotline numbers so that their concerns are addressed and they are properly looked after. We have been ensured that the safety and welfare of our nationals will be assured. We have also raised the issue of shortage of food with the Chinese authorities and with university administration so that these issues are addressed accordingly.
As per current available information, no country has evacuated its citizen from China. However, some countries have talked to the Chinese authorities in this regard. As for Khunjrab border the government of Gilgit Baltistan has rescheduled its opening. Now it will be opened in April.
Question: It has been reported that Secretary General of the United Nations is visiting Pakistan next month. What is the agenda of his visit?(Khalid Mehmood, Express TV)
Answer: I will check and revert.
Question: The Indian media is reporting that India is preparing for forty days war with Pakistan. How does Pakistan see this threat? (Khawaja Nayyar, Daily Kashmir Post)
Answer: Unfortunately, it has become a pattern for the Indian leadership to create a war hysteria and jingoistic environment against Pakistan and its people. You also saw our press release issued yesterday in which we have firmly rejected the recent irresponsible statement made by the Indian Prime Minister. These remarks are another reflection of India’s incurable obsession with Pakistan and the BJP Government and its leadership’s desperate attempts to divert attention from the growing domestic and international criticism of their discriminatory,anti-Kashmir and anti-minority policies.No one should underestimate the resolve of the people and the armed forces of Pakistan to effectively thwart any aggressive action.