Recent report by EU DisinfoLab has once again corroborated our long held position about India’s anti-Pakistan propaganda against Pakistan.: Zahid Hafeez

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 22 April, 2021

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Assalaam-o-Alaikum and welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.

Let me begin by strongly condemning yesterday’s terrorist attack in Quetta.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the martyred and wish quick recovery to those injured.

Pakistan has made countless sacrifices in its fight against terrorism.

Such cowardly acts cannot shake our resolve to resolutely fight the scourge of terrorism.

Thorough investigations, from all angles, are being carried out in the Quetta blast.

Pakistan will pursue the perpetrators of this heinous act and bring them to justice.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi paid an official visit to the United Arab Emirate (UAE) from 17th to 19th April 2021.

This was his second visit to the UAE during the past five months.

The visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the UAE.

During the visit, the Foreign Minister met with his counterpart, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

He also met with the UAE’s Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner General of EXPO 2020 Dubai, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and other dignitaries.

The Foreign Minister’s other engagements included interaction with the business leaders, members of the Pakistan Business Council, local and international media, and members of the Pakistani diaspora.

The two Foreign Ministers discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and ways to further enhance bilateral cooperation in diverse areas including trade, investment, infrastructure, energy, technology, tourism and manpower.

In addition, future strategies to provide fresh impetus to existing Pakistan – UAE ties were also discussed.

Highlighting the positive role of Pakistani expatriates in the UAE’s economic development, Foreign Minister Qureshi emphasized the need for further strengthening people-to-people linkages, as well as removing impediments that hamper travel between the two countries.

Both sides also exchanged views on regional and global issues including the human rights situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Qureshi reiterated his invitation to Foreign Minister Abdullah to visit Pakistan, which he graciously accepted.

As we speak, Foreign Minister Qureshi is undertaking a 3-day official visit to Iran, on the invitation of his Iranian counterpart.

As part of his official engagements, the Foreign Minister called on Iranian President Dr. Hassan Rouhani and Speaker of the Parliament Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.

He also held delegation-level talks with Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif.

During the Foreign Minister’s meeting with President Rouhani, ways to strengthen bilateral ties in diverse fields with a focus on economic cooperation and development, as envisioned by Prime Minister Khan, were discussed.

Foreign Minister thanked President Rouhani for his support to the Prime Minister’s initiative to establish border markets and opening of international border crossing point at Mand-Pishin.

The two leaders also discussed the situation in IIOJK and the rising Islamophobia trends.

During the Foreign Minister’s meeting with the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, the two sides discussed Pak-Iran bilateral relations, ways to promote existing ties, and to utilize parliamentary exchanges to develop common understanding on issues of mutual interest.

During the delegation-level talks between the two Foreign Ministers, views were exchanged on a range of bilateral and regional issues.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two sides on the establishment of Border Sustenance Marketplaces was also signed.

Both leaders appreciated the opening of Mand-Pishin border crossing which besides enhancing trade, travel and people-to-people contacts would also facilitate movement of Zaireen from Pakistan to Iran.

Taking stock of the regional situation, Foreign Minister Qureshi appreciated Iran’s consistent support to the Kashmir cause and its contribution towards the Afghan Peace Process.

It was also agreed that the two countries would continue to collaborate closely to counter the trend of Islamophobia.

Foreign Minister Qureshi’s visit to Iran is part of the regular high-level exchanges between the two brotherly countries.

Foreign Minister Qureshi received a call from his Afghan counterpart, Hanif Atmar on 18th April 2021.

During the call, the two Foreign Ministers discussed the latest developments in the Afghan Peace Process and ways to further strengthen bilateral relations.

Highlighting Pakistan’s abiding interest in a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan; Foreign Minister Qureshi underscored Pakistan’s consistent policy to facilitate the Afghan Peace Process.

He hoped that Afghan parties would work constructively to achieve shared objective of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

With a view to continue close consultations, the Foreign Minister invited his Afghan counterpart to visit Pakistan, which he accepted.

Pakistan has secured the membership of three key UN bodies in the recent elections held at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which is one of the principle organs of the United Nations.

The three bodies include:

Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ);
Commission on the Status of Women (CSW); and
Commission on Population and Development (CPD).

These Commissions play a pivotal role in enhancing international cooperation on various social and economic issues.

Pakistan’s simultaneous election to these three important Commissions is a reflection of the international community’s confidence in Pakistan’s active role and constructive contributions at the United Nations.

Coming to the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK).

We remain concerned over the grave human rights situation in IIOJK.

The military siege, extrajudicial killings, incarcerations of Kashmiri leadership and unprecedented restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of the Kashmiri people continue to this day.

According to the latest report by the Concerned Group of Citizens, since Indian illegal and unilateral actions of August 5th, 2019, the “pervasive sense of fear, humiliation and hopelessness among the Kashmiri people” and anti-India sentiment in the valley has increased manifolds.

The report noted with concern the ‘double lockdown’ under which Kashmiris are being pushed to live.

It further added that the recent actions by the Indian Central Government are being viewed by Kashmiris as an attempt to “diminish their political entities and shrinking their democratic political space.”

The latest letter by the UN Special Rapporteurs also expressed serious concerns on the domicile laws, which the Rapporteurs opined, had posed a threat to the linguistic, cultural and religious rights of the communities living in Kashmir, including Muslims, Dogras, Sikhs, and others.

Pakistan has repeatedly underlined that the illegal demographic changes being undertaken in IIOJK, including the domicile rules are in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions, the UN Charter and international law including the 4th Geneva Convention.

There is an immediate need to check India’s implementation of an elaborate strategy of military occupation, land confiscation, influx of non-Kashmiris, and creation of alien settlements in IIOJK.

The international community must use all tools at its disposal to urge India to rescind its illegal and unilateral actions since 5 August, 2019 and to end its gross and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK.

I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.

Question: The Interior Minister in his press briefing has once again referred to India’s nefarious designs against Pakistan and its failed attempts to derail peace in the country. He also referred to the recent report by EU DisinfoLab, which he said, has exposed India’s smear disinformation campaign against Pakistan. Given such circumstances, do you think that pursuing peace with India is an option? (Khawaja Nayyer, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: Do you think that the recent terrorist incident in Quetta was targeted at Chinese delegation as suggested by some media reports? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)

Supplementary Question: What is the current status of Pakistan-India peace process? What are the future prospects of any bilateral dialogue? Is there any potential role for UAE in peace talks between Pakistan and India?

As previously stated by MoFA, there is no back channel diplomacy taking place between the two countries at the moment. Can you please share, which channel is being utilized between the two countries for talks? (AsadHashim, Aljazeera)

Supplementary Question: According to the initial reports, the target of yesterday’s incident in Quetta was Chinese Ambassador and the accompanying delegation. What are your comments? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: Following the findings of EU Disinfo Lab report last year, we have repeatedly highlighted India’s global disinformation campaign against Pakistan.

The recent report by EU DisInfoLab has once again corroborated our long held position about India’s anti-Pakistan propaganda against Pakistan.

As for the yesterday’s tragic incident in Quetta is concerned, in this regard, you must have seen the press briefing by the Interior Minister in which he had shared some details.

Thorough investigations, from all angles, are being carried out in the Quetta blast and as I stated earlier, Pakistan will pursue the perpetrators of this heinous act and bring them to justice.

Regarding the presence of Chinese Ambassador at the hotel during yesterday’s Quetta incident,Chinese Ambassador at the time of incident was not present in the hotel.

All Chinese nationals are safe and the concerned authorities are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of Chinese diplomats and nationals.

As for the possibility of any future engagement between Pakistan and India, Pakistan has consistently underscored the need for a ‘meaning dialogue’with India and peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues including the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir.

However, for any ‘meaningful’ and ‘result oriented dialogue’ to take place, a ‘conducive’ and ‘enabling environment is of utmost importance. We believe that India, through its illegal and unilateral actions of august 5th 2019 has vitiated the environment, therefore, the onus is on India to create an enabling environment so that a ‘meaning’ and ‘result-oriented’ dialogue can take place.

As for the role of third countries, including the UAE, Pakistan has always highlighted the importance of the role by the international community in averting risks to the regional peace and stability and facilitating a lasting resolution to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, in accordance with the UNSC resolutions which call for a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices.

Question: While Pakistan condemns the treatment meted out to the journalists in IIOJK, however, chose to remain silent on the recent incident that took place in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK), in which a journalist was attacked and later sent to Jail. How do you comment on that?

Secondly, has Prime Minister of AJK written any letter to the Federal Government, conveying his reservations on the recently introduced reforms for Gilgit-Baltistan?(Raziq Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)

Answer: A single instance cannot be reasonably used to draw an illogical comparison between the grave human rights situation in IIOJK and the situation in Azad State of Jammu & Kashmir.

There is a continuing military siege, extra-judicial killings, incarceration of Kashmiri leadership and unprecedented restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of Kashmir people living in since India’s illegal and unilateral action of 5th August 2019.

Every possible tool of oppression is being used and every single human right of the Kashmiris people is being violated by the Indian occupation forces in the occupied territory.

The gross and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK are well documented by the UN human rights bodies including the UN Human Rights Commissioner, international human rights and humanitarian organizations and the global media.

As for any isolated incident in the Azad State of Jammu and Kashmir, there are a number of platforms and legal options available for proper redressal.

Regarding the ongoing reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), administrative, political and economic reforms are a long-standing demand of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. The envisaged provisional reforms reflect the aspirations of the indigenous populace of Gilgit-Baltistan.

As for Pakistan’s position on Jammu & Kashmir, there is no change in our principled position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, which remains firmly anchored in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The sanctity of the UNSC resolutions on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains paramount.

Question: Under Vienna Convention is there any provision available to expel the French Ambassador. If so, what will be the response of the European Union if Pakistan takes any such action? (Shamim, Online News Agency)

Answer: All States under the Vienna Convention have been granted the prerogative to take such decisions. However, on this particular issue a resolution has already been moved in the Parliament of Pakistan. I would not like to comment any further on the issue.

Question: You may have seen that India is not cooperating with Pakistan on Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case. Do you think India is trying to sabotage the proceedings of the case, whereas Pakistan remains stuck in its commitment to abide by the judgment of International Court of Justice (ICJ)? (Khalid Azeem Chaudhry, Samaa TV)

Answer: Pakistan remains committed to fully implementing the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s judgment of 17 July 2019. It is hoped that India will cooperate with the Pakistani court in giving full effect to the said judgment.

The Indian side is once again urged to take necessary steps including the appointment of a legal counsel to represent Commander Jadhav in the case so that legal proceedings could be duly concluded and full effect could be given to the judgment of ICJ.

Question: On Tuesday, General McKenzie said to the U.S. House Arms Committee that Pakistan will be the most affected by the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. The consequences could be an increase in terrorist incidents and an influx of refugees. What is your assessment?

Secondly, while speaking at an event, the Afghan NSA said (without naming Pakistan) that “Any further push would mean that there is a direct involvement by a neighbour country which can be very dangerous. Nationalistic forces in Afghanistan are very angry, upset over this. If the limit is passed, then there will be a huge problem for the said neighbour by all Afghans who are there and from within Afghanistan. There could be a huge blowback which can be disruptive for the neighbor.” How do you see this comment by the Afghan NSA? (AnasMallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: Let me reiterate Pakistan‘s position on the Afghanistan issue first.

Pakistan has consistently maintained that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that dialogue and a political settlement through Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process was the only way forward for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Regarding Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, we have played a pivotal role in facilitating the efforts for achieving durable peace and security in Afghanistan including in facilitating (a) the U.S. Taliban Peace Agreement signed in February 2020; (b) the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations on 12 September 2020; and (c) the agreement on Rules and Procedures between the Afghan parties in Doha in December 2020.

Pakistan’s role in this regard has been widely acknowledged and appreciated by the international community.

We do believe that peace and security of Afghanistan indeed has implications for the security of Pakistan. In fact, after Afghanistan, Pakistan has suffered the mist due to the conflict in Afghanistan. Likewise, Pakistan stands to gain from peace in Afghanistan.

Accordingly, Pakistan will continue to work for peace and stability in Afghanistan. In this regard, we remain committed to working closely with the international community for durable peace in Afghanistan.

It is out of our legitimate security concerns and well wishes for the safety and security of Afghan people that we call for an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan leaving no security vacuum that could be exploited by spoilers.

It is, therefore, important that the withdrawal coincides with the progress in the peace process.

A meaningful engagement of the international community for promoting reconstruction and economic development in the post-conflict Afghanistan is also important for ensuring sustainable peace and stability.

Pakistan also believes that another key feature in the efforts for lasting peace and security in Afghanistan should be time-bound and well-resourced plan for return of Afghan refugees to their homeland and their reintegration in Afghanistan.

As for the statement by Afghan NSA, in accordance with our bilateral agreements and mutual understanding reached in Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Security (APAPPS), the two countries have official channels to discuss complete gamut of bilateral relations. Statements that erode mutual trust need to be avoided.

Question: What is Pakistan’s position on the increased troop deployment by Russia along the border with Ukraine? (Nouman Ashfaq, Daily Parliament Times)

Answer: We don’t have any comment to offer on this.

Question: Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia in the end of Ramadan. Is this visit for religious purposes or official in nature? (AdilNizami, Hum News)

Answer: It may be recalled that Prime Minister Imran Khan held a telephonic conversation with the Saudi Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the end of March.

During the conversation, the Saudi Crown Prince had extended an invitation to the Prime Minister, which he accepted.

The dates from both sides are being worked out through diplomatic channels, and will be communicated in due course.

It will be a bilateral visit, in which the entire gamut of bilateral relations as well as the regional situation is likely to come under discussion.

Question: You have mentioned that Pakistan supports responsible and orderly withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Is Pakistan on the same page with Biden Administration on this? (Hassan Riaz, JNN)

Answer: Our position on the orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops in Afghanistan is clear, consistent and well known.

We are working closely with all stakeholders in the Afghan Peace Process, and this includes the U.S.

Question: Are the recent visits by the Foreign Minister to UAE and Iran, and then expected visit of the Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia an attempt to mediate between Iran and the Gulf Countries?

Secondly, can you confirm that Prime Minister is visiting Rwanda in June? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: The entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional as well as international issue of common interest came under discussion during Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s recent visit to the UAE and ongoing visit to Iran.

As for the situation in Gulf, Pakistan has consistently expressed the desire for brotherly relations among the Muslim countries, and we would be happy to play any facilitative role in this regard, as and when required.

As for the visit to Rwanda, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Rwanda in June this year.

Pakistan, being a founding member of the Commonwealth, attaches high priority to the organization and participates in its meetings at the highest level.

The conformation of the Prime Minister’s participation in the meeting in Rwanda will be made in due course.

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