[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,
It has come to my notice that there are some issues faced by media personnel, within their respective media houses. I, from this forum, would urge that all matters should be addressed through dialogue, aimed at realizing an amicable solution.
As you are aware, our High Commissioner was called in by the Indian Foreign Secretary late yesterday night regarding the telephone conversation by our Foreign Minister with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
You would recall that on 29 January 2019, Foreign Minister spoke with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman All Parties Hurriyat Conference on phone and briefed him on the efforts of the government of Pakistan to highlight the gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Foreign Minister also informed Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the upcoming events, being organized by British MPs in London at the House of Commons and the exhibition being held in London on 4-5 February 2019 respectively. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq greatly appreciated the efforts of the Government of Pakistan and also said that he would have wanted to be present for the London events, but his passport and those of his contemporaries, had been confiscated by the government of India, to prevent them from travelling abroad. Our High Commissioner was called by the Indian Foreign Secretary in this backdrop.
You must have seen our Press Release whereby Pakistan has categorically rejected the baseless allegations raised by India, including its delusional insistence on Jammu & Kashmir being its part.
The Foreign Secretary summoned the Indian High Commissioner today and registered Pakistan’s strong protest at the calling-in of our High Commissioner for extending political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris which has been Pakistan’s consistent, public policy. She stressed the internationally recognized disputed status of the Jammu and Kashmir, which remains on the agenda of the UNSC Resolutions and emphasized that Pakistan would continue to support the Kashmiris politically, morally and diplomatically.
Let me emphasize once and for all that the disputed status of Jammu & Kashmir is internationally accepted, as evident from the fact that it remains on the UNSC agenda. No amount of Indian insistence to the contrary can change that. Indian attempt to equate the legitimate and indigenous struggle of the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination with terrorism is a travesty. It has been Pakistan’s consistent and stated policy to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiris. The dramatic late-night summoning of our High Commissioner, which took place last night, is just Indian political gimmickry and electioneering. It is your election and you should not try to acquire votes at our expense.
Now some updates from Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where Indian atrocities against innocent Kashmiris have intensified.
Indian occupation forces, during the so-called search and cordon operations, martyred six (6) Kashmiris namely Suhaib Farooq Akhoon, Mohsin Mushtaq Bhat, Nasir Ahmad Darzi, Saqib Shafi Dar, Aijaz Rasool Wani including an unidentifiable body of a Kashmiri youth as the body was completely burnt. These incidents took place in Srinagar, Baramulla and Kupwara districts of the Indian occupied territory.
We urge the international community, especially the upholders of human rights, to call upon India to immediately put an end to the human rights atrocities in IOK.
I also wish to highlight that the 5th of next month, which marks the Kashmir Solidarity day, will also be commemorative of the 26th year of detention of Dr. Qasim Faktoo, husband of Aasiya Andrabi Sahiba. Both husband and wife remain incarcerated in Indian jail on trumped up charges. Their continuing detention is a gross human rights violation and needs to end forthwith.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
As you are all aware the Foreign Minister is currently on a bilateral visit to Oman (29-31 January 2019) and is leading a 12-member delegation of Technical Experts representing various sectors of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. During the visit, the 7th Session of the Joint Ministerial Commission between the two countries was co-chaired by the two Foreign Ministers, followed by signing of bilateral Accords.
During the meeting of Foreign Minister with his Omani counterpart, the Foreign Minister conveyed greetings to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, praising His Majesty’s five decades of visionary, sagacious leadership. He appreciated the role of the 272,000 Pakistani community in Oman. The Foreign Minister also shared Pakistan’s policy for ‘Visa on Arrival’ for Omanis that shall boost people to people exchange, tourism and business opportunities.
The Foreign Minister also participated in a mega reception of close to a thousand Pakistanis in Oman and distributed ‘Certificates of Appreciation’ to Pakistanis, Omanis and people from other nationalities, for their contributions to Pakistan-Oman Friendship.
On 28 January 2019, the Foreign Minister chaired a forum on Glorious Gandhara Heritage in MoFA. The Forum was attended by the High Commissioners / Ambassadors of China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand & Vietnam as well as Experts on Gandhara Civilization. Sites sacred to followers of many religions including Buddhism are located in Pakistan and have a potential to attract foreigners belonging to various religions. Gandhara Forum has been established in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On 28 January 2019, Foreign Minister met the British High Commissioner Thomas Drew at the Foreign Office. During the meeting, the two sides discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. The Foreign Minister highlighted the continued atrocities perpetrated by the security forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), which have been confirmed by the reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and All Parties Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPGK) in the British Parliament.
On 28 January 2019, the Members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee led by Senator Mushahid Hussain, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, held a meeting with the Foreign Minister at the Foreign Office to deliberate on the recent intensified Indian atrocities in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK). The Foreign Minister apprised the members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee of the efforts undertaken by the Government to highlight the gross human rights violations in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. He stressed that the Reports by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UK’s All Parties Parliamentary Kashmir Group (APPKG), confirm the atrocities being perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Let me also update you that due to relentless efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan Embassy in Kabul and Pakistani Consulate in Kandahar, a Pakistani prisoner, Mr. Ijaz Shah s/o Khan Badshah, resident of Mirpur, Karachi was released seven months prior to the completion of his sentence and handed over, by the Afghan authorities, as a goodwill gesture.
I thank you.
Now the floor is open for questions.
Reportedly, the Taliban have appointed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as their delegation head, for the talks between the US and Taliban. Can you confirm this development? How his appointment will impact the ongoing process of negotiations between Taliban and the US?
Secondly, the Pakistan and Indian High Commissioners, were summoned recently in New Delhi and Islamabad respectively, regarding the issue of phone call between Foreign Minister of Pakistan and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman All Parties Hurriyat Conference. Do you see any positive impact, of this summoning of the High Commissioners, by the two countries in future? (Mr. Mazhar Iqbal – Public TV)
Regarding your first question, yes Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has been appointed as the Chief of the Taliban’s political office in Doha for talks between the US and Taliban and this is producing positive results.
Regarding your second question, it is a standard diplomatic norm to call in Ambassadors/High Commissioners to place on record any protest or issue. The Indian High Commissioner was summoned to Foreign Office, today, to convey Pakistan’s stated position that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is an outstanding issue and remains on the UNSC agenda. The Indian government claims that this is an internal matter, however, this claim does not have any legal or moral standing. This stance contravenes the pledges made by their founding fathers to the United Nations and the international community and violates the stipulations of the UNSC Resolution regarding the holding of a free and fair plebiscite. Likewise, this is also a negation of the Simla and Lahore Accords. In 2015, we were ready to hold talks, when Indian External Affairs Minister visited Pakistan and the Jammu and Kashmir dispute was the fundamental issue upon which dialogue was to be conducted. Had it been their internal issue, what was the point for holding a dialogue. Importantly, these recent events are a result of the domestic happenings in India as they are approaching their general elections.
There are reports that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has opposed the withdrawal of American Troops from Afghanistan. Do you think that this statement will affect the ongoing peace process? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malick – Daily Metro Watch)
This is an internal matter of Afghanistan and the resolution will be reached by the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan Government and we are hopeful that they will reach an agreement.
Amrullah Saleh has tweeted, “The determination & will for peace has always been in Kabul but the key to peace has always been hostage in GHQ Rawalpindi. Afghans have been victims not culprits, so a package to re-victimize a victimized nation & condemn it to humiliation isn’t practical or sustainable.”
This is a first ever attack by the Afghan Interior Minister on Pakistan’s military, since he took oath. In your opinion, how will this statement affect the Afghan peace process? (Mr. Shabbir Waghra – PTV World)
Pakistan, on the request of Afghanistan and the US is facilitating direct talks between Taliban and the US in good faith and in the spirit of shared responsibility. There are actors in Afghanistan and the region whose interest is served by perpetual conflict in the country. Such characters have scuttled attempts of peace talks in the past and are trying to undermine the ongoing Afghan peace process. While efforts to settle the decades old bloody conflict in Afghanistan are underway, the Afghan people, the US and the Taliban must remain watchful of these detractors and expose them so that their nefarious designs do not undermine the nascent peace initiative.
Do you think that the summoning of Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi will affect the Kartarpur Corridor initiative in any manner?
Secondly, Aasia Bibi’s Review Petition has been rejected by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. How do you see this development? (Ms. Rashida Sial – Aab Takk)
There are reports about Aasia Bibi that she has already left the country. Can you please confirm? (Mr. Khurram Shahzad – APP)
Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad has said that India has appointed its focal person, for the Kartarpur corridor? Have you received an official communiqué from India to this extent? (Mr. Naveed Siddiqui – Dawn News)
Sir, as I also highlighted, in the previous press briefing, as well, about the Aasia Bibi issue. I would like to seek further clarification from the Foreign Office regarding her status? (Mr. Salman Hashmi – Forensic Eye)
Firstly, the summoning of both the High Commissioners has already been dealt with in this briefing. Secondly, there is no bearing of these events on the Kartarpur initiative. It is a separate matter. However, if you will continue violating human rights in Jammu and Kashmir and try to keep it unresolved, Pakistan shall raise its voice. Also, in the press release issued by the Indian External Affairs Ministry, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was declared to be a terrorist. India needs introspection, because if he is a terrorist then who is India going to talk to. This is not an unprecendeted phone call because whenever Pakistani delegations, Ministers or the Prime Ministers visited India, they have met with the Hurriyet leadership. This has happened in full media glare. Similarly, our High Commissioner is constantly in contact with the Hurriyet leadership.
Regarding the question on Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan nominated a focal person prior to the nomination by the Indian Government. Importantly, Pakistan also gave an invitation to India for holding a dialogue. The Indian nomination was done on Tuesday, 29 January 2019, even though Pakistan had already nominated its focal person on Monday, 28 January 2019. India tried to give the impression that they had not received Pakistan’s letter. This is childish behaviour on the part of the Indian government. However, Pakistan hopes to take the process forward.
Moving forth, regarding the Aasia Bibi issue, the Supreme Court’s verdict is a public document and there is no secrecy surronding the matter. The Supreme Court decision will be implemented. To the best of my knowledge, she is still in Pakistan. However, I would like to state that she is a free citizen of Pakistan and there are no restrictions on her movement, as per law.
It is reported that the Saudi Crown Prince is expected to visit Pakistan. Can you please share the details of his visit? (Mr. Adeel Warriach – Dunya TV)
This visit holds immense significance for Pakistan. Soon, a Curtain Raiser will be issued, which will carry the necessary details of the visit.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan has ordered that the Torkham Border be opened for 24 hours a day. What will be the implications of this step on Pak-Afghan trade ties and confidence building measures? Your comments please! (Mr. Tariq Mehmood – Hum TV)
We have always emphasized the need for expanding economic and trade links, enhancing people-to-people and cultural exchanges and deepening connectivity between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan has taken various measures to facilitate Afghan trade in recent years.
Pakistan is the largest market for Afghan exports. Afghanistan’s exports to Pakistan are almost 60% of its total exports. We consume 90% of Afghan fresh fruits and vegetables. Last year as result of Pakistan’s decision to waive off regulatory duties on fresh fruit imports from Afghanistan, a 29% increase in Afghan exports to Pakistan was recorded. Moreover, around 60,000 people commute across Pakistan-Afghanistan border on a daily basis.
This measure announced by the Prime Minister of keeping the Torkham Border open 24 hours, is a major step to promote bilateral trade and transit of goods between the two countries and also to facilitate enhanced people to people contacts. Pakistan will take more such steps to further solidify economic and trade relations as well as the strong bonds between the peoples of the two countries.
A Pakistan delegation is in India, to inspect the water works project on Chenab River. Previously, India, on one pretext or the other, has refused inspection of these projects, mandated under the IWT. Do you consider this as a positive step?
Secondly, there are media reports that a seventeen years old mentally challenged youngster in Zafarwal Sector along the border has accidently crossed over into India, where he has been detained. Has the Foreign Office taken up this issue with the concerned authorities in India? (Mr. Asim Ali Rana – ARY News)
Yes, we have raised this issue with India. We have sought further details on the matter. The preliminary reports are that this mentally challenged youngster inadvertantly crossed into India.
On your first question, the inspection tours are obligatory for both sides under the Indus Waters Treaty. The last tour was conducted in 2014. Since then, Pakistan has repeatedly called on the Indian side to arrange the tours of inspection, including during the 115th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission held in August 2018. The tour has thus materialized after an extended lapse. That in itself answers your question. India remains in the violation of the IWT on KHEP and RHEP and the matter pends with the World Bank for the empanelment of the Court of Arbitration.
Sir, reportedly the Spokesperson of Taliban’s Political Office in Qatar Mr. Sohail Shaheen has said that the Taliban are not looking for monopoly of power inside Afghanistan in the future. This statement has come when reportedly positive strides have been made in the second round of US-Taliban dialogue. Would you like to comment on this statement? (Mr. M. Jaleel – VoA)
It is an intra-Afghan issue and therefore, I do not have any comments to offer.
Sir, my question relates to the reports coming in of an apparent agreement of withdrawal of troops in 18 months and ceasefire between Taliban and the US. Would you like to comment on this?
Secondly, Pakistan’s efforts have not been appreciated by the US, Taliban or any of the other stakeholders. What is your take on this? (Mr. Shahid Maitla – Bol TV)
Firstly, I would like to state that this is a highly sensitive matter and we should deal with it delicately, because in the past, false reports have surfaced. Therefore, I would not comment on the issue prematurely. However, I would state that things are moving in a positive direction.
In response to the second question, Pakistan does not need anybody’s appreciation regarding its deep and warm relations with Afghanistan and its contribution to the peace process.
Russian Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov called on Foreign Minister at MoFA recently. What are the proposals put forth by the Russian Representative? (Mr. Mateen Haider – G-TV)
Russian Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov called on the Foreign Minister at MoFA. He also held in-depth consultations with the Foreign Secretary on the regional political situation and Afghan peace process. During the meeting, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi appreciated the growing international consensus on the need to settle the decades old conflict through political process. The two sides agreed to continue regular consultations on the Afghan peace process and support regional initiatives to bring lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region.
In a recent statement, Mr. Shiv Shankar Menon, former Foreign Secretary of India, has alleged that Pakistan is spreading terrorism in the region and targeting India. How would you see this statement? (Mr. Hamza Rehman – APP)
India appears to be consistent in its flights of fancy and paranoia. It is India which callously continues with its state sponsored terrorism in IOK despite international condemnation. India should introspect and alleviate Pakistan’s concerns about use of Afghan soil for launching terrorist activities in Pakistan instead of indulging in far-fetched allegations which have become routine hyperbole.
Sir, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was extended an invitation by the Foreign Minister to attend the Kashmir Solidarity Day event in London. Have similar invitations been extended to other Kashmir leadership like Syed Ali Gilani, Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah? (Mr. Naveed Akbar – Aaj News)
I would like to state that the Kashmiri leadership does not require an invitation to attend this event as it is a Kashmiri event, planned and hosted by Kashmiris in London.
As per the recent judgment of the Supreme Court, the apex Court’s jurisdiction has been extended to Gilgit-Baltistan. On this development, India summoned our High Commissioner and stated that Gilgit-Baltistan is integral part of India. Your comments please!
Moreover, as per the UNSC Resolution, local administrative authority can be established. When will this be implemented? This concern has been raised because of the reports that the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2019, as submitted in the Supreme Court, takes away the powers delegated to the Gilgit-Baltistan government as per the 2018 Gilgit-Baltistan Order. Your take on this please! (Mr. Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)
Sir, as per the recent judgment of Supreme Court, it has been stipulated that Gilgit-Baltistan can constitutionally be made a province of Pakistan. What is the Foreign Office’s stance on this? (Mr. Izhar-ul-Haque – Radio Pakistan)
I would refute these reports and vehemently state that this Order will only increase the powers of the Gilgit-Baltistan government. You need to look at the Supreme Court decision in detail. It must be appreciated that Pakistan has empowered the local authorities of former Jammu & Kashmir state – under its control. Conversely, the territories under the Indian occupation live under constant duress and in an environment of oppression.
Furthermore, it must be stated that this is a disputed region till the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is resolved as per the UNSC Resolutions.
Gilgit-Baltistan cannot be made a province of Pakistan as it is a part of the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, Pakistan seeks a resolution of Kashmir dispute as per UNSC Resolutions. However, the people belonging to the region have the right to attain education, health and other fundamental rights.
The Indian Supreme Court in the context of the recent Pakistani Supreme Court judgment is set to pronounce a verdict regarding the status of Articles 35-A & 370 of the Indian Constitution. Will the Pakistani government lodge a protest in this regard? (Mr. Haider Sherazi – G-News)
Pakistan, unequivocally, rejects the trampling upon the fundamental rights and the ongoing violence against the Kashmiri people. Pakistan is desirous of resolving this issue via dialogue and discussion. On the other hand, the Indian government keeps on changing its position as, at times it accepts, whereas at other times, it rejects the proposals to hold talks. There is an inherent confusion in the Indian foreign policy, whereas, the Pakistani position is clear and unambiguous.
Ms. Roohi Bano, died recently in Turkey. What is the Pakistani mission in Turkey doing in order to repatriate her dead body to Pakistan?
Secondly, Russian News Agency Sputnik has reported that some suspicious helicopters have dropped Daesh militants at the Tajikistan border, from near the Pakistani border, in Afghanistan. This is a clear threat to Russia. How would you like to respond to this? (Mr. Faisal Raza Khan – 92 News)
In response to your second question, we have already stated that the presence of Daesh militants along the Pak-Afghan border is a matter of grave concern to us. This should be addressed at the earliest by the authorities. There is an ongoing dialogue with Afghanistan to resolve this issue. However, I will seek further details of this specific incident and revert.
In response to your first question, the demise of Ms. Roohi Bano, is a tragic news. Our Mission and Consulate in Ankara and Istanbul are in touch with her family for all logistic/administrative facilitation requested by them. To the best of my knowledge she has been buried in Turkey and the family is yet to decide on the transportation of deceased’s remains.
Till now, the Taliban have remained averse to talking to the Afghan government directly. Now when there are reports of significant progress having been made in the peace talks, will the third round of these negotiations involve representatives from the Afghan National government? What role has Pakistan, till now, played in persuading the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government directly? To what extent, do you consider, has Pakistan been able to persuade the Taliban into talks with the Afghan government?
Secondly, Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence USA, has said in a testimony before the US Senate that Pakistan will not mend its ways and use terrorism as a ploy against the countries in the region. How will this affect the US-Pak relations? (Mr. Anas Mallick – Wion TV)
Taliban Spokesperson has said that the next round of talks between Taliban and US will be held in Qatar on the 25th of February. Would you like to share some details regarding this? (Mr. M. Jaleel – VoA)
At the outset, I would not comment on the ongoing Afghan peace process. Pakistan only wishes that Afghan leadership reaches a solution to this conflict by the means of dialogue.
Regarding your second question, we have seen remarks by DNI Daniel Coats before a Senate Committee. His comments on Pakistan in the context of terrorism are unwarranted and unjustifiable. Pakistan has made exemplary contributions in eliminating the threat of terrorism from the region and rendered immense sacrifices in this cause. Pakistan continues to play a crucial role in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. Today, our role for stabilizing the region is being acknowledged by the US leadership including President Trump. We have raised the DNI’s statement with the US side stressing that such controversial statements are counterproductive and urging them to build trust rather than weaken it. Such motivated statements which are devoid from reality have the potential to adversely impact the joint efforts for peace and stability in the region and need to be avoided.
Is the Gandhara initiative a new development? What are the details regarding this? (Mr. Shahid-ur-Rehman – Kyodo News)
Yes, this is a new development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to arrange a number of events in order to highlight the Gandhara heritage in Pakistan. The Ministry will continue to vigorously pursue this initiative.