This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,
Firstly, let me give a brief round-up of the activities on the foreign policy front.
Three Kashmiris, Mr. Lateef Ahmad Dar, Molvi Tariq Ahmad Shah and Mr. Shariq Ahmad Negroo embraced shahadat in Shopian district of IOK during so-called cordon and search operations.
In a continuing travesty of human rights, World Press Freedom Day witnessed the heinous murder of 19 journalists in IOK (including Shabbir Ahmed Dar, Mushtaq Ali, Muhammad Shaban Wakeel, a woman scribe Aasiya Jeelani, Ghulam Muhammad Lone, Ghulam Rasool Azad, Pervez Muhammad Sultan, Shujaat Bukhari, Ali Muhammad Mahajan, Syed Ghulam Nabi, Altaf Ahmed Fakhtoo, Saidan Shafi, Tariq Ahmed, Abdul Majid Butt and Javed Ahmed Mir) since 1989, who were killed while performing their duties. IOK remains one of the most dangerous places of the world, for journalists.
The illegally detained journalist, Aasif Sultan, featured among this month’s list of the 10 ‘Most Urgent’ threats to press freedom across the globe. The list is released monthly by the One Free Press Coalition, which was founded by a dozen news organizations including TIME, with the goal of defending journalists under attack.
Pakistan condemns the continuing illegal detention despite deteriorating health of senior Hurriyat leaders, including Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Masarat Alam Butt, Dr Hameed Fayaz, Syeda Aasiya Andrabi, Nahida Nasreen, Fahmida Sofi, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Aiyaz Akbar, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Peer Saifullah, Mehrajudin Kalwal, Farooq Ahmad Dar, Maulana Sarjan Barkati, Qazi Yasir Ahmad, Syed Shahid Yousuf, Syed Shakeel Ahmad, Zahoor Ahmad Watali, Shahid-ul-Islam, Advocate Zahid Ali, Moulana Mushtaq Veeri, Muhammad Yousuf Mir, and over a thousand Hurriyat, activists, and students languishing in notorious Indian Tihar Jail in New Delhi and other different jails and interrogations centres in IOK.
Yesterday, in my capacity as Director General (SA & SAARC), I summoned the Indian Deputy High Commissioner Mr. Gaurav Ahluwalia and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control (LoC) on 2nd and 5th May 2019 resulting in the Shahadat of a 15 years old boy Tahir Hafeez and serious injuries to his 9 years old sister Tahira in Rakhchikri Sector on 2 May 2019 and the martyrdom of Nasreen Bibi and a 12 years old child Muhammad Zahid s/o Shabbir Ahmed with injuries to another civilian lady Sonai Bibi, on 5th May 2019, in Hotspring and Kotkotera Sectors. The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws. Continuing Indian ceasefire violations are a threat to regional peace and tranquility.
Pakistan expressed its deep concern over the statement made by the Indian Finance Minister on 2nd May 2019 about India’s intention to have “Pakistan downgraded on the FATF list”. The statement re-confirms Pakistan’s longstanding concerns that this technical forum is being politicized by India against Pakistan.
India has made several efforts in the past, as well, to politicize the proceedings at FATF. On several previous occasions, calculated leaks were made to the Indian media about the proceedings of FATF, which are strictly confidential. These instances of politicization by India were brought to the attention of the President of FATF by the Finance Minister of Pakistan.
India’s attempts to politicize the proceedings in FATF against Pakistan call into question its credentials for co-chairing and being a member of the Asia Pacific Joint Group that reviews the progress made by Pakistan to implement the FATF Action Plan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited the Sri Lankan High Commission in Islamabad on 3rd May 2019 to offer condolences following Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka. Expressing complete solidarity of the people and government of Pakistan and Pakistan’s unwavering support to Sri Lanka, he strongly condemned the heinous terrorist attacks and conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and offered prayers for speedy recovery of the wounded.
Moreover, by success of our diplomatic efforts, Pakistan was re-elected to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), yesterday. Pakistan secured the highest number of votes – 48 out of 54 – from the Asia-Pacific Group. The Commission membership will be for a four-year term starting, 1 January 2020.
Lastly, we are saddened at the loss of so many precious lives and injuries to several others during an emergency landing by a Russian airliner on 5th May 2019. The people and the Government of Pakistan convey their heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured. We stand by the people of the Russian Federation in their hour of grief.
Question: Firstly, there has been a marked increase in the Defence spending of India. How do you see this development?
Secondly, the petroleum prices are rising because of sanctions being imposed on Iran. How do you analyze the regional situation in this regard? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)
Answer: India has been trying to bring the region into an arms race. Let me say that an increase in the defence budget is not the sole determinant of a nation’s strength. You have seen the results of misadventure by India on 27th February 2019 and the befitting reply given by our military forces.
Regarding your second question, we are closely watching the regional situation regarding Iranand will keep you informed.
Question: There are reports that Aasia Bibi has left Pakistan. Would you like to confirm thesereports?
Secondly, amid the departure of Aasia Bibi, Lahore was jolted by a bomb blast at Data Darbar Shrine, resulting in the loss of more than 10 precious lives. Do you think there is any connection between departure of Aasia Bibi and the bomb blast in Lahore?
Thirdly, there are a number of complaints by the Pakistani community living in Barcelona against the Pakistan’s Consulate. Would you like to shed some light on this? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malik – Daily Metro Watch)
Supplementary Question: When did Aasia Bibi leavePakistan? Was it yesterday or before that?
Secondly, Foreign Secretary met with the Indian High Commissioner a day earlier at the Foreign Office. The meeting took place for almost half an hour. Would you like to inform us that what matters were discussed during the meeting? (Ms. Rashida Sial – Aab Takk)
Answer: Aasia Bibi has left the country. She is a free citizen and can go wherever she wants.
Moving forth, there is no connection between the departure of Aasia Bibi and the bomb blast in Lahore.
Regarding complaints about Pakistan Mission in Barcelona, let me check and get back to you. However, if there is any specific complaint, you may please convey to me separately.
On the meeting of Foreign Secretary with the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad, let me apprise you that such meetings occur regularly to discuss various evolving issues. I cannot disclose the detailed agenda as it does not fallin the media domain.
Question: It has been reported that various stranded Pakistanis regularly face difficulties in Turkey. What is our Mission doing to facilitate these Pakistanis? (Mr. Shakeel Ahmed Kilyana – Dunya Numa)
Answer: We try our best to facilitate our citizens who may be stranded in Turkey. However, if you have any specific details please share and we will convey them to our Ambassador for immediate action.
Question: Did Canada request the Foreign Office to facilitate Aasia Bibi’s departure to Canada? (Mr. Mansoor Gillani – Agence France-Presse)
Answer: I have already commented about Aasia Bibi and have nothing more to add.
Question: FIA recently has apprehended several Chinese nationals for their alleged involvement in human trafficking. Has the Foreign Office raised this matter on the diplomatic front? (Mr. Muhammad Jaleel – VOA)
Answer: The question pertains to the Ministry of Interior.
Question: What is the update on posting of Heads of Mission and Consuls General in various vacant Pakistani missions abroad? It is reported in the media that due to a financial crunch these decisions are not being taken. Can you please comment on this issue?(Mr. Adeel Warriach – Dunya TV)
Answer: The process to appoint Ambassadors and Consuls General in various Pakistan Missions abroad is underway.Deliberations on the subject are taking place and soon decisions will be made on these matters.
Question: The Joint Declaration notes Taliban’s commitment to fight the Islamic State (Daesh). It is feared that it will begin a new war in Pakistan’s neighborhood. How do you see this development?(Mr. Tariq Mehmood – Hum News)
Answer: Pakistan supports a political solution to the Afghan conflict and has consistently maintained the position that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is the only way forward. Pakistan urges all stakeholders to engage in a dialogue and find a political solution in this regard.
Question: Emperor Akihito of Japan voluntarily abdicated after ruling for almost 3 decades, and the Crown Prince Naruhito has become the new Emperor. How does Pakistan see this change in Japan?(Ms. Nimra Sohail – PTV)
Answer: Emperor Naruhito has ascended the Throne on 1st May 2019 after voluntary abdication of his father. The accession of new Emperor has marked the beginning of new era of “Reiwa”, symbol of peace and harmony. Pakistan welcomes the new Emperor and the President has sent a congratulatory message for the new Emperor. Pakistan and Japan enjoy longstanding cordial relations; we hope that the new era would bring prosperity, security and development for the people of Japan. The bilateral relations between Pakistan and Japan would further strengthen to the mutual benefit of the people of two countries in the years ahead.
Question: I have two brief questions. Firstly, SCO is an important regional organization which will have the Foreign Minister’s Summit this month. Is there a chance of the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers meeting on the sidelines of the Summit?Has there been any official contact in this regard?
Secondly, every major Indian newspaper has reported that there is a shortfall in the supply of Rooh-Afza, in India. Will Pakistan provide Rooh-Afza to India in order to quench their thirst? (Mr. Shaukat Piracha – AAP News)
Answer: In response to your second question, if the supply of Rooh-Afza from Pakistan quenches their thirst, then we will certainly want to do so.
The SCO Ministerial meeting will take place in Kyrgyzstan on May 21-22, 2019. The two foreign ministers would be present in the meeting and in all likelihood would interact amongst themselves and with other leaders. No formal meeting is however, envisaged.
Question: There has been a considerable delay on the issue of the repatriation of Afghan refugees. Can you please provide any update on the matter? (SardarAamir – Royal News)
Answer: I will check the details from the concerned Ministry and get back to you.
Question: Do you have any update on the talks held in Doha? (Mr. Shahid-ur-Rehman – Kyodo News)
Answer: No, I do not have any information.
Question: A few Pakistanis have completed their sentence in Malaysia; however, they were detained again by the Malaysian authorities. Can you please provide any information? (Sardar Sheraz Khan – Neo TV)
Answer: Kindly provide specific details. I can then check from our Mission in Malaysia.
Question: The Muslims of Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir are not allowed to perform any of their religions obligations especially during Ramazan. Have you raised this matteron various forums? (Mr. Asghar Ali Mubarak – Daily Mail)
Answer: Pakistan repeatedly raises the atrocities committed by the Indian forces in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and will continue to do so.
Question: Sir, I have three short questions.
Firstly, an Italian journalist has claimed that 45 Pakistanis were injured during the Balakot attack by the Indian Air Force. Your comments please?
Secondly, the Indian Minister for Water Resources has claimed that India will not allow even a single drop of water to flow into Pakistan. How do you see this statement?
Lastly, there is an assertion in some media quarters that the recent attack on Pakistan on the Pakistan Afghanistan border was perpetrated at the behest of the Afghan government. Your comments please? (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)
Answer: Regarding your first question, Pakistan has clearly communicated to the world regarding the false reports about the Indian attack. We arranged visits of foreign media and diplomats to the site in Balakot. There is no truth in such statements.
Regarding your second question, Indus Waters Treaty has been signed by both the countries and India has been in violation of that Treaty in the case of Kishanganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Power Projects. We have already raised this matter at the dispute resolution mechanism of the World Bank. However, the matter has not been resolved, as yet. Pakistan wishes that the Indus Waters Treaty should be allowed to function and the dispute resolution mechanism should take its due course.We urge the World Bank to empanel the Court of Arbitration, so that a resolution is reached in this regard.
Regarding your third question, as you know, Pakistan did lodge a strong protest with the Afghan government on the incident. The attack was carried out by almost 70 terrorists based in Gayan and Bermal districts of Paktika, Afghanistan, on the Pakistani military troops operating in North Waziristan since April 27, 2019. Pakistani military repulsed the attack and after suffering significant casualties, these terrorists fled back. They were able to escape due to lack of appropriate action from the Afghan side. Pakistan has strongly condemned such attacks and conveyed its strong reservations to the Afghan side regarding continued presence of these nefarious elements inside Afghanistan. We have urged the Afghan authorities to take action against these terrorists.
Question: Reportedly, a number of Chinese living in Pakistan have been involved in various crimes. Has Pakistan raised this issue at the official level?
Secondly, on what basis did our Mission in China issue visas to these individuals? (Mr. Khalid Mehmood – Express News)
Answer: A few such incidents have taken place. Our domestic laws take their due course in dealing with such incidents. I will look into the matter of issuance of visas and revert.
Question: It can be seen that the Indians have been able to project the soft power in a more significant manner than Pakistan and, because of this, Pakistan’s stance on Jammu and Kashmir does not get the same traction and seems to be weakened globally. What measures has the Foreign Office taken to project the Jammu and Kashmir dispute at the global level? (Ms. Parveen Bobi – KTV)
Answer:I do not agree that Pakistan’s stance is weakened. Last year, OHCHR’s report stated that there are grave violations of human rights in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Subsequently, the UK AllParties Parliamentary Kashmir Group presented a similar report. Likewise, the European Parliament in Brussels conducted a public hearing on this matter. Also, on the 4thand 5th February this year, the Foreign Minister led a delegation comprising Senate Foreign Relations Committee in London and highlighted the Jammu and Kashmir dispute very effectively. It is our job to raise this dispute and we will continue to do so.
Question: Where has Aasia Bibi gone from Pakistan? (Ms. Justine Gerardy – Agence France-Presse)
Answer: As I said earlier, she has left Pakistan on her free will.
Question: Prime Minister Modi has boasted that he visited Pakistan along with the delegation of over 100 people, without a visa and used the official helicopter of Pakistani government. Is there any precedence of such a visit globally? (Mr. Javed Ghaffari -7-News)
Answer: Pakistan desires cordial relations with India. I will not comment on the rest of your question.
Question: What is the latest situation in Libya? Do you see any end to this fighting? And what steps has the Foreign Office taken to ensure the safety of Pakistanis residing in Libya? (Ms. Shumaila Andleeb – APP)
Answer: The situation in Libya continues to remain highly volatile, fluid and unpredictable. Eight years after the revolution of 2011, Libya is still passing through a transitional phase. International community including UNSMIL (United Nations Support Mission in Libya) is trying to implement Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in Morocco on December 17, 2015. It had put in place a set of institutions which would work as building blocks for a peaceful, secure and prosperous Libya, however no progress has been made as yet.
Our Mission in Tripoli has taken the following measures in terms of ensuring safety of Pakistani nationals residing in Libya:
Established contacts with key persons/focal points from within Pakistani community in various Libyan cities for sharing information about operations and their well-being. In this regard, multiple channels are being used;
Advised the Pakistan community:
To restrict their movement to avoid any untoward incident.To get themselves registered with the Embassy immediately through online or by personnel visit.To report immediately about any unseemly incident on Embassy’s emergency numbers.Coordination with our Missions in Ankara, Rome, Athens, Tunis, and Cairo for possible assistance in case of emergency;Coordination with IOM in Libya for assistance;Instructed Embassy Schools to remain stand-by to accommodate community members as emergency camps;
Question: How does Pakistan see the conflict between US and Iran especially in the light of regional politics? (Mr. Saad Umer – Roze News)
Answer: We are closely monitoring the situation and will keep you informed. Pakistan supports the resolution of all issues through dialogue.
Question: Iran has decided to take the matter of Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline to the International Court of Arbitration. How will this decision affect Pakistan’s relations with Iran and who will bear the costs, if the arbitration award is decided against Pakistan? (Mr. Aon Sherazi – Such News)
Answer: I have seen media reports but do not have official confirmation on this matter. I will look into it.
Question: The missing persons retrieved in Karachi were trained in other countries. Has Pakistan raised this matter with the relevant countries? (Mr. Haider Sherazi – G-News)
Answer: This matter pertains to the Ministry of Interior.