We want peace and friendship in our neigbourhood; Asim Iftikhar

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Friday,
21 January, 2022

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

Let me begin by strongly condemning the heinous terrorist attack on civilian areas carried out by the Houthis in Abu Dhabi on 17 January 2022 that claimed several lives, including one Pakistani National. The mortal remains of Shaheed Moomor Khan were repatriated to Pakistan yesterday with dignity and were received at Bacha Khan International Airport by senior OPF officials. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and wish speedy recovery to the injured.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had a telephone conversation with His Highness Mohamed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi also received a telephone call from his Emirati counterpart. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister strongly condemned the terrorist attack and expressed solidarity with the brotherly people and government of the United Arab Emirates in the face of this wanton act of terrorism.

They called for the immediate cessation of these attacks and underlined that such attacks not only violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the UAE but also pose a grave threat to regional peace and security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us undertake a quick roundup of diplomatic activities during the week.

Pakistan assumed chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China (G-77) for the year 2022. Foreign Minister Qureshi presided over the proceedings of the opening segment of the handover ceremony held in a virtual format on 14 January which was also attended by the outgoing Chair (Foreign Minister of the Republic of Guinea), UN Secretary-General, and President of the UN General Assembly.

Prime Minister Imran Khan held a telephonic conversation with President Vladimir Putin on 16 January. Prime Minister Imran Khan appreciated the Russian leader’s statements regarding respect for Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Enhancement of bilateral cooperation in different areas including economy, trade and energy, high-level exchanges, besides regional and international issues also came up for discussion in this important interaction.

The newly-elected Foreign Minister of Canada Ms. Melanie Joly called Foreign Minister Qureshi on 13 January 2022. Congratulating his counterpart, the Foreign Minister looked forward to further strengthening of bilateral ties especially in the economic domain. Developments in the region also came under discussion.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also held a telephonic conversation with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, H.E. Ms. Retno Marsudi, on 19 January. Expressing satisfaction at the deep-rooted and fraternal relations between Pakistan and Indonesia, the Foreign Minister underscored Pakistan’s strong desire to further intensify these multi-dimensional ties across the entire spectrum.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi received the Chief of Staff of Land Forces, Lt. Gen. Asinda Fall of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 14 January. The Foreign Minister highlighted Pakistan’s ‘Engage Africa’ policy aimed at enhancing diplomatic footprint and intensifying exchanges and trade with Africa, in line with our focus on ‘geo-economics’.

The Foreign Minister also had telephone conversation with Her Excellency Ms. Suzi Carla Barbosa, the Foreign Minister of Guinea-Bissau on 18 January. Both sides agreed to further strengthening of bilateral and regional cooperation.

Over the past weeks, I am pleased to note that friends in the media have been following the developments related to CPEC. I would like to share a roundup of major achievements in CPEC, which has continued to move forward as a flagship of the Belt and Road despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting from the first visit of the Prime Minister to China in November 2018, CPEC has focused increasingly on socio-economic development projects geared towards directly improving the well-being of our people. Twenty-seven projects have been conceived and are under various stages of implementation and preparation. We have also expanded CPEC’s ambit by including agriculture, science and technology and IT cooperation.

Meanwhile, work on major infrastructure projects has continued apace and a number of new megaprojects have been endorsed by the JCC of CPEC. These include the Azad Pattan and Kohala hydropower projects, which will help address Pakistan’s food security while also ensuring access to green and cost-competitive energy for our industrial growth.

These are just a few of the headline developments in CPEC. We look forward to sharing more updates in due course.

We appreciate your interest in presenting the true picture of CPEC’s progress for the benefit of our people, and to relegate some misguided efforts to deliberately spread disinformation about this signature achievement of Pakistan China cooperation.

We have also been receiving queries from the media on the status of Indian wheat assistance for Afghanistan, the transportation of which, as you would recall Pakistan has allowed on humanitarian grounds on exceptional basis. We have conveyed to the Indian side, necessary details of arrangements put in place by Pakistan, and for about 3 weeks now, are awaiting further response from India about the date of dispatch and other information regarding the first consignment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, the Kashmiris in IIOJK and around the world joined by Pakistanis and others are marking the grim anniversary of the “Gaw Kadal” massacre. On 21 January 1990, Indian occupation forces had brutally martyred at least 52 innocent and peaceful protesters in Srinagar for demanding freedom from Indian oppression.

Pakistan stands in solidarity with the victims of this unspeakable crime and reiterates the call for bringing the perpetrators to justice. It is appalling as it is condemnable that even after more than three decades there is no accountability for this cold-blooded killing.

This travesty of justice is basically a stark reminder of the culture of impunity and rule of NO law that is deeply entrenched and continues to fester in IIOJK – in which the oppressed are punished and persecuted while the perpetrators are encouraged and protected.

For past more than seven decades, Kashmiris are the victims of India’s state-sponsored terrorism, including gross and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, which have further intensified under the BJP-RSS combine’s “Hindu Rashtra” project, under which sinister anti-Kashmiri policies are also being pursued to change the demographic composition of the occupied territory.

Pakistan condemns the increasing harassment, illegal arrests and registration of fake criminal cases against journalists and civil society activists in IIOJK. The attack and ban on Kashmir Press Club manifestly reflects India’s entrenched use of brute force and coercion to forcibly silence all those raising voices against its horrendous crimes and genocidal acts in IIOJK.

It is encouraging that the international community is increasingly realizing the gravity of the situation in IIOJK towards which Pakistan has been drawing attention all these years. You would have followed for example the Russell Tribunal on Kashmir held in Sarajevo last month, and the filing earlier this week of an application by a London-based law firm with the British Police seeking arrest of Indian officials over their alleged role in war crimes in IIOJK. Reportedly, the law firm has submitted report based on over 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021, providing extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit documenting how Indian military and civil leadership were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians.

It is self-evident that India can no longer escape international and legal censure for its rampant human rights violations in IIOJK, and we call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations and international human rights and humanitarian organizations to hold India accountable.

Let India also be reminded that its reign of terror and oppression can never weaken the resolve of the Kashmiris for their right to self-determination. Pakistan will continue to extend all possible support to our valiant brothers and sisters in Kashmir for the rightful pursuit of their legitimate struggle.

I thank you and am ready to take questions on these or other foreign policy matters.

Question: Does Pakistan think that India can demilitarize Siachen, the most difficult and costly front, at any time in future? What will be Pakistan’s response to any effort towards normalization of relation with India specifically the trade relations?
Secondly, Pakistan and Muslim Umma wants that there should be peace in Afghanistan, my question is, Was the issue of recognition taken up during the extra ordinary session of the OIC? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: On your first observation, it is abundantly clear that Pakistan has a policy, which is derived from the principle of friendly neighborhood. We want peace and friendship in our neigbourhood – good relations with all including India. But you have seen how the developments have unfolded in our region; you have witnessed the very hostile Indian attitude especially during the last couple of years and since the illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019 in IIOJK, the situation has further deteriorated and in this context we have to see how we can move forward. On multiple occasions, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have expressed our position on this matter. We are committed to improve relations with India and have a dialogue which is meaningful, constructive, result oriented and sustained. But India has vitiated the environment – the conditions are not there. We have repeatedly said that onus lies on India to take necessary steps for an environment conducive for constructive dialogue.

On your second question about Afghanistan and the issue of recognition, I have said earlier this question is important and it has been discussed and deliberated by many countries, and there are obviously diverse views about it, as there are diverse expectations as well. There is also a priority attached to the immediate concerns such as the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that requires consistent engagement. We think the best way of doing this is in consultation and coordination with the neighboring countries and others in the international community. We are of the view that a broader approach on this is going to be useful.

Question: NSA’s visit to Afghanistan was postponed. What was the reason for postponement? Any further date of the visit is being finalized? (Saima Shabbir, Arab News)

Answer: This was an important visit that was being prepared, my information and understanding is that it had to be postponed primarily because of the weather conditions. There was advice that travel should not take place under those conditions. Whenever fresh dates are finalized they will be shared.

Question: Mr. Zulfi Bukhari a PTI leader met an Omani Minister, the meeting was subsequently tweeted by Pakistan Embassy in Oman and Pakistani Ambassador was also sitting in the meeting. My question is that in what capacity this meeting was facilitated by Pakistani Embassy or promoted by Pakistani Mission as Zulfi Bukhari is a private person?

Secondly, Karachi counter terrorism department (CTD) had said that significant progress have been made in the investigation of the murder of the Saudi Diplomat Hassan Al Qahtani. They have written a letter through Ministry of Foreign Affairs to neighboring country Iran seeking details of three alleged terrorists namely Ali Mustehsan, Raza Imam and Syed Waqar Ahmed. Can you share more details please? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)

Answer: On your second question, there is no information with me at the moment. On the first observation, I don’t have many details but understand Mr. Bukhari met the Omani officials in personal capacity. The purpose was to thank them for the facilitation that the Omani government provided to the Pakistani community especially during his tenure as SAPM. As the matter pertained to the Pakistani community and their welfare, the Ambassador also accompanied.

Question: Sir all the briefings at Foreign Office begin with the killings of Kashmiris and the sacrifices being made by our Kashmiris brothers and sisters. Although Foreign Office acknowledges their efforts but we have seen that the voices of Kashmiris are not being heard world over. Why the world is not recognizing these sacrifices and condemns India?

Secondly, The Prime Minister had to visit China; there are talks of expected sideline meeting with President Putin. There is also possibility that in the recent telephonic conversation between the two leaders they would have spoken on this. Is there any plan of Prime Minister Visit to China and his sideline meeting with President Putin? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: About the Prime Minister’s visit to China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, I had already intimated in the last briefing. We will share more details about the program and the kind of engagements that will be there including meetings on the sidelines.

On your observation about Kashmir, let me recall also with reference to our briefings, on how the international community is taking note of what is happing inside IIOJK and in fact taking this discussion forward through concrete actions as well. I just gave you two recent examples – The Russell Tribunal and the case that has been filed with the London Police earlier this week. You also know, how despite lack of access, the situation in IIOJK had been reported by mainstream international media, you know the way that the international community represented by the United Nations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary-General, the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council have pronounced themselves, and prominent international human rights organizations and others have reported and continued to report on the human rights violations and other crimes being perpetrated in Kashmir. The statement from several world leaders, and the very critical debates having taken place in several Parliaments – US, UK, EU and others, you are also aware of. So there is continuing, increasing scrutiny of what is happing in Kashmir and it is gaining pace. Yet I would agree with you that the world needs to do more because the kind of reaction and response that is there is not enough, and that is why we continue to raise our voice and mobilize international opinion and support for the Kashmiri people.

Question: During the extraordinary session of the OIC a special humanitarian fund was established for Afghanistan. How much funds / pledges have been made to this fund/account so far. As per the media reports the State Bank has refused to open an account. How will this fund be workable, if you can comment on this?

Secondly, A Pakistani national lost his life in the fire incident that took place in Spain; reportedly the family of the deceased is facing issues with regards to the repatriation of mortal remains. According to media reports the Spanish authorities are not cooperating with our Consulate and are not responding to their letters. If you can comment on the issues being faced by our Consulate in repatriation of the body. (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: On your first question, about the outcome of the Extra-ordinary Session and the establishment of the Humanitarian Fund, as you would know the Fund has to be established by a certain timeline in February and the Special Envoy and the Secretary-General are engaged in necessary consultations with all concerned in that regard, and are also consulting on the funding. With regards to the issue of refusal of opening of account by State Bank I do not have exact information on that matter and am not aware if that has any bearing or link to the OIC Humanitarian Fund.

Regarding the unfortunate incident in Spain, I am sure you would have followed the detailed explanation of what happened, statements by the Ambassador and the Council General. The Embassy provided full assistance from the outset. There was a period in between where the next of kin of the deceased disengaged from the Embassy and were managing the repatriation of the mortal remains on their own, wherein they missed certain deadlines and the company they engaged was not able to fulfill the actual requirements of the host country, which complicated the matter. As they reverted back to the Embassy, all efforts are being made, and the host government authorities have been approached to facilitate the request. The Mission continues to pursue the matter and remains in close contact with the family members.

Question: The Taliban Government has approached the brotherly countries for their recognition. They have also approached Pakistani Government in this regard.

Secondly, the National Security Policy that has been recently launched speaks of good relations with the neighbouring countries including India. How do you consider this one sided effort by Pakistan while on the other hand India continues with its sinister designs? (Zaheer Ali Khan ,Samaa TV)

Answer: I have already responded to both these questions in detail. You spoke about the National Security Policy. I would like to add that there is a public document, which you may like to review. I think the Policy is very clear and the conceptual basis of this comprehensive policy framework is the symbiotic relationship between economic, human and traditional security aspects. Promotion of economic aspects and trade are key priorities in this policy, also in the context of Pakistan’s refocusing on geo-economics. The approach on relations with India is also very clear.

Question: What are your comments on the harassment on the Muslim Students in the Indian State of Karnatika. (Shakeel Kalyana, Daily Relation News)

Answer: I do not have exact information of the specific incident you are referring to but it seems to be the same pattern in which persecution and discrimination of minorities particularly Muslims is being witnessed in India.

Question: You have strongly condiment Houti’s attack on UAE but this particular attack has further escalated tensions in the region. Any strategy from the platform of the OIC to address this conflict of Yemen, any initiative any move to bring parties to negotiation and bring peace and stability in the region? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: Peace and stability would be the common priority for all especially in the region and the immediate vicinity. There are different stakeholders and the organizations that have been engaged including the UN, Arab League and others. Pakistan supports all efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability in the region.

Question: On the social media there was a video of the Foreign Minister where he was asked by the students for the facilitation to be provided for the resumption of their studies in China. Prime Minister is also visiting China, are there any ongoing negotiations for the facilitating the students? (Shamim Mehmood, Daily Khabrain Islamabad / Channel 5)

Answer: I think there are some misrepresentations perhaps due to lack of information. If you have followed our briefings and responses being shared on the issue of the return of students, you would appreciate that Pakistan and China have been in very close contact on this matter, which has been discussed at various levels, including the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the respective Embassies. The Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training raised the issue with the Chinese Ambassador in September and pursuant to that meeting, the Ministry of Education designated the Higher Education Commission as the lead organization and nominated focal persons from HEC and Ministry of Education to work in coordination with the Chinese Embassy. We have shared student registration data with the Chinese Embassy and with HEC. A list of 492 students has been shared with the Chinese Embassy with the request to treat them as first priority for return to China. The matter is being pursued diligently. Here I should also mention that China’s policy is not country-specific but it applies uniformly to all international students as per the Covid-19 situation in that country. Chinese authorities have been extremely cautious since the outbreak of new variants. It may be noted that students from any South Asian country have not returned to China so far. We understand China is undertaking a comprehensive review of policy on students’ return that is expected to be completed soon. Students from Pakistan will be prioritized whenever a decision is made for phased and gradual return of international students to China. The policy is expected to factor in prevailing pandemic situation where the university is based, stage of course completion, vaccination status and other factors. Let me tell you again the government is pursuing the matter closely with our Chinese friends and we hope to have forward movement on this.

Question: It is being reported in the international and local media including BBC that a London ‘hitman’ is on trial over an alleged plot to kill a Pakistani blogger Ahmad Waqas Goraya in the Netherlands. A BBC report said that prosecutor of the case quoting Goraya said that Goraya received threats allegedly from an intelligence of Pakistan. What is your take on the Goraya’s claims being reported in the media? (Jaleel Akhatar, VOA Urdu)

Answer: We are all reading this in newspapers and I understand there is a case which is before to the court. I don’t have any comment on this.

Question: Has the Pakistani Government been approached by Taliban Authorities regarding their recognition. What is Pakistan’s stance on this? (Malik Saeed, Bol News)

Answer: I have already responded to similar question earlier.

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