Weekly Press Briefing by Dr Faisal Spokesperson

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

Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,

Assalaam-o-Alaikum,

We start with a brief round-up of the activities on the foreign policy front.

The Indian occupation forces in their fresh acts of state terrorism martyred fourteen (14) Kashmiris, including Naseer Ahmad, Umar Mir, Shakeel Ahmad Dar, Yawar Mushtaq, Khalid Ahmad, Ishtiaq Ahmad Butt, Rayees Ahmad Dar, Showkat Ahmad Dar, Irfan Ahmad, Muzzafar Ahmad, Waseem Ahmad Naiko, Zahid Ahmad Mantoo, Irfan Manzoor and Naeem Ahmad Shah in Shopian, Pulwama, Kulgam, Sopore and Bhaderwah areas of the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan condemns the house arrest of Syed Ali Shah Gilani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and imposition of curfew across Srinagar on May 21, to prevent a march towards the Martyrs’ Graveyard at Eidgah.

We also condemn the illegal detention of APHC leader, Masarrat Aalam Bhatt, under the draconian Public Safety Act, which is the worst example of lawlessness and human rights violations in IOK.

We remain gravely concerned over continued illegal detention, despite deteriorating health, of senior Hurriyat leaders, including Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Masarat Alam Bhatt, 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 other Hurriyat leaders, activists, and students languishing in the notorious Indian Tihar Jail in New Delhi and various other jails in IOK.

Imposing curbs, restrictions and caging the Kashmiri leadership can neither kill the reality of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and the ideology that runs deep in the heart of every single citizen of IOK, nor will it wash away the memories of the martyrdom of great leaders and all the martyrs of the Kashmir struggle from the minds of Kashmiris.

India should stop misleading the international community and accept the ground realities and aspirations of the people of IOK, instead of continuing with its policy of obduracy in the territory.

You must have seen the recently released detailed report titled Torture: Indian State’s Instrument of Control by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, highlighting the systemic Indian use of torture as a ‘matter of policy’ and ‘instrument of control in IOK.’

The report includes 432 case studies involving torture and maps trends and patterns showing the emergence of torture as a policy by India against Kashmiris in IOK and how it impacts the very existence of every Kashmiri in IOK. Indian occupation forces use torture, without distinction of gender or age, to suppress Kashmiri voices. The report underscores that due to draconian laws and granting judicial immunity to Indian occupation forces, not a single prosecution in any case of human rights violations has taken place.

It also stresses the use of the so called Cordon and Search operations as a widely feared and established commonplace tool, where a large number of atrocities including mass sexual violence and torture, illegal arrests and extra judicial killings routinely occur. The main targets of torture are young Kashmiris ‘labeled as stone pelters, often caught in a whirlpool of illegal or arbitrary detention, torture and continuous harassments making some of them lose all hope.

It also strongly criticizes Indian atrocities, including pellet gun use and blinding and maiming of scores, including children and recommends an investigation led by the OHCHR. The report is a validation of Pakistan’s consistent position of the humanitarian nightmare IOK has become under Indian Occupation Forces. This has also been highlighted by the OHCHR last year and the EU parliamentary hearing earlier this year.

In another reminder of its complete insensitivity and indifference to international law and deplorable intransigence, India has once again brushed aside the queries raised by UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions, torture and right to health, based on the findings of the UN OHCHR report on Jammu and Kashmir published in June 2018, regarding the use of torture and arbitrary killings based on the finding.

The ongoing bloodshed in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir indicates an alarming Indian imperviousness to international opinion, as it continues with its gross violations of human rights in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

It also raises the question as to why India is in denial and not allowing access to the UN Commission of Inquiry and OIC-IPHRC Fact-Finding mission to IoK if it really has nothing to hide. It is time for the champions of human rights to put aside political expediencies and speak out in favor of the Kashmiris struggling for the realization of the legitimate right to self determination as promised to them by numerous UNSC resolutions and the international community.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi undertook an official visit to the State of Kuwait on 18-19 May 2019 and held wide- ranging discussions with the Kuwaiti leadership on matters of mutual interest.

During the visit, the Foreign Minister had an audience with His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of Kuwait and extended an invitation to him on behalf of the President to visit Pakistan. The Foreign Minister also handed over a letter addressed by the Prime Minister seeking his kind indulgence in facilitating visa matters relating to Pakistani nationals.

The Foreign Minister also held delegation-level talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait H.E. Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al Ahmad Al Sabah and reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations.

The Foreign Minister also met the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Khalid Al Jarrah Al-Sabah and discussed visa-related issues faced by the Pakistani community. Both sides agreed to have further discussions on the subject. While appreciating the role of Pakistani Diaspora, the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister of Kuwait evinced interest in acquiring professional/skilled and semi-skilled labour from Pakistan.

Apart from having high-level meetings, the Foreign Minister met with top Kuwaiti businessmen and investors. During the business meetings, the Foreign Minister invited Kuwaiti business leaders to invest in all sectors of Pakistan’s economy. The Foreign Minister also invited Kuwait’s public and private sectors to become partners in the government’s scheme of low – cost housing units.

Moving forward, the SCO Council of Foreign Minister’s Meeting (SCO-CFM) was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, on 21-22 May 2019. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi led the Pakistan delegation at the meeting. The CFM approved important documents which will later be adopted by the Council of Heads of States (CHS) meeting, to be held in Bishkek in June 2019.

During the CFM, the Foreign Minister addressed the Plenary Session. On the sidelines, the Foreign Minister also held bilateral meetings with several participating Ministers including his Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Chinese and Russian counterparts and the Secretary General of SCO. During the meetings with his counterparts, FM Qureshi had an in-depth exchange of views on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations.

The Foreign Minister’s participation in the SCO-CFM illustrates the high importance that Pakistan attaches to the SCO and to deepening its engagement with the region.

FM Qureshi and FM Lavrov also signed a Joint Statement on No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space. Outer space is being used by an increasing number of States. Pakistan has been consistently highlighting the risks of weaponization of Outer Space, which threaten the long term sustainability of peaceful space activities. The use of force against space based objects, the development and deployment of Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems and their integration into space assets have added worrying dimensions to the issues relating to Outer Space.

There is an urgent need to address gaps in the international legal regime governing the exploration and use of outer space with a view to ensuring that no one threatens peaceful activities and applications of space technologies for socio-economic development.

Pakistan and Russia share a common position on the prevention of arms race in outer space and work collectively in various international fora towards that goal. The signing of the Joint Statement on No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space is a reflection of convergence of views between the two sides. Pakistan and Russia have reiterated their commitment to refrain from the threat or use of force in Outer Space activities. We encourage other responsible space-faring nations to follow this example.

Pakistan condemns the firing of ballistic missiles by Houthis towards Makkah province and commends the vigilant Saudi defence forces for intercepting the missiles. Pakistan reaffirms its solidarity with Saudi Arabia and reiterates its support against any threat to the security of the Kingdom.

Finally, I would like to express my deepest condolences with Mr. Asif Ali, Pakistan cricket team player, and his family on the passing away of his daughter from cancer. Our Mission in Chicago remained constantly in touch with the family of Mr. Asif Ali and facilitated transportation of dead body of his daughter, who passed away in Rochester (Minnesota) on 19 May 2019. The requisite paperwork was completed and handed over to the family on 20 May.

The dead-body accompanied by the family flew from New York-Dubai sector on 20 May at 2255 hours from where it shifted to a connecting flight for Lahore.

Now the floor is open for questions:

Question: Yesterday Foreign Minister Qureshi had a meeting with his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting. Would you please share the details of the discussion? Is Pakistan-India ice melting silently? (Mr. Bashir Chaudhary – 92 News)

Supplementary Questions: It is now officially confirmed that Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj presented sweets to Foreign Minister Qureshi. Do you think it is a positive gesture and an indication of resumption of dialogue soon? Is there any possibility of meeting of the two Prime Ministers in near future? (Mr. Mateen Haider – G-News)

The Indian side has stated that it was an unscheduled and an informal/goodwill meeting. Secondly, Indian PM Modi’s ruling alliance is likely to win a big majority in the General Elections. How does Pakistan see this development? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Was the meeting between the two Foreign Ministers planned? Will this meeting help in resumption of dialogue between the two countries? (Mr. Asghar Ali Mubarak – Daily Mail)

Is the meeting between FM Qureshi and Sushma Swaraj an indication of Indian willingness to resume dialogue with Pakistan? (Mr. Gohar Abbas – AFP)

Answer: The Foreign Minister will dilate upon this issue himself.

Question: The Iranian Foreign Minister is visiting Pakistan in the wake of tense environment in the region. How do you see this visit in the current environment? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malik – Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: The Iranian Foreign Minister is arriving in Pakistan tonight. He will hold talks with FM Qureshi tomorrow. We believe the situation in the region is serious and needs to be addressed through dialogue by all parties. We expect all sides to show restraint, as any miscalculated move, can transmute into a large-scale conflict.

Question: The Indian Home Minister has commented that removal of Article 370 and 35 (A) from the Indian Constitution would resolve the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. How do you see this statement? (Mr. Raziq Mehmood Bhatti – Daily Kashmir Express)

Answer: Pakistan opposes any move which violates the United Nations Security Council Resolutions on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. In principle, there cannot be any change in the status of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir until a UN administered plebiscite is held in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.

Question: It is reported that Foreign Minister Qureshi will attend the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers session on May 28 and 29, 2019. Meanwhile, PM Imran Khan will attend the 14th Islamic Summit of the OIC on May 30 and 31. Would you please confirm? Secondly, is Pakistan prepared to de-escalate the growing tensions between Iran and the United States? (Mr. Sib Kaifee – Arab News)

Answer: I confirm the visit of the Foreign Minister. However, the visit of Prime Minister will be confirmed in due course.

Regarding your second question, Pakistan always supports dialogue and desires that all issues should be settled peacefully and through engagement by all sides. If required, Pakistan is ready to play a constructive and positive role in this regard.

Question: How do you see the recent tensions between United States and Iran, especially after deployment of aircraft carrier and bombers by the United States? What role Pakistan can play in this environment to de-escalate the situation? (Mr. Waqas Ahmed – Capital TV)

Supplementary Question: How does Pakistan see the growing escalation between the United States and Iran? Do you think that OIC meeting may be called to de-escalate the situation? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Answer: I have already commented on this issue. Our position is very clear in this regard. Pakistan supports dialogue in all situations. If there is any problem, it should be resolved through peaceful dialogue and negotiations.

Question: Sir, I have very quick three questions. Firstly, how does Pakistan see the ongoing announcement of election results in India and what are Pakistan’s expectations from the new government of India?

Secondly, diplomatic tensions between Bangladesh and Pakistan have intensified as Dhaka stopped issuing visas to Pakistani nationals. Reportedly, visa section of Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad is also closed. Would you please comment on this issue?

Thirdly, it has been reported that a Somali diplomat killed a Pakistani national in a road accident last week. Would you please brief us? (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)

Answer: I would answer your second question first. In a Press Briefing held by Bangladesh Foreign Office on 21 May 2019, Bangladesh Foreign Minister has confirmed that “Bangladesh has not stopped issuing visas to anyone”.

Pakistan wants friendly relations with all countries and is trying to address all pending matters on the basis of reciprocity. We are in touch with the Bangladeshi authorities in the matter.

Regarding your first question, Pakistan has consistently maintained that the only way to resolve all outstanding issues, including the Jammu & Kashmir dispute is through implementation of UNSC resolutions. Dialogue is hence essential. We remain committed to the same, irrespective of whoever forms the new Government in India.

Regarding your third question, on 17th May 2019, between 00:30 to 01:00 A.M., Mr. Osman Abdullahi Hussein, Cultural Attaché of Somalian Embassy met an accident at Nazim-ud-din Road -Marvi road crossing, F-7, hitting a motorcyclist, a Pakistani Citizen, namely Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed Kiyani, resident of Dhok Gillani, Barakahu, Islamabad. Mr. Kiyani was rushed to the hospital (PIMS) where he succumbed to injuries and was pronounced dead.

Mr. Osman Abdullah Hussein, Cultural Attaché, was taken to the hospital by the police at 05:00 A.M. for medical checkup and was not found under any influence. The police investigation revealed that the motorcyclist violated red traffic signal, which resulted in the collision.

On the same day, Somali Ambassador was called to Foreign Office and Chief of Protocol informed her that actions under “Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1963” and as per “Law of the Land” will be taken.

Question: Is it true that implementation of Treaty on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners between Pakistan and China signed during Prime Minister’s first visit to China in November, 2018 has been delayed? If so, what action(s) government of Pakistan has taken so far? (Ms. Shumaila Andleeb – APP)

Answer: The Treaty on Transfer of Sentences Prisoners between Pakistan and China was signed on 3rd November, 2018 during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first visit to China after unprecedented and untiring efforts by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Government of Pakistan completed its ratification process in early January, 2019 and conveyed it to Chinese side with request to complete its formalities.

Chinese side has informed that they are completing internal process for ratification. The matter has been taken up with Chinese government a highest level for early ratification of the treaty. Government of Pakistan will continue to raise this issue in future as well with Chinese side at all levels.

Question: It has been reported that Pakistan and Japan are exploring ways to expand cooperation for employment of Pakistani skilled workers in Japan. In this regard, Japan has also created a new “Status for Residence” for specialized skilled workers that became effective on 1st April 2019. Would you please update us in this regard? (Mr. Asad Yar – PTV)

Answer: Japan is in need of foreign workers due to a rapidly ageing population and low birthrate. It has launched a new visa system to bring in more foreign workers to meet an acute labour shortage. Under this new system, foreigners with certain Japanese language and job skills can now apply for a resident status.

Both countries have already signed Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) on Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP) in February 2019. Pakistan will send trainees to Japan. The concerned authorities in Pakistan and Japan are also working on a MoU to formalize the process of sending Pakistani skilled workers to Japan.