Weekly Press Briefing by Dr Faisal Spokesperson on 12th December, 2019

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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,

Let me begin by giving a brief round-up of the events on the foreign policy front;

The humanitarian nightmare in IOJ&K is worsening with continued military lockdown and complete communication blackout for 132nd consecutive day, which is affecting life and property of millions of innocent Kashmiris. Over 8 million people in the IOJ&K remain cut-off from the world, with continued concerns being raised about lack of medical supplies and other basic needs. These inhuman and unilateral actions by India are continuing, despite widespread international condemnations.

The Indian government should immediately restore internet and mobile phone services, release all prisoners, especially civil society members and the abducted young children, remove Public Safety Act and other draconian laws, and allow the independent media and international human rights observers to visit the region to independently observe the situation of the Kashmiri people.

Pakistan continues to internationally highlight the dire situation in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir and the plight of the Kashmiri people in the face of inhuman lockdown since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019.

On the occasion of Human Rights Day, a briefing was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the human rights situation in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir for members of the Diplomatic Corps based in Islamabad. During the briefing, an independent media documentary highlighting the severe impact of the lockdown and media blackout in IoJ&K and continuing atrocities against the Kashmiris was screened.

During his briefing, Foreign Secretary, Mr. Sohail Mahmood dilated upon the overall situation in IoJ&K in its multiple dimensions — including the dire humanitarian and human rights situation, the legal aspects of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, and the implications of India’s actions for peace and security in the region. The Foreign Secretary rejected the Indian contentions that Kashmir was an “internal matter”; that the recent measures taken by India in Occupied Jammu & Kashmir were aimed at “development” of the Kashmiri people; and that the situation in IoJ&K was “completely normal.” These Indian contentions, he underlined, defied both logic as well as the ground realities.

Moreover, the latest legislation by Indian Lok Sabha that offers Indian nationality to the nationals of Pakistan and two other South Asian countries, except Muslims, is premised on a falsehood and is in complete violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international Covenants on elimination of all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief. The Lok Sabha legislation is also in complete contravention of various bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India particularly the one concerning security and rights of minorities in the respective countries.

The latest legislation is another major step towards the realization of the concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra,’ idealized and relentlessly pursued by the right-wing Hindu leaders for several decades. It is driven by a toxic mix of an extremist ‘Hindutva’ ideology and hegemonic ambitions in the region. It is also a clear manifestation of interference in the internal matters of neighboring countries based on religion, which we reject completely.

On 9th December 2019, Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, led the Pakistan delegation to the 8th Ministerial Conference Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. He underscored the need for achieving the goal of a secure and stable Afghanistan for the economic progress and prosperity of the entire region. He highlighted the importance of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) as an important institutional framework in strengthening bilateral relations between the two sides.

The Foreign Minister also called on H.E. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the side-lines of the meeting and held a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu. Reiterating the historic and fraternal relations between the two countries, Foreign Minister Qureshi conveyed the warmest and sincerest wishes for the people and the Government of Turkey on behalf of the people and the Government of Pakistan on the occasion.

Pakistan-Russia Inter Government Commissions (IGC) on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation are held alternately in the capitals of both the countries. Sixth Session of Pakistan-Russia IGC was held in Islamabad from December 9-11, 2019. Mr. Muhammad Hammad Azhar, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs as co-chair from Pakistan side led the Pakistani delegation on the Plenary Session of the IGC held on December 11, 2019. Mr. Denis V. Manutov, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, as co-chair from the Russian side the Commission led the Russian delegation. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the current level of cooperation and agreed to further strengthen bilateral ties in all areas of mutual interest including political, trade, economic, energy, education and people-to-people contact.

On the same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with SAARC member states, SAARC Arbitration Council and SAARC Arbitration Council celebrated the 35th SAARC Charter Day at the Foreign Office. The Foreign Secretary addressed the gathering which was attended by the representatives based in Islamabad of Diplomatic Missions of SAARC member and observer states.

The 7th round of Pakistan-The Netherlands Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) was held in The Hague on 9 December 2019. Special Secretary (Europe) Dr. Aman Rashid and Mr. Thijs van der Plas, Director-General for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands, led their respective delegations. The two sides discussed the whole gamut of bilateral relations, including political, economic, trade and investment, climate change and people-to-people exchanges, as well as developments in their respective regions. While expressing satisfaction at the friendly and cordial nature of bilateral ties, the two sides agreed that regular high-level interactions were essential for further deepening bilateral ties and mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse fields.

Separately, a delegation of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) led by Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, Head of IAEA’s Nuclear Security Division, visited Pakistan from 4-7 December 2019 to further strengthen the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and IAEA in the field of nuclear security. Raja Adnan visited Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) and commended the nuclear security measures taken by Pakistan consistent with the IAEA recommendations.

Lastly, our athletes representing Pakistan at the 13th South Asian Games 2019 have made us proud by securing 31 gold medals, 41 silver and 59 bronze medals. We commend their achievements.

Question: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in recently held Heart of Asia Conference boycotted the speechof the Indian Minister. Given the continued Indian atrocities in the IOJ&K. Will Pakistan continue to boycott India at all international forums? (Mr. Asghar Ali Mubarak – Pakistan International Press Agency)

Answer: The Foreign Minister boycotted the Indian Minister’s speech at the Heart of Asia because of the prevailing humanitarian crisis in the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Definitely, we will continue with such appropriate steps, as per requirement.

Question: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells has welcomed the indictment of Hafiz Saeed and his associates. She also called for Pakistan to ensure full prosecution and an expeditious trial in line with international obligations. How do you respond to this?

Supplementary question: Last night, it was also reported in the USmedia, quoting a report, that Pakistan was reprimanded by the United States for using F-16 jets against India, after the Balakot incident. Would you please comment on it?(Mr. Anas Mallick – WIONTV)

Answer:As for your first question, the matter is sub-judice and dealt with by the Ministry of Interior.

Regarding your second question, I have seen the news reports and sent the matter to the concerned authorities. I will share the details with you as and when received.

Question: Can you please confirm whether the Prime Minister is going to visit Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the coming days?(Khalid Mehmood – Express News)

SupplementaryQuestions: Will the Prime Minister visit Saudi Arabia and what would be the agenda of this visit? (Ms. KosarLodhi – Prime News)

Do you have any update on Prime Minister’s shuttle diplomacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran especially in the light of the recent visit by the Foreign Minister to Riyadh? (Mr. Sib Kaifee – Arab News)

Answer: Regarding your question on Bahrain visit, we will issue a curtain raiser before the visit.

As for your second question, the visit of Foreign Minister Qureshi to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was scheduled and focused on bilateral matters and regional developments. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have brotherly relationship rooted in history and based on mutual trust and understanding. High-level political exchanges between the two countries are the hallmark of this brotherly bilateral relationship. You have witnessed the high frequency of leadership level exchanges, especially since last August. The Prime Minister has undertaken at least 3 visits to KSA since May this year. Any further information about any future visit will be shared accordingly.

Regarding your question on Shuttle Diplomacy, we continue to make sincere efforts. I have nothing to add to what has already been shared.

Question: Several countries especially India pulled out of the SAARC Summit in 2016, which was supposed to be held in Pakistan. Can we expect the SAARC Summit taking place in Pakistan soon? (Zarghoon Shah – Geo TV)

Answer: The 19th SAARC Summit is going to be held in Islamabad. You must have seen the statements made by the SAARC member states on the SAARC Charter Day, commemorated at the Foreign Office. They are expressing their desire and high hope regarding the holding of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad. India is still an obstacle.

Question: Mr. TetsuNakamora, a Japanese doctor, was assassinated in Afghanistan in an attack. He had rendered his services in Pakistan as well. What is your stance on this? (Naveed Akbar – AAJ TV)

Answer: Dr. Tetsu Nakamura was a towering figure in Afghanistan, who changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghans. His work has been recognized internationally. We condemn in strongest terms the assassination and share the grief and pain of the Afghan and Japanese people in this tragic incident. Dr. Nakamura had started as a volunteer worker in Peshawar and after two years he moved to Afghanistan rendering his services for the needy in various parts of Eastern Afghanistan. As I mentioned earlier, at this critical juncture, it can only be the work of ‘spoilers’ who do not wish to see a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.

Question: How do you see the resumption of peace talks between Afghanistan and the United States? Secondly do you have any update regarding Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav? (Rashida Sial – Ab Tak TV)

Supplementary Question: Does Pakistan believe that the United States is serious regarding the Afghan peace talks, especially after the visit of President Trump to Afghanistan? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Answer: Pakistan has welcomed the resumption of direct talks between the U.S. and Taliban. We have always held that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. We hope that the Peace Process is concluded soon and it leads to an intra-Afghan dialogue and reduction of violence. We will continue to support all peaceful efforts in this regard, as we have done in the past. However, at this critical time, it is important to remain watchful of the role of spoilers who do not wish to see an end to the Afghan conflict.

Regarding your second question we will update you on the matter.

Question: How do you see the recent discriminatory legislation passed by the Indian Parliament? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Answer: I have already spoken on this matter in the opening remarks. Not only us, but other regional countries have also condemned this selective and discriminatory application of law. There is also a great deal of discontent inside India as well. This Hindutva-led Indian government has been taking such steps, which were included in their manifesto and have manifested in events such as August 5th, 2019, Babri Masjid verdict and other incidents of violence against minorities. This BJP government is pushing India into a corner, which has been decried by voices within and outside India. We are watching these developments closely andshare our comments with you, regularly.

Question: Senator Lindsey Graham has stated that the United States should start negotiating with Pakistan instead of getting as much ‘leverage’ on the Taliban as possible. How would you respond to this statement? (Jalil Akhtar – VOA Urdu)

Answer: As you are aware, Lindsey Graham is an advocate of deepening and broadening of relations between Pakistan and United States. He has always been a strong supporter of stabilization in Afghanistan.

Question: The United States has placed Rao Anwar on a list of 18 major global abusers of human rights, accusing him of being involved in 190 fake police encounters that resulted in over 400 deaths. What is your official take on it? (Noman Ishfaq – Parliament Times)

Answer: Rao Anwar Khan is already under trial for crimes he has allegedly committed. The matter is sub-judice.

Given the scope of the Global Magnitsky Act, we are surprised that the Treasury Department failed to hold anyone responsible for the most egregious, extensively reported, and independently verified human rights abuses being committed in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by Indian occupation forces.

Question: Do you have any update on Iran Pakistan gas pipeline gas project? (Shakeel Kalyana – Dunya TV)

Answer: This question pertains to Ministry of Petroleum.

Question: Can you please share the details of the upcoming visit of the Turkish President?Secondly, it has been reported in the media that seven Qatari nationals were arrested on charges of illegal poaching by Balochistan Levies. Can you please confirm and share details? (Anwar Abbas – BOL News)

Answer:The next session of High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) will be convened in Islamabad; the dates of the session are being finalized. Any update in this regard will be shared.

Regarding your second question,I have asked our Protocol Division to check details and will revert to you.

Question: In a recent report published in Washington Post, some officials from the Bush and Obama Administration have been quoted asserting that Pakistan has been playing a double game with the United States since 2002 and it was a critical error to consider Pakistan a friend. Would you like to comment on it? (Mr. Sib Kaifee – Arab News)

Answer: No, I will not comment on media reports. Our policy regarding Afghanistan is clear and the Prime Minister has reiterated it several times, that there can only be a political solution to the Afghan conflict. It is heartening to note that all the global powers are now coming to this conclusion as well.

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