Weekly Press Briefing by Dr Faisal Spokesperson on 14th November 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 Indian Occupation Forces in their acts of state terrorism martyred Qaisar Bilal, Talha and Khalid Ahmed in Bandipore and Ganderbal districts in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K), while another Fayaz Ahmad Khan also succumbed to injuries. He was critically injured in a grenade blast in Lal chowk Srinagar.

The humanitarian nightmare in IOJ&K is worsening with continued military lockdown and complete communications blackout for 103rd consecutive day (since the lockdown was imposed on 4th August 2019), 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. People of IOJ&K are even not allowed to offer Friday prayers at major mosques. These inhuman and unilateral actions by India are continuing, despite international condemnations.

We also condemn the restrictions imposed by the Indian authorities on all congregations in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir on Eid Milad-un-Nabi (Sallalaho-Alaih-e-Wasallam). All roads leading to the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar and other holy shrines and mosques in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir were sealed by Indian occupation forces to stop any processions on this auspicious occasion, which is traditionally observed by Kashmiris with great fervour.

Imposition of restrictions on celebrations and other congregations on the birthday of the Holy Prophet (Sallalaho-Alaih-e-Wasallam) represents utter disrespect for the sentiments of the Muslims of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. It is also a flagrant violation of their fundamental freedom of religion.

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.

We urge the international community, the United Nations, and other human rights organizations to take notice of the brutal suppression of the religious rights and freedoms of the Kashmiri people in utter violation of international laws and conventions. The Indian government cannot suppress the aspirations of the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir for exercising the right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Security Council Resolutions.

We have also noted with deep concern the decision of the Indian Supreme Court regarding the historic Babri Masjid. The decision has, once again, failed to uphold the demands of justice. As the United Nations recently noted that Indian Supreme Court’s response to human rights petitions in the context of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir was slow, this decision points out that when it acts, it is unable to protect the interests of India’s minorities.

This decision has shredded the veneer of so-called secularism of India by making clear that minorities in India are no longer safe; they have to fear for their beliefs and for their places of worship. A process of re-writing history is underway in India in order to recast it in the image of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in pursuance of the Hindutva ideology. It is also fast affecting India’s major institutions. The rising tide of extremist ideology in India, based on the belief of Hindu supremacy and exclusion, is a threat to regional peace and stability.

The Indian government should ensure the protection of Muslims, their lives, rights and properties and avoid being yet again a silent spectator of Muslims becoming the victims of Hindu extremists and zealots.

Pursuant to the Indian Supreme Court verdict regarding the historic Babri Masjid, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood briefed the OIC resident Ambassadors in Islamabad today. Giving an overview of the events leading to the verdict, the Foreign Secretary underlined that it failed to uphold the demands of justice, shredded the veneer of so-called secularism of India, and further illustrated the vulnerabilities of the minorities in India, particularly Muslims, in the face of extremist “Hindutva” ideology.

Contrary to Indian claims of this being an “internal” matter, the Babri Masjid demolition has remained on the agenda of the OIC since 1992. The OIC has also addressed this issue in numerous resolutions and declarations, including at the Summit level.

Moving forward, an 18-member delegation of ASEAN Parliamentarians and civil society members led by Haji Mohammad Azmi Hamid, President of Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization (MAPIM), called on Foreign Secretary Mr. Sohail Mahmood on 7 November, 2019.The delegates included members from Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia and Thailand. The visit was arranged by MAPIM for evaluation of the situation in the region after Indian government’s recent illegal and unilateral steps to change the internationally recognized disputed status of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K) and to alter its demographic structure.

The Foreign Secretary briefed the delegation in detail on the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in IOJ&K due to inhuman lockdown since 5 August, and apprised them about the serious risks to peace and security stemming from India’s belligerent rhetoric and actions. He underscored the importance of the international community’s role in helping to ameliorate the dire situation and to facilitate a peaceful solution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.

For its part, the delegation highlighted its mission of acquiring first-hand knowledge about the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, expressed concern over the human rights and humanitarian situation in IOJ&K, and affirmed support for the rights of the Kashmiris and a just and lasting solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. They also underlined their commitment to continue efforts to raise awareness about the Kashmir situation in the ASEAN region.

Moving forth, the Council of Ministers (COM) of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) held its 24th meeting in Antalya on 09 November 2019. Ms. Andleeb Abbas, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs led the Pakistan delegation, which was attended by the Foreign Ministers/ Deputy Foreign Ministers and Representatives of the ECO Member States and Observers. The Secretary General of ECO, Dr. Hadi Soleimanpour represented the ECO Secretariat.

In her statement to the Council of Ministers, the Parliamentary Secretary stressed the need to make the organization an invaluable platform to promote connectivity, trade and economic cooperation among the member states. She emphasized that the ECO Trade Agreement and the Transit Transport Framework Agreement should be implemented to realize the full potential of the Organization.

While drawing attention to India’s outright brutality especially to women and children and blatant disrespect for human dignity in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoJ&K), the Parliamentary Secretary said that Jammu and Kashmir dispute is a serious threat to regional peace and security and a roadblock in the region reducing its economic potential. She encouraged them to stand up for justice and play their role for the peaceful resolution of this longstanding conflict according to UN resolutions. The Foreign Minister of Turkey assured that Pakistan and Kashmir have Turkey’s support, after the conclusion of Ms. Andleeb Abbas’s statement. On the sidelines of the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Parliamentary Secretary held bilateral meetings with the Foreign Minister of Turkey and Secretary General of ECO.

On 13 November, China’s Special Envoy on Afghan Affairs, Ambassador Deng Xijun, called on Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood. Senior officials from both sides were present on the occasion.

The Foreign Secretary shared Pakistan’s perspective on Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations, Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process, and Afghanistan-China-Pakistan trilateral dialogue. The Foreign Secretary reaffirmed the importance Pakistan attached to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. Reiterating Pakistan’s strong commitment to a political settlement in Afghanistan; he underscored Pakistan’s hopes for early resumption of the stalled peace process.

The Foreign Secretary appreciated China’s positive contributions to Afghanistan’s national development and assured of Pakistan’s continued support in this context. Noting that China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue provided a firm platform for strengthening trilateral cooperation in diverse areas, he highlighted the recent projects undertaken in its auspices including the Under-19 cricket tournament and junior diplomats capacity-building workshop. The Foreign Secretary said that Pakistan looked forward to continuing its active role within this important trilateral framework.

Special Envoy Ambassador Xijun said that close cooperation between China and Pakistan was essential to ensuring that the Afghan peace and reconciliation process continued to move forward constructively. He noted that Pakistan had an important and unique role in the promotion of Afghan peace process and China looked forward to working closely with Pakistan in this regard. The two sides agreed to continue their mutual engagement bilaterally as well as in the context of 4-party talks.

Lastly, President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan have felicitated Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, on his re-election as the President of the United Arab Emirates.

In their congratulatory messages, the President and the Prime Minister have lauded the visionary leadership of Sheikh Khalifa and his invaluable contribution to UAE’s progress and prosperity. The President and the Prime Minister have also expressed the resolve to further fortify the fraternal ties between Pakistan and the UAE and to take this vital partnership to a new level.

Question There is confusion since yesterday regarding the amendment in Army Act. Could you please explain it? Secondly, what is the procedure for a common man to visit Kartarpur Sahib Corridor? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malik – Daily Metro Watch)

Answer: DG, ISPR has already commented on this.

Regarding your second question, it is open for common Pakistanis to visit and pay their respects to the Gurdwara of Baba Guru Nanak. As for media, there is a procedure, which is to be followed.

Question Over the last few weeks, it seems that we are not projecting the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, the way that we were doing before. Apparently, it has gone to the background. Your comments, please.

Secondly, there is massive shelling and unprovoked firing at the LoC by the Indian Armed forces. Why Pakistan is silent? (Mr. Mateen Haider – G-News)

Answer: I do not agree that the Jammu & Kashmir dispute has gone to background, rather we have been consistently and proactively highlighting the Kashmir cause with more vigour at all relevant forums. In this regard, the records of our weekly press briefings, which are available at our website, are manifestation of our efforts and consistent position on Jammu and Kashmir, which has not changed at all. As for ceasefire violations at LoC, we have always responded befittingly to Indian unprovoked firing and shelling and we will continue to do so. We are always ready and alert to defend our motherland at all cost.

Question Are we taking the Babri Masjid matter to Human Rights Council or the United Nations? Secondly, after operationalization of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor what are we expecting next from India? (Ms. Rashida Sial – Aab Takk News)

Answer: The demolition of Babri Masjid is a condemnable and reprehensible incident. The Babri Masjid was attacked and dismantled in 1992 that existed for almost 4 and half centuries. The decision of Indian Supreme Court has utterly failed to uphold the demand of justice. This is a very serious issue. We will continue to highlight this at every possible forum.

Regarding your second question, the government of Pakistan has taken the decision to open Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in the light of long standing demand of Sikh community from across the world, especially from India. We expect that India would appreciate our gesture, which is taken in the spirit to promote peace and harmony in the region.

Question By opening the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, Pakistan has given a very positive message to international community regarding interfaith harmony and religious tolerance in Pakistan. However, 103 days have passed since the government of India has scrapped Article 370 & 35A and has imposed curfew in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir. We do not find any support from the international community on this issue. Your comments please? (Mr. Asghar Ali Mubarak – Pakistan International Press Agency)

Supplementary Question Yesterday, during the international conference held in Serena Hotel, the President of Azad Jammu & Kashmir had disagreed with policies of the government of Pakistan regarding Jammu & Kashmir dispute. How do you comment on this? (Mr. Mateen Saeed – Aman News)

Answer: I had responded on this, in the Seminar, yesterday. Let me reiterate that there has been no change in our policy regarding Jammu & Kashmir. Our principled position is that the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir should be resolved as per the Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Any other action has nothing to do with Jammu & Kashmir. We have been saying this again and again that India has put itself into a corner by taking unilateral and unlawful actions. It now does not find a way out of it.

Question Has there been any breakthrough after the visit of Foreign Secretary to Kabul? Has any decision been taken to reopen Pakistan Embassy in Kabul and Afghanistan Consulate in Peshawar? (Ms. Kausar Lodhi – Prime News)

Supplementary Question Afghan President Asharaf Ghani has announced the release of three Taliban figures in exchange of American and Australian professors, who were abducted in 2017. This announcement was made when the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and ISI Chief were in Afghanistan. What role Pakistan has played in this regard? What will be its impact on possible resumption of peace talks? (Mr. Muhammad Jaleel – VoA)

Supplementary Question During the recent visit of the ISI Chief to Afghanistan, it has been reported that the Afghan government has demanded an apology from ISI Chief for the recent harassment of Afghan diplomats? (Mr. Anwar Abbas – Waqt News)

Answer: A high-level delegation visited Kabul and held meetings with senior officials of the Afghan side. Recent bilateral developments were discussed. There was agreement to enhance mutual coordination and take steps to move forward. It was also agreed to hold Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) in Kabul in December 2019. The exact dates will be communicated later.

As for your second part of question, Pakistan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Question Five weeks ago, you mentioned that the process of review and reconsideration regarding Commander Kulbushan Jadhav was about to start. What is the exact review and reconsideration process? (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)

Answer: Yes, I said that the process of review and reconsider was about to start. We will update you soon.

Question What is the daily number of Indian Yatrees, who are coming from Kartarpur Sahib Corridor? Can the Sikhs based in Pakistan also visit India while using the Corridor?

Secondly, after removal of Article 370 & 35A the Indian government has imposed its national laws in the valley. How do you comment on this?? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal – Media Today)

Supplementary Question Yesterday, you also mentioned that Pakistan efforts regarding Kashmir cause are a continuous process. We have observed that Pakistan Missions in Brussels and Barcelona have been doing a good job to highlight the atrocities being committed by India in IOJ&K. But our important Missions in America and New York are not doing enough. What is our next plan of action in this regard? (Mr. Tariq Mehmood – Hum News)

Supplementary Question It is being reported that Army Act is being amended. Is Pakistan going to handover Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav to India like Mr. Abhinandan as a goodwill gesture. What is your stance? (Sardar Aamir Hussain – Royal News)

Supplementary Question Is it a confidence building measure or entirely in line with the ICJ decision to allow Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav to appeal in a civilian court? (Mr. Nauman Ishfaq – Daily Parliament Times)

Supplementary Question After inauguration of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, reportedly few hundred pilgrims from India are visiting Gurduwara of Guru Baba Nanak every day. There are ample reports that the Indian authorities are blocking the Indian yatrees from visiting Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. Your comments please. (Mr. Faisal Raza Khan – 92-News)

Answer: On the inauguration day, approximately twelve thousand Yatrees were present, including five thousand Indian Pilgrims who came through Wagah and about five thousand from across the world. There were about seven hundred pilgrims, who came through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. I will get the subsequent details and share accordingly. According to the Agreement, which is available on our website, five thousand pilgrims can visit the Gurdwara of Baba Guru Nanak any day. Let me reiterate, that we want to implement the Agreement in letter and spirit. Moreover, the Agreement is very clear. No one can go from our side to India using the corridor.

Regarding Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, DG ISPR has already made a statement in detail. All actions will be in line with the laws of Pakistan. The decision of the ICJ will be honored in the light of laws of Pakistan. There should be no doubt in this regard. The ambiguity created unnecessarily was already cleared by the DG ISPR with his statement. There is no question of any deal regarding Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Regarding the removal of Article 370 by India, we have condemned the unilateral and unlawful action of India. Pakistan’s efforts to highlight the brutalities in the IOJ&K are well acknowledged. However, this is a continuous process. Two meetings of OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir were held. Similarly, international media has published countless articles highlighting the brutalities of the Indian government in IOJ&K. The Ministry of Foreign affairs and its Missions abroad are very actively raising the issue at all relevant forums and will continue to do so.

Question Has the process of identifying nine victims of bus accident near Medina last month been completed? Can you update on this and share the details?

Secondly, would you please update us regarding the shuttle diplomacy that PM Imran Khan initiated to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran? Has there been any progress and what is the result of PM’s Initiative? (Mr. Sib Kaifee – Arab News)

Answer: Regarding your second question, I have already shared our position in this regard last time, I do not have any further updates.

Regarding you first question, we have received some updates, which are not with me right now. I will update you after the briefing.

Question India had refused to avail the concessions offered by Pakistan to waive the condition of passport, advance information of the Pilgrims and service charges on 9 and 12 November. What was the impact of Indian Decision?

What is the update regarding inquiry of videos that Ms. Hareem Shah shot in Foreign Office? Who was responsible for that? (Mr. Zargoon Shah – Geo TV)

Answer: Regarding your second question, we have ascertained the facts and all necessary measures have been taken to prevent occurrence of any such incidents in the future.

Regarding you first question, we offered the concessions to facilitate the Pilgrims. India did not accept our concessions, it was their choice.

Question Last time you told us that you will be sharing Pakistan’s position on the Syrian regime. Pakistan has supported Turkey. The Kurds have made alliance with the Syrian Government, which is guilty of war crimes against its peoples by using cluster bombs etc. So what is Pakistan’s position on Syrian regime? (Mr. Ali Jaswal – Xinhua News Agency)

Answer: I have requested the concerned division for a response.

Question The protesters in Islamabad have alleged that the incumbent government is planning to recognize Israel. What is your comment on this?

Secondly, today Israel has attacked and martyred thirty two Palestinians. What is Pakistan’s official position on this?

Answer: On Israel, our policy is very clear and there is no change in it. We have always stood with our Palestinian brothers and will continue to do so.

Question During the speech on the occasion of inauguration of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, FM Qureshi had said the LOC may be finished. Does it mean that we are going towards ceasefire and terminating Simla Agreement? (Mr. Haider Sherazi – G-TV)

Answer: Your understanding is not correct. LoC can only be finished after the plebiscite as per the Resolutions of the UNSC and wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. That is obviously, what the Foreign Minister meant.

Question Mr. Syed Ali Gillani has written a letter to the PM of Pakistan. Is there any response being considered? (Mr. Anas Mallick – WION TV)

Answer: The letter is under consideration.

Question During his visit to the United States, the PM had informed President Trump that he would give good news regarding the release of two abductees. Are these are same as announced by President Asharaf Ghani?

Secondly, 260 Indian websites have been caught which have been making propaganda against Pakistan. Your comments, please? (Mr. Aun Sherazi – Such News)

Answer: I have already responded to your first question.

As for your second question, it is very important. We have repeatedly said that we do not expect any good from India. This particular case has been brought to notice by an independent organization, which substantiates our position that India is using all tools including such websites for propaganda against Pakistan.

Question Afghan President announced release of Taliban leaders. Has Pakistan played any role in this regard? Importantly, Foreign Secretary and DG ISI were also present on the occasion. (Ms. Rabia Peer – VoA Dewa Radio)

Supplementary Question How do you see the recent development that Afghan President Ghani has agreed to release three Taliban fighters in exchange for two Australian and American abductees? Do you believe that an intra-Afghan dialogue that is being envisaged, if a peace deal is signed between the Taliban and the US? Would this arrangement help in bringing Taliban and the Afghan government together on a table to negotiate a way forward in Afghanistan? (Mr. Essa Naqvi – Indus News)

Answer: I have already responded to both the questions.

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