UN has launched a global appeal of US$ 4.4 billion, which is one of the biggest ever appeals corresponding to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Asim Iftikhar

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Friday, 28 January, 2022

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

Good Afternoon and welcome to our Weekly Press Briefing.

Let us look at some important updates to start with.

As you are aware the Prime Minister will be undertaking a visit to China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics next week. During the visit, the Prime Minister will have meetings with the Chinese leadership. The visit will reinforce the All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between our two countries, and further advance the objective of building a closer China- Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.
Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood visited Jeddah from 22-25 January, where Pakistan assumed the Chair of OIC’s Senior Officials Meeting in run up to the 48th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers to be held in Islamabad from 22-23 March. The Foreign Secretary steered discussions in the SOM on the range of issues under consideration. The Foreign Secretary also underscored the special importance of the 48th Session of CFM, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence.

Separately, the Foreign Secretary also called on OIC Secretary General, H.E Hissein Brahim Taha, and exchanged views on Pakistan-OIC cooperation, IIOJK, situation in Afghanistan, Islamophobia and preparations for the 48th ICFM Session to be held in Islamabad.
Let me also state Pakistan’s strong condemnation of further attacks by the Houthis targeted against Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We call for immediate cessation of such attacks. Our position on this issue is well-known.

Let us take a look at some of the recent high-level engagements.
Foreign Minister Qureshi received the Minister of Trade of Sri Lanka, Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana and State Minister for Regional Cooperation Mr. Tharaka

Balasuriya at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 24 January. The Sri Lankan delegation also paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister on 25 January. Accompanied by a group of Sri Lankan businessmen, the delegation had a number of interactions in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore with a view to strengthening trade and investment ties between the two countries.
Over the last few days, the Foreign Minister has undertaken a series of phone calls to his counterparts across the world as part of Pakistan’s diplomatic outreach at the start of the New Year, including:
1. Foreign Minister of Guinea HE Dr. Morissanda Kouyate
2. Foreign Minister of Benin HE Mr. Aurélien Agbénonci
3. Foreign Minister of Jordan HE Mr. Ayman Al Safadi
4. Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan HE Mr Mukhtar Tileuberdi and 5. Foreign Minister of Azerbaiijan HE Mr Jeyhun Bayramov
6. Foreign Minister of Cote d’Ivoire Her Excellency Kandia Kamissoko Camara
You would have seen our Press Releases detailing these conversations.

On 26th January, Foreign Minister Qureshi launched the “SDG Investment Report 2021: Leveraging Private Investments for Pakistan’s Sustainable Development” at a high-profile event held at the Foreign Office. The Report has been prepared under the lead of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with UNDP and the Board of Investment. It showcases Pakistan’s business portfolio and potential for attracting private sector investments aligned with the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In his key-note address, the Foreign Minister outlined his vision of Economic Diplomacy which is geared towards advancement of Pakistan’s Economic Security agenda. Noting the upward trajectory of Pakistan’s macro-economic indicators amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, he underscored the imperative of exploring innovative financing solutions, and involvement of both public and private sectors to increase investments in Pakistan’s development sector for attainment of the SDGs. He particularly highlighted the need to focus on health, agriculture, renewable energy and infrastructure to ensure that development is sustainable.
Yesterday, Pakistan and Singapore held Bilateral Political Consultations in which both sides resolved to further strengthen cooperation in economic, political, defense and security, education, science and technology, technical training, environment, culture, tourism and other areas.

On the cultural and public diplomacy front, Pakistan and Iraq signed an MOU in the Field of Tourism in Baghdad. The Agreement will promote two-way tourism and reinforce people-to-people linkages between the two countries.

Yesterday, in continuation of celebrations to commemorate 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Spain, and in line with Vision Foreign Office of the Foreign Minister, a photo exhibition titled ‘Colors of Spain and Pakistan’ was inaugurated at Lok Virsa. The Exhibition will remain open to public till 30th January.

Let me now turn to the situation in IIOJK.

Kashmiris in IIOJK and around the world marked 26 January as a Black Day deploring the 7 decades of Indian illegal occupation and state-sponsored terrorism unleashing a reign of unprecedented violence and oppression against the Kashmiris while denying them their right to self-determination.
It is a matter of grave concern that India continues to commit widespread and gross human rights violations in IIOJK with impunity. These gruesome acts are well- documented by the UN and international human rights organizations. On various occasions, Pakistan has also presented to the UN and the international community evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces in IIOJK.

Pakistan also continues to draw attention to India’s irresponsible state behavior and track record of willful non-compliance with international rule of law. For over seventy years, India has violated the UN Charter and fundamental principles, norms and rules of international law. On Jammu and Kashmir for example, by refusing to implement the UNSC resolutions, India remains in consistent breach of its obligations under Article 25 of the UN Charter that stipulates that “The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council”.
The world is increasingly aware of the grave situation in IIOJK. Let India be warned that its reign of terror and illegal actions cannot continue unchecked. The government and people of Pakistan reaffirm our strong resolve to continue to raise our voice and extend all possible support for our Kashmiri brothers and sisters in their just struggle.
We strongly urge the members of the international community to hold India to account for its atrocities in IIOJK, and to play their due role in enabling the Kashmiris to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination as pledged to them under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Peace and development in South Asia must no longer be held hostage to India’s irresponsible and reckless approach.
I thank you and am ready to take questions on these or other foreign policy matters.

Question: In your Opening statement, you have drawn attention towards atrocities perpetuated by India in IIOJK. More than 907 days have passed (since August 5, 2019) that Kashmir continues to remain under siege. What has been the response of international community especially the United Nations to the worsening situation in IIOJK?
Secondly, people from IIOJK including various Hurriyat leaders have complained to the Government of Pakistan that their sentiments are hurt when sweets are exchanged on special days between India and Pakistan. How do you comment? (Raziq Mehmood Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)

Answer: Thank you for your question, I think what has been happening in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) is quite evident to all of you and to the international community. This is a sad state of affairs that despite the increasing attention, condemnation and criticism of the Indian military siege and illegal actions in particular the human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law in IIOJK, India is continuing with its hostile, negative and repressive policies.
We have been drawing the attention of the international community towards the worsening situation in IIOJK. It is the direct responsibility of the international community, especially the UN and the Permanent Members of the Security Council that they take specific actions to refrain India from these illegal actions and human rights violations and we will continue to raise our voice on the matter.
A key point to note in IIOJK is the total rejection of the Indian actions and policies by the Kashmiri people. It is evident that the continued oppression and illegal actions of the Indian occupation has led to complete alienation of the Kashmiris from India. And this is manifested in strong rejection of what India is doing in IIOJK. The Kashmiris will continue their just struggle, Pakistan will continue to support them and we will continue to sensitize and urge the international community to fulfill its responsibilities for bringing an end to the Indian atrocities and for peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with international legitimacy.

Question: Keeping in view the current situation in Afghanistan, what kind of humanitarian aid is being dispatched by international organizations and international community. How is this aid being distributed and what is Pakistan’s role/ involvement in distributing it including managing logistics, providing transit facilities and providing security etc?
Secondly, Pakistan has repeatedly stated that it wants peaceful relations with all its neighbors. However, India has not responded positively to these statements. Have there been any indications that India is ready to conduct bilateral talks with Pakistan? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: Your first question relates to the situation in Afghanistan, particularly the humanitarian crisis that the people of Afghanistan are facing and the response of the international community, particularly the role of Pakistan.
You are well aware of the diplomatic activity that Pakistan has undertaken with regard to the situation in Afghanistan. We have encouraged the international community to engage with the Afghan authorities, leaving aside the political and other issues, to focus in the first phase, on the urgent humanitarian crisis confronting the Afghan people. And we have been able to mobilize good enough consensus on this point – from the immediate neighbors to other partners in the international community. You are aware of the extra-ordinary session of the OIC that was organized by Pakistan in December, and you have seen the kind of voices that have since been raised in support of the call for urgent humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan. Many countries and organizations are stepping forward with assistance, and there is also increased engagement. UN has launched a global appeal of US$ 4.4 billion, which is one of the biggest ever appeals corresponding to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
As for Pakistan, we were among the first to provide assistance, and you are aware of the Rs. 5 billion assistance package under which 50,000 tons of wheat, medication, shelters and other assistance are to be provided. The first tranche of 1,800 tons of wheat under this package has already been delivered and action is in hand to expedite further deliveries. Pakistan is also facilitating assistance from others. On the whole I agree with your point that there is a need for the international community to respond swiftly in view of the urgency of the situation in Afghanistan.
Regarding you second question, Pakistan is desirous of peaceful and friendly relations with all its neighbors including India, and we have said this a number of times, but unfortunately this desire for peace and friendship is not reciprocated by India. In fact India has troubled relations with most of its neighbours. While there is a long-standing hostile approach that India has adopted towards Pakistan, the situation has further deteriorated ever since India’s illegal and unilateral actions post 5 August 2019 in IIOJK. And I think that is despite the advice to India from many of our common friends, and despite this issue being highlighted at many fora including the UN Security Council, India has unfortunately not responded positively. It has vitiated the environment. As we have said consistently, onus is now on India to take the necessary steps to create conditions conducive for a constructive result oriented dialogue between the two countries.

Question: Pakistan has been consistently raising the humanitarian issue vis-a-vis Afghanistan and is playing its due role to avert any impending humanitarian crisis. On the other hand, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor has reportedly said that Afghanistan’s land is still being used against Pakistan. How do you see his remarks in the backdrop of recent incidents of violence and terrorism for which TTP has claimed responsibility? Your comments please? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA, Urdu)
Answer: Our position on incidents of terrorism in Pakistan and their foreign supporters is well-known. As for your observation about the comments attributed to the National Security Advisor in some parts of the press, I understand they were misrepresented; and this was subsequently clarified.

Question: It has been noted that progress on CPEC projects has slowed down. Will the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to China help accelerate progress on these projects? (Shakeel Kalyana, Daily Relation News)
Answer: This is entirely misplaced perception that work has slowed down in CPEC. In fact, CPEC has continued making progress over the last two years despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Last meeting of the JCC was very productive and many CPEC projects are ongoing as I also informed in a recent briefing.
As you are aware, the Prime Minister will be in Beijing and many issues of bilateral cooperation will be under discussion; one of them will be CPEC which is which is the high quality demonstration project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Both countries are strongly committed to take it forward and to make it successful.

Question: First, regarding the situation in Ukraine, does Pakistan plan on scaling down its diplomatic presence, given the current security situation?
Secondly, with regards to reports on Indian wheat being allowed to transit through Pakistan has there been any breakthrough / update that you can share with us. (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)
Answer: On Ukraine, we continue to follow the developments closely through our Embassy . We hope for continued dialogue and engagement, and a diplomatic solution.
On the question about the Indian wheat as humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, this keeps coming up and I have commented on this in my last press briefing also. By way of information let me state again that Pakistan has already conveyed its decision to allow the transportation of this humanitarian assistance based on the request from the Afghan authorities, and this is on exceptional humanitarian grounds without creating any precedent.
Subsequent to that, there have been further contacts. The Indian side came up with their own kind of conditions regarding the transportation modalities. To move forward we also agreed to the use of Afghan trucks for transportation. Complete information of arrangements put in place by Pakistan were conveyed to the Indian side last month. We are awaiting response on the information they have to provide.

Some of that they have shared such as names of the employees of the transportation company, and other information is still awaited, including the date of the first consignment, details of trucks and drivers and focal points etc. We have asked them to provide the requisite details, so that this moves forward.

Question: Last month, India suspended 35 Pakistani YouTube Channels and two websites for allegedly peddling fake news. This month approximately 20 YouTube channels have been additionally blocked. We are seeing with increasing frequency that the Pakistani content on digital media is often tagged as fake news and suspended. Is Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with other relevant government authorities taking up this matter with YouTube? How do you comment? (Syed Faisal Ali, Daily State Views)
Supplementary: Indians are heading many digital media enterprises such as Google at a global level. This adds to difficulties faced by Pakistan in the usage of digital media. What is Pakistan’s strategy to deal with this situation? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: You made a full comment, and with regard to the original question, I think I do not need to say much. This is very evident that a country like India which itself has been exposed before the international community with regards to its activities in spreading disinformation directed against other countries is taking steps such as blocking channels and accusing others of false news and propaganda.
The stark disconnect between rhetoric and reality under the BJP-RSS dispensation at helm in India, where dissenting voices are being muzzled with officially sanctioned impunity, lies in public glare. The increasing intensity of attacks against freedom of expression, including the recent reprehensible act of de-registration of Kashmir Press Club by the IIOJK administration, reveals Indian hypocrisy of the highest order.
India’s own sustained disinformation and propaganda campaign to malign Pakistan was exposed by the EU DisinfoLab in 2020. This was the world’s largest disinformation campaign and one of its primary motives was to deflect global attention from India’s own atrocities and human rights violations. The Pegasus story is also known to the world. Furthermore, whipping up anti-Pakistan hysteria has become a quintessential element of the electoral exercise in India. Targeting Pakistan with false propaganda campaigns for ideological reasons and political expediency is a norm in today’s India.
We denounce such practices, and we will continue to take all actions to expose this to the international community. In this regard, I would like you to recall the initiative taken by Pakistan at the UN General Assembly, where the Pakistan sponsored landmark resolution on Countering disinformation for the promotion and protection of human rights was recently adopted by consensus.

Question: On the one hand Saudi Arabia and Iran are thinking to reopen their Embassies in each other’s countries. On the other hand, the Houthi rebels have extended their attacks up to UAE. How is Pakistan viewing this situation? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: We have expressed our views on the continuing Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and UAE and you are aware of our clear condemnation of all such attacks, as I just mentioned in my opening remarks as well. Our position is well- known.

Question: Can we expect the restoration of full diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan including return of High Commissioners to respective capitals? (Zargoon Shah, Geo News)

Answer: I think this can be part of a process when things will be moving in a positive direction. At the moment, as you are aware, the current environment is not good and in our view the responsibility for that lies with India. So, I think India needs to take certain steps and actions, as we have clearly said, to move towards an environment that would be conducive for constructive dialogue and engagement between the two countries and then we can consider how we can proceed on various issues.

Question: Tomorrow, the chief of Pakistan Hindu Council Mr. Ramesh Kumar is travelling to India with a delegation which will visit various religious sites in the country. Kindly share details including number of people with the delegation, their names etc. Also, if you could comment on how will this visit benefit religious tourism between India and Pakistan? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)
Supplementary Question: India has denied permission to a special flight that was to fly to Jaipur which was to carry 160 Zaireen. How do you comment? (Zaheer Ali Khan, Samaa TV)

Answer: You are referring to the initiative by Pakistan Hindu Council to promote faith tourism. Let me recall that under that, at the start of the new year there was a large group of pilgrims from India that visited the Teri Mandir and other religious shrines in Pakistan. We understand there is a desire on part of the Pakistan Hindu Council to continue with this initiative. We are supportive of the idea and we understand the Indian side has a positive view as well. This obviously needs to be done with agreement and mutual understanding.

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