Transcript of the Weekly Media Briefing by Spokesperson
Thursday 5 October 2023
[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Assalam-o-Alaikum and good morning.
Welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani is currently in China at the special invitation of Foreign Minister Wang Yi for participation in the Third Trans-Himalaya Forum for International Cooperation being held in Tibet Autonomous Region from 4-5 October 2023. Initiated in 2018, the Trans-Himalaya Forum serves as a platform for regional countries to strengthen practical cooperation in connectivity, environmental preservation, ecological conservation, and the bolstering of cultural ties. This year’s theme is “Ecological Civilization and Environmental Protection.”
This morning, the Foreign Minister delivered the keynote address at the Opening Ceremony of the Trans-Himalaya Forum. In his address, he emphasized the importance of regional cooperation in addressing environmental degradation, climate change, and ecological diversity loss. He underscored Pakistan’s commitment to ecological balance and urged policy coordination and experience-sharing between countries in the region. He also reaffirmed support for regional cooperation for clean and sustainable development.
The Foreign Minister has held a bilateral meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Forum. Emphasizing the positive trajectory of bilateral ties, they discussed various aspects of the Pakistan-China friendship and exchanged views on regional and global matters. The two Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and pledged to enhance high-level exchanges and strategic communication for continued cooperation.
In Tibet, the Foreign Minister has also met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia, Sainbuyan Amarsaikha. The Foreign Minister emphasized our commitment to strengthen Pakistan-Mongolia ties which are rooted in shared cultural and historical linkages. The two Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to high-level exchanges and robust dialogue. The talks included plans to enhance bilateral trade and investment and mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse areas.
The 12th Round of Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) between Pakistan and Norway was held in Islamabad yesterday. The Pakistan delegation was led by Ambassador Muhammad Saleem, Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe) while the Norwegian delegation was led by Mr. Vebjorn Dysvik, Director General, Department for Regional Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest. They reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in climate change, maritime and shipping industry, renewable energy, trade and investment, higher education and science and technology. The Pakistan side appreciated the valuable contributions by the Norwegian companies in Pakistan’s economy and invited Norway to explore further investment prospects through SIFC.
Pakistan and Norway cooperate closely on bilateral and multilateral issues. Pakistani diaspora in Norway is contributing positively to Norway’s economy and society and serves as a bridge between the two countries. The BPC serves as a useful platform to review progress in existing areas of cooperation and to identify new avenues of cooperation. The 13th round of the BPC will be held in Oslo.
Pakistan and GCC have concluded the negotiations on the Pakistan-GCC Free Trade Agreement. Pakistan-GCC FTA is the first such agreement concluded by GCC with any country since 2009. We look forward to the early signing, ratification, and implementation of the Agreement, which we believe will contribute to growth and mutual prosperity and mark a new chapter in economic relations between Pakistan and GCC.
At the ongoing sessions of the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan continues to pursue an agenda of peace, dialogue and mutual understanding between diverse religions and civilizations. In its capacity as the coordinator of Geneva-based OIC Group, Pakistan co-organized with the OIC Observer Mission in Geneva an event titled “Mapping the efficacy of normative framework on religious discrimination, intolerance and hatred”. The event aimed to raise awareness on the growing phenomenon of religious discrimination, intolerance and hatred and the need for strengthening normative framework for its redressal from a human rights perspective. This event will supplement our efforts to combat Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination, intolerance and hatred against persons based on their religious beliefs.
The Indian forces continue to commit serious human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). During the month of September, the Indian troops killed 13 Kashmiris in extra-judicial killings and arrested 157 civilians and activists. Those arrested were mostly booked under the draconian laws promulgated by the occupation authorities in IIOJK — Public Safety Act (PSA) and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Such oppressive measures and human rights violations must end and the Kashmiri leaders be set free so that the Kashmiri people can freely exercise their right to self-determination.
I thank you.
Question: There’s a report published in the Washington Post in which it is said that BJP and RSS are using social media for propaganda against Islam and Muslims. Secondly, the Pakistani Cricket team is in India and there are reports of security issues. Please comment on this. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: First, regarding media report on India propaganda, I would like to restate what we have said in the past that India continues to indulge in propaganda against Pakistan and blames Pakistan on fictitious grounds; that is despite the fact that India itself has been engaged in terrorist activities inside Pakistan. As far as the security of the Pakistan cricket team is concerned, we have said in the past and I will reiterate that it is the responsibility of the host country to provide full security and a conducive sporting environment to our cricket team while they are in India for the ICC World Cup.
Question: In the latest statement of the Afghan Taliban spokesperson regarding the repatriation of Afghan refugees, he said that such behaviour of Pakistan against Afghan refugees is unacceptable, and Pakistan should reconsider its plan. Can you also share the exact number of Afghan refugees staying in Pakistan? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)
Supplementary Question: Has the Interim Afghan Government taken up this issue formally? Because this is not the issue of Afghan refugees instead the issue is of many illegal aliens being involved in terrorist activities. Has this issue been taken at the diplomatic level? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)
Supplementary Question: If these around 1.7 million refugees are asked to be deported from Pakistan to Afghanistan, do you expect the Taliban government to open the doors of Afghanistan and allow these people in? Secondly, do you think that this population of about 1.7 million will create a regional migration movement? And can you please share your measures and expectations with us? (M. Nazim Taschi, Anadolu Agency)
Answer: First, Pakistan’s national policy on Afghan refugees remains unchanged. We continue to host 1.4 million Afghan refugees with exemplary generosity and empathy despite resource constraints, and economic challenges. As the situation in Afghanistan stabilizes, we believe that it is the right time to upscale international efforts to create conditions conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees with honour and dignity. Pakistan’s recent decision is not targeted against Afghan refugees. The decision of the government of Pakistan is aimed at regulating illegal aliens residing in Pakistan, irrespective of their nationality. And Pakistan is well within the parameters of our sovereign domestic laws to act in this context.
I would also like to state that the government’s policy envisages a phased and time-bound repatriation of all illegal foreigners residing in Pakistan. These include cases of individuals who are overstaying their visas and do not possess valid documentation. And I reiterate this is not directed against any specific nationality. With regards to the question about our engagement with the Afghan authorities, Pakistan remains in contact with Afghan authorities and will continue to engage with them on all matters of bilateral interest, including the safe return of the refugees. However, as I said the latest decision that you are referring to pertains to illegal migrants and it does not pertain to refugees; these are two separate cases.
Question: My first question is supplementary to this discussion. Whether the reported meeting that you also made part of the press release between Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani and his Afghan counterpart Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi, has taken place or is yet to take place and whether all these issues are part of the agenda.
My second question is that the Election Commission of Pakistan has written a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding its decision to invite observers for the forthcoming elections. Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs endorse this decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan to invite the observers and secondly, what kind of cooperation will the Ministry of Foreign Affairs render to the Election Commission of Pakistan as they have requested? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: Regarding your first question, the meetings in Tibet, China are still ongoing and as you know, the bilateral meetings on the sidelines of major conferences take place whenever there is a time slot available between the various sessions. So, once this meeting takes place, we will be able to confirm to you the agenda and any discussion that takes place. On your second question, yes, we have just received a formal communication from the Election Commission of Pakistan on this matter. I would like to underline that this is not the first time that elections will be conducted in Pakistan. In the past as well, Pakistan has invited international observers. In accordance with the policy and past practice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will work closely with the Election Commission of Pakistan in facilitating the process and inviting international observers for the upcoming general elections. This is a work in progress and we will continue to engage with the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Question: There are also reports that Pakistan has closed the Afghan transit trade. What do you have to say about this? (Abdul Hadi, Hum Pashto 1 News)
Answer: This information is incorrect. Pakistan, and Afghanistan bilateral trade and transit trade continue to take place. What Pakistan has said is that we would not accept the misuse of existing trade facilities including transit trade facilities. Any measures taken recently or to be taken in the coming days will be in accordance with this understanding.
Question: The situation in Azad Kashmir is tense. Peaceful protesters are being treated harshly and are also being arrested. What are your comments on this? (Raziq Mehmood Bhatti, Daily Kashmir Express)
Answer: I would advise you to contact the home office for any comments on this matter.
Question: As Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani is in China, which sideline meetings are expected? Secondly, this month, a high-level delegation from Pakistan will visit China regarding the ML-1. Is there any update from the Foreign Office about that? (Arslan Majeed, Huashang China)
Answer: The Foreign Minister is in China and as I said earlier, on the sidelines he has held meetings with the Foreign Minister of China and with the Foreign Minister of Mongolia. I have already provided the details in my opening statement. Regarding any future visits, once these are confirmed and it’s time to announce them, we will make the announcement.
Question: On the 18th of October, the Caretaker Prime Minister is also visiting China. Please share some details of his visit. (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)
Answer: I think you are asking the same question and my answer is the same. When the decision for a meeting is finalized and the time to announce the visit comes, we will make that announcement.
Question: Pakistan has started weapon exports to the United States especially in 2022 and 2023. Would you like to please share the details of the nature of weapons which Pakistan is exporting to the US? (Almas Haider Naqvi, Daily Dunya)
Answer: I do not have details of those exports. Perhaps the Ministry of Defense Production can share details with you about the nature of these weapons.
Question: It was mentioned in the curtain raiser from the Foreign Office that the Caretaker Foreign Minister will visit the autonomous region of Tibet. In your briefing you have also said he is on a visit to China. In reality, what is our position regarding Tibet? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Answer: Yes. Foreign Minister is in China and we consider Tibet Autonomous Region as integral part of the People’s Republic of China.
Question: I have two questions. The first is with regard to the Afghan refugees. Can you give a timeline on what to expect after the first of November once this deadline is achieved? Number two, we saw there was a telephone contact between the caretaker Prime Minister and the UK Foreign Secretary. Previously we have seen that the Prime Minister speaks to the Prime Minister or his counterpart. Is this point of departure from protocol or has there been a new political standard that has been set here onwards? Because this is certainly something unusual that you see a Foreign Secretary of a country engaging with the Prime Minister. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: Regarding your first question, at this stage what the Government of Pakistan has said, that we will undertake this exercise in a phased, deliberate and orderly manner. The process will proceed depending on the number of illegal immigrants in Pakistan and the arrangements for their return to their respective countries. With regards to your second question, that telephone call took place soon after the meeting between the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom during which they had established a personal rapport. It was in that context that the telephone exchange took place.
Question: The World Cup is starting today. How many visas have been issued to Pakistani spectators and Pakistani journalists? Even yesterday, Babar Azam said in a press conference that the World Cup would have been better if Pakistani spectators were allowed to visit India. What are your comments on this? (Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination)
Answer: Pakistan is in contact with the Indian authorities on this matter. We expect the Indian authorities to immediately grant visas to Pakistani journalists and spectators who wish to watch the Cricket World Cup matches in India. We have said on several occasions in the past, that sports should not be mixed with politics. We hope that India will fulfil its obligations as the host of the World Cup and will not place obstacles for the participation of Pakistani journalists and spectators in the ICC World Cup.
Question: Firstly, you have not commented on the firing at Chaman; civilians were martyred and a security guard was wounded. Has there been any protest regarding this incident? What is this matter? Why did it happen? Secondly, you have said that thousands of Afghan refugees who are illegally residing here would be repatriated. Has any fund been arranged for this? And if Afghanistan does not accept them, where would they go? There is not enough space in our jails. What are your thoughts on this? (Muhammad Awais, INP)
Answer: First, on Chamman firing, ISPR has issued a statement. Regarding the repatriation of any foreigners who may be living here illegally, laws of Pakistan will take their course. For individuals who violate Pakistani immigration laws, there are punishments in place and there are ways to deal with such cases, including repatriation to their home countries. With regards to the details on the procedures and the financial aspects of it, I would advise you to contact the relevant ministry, the Ministry of Interior which is in charge of law and order and in implementing this policy.
Question: Pakistan has stated many times, that Pakistan has clear evidence of the Afghan soil being used against Pakistan. Is there any proposal from the Foreign Office to invite foreign ambassadors and deliver a briefing on this so that the world can see that Afghan soil is being used against Pakistan, especially regarding TTP? (Ghazala Noreen, Suno TV)
Answer: First, Pakistan has very clearly articulated its concerns about the threat of terrorism that we face emanating from Afghanistan. This statement has been made by Pakistan on several occasions, including at international conferences and forums. At the same time, we believe in diplomacy and dialogue, and we will continue to engage with Afghan authorities to fight this threat and to ensure that Afghan soil is not used to foment terrorism against Pakistan.
Question: There are some reports that Pakistan’s establishment is on board with the grand agenda of normalization of ties with Israel. How true is it? Secondly, there are different reports that the Army Chief’s visit to America was scheduled and then it was cancelled and some people are saying that this visit has not yet been scheduled. Is this visit expected or not? (Abdullah Momind, Dawn TV)
Answer: Regarding the travel plans of the Chief of Army Staff, I would advise you to check with the ISPR as they would know better than me about his travel plans. With regards to any engagement or any dialogue that may be taking place between different countries in the Middle East, I would like to reiterate what our Foreign Minister told you just a few days ago. Pakistan’s position and policy on the Palestine issue is clear and consistent. We do not believe that the time has come to pronounce on any new policy. Pakistan will continue to make decisions according to its own national interest. Pakistan’s position on the Palestine question is also very clear. A two-state solution is the essential for peace in the Middle East. We believe that the people of Palestine have a right to an independent state as per the UN resolutions, a state which is within the parameters of pre-1967 borders.
Question: A few days ago, commenting on some terrorist incidents that took place, federal and provincial ministers said that RAW was behind those incidents. While dozens of Pakistanis are being martyred in these incidents, Pakistan’s cricket team is in India for the World Cup despite the Indian cricket team’s refusal to come to Pakistan for the Asia Cup. Don’t you think that Pakistan should boycott this cricket cup? (Aun Sherazi, Such TV)
Answer: I think you have mixed several questions together. But I would like to underline that the Pakistani cricket team is in India, not for a bilateral cricket series between Pakistan and India. Our team is there to play in the ICC World Cup, and the Pakistani team qualified for that tournament; it has every right to participate in that tournament. That is why our cricket team is in India. We have always said that we do not want to mix politics with sports and we advise other countries to do the same.