International community’s voice becoming louder against the Israeli aggression in Palestine;Mumtaz

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Transcript of the Weekly Media Briefing by Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Thursday 16 November 2023

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

Thanks for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.

Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar led the Pakistan delegation at the Joint Arab Islamic Extraordinary Summit held on 11 November 2023 in Riyadh. The summit was convened to address the inhumane Israeli aggression and the dire humanitarian situation in occupied Palestine.

The Prime Minister held meetings with Arab and Islamic leaders participating in the conference including the Crown Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah; the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman; the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim; and the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas; and discussed the ongoing ruthless war on the people of Palestine.

In his speech at the summit, Prime Minister Kakar addressed the grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws, and the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by the Israeli occupation forces. He urged the international community to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and emphasized the urgency of a ceasefire, the lifting of the siege of Gaza, and unimpeded humanitarian aid.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination. He also emphasized the critical need for establishing a secure and sovereign Palestinian state based on pre-June 1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Pakistan welcomes the joint declaration of the Summit that urged the UN Security Council to enforce UN resolutions against Israel; its demand for ceasing export of weapons to the occupying force; and its call for international Criminal Court’s investigation into Israeli crimes.

Pakistan condemns repeated Israeli attacks on the premises and personnel of UNRWA and other humanitarian agencies, including the headquarters of Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza. We join the UN in paying homage to the workers of UNRWA and other humanitarian agencies who lost their lives in Gaza and appreciate their steadfast dedication to the people in need.

Pakistan also condemns Israel’s war on hospitals in Gaza as hospital after hospital is being targeted by the occupation forces in complete disregard of international law. We are appalled by Israeli incursion into Al-Shifa hospital, placing patients, medical staff and civilians at risk. We join the international community to hold Israeli occupation accountable for its attacks against hospitals. Israel must also be held accountable for deliberately targeting mosques, churches and schools sheltering civilians who have been rendered homeless because of Israel’s destruction of their homes.

By decimating civilian infrastructure and symbols of self-governance, including the legislative council, Israel is deliberately making Gaza uninhabitable for its civilian population. Backers of Israel must stop Israel from implementing its plans for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

As demanded by the Joint Arab-Islamic summit all countries must also stop exporting weapons and ammunition to the occupation authorities that are used by their military and settlers to kill Palestinian people and destroy their homes, properties and civilian infrastructure.

We once again urge the international community to act swiftly, collectively and meaningfully to stop the ongoing aggression by the Israeli occupation forces and hold Israel accountable for the war crimes being perpetrated in the Occupied Palestine.

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Dr Jamshid Khodjaev Abdukhakomovich and Acting Afghan Minister for Industry and Commerce Nooruddin Azizi visited Pakistan for the first Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Trilateral Meeeting on Commerce held on 14 November 2023. The Pakistan side was led by Federal Minister for Commerce and Industries Production Dr Gohar Ijaz. The discussions centered on promotion of trade relations by addressing trade barriers, streamlining customs procedures, and facilitating cross-border and transit trade.

The Ministers explored investment opportunities across sectors, promoting joint ventures, public-private partnerships, and enhanced foreign direct investment. They also deliberated on measures to improve transportation networks and infrastructure development to facilitate the movement of goods. Commerce Minister Gohar Ijaz expressed optimism that the trilateral cooperation would spur economic growth in all three countries.

While in Islamabad, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan met with Prime Minister Anwaarul-Haq Kakar, the Minister for Commerce and Industries Production, Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Federal Minister for Communications and Railways, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, and Minister for National Food Security and Research. The focus of these meetings was to expand bilateral cooperation in trade, connectivity, agriculture, transport, and defence.

During his visit, the Acting Afghan Minister for Industry and Commerce held a courtesy meeting with Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani. The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s strong commitment to bolstering ties with Afghanistan and highlighted the potential for enhanced trade and connectivity for regional integration. Stressing the inherent connection between security and development, Foreign Minister Jilani called for concrete action by Afghanistan against terrorist groups, particularly the TTP. He also expressed Pakistan’s readiness to collaborate with the Interim Afghan Government to this end. The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Pakistan commitment to addressing issues between Pakistan and Afghanistan through constructive engagement and dialogue.

Yesterday, Pakistan was re-elected to the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the term 2023-2027. Pakistan’s re-election and readiness to contribute in the Executive Board is a testament to its longstanding support for and its constructive role at the United Nations.

As a member of the Executive Board, Pakistan will work for strengthening UNESCO’s mandate and contribute to policymaking, development of norms, advancement of global priorities, and effective oversight of programs and activities of the Organization.

As an ardent advocate of multilateralism, Pakistan will endeavour to building bridges across regions and forging consensus on key issues for tangible outcomes and impact on ground.

The occupation authorities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) have been systematically dispossessing Kashmiris of their lands. India is engaged in an unrelenting campaign to seal and seize the properties belonging to human rights defenders and political activists. This week, the Indian authorities again seized several properties in Pulwama district of IIOJK, invoking a counter-terrorism law. The seizure of properties is a cruel means of crushing dissent and persecuting human rights defenders. This practice and the brutal Indian occupation that it facilitates must end. Measures must also be taken to implement UNSC resolutions on the Kashmir dispute.

Pakistan will continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.

The tenth meeting of Pakistan-Russia Joint Working Group to counter international terrorism and other security challenges is being held today in Islamabad. Additional Foreign Secretary (United Nations), Ambassador Syed Haider Shah is leading Pakistan’s multiagency delegation while the Russian delegation is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Versinin. The two sides will share respective assessment of the threat of terrorism at regional and global levels. The talks will focus on Pakistan-Russia counter-terrorism cooperation.

Thank you!

Question: At a time of conflict in Middle East and reports have emerged that Pakistan has given arms and ammunition to Ukraine. Do you think that this reporting is coincidental or aimed at targeting Pakistan for its position on Palestine? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: What is happening in the Middle East and the carnage in Gaza is a crime and injustice. It requires international attention and people with conscience around the world have spoken against this carnage. Pakistan like most of the international community has condemned the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. We believe that drawing comparisons to the ongoing situation in Gaza with any other conflict is not warranted.

Question: So, in the past, you and other officials have quite categorically denied that Pakistan has sold weapons to Ukraine or that Pakistani weapons are ending up in Ukraine. After this recent reporting, do you now accept that it is a fact that Pakistani weapons are being used in the Ukrainian battlefield, regardless of whether they went through the US or not? (Sarah Zaman, VOA)

Answer: First, of all, I reaffirm what we have said in the past that Pakistan has not sold weapons to Ukraine or to Russia as we have adopted a policy of strict neutrality in this conflict. Secondly, we are not in a position to confirm what weaponry is being used by the parties in the conflict. Thirdly, as I said in the past, Pakistan’s exports of weaponry to countries is accompanied by end-user certificates and we expect the parties which import Pakistani weapons to respect those end user commitments.
For exact details about which weaponry is sold where, I would advise you to talk to ISPR or the defence officials.

Question: Two questions, very quickly. Firstly, reportedly the Russian side has asked Pakistan to hand back its defence equipment that’s in use. Would you want to comment on that and confirm or deny these reports? Number two, former UN Refugee Ambassador and prominent Hollywood celebrity, Angelina Jolie, in an Instagram story has criticized Pakistan’s decision to deport Afghan refugees and has rather urged the Pakistani authorities to do a review. Would you want to comment on that? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: On your first question. The reports that you have referred to are not based on facts, because we are not aware of any requests that have been made by Russia to Pakistani authorities. Secondly, regarding the statement by former UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, we believe that these statements are perhaps rooted in a misunderstanding of the situation. There is a lot of misreporting as well. Pakistan has said and we have reiterated several times that Pakistan’s ongoing policy of repatriation of individuals who are currently here in violation of our immigration laws, does not pertain to refugees currently in Pakistan.

Question: Yesterday, Pakistani journalist Umar Cheema claimed that more than 160 officials are getting their pensions in foreign currencies. This story was established on the information provided by the Foreign Office to the Information Commission and to the court. Could you tell us who are those officers who are getting pensions in foreign currencies? They are civilian and military officers according to the information provided by the Foreign Office. (Abdullah Momand, Dawn TV)

Answer: Yes, we have shared some information with an applicant under the relevant laws on an RTI request which was sent to this Ministry. This information has been shared under the law. The law also authorizes the Ministry and the relevant departments to maintain the privacy of individuals. So, I’m unable to give you the names of those individuals.

Supplementary Question: Ma’am as you have said that you have shared some information with an applicant under the law of RTI, Is there any policy of paying pensions in foreign currency to the officials settled abroad? And if there is any policy, can this be reviewed? Would you recommend that? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)

Supplementary Question: Ma’am there is a policy that everyone has to come back to Pakistan, if he’s living abroad, and then the pension is issued. So, how are these people so special? Why they’re so lucky to have pension in dollars? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer: First of all, as I said this information was shared under the Right to Information Act with one applicant and the information that we have shared is the number of individuals who are receiving their pension in foreign currency. Since the names were not asked, we did not provide the names. In any case, we believe we have, under the laws, certain obligations to protect the privacy of individuals. With regards to the policy of provision of pensions in foreign currency or while people are living abroad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not in charge of the policy. The Accountant General of Pakistan can give you details about the guidelines for issuance of such pension checks. The role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this context is that of a courier and we simply send these checks through our Missions abroad.

Question: There are reports that Afghan Taliban is reviewing their policy regarding TTP? Are there any contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan regarding Afghan Taliban reviewing their policy regarding TTP? (Abdullah Momand, Dawn TV)

Supplementary Question: Ma’am, Pakistan’s special representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Asif Durrani in an interview has now claimed that Afghan Taliban control the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Now this is a departure from Pakistan’s position since the fall of Kabul that has been since August 2021. Is this Pakistan’s official position? Now that Pakistan really believes that the Afghan Taliban government control the TTP? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: Okay, so first, we address these two questions. Pakistan and Afghanistan remain engaged through various channels to discuss issues of concern between our two countries. Our embassies are functional and they are the prime channel of communication between the two countries. Secondly, any positive reports of action against TTP, we hope will result in concrete results, which means that the terrorist incidents in Pakistan perpetrated by TTP elements with hideouts inside Afghanistan will come down and in the end completely eliminated. With respect to the statement by Ambassador Durrani, I would not like to go into the contents of what he has said. But, I would like to reaffirm Pakistan’s stance that we are concerned about the threat that TTP poses to Pakistan. And, there is evidence and we have shared that evidence with Afghan authorities of TTP hideouts inside Afghanistan. We have urged the interim Afghan government to take concrete action against these TTP elements, dismantle their networks and prevent terrorist attacks from across the border into Pakistan. We also want them to hold the perpetrators and abettors of terrorist incidents inside Pakistan to account. We remain engaged with Afghan authorities with focus on these goals.

Question: Ma’am, as you’ve said that Pakistan has shared the report containing the details of the hideouts of TTP in Afghanistan, there are also some reports that Pakistan is seriously considering to carry out attack inside Afghanistan, like hot pursuit. So, is it likely or when are we thinking to carry out such attacks to eliminate these kinds of hideouts? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer: I would not like to comment on speculative reporting. As I said just now, our channels with Afghanistan are functional and we are engaged with Afghanistan on these very serious and concerning matters. We expect Afghanistan to take substantive steps and urgent steps against the terrorist outfits and to dismantle their networks and hold to account all those responsible for terrorist acts inside Pakistan.

Question: Ma’am my question is, Pakistan is taking steps for repatriation of all illegal foreigners in accordance with domestic and international laws. We are also seeing voices being raised in support of Afghan migrants who are illegally residing here. At the same time, Pakistan has shared evidence that Afghan soil is being used against Pakistan. The question is: Is Pakistan preparing any dossier to show the evidence that these illegal migrants are not only involved in terrorism in Pakistan but also using Afghan soil for it? (Ghazala Noureen, Suno TV)

Answer: First of all, I would not like to brand an entire ethnicity or an entire people as terrorists or as responsible for terrorist incidents. Pakistan has concerns that terrorist incidents in recent months have links with terrorist elements which are based in Afghanistan. We have also intelligence that many of these terrorist networks have links with some individuals staying illegally in Pakistan. Our decision to repatriate people who are in violation of our immigration laws is a decision irrespective of any nationality. Pakistan believes that it is our sovereign right to implement our immigration laws under which individuals who are staying here illegally can be deported, as is the case in any country in the world. So, we do not need to provide explanation to countries which have their own immigration laws and that they implement as per their sovereign right.

Question: Yesterday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Volker Turk said that he was concerned about reports of mistreatment, arbitrary detention and destruction of property of (inaudible) from Pakistan. So, what would you like to say about these reactions? (Muhammet Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency)

Answer: First, we have said and said again, that Pakistan’s repatriation for illegal foreigners will take place in a humane manner, and instructions have been sent throughout the law enforcement agencies. At the same time, the government has said that it will take strict action against individuals who may be involved in harassment of any individual facing deportation. For that purpose helplines have been established, both at the federal level and provincial level. These are 24/7 helplines and any individual whether he’s himself a victim, or if they have witnessed a case of harassment are welcome to report such incidents on these helplines and action will be taken in all such cases.

Question: Flag bearers of human rights, powerful countries are fully supporting Israel, and international laws are being openly violated. How does Pakistan see the double standards of these countries? And, an Indian soldier has been sentenced to life in prison for killing three Kashmiri civilians. Now, the Indian Armed Forces Tribunal abrogated his punishment. Please comment on it. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I am not aware of the last case that you have mentioned; I need to find more details. But, Pakistan has said repeatedly that the Indian occupation forces are acting with impunity in suppressing the people of IIOJK and are using counterterrorism laws to suppress the people of IIOJK and are engaged in extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances. With regards to your first question I can only say that the international community’s voice is becoming increasingly louder against the Israeli aggression against the people of Palestine. Pakistan was recently participating in the joint summit of Arab and Islamic countries where the outcome document has outlined its concerns about double standards, which we are witnessing these days. We call upon international community to enforce the international human rights and humanitarian law as we witness carnage and ethnic cleansing in Gaza taking place before our eyes.

Question: Ma’am, recently, Cabinet has written a letter to the Foreign Office regarding Shahzad Akbar. Has any action been taken on it? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: I’m not aware of the particular letter that you are referring to, so I need to check before I can comment on it.

Question: Ma’am, two years ago, a government was forcibly established in Afghanistan. Does Pakistan still expect something from them? Many terrorist incidents in Pakistan have been claimed by the TTP. Is Pakistan hopeful that Afghan authorities will take action against them? Secondly, can you share the number of Afghans here who have worked with NATO, the UK, America and Canada who have already left Pakistan? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: According to our information, and this information includes individuals who came soon after August 2021 and have left for third countries is 58,368. Some left soon after mid-August 2021 and the others left in the intervening period. On your first question, Pakistan has always said that we would like to have peaceful relations with all our neighbors, including Afghanistan. And we also believe in resolution of differences through dialogue. And yes, we have some serious concerns especially with respect to the terrorist hideouts and sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. These issues are being discussed with Afghanistan and we will continue to work to resolve these issues.

Question: Thank you Spokesperson, in the recent visit of the Afghan trade interim minister, Nooruddin Azizi, raised the issue of the smooth transfer of assets of the Afghan refugees, or the illegal immigrants as Pakistan described them, who are being deported to Afghanistan. I understand Pakistan’s Interior Minister said that the deportees could take 50,000 rupees, but as assets could be of bigger, you know, amounts, is Pakistan considering any policy for the transfer of assets of these illegal immigrants? Second, Mr. Azizi also raised the question of the transit trade agreement. Reportedly, more than 1000 containers, goods container, which was destined for Kabul are struck in Karachi port and the Kabul Taliban administration is raising this issue again and again. Reportedly, they are there for almost weeks. Your comments please? (Muhammad Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: Okay, regarding the transit trade, we have said this publicly, and this is what we have told Afghanistan bilaterally as well, Pakistan would continue to facilitate transit trade and bilateral trade with Afghanistan. However, we have concerns about the misuse of transit trade facilities and in that respect, Pakistan has introduced a negative list of products which we believe are luxury items. We have seen concrete evidence that these items were being diverted back to Pakistan after import by Afghanistan, especially when these luxury items have no use in Afghanistan. So, on such items Pakistan’s policy is very clear. As a policy, Pakistan will continue to find ways to facilitate transit trade, as it is critical for our vision of connectivity in the region. As far as the businesses or assets of individuals who have been here illegally is concerned. If you know under Pakistani laws, any individual who has to purchase any property has to show documentary evidence of their legal status, including identification documents. So, any business concerns which have been acquired through fake documents, or have been acquired in the name of individuals who are not Afghans, will be treated as per Pakistani law. We have seen that some business concerns have been run through informal or benami arrangements or through acquisition of fake Pakistan CNICs. This is another violation of Pakistani law and these issues will be handled as per Pakistan’s laws. I would also like to underline that there is a task force for identification of such assets. It is led by Secretary Interior and they will track and trace properties which were acquired by foreigners through fake identity documents. Once we have further details about the recommendations of this Taskforce, we will share it with the media.

Question: Would you like to share with us any figures about those containers? Whether Pakistan do have the authority under the transit trade agreement to stop these containers at Karachi port and to inspect that before they’re allowed to transport it to Kabul? (Muhammad Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: I think there are two aspects to your question. About the number of containers I do not have that information you may ask the customs authorities. With respect to inspection of goods that arrive at our ports, Pakistan has every right to inspect as is the right of every customs authority to inspect goods which arrive on our ports.

Question: I just wanted to know, there was a concern that when we were allowing the influx of Afghan back in 2021, probably we were able to register them but we did not have a lot of time to double check the backgrounds on who is coming in Pakistan and who will be eligible to go to third country. So, if I’m wrong, please correct me, majority of those people were related to NDS, Afghan National Army and other agencies and were facilitating the work of foreign forces in Afghanistan. What if people who we are facilitated to go to third country, are wanted in some terrorist activities in Pakistan? If we find a person who was involved in any illegal activity in Pakistan in the process of screening and scanning, but are outbound, can we ask the respective embassies or the missions to hand them over to us to interrogate them or investigate them. Do we have any clear policy? (Sumaira Khan, Samaa News)

Answer: Individuals who are slated to go to third countries are on Pakistani territory and are bound by Pakistani laws. Their status does not mean that they are out of the bounds of Pakistani laws. Secondly, our engagement with our partners which have indicated an interest in taking these individuals is ongoing and we will be discussing all such aspects including any concerns that we may have with respect to any individual.

Question: The meeting of the OIC and Arab League was recently held, but was limited to gathering, speech, and disburse. Do you think that these are bodies have become irrelevant? Especially OIC, as Pakistan is its member. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and some other countries could not unite on proposals against Israel. What is your comment on the role of those countries? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk News)

Answer: We believe that OIC is an important platform where the countries of Islamic world come together and develop a consensus which they then project internationally and take it forward including to the United Nations. The Arab-Islamic summit came up with a very comprehensive document condemning the atrocities in occupied Palestine and also gave a roadmap on how the international community must move forward in ending these atrocities and bringing an end to Israeli occupation. We hope that other international organizations and groupings show similar resolve with respect to this barbarity that is going on in occupied Palestine.

Question: Thank you so much ma’am. A follow up to what you said earlier, you said in response to the Taliban, the TTP question and I quote, any reports of positive action against TTP which will result in concrete evidence and results unquote. So does that indicate that there is a wider trust deficit and Pakistan would want to see the evidence of any action against the TTP by the Afghan government or is it not just lip service? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: What we want to see is concrete action so that this network, which is threatening Pakistan security, is weakened and eventually dismantled.

Question: There is a controversy between the Foreign Office and IMPASS that one of your ambassadors stationed in Muscat issued passport to himself and to a wanted alleged terrorist residing there in Muscat. So, what is going on regarding that issue? Is there some kind of inquiry going on? Or do you still think that your ambassadors have the power to issue passports to anybody and including themselves? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer: I do not know the details of this case. So, I will take it back. But, under Pakistan’s IMPASS system, all passports are now electronic. You have to apply online and the approval and printing of passports takes place in Pakistan and it does not take place in any embassy. So, I don’t want to comment further on this.

Question: Ma’am, I’m referring to the statement given by the Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar yesterday. He says that issues with Afghanistan will start to settle down once the legitimate government comes to Kabul. Does Pakistan still consider Afghan Interim Government, I mean Taliban government, as illegitimate? Your comment. (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)

Answer: I have to see the context in which the statement has been made because I am not aware of the statement that you have quoted. What Pakistan has said is that we are engaged with Afghanistan because Afghanistan is our neighbour and it is important for us to maintain dialogue and engagement with our neighbours for the mutual benefit of our peoples. We have also said that our relationship will be strengthened and move forward when we see concrete action against terrorist hideouts and sanctuaries of TTP inside Afghanistan. The people of Pakistan and Afghanistan have historic ties and cultural links and we cannot wish away our neighbours. We have to live with them and we have to work with them for mutual peace and prosperity.

Question: Yesterday, the court ordered the completion of the trial of the cypher case against the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan, and former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in one month. Do you think that the case of cypher is sensitive enough, or is it a political nature of case? (Abdullah Momand, Dawn TV)

Answer: I do not want to go into a case which is sub-judice and comment on its nature.