Transcript of the Press Briefing by the Mumtaz Baloch Spokesperson ministry of foreign affairs on
Thursday 18th January 2024
Thanks for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.
This morning Pakistan undertook a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts in Sistan-o-Baluchistan province of Iran. A number of terrorists were killed during the Intelligence-based operation – codenamed ‘Marg Bar Sarmachar’.
Over the last several years, in our engagements with Iran, Pakistan has consistently shared its serious concerns about the safe havens and sanctuaries enjoyed by Pakistani-origin terrorists calling themselves Sarmachars on the ungoverned spaces inside Iran. Pakistan also shared multiple dossiers with concrete evidence of the presence and activities of these terrorists.
However, because of lack of action on our serious concerns, these so-called Sarmachars continued to operate against Pakistan with impunity. This morning’s action was taken in light of credible intelligence of impending large scale terrorist activities against Pakistan by these terrorists.
This action is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats. The successful execution of this highly complex operation is also a testimony to the professionalism of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. Pakistan will continue to take all necessary steps to preserve the safety and security of its people which is sacrosanct, inviolable and sacred.
Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security and national interest which is paramount and cannot be compromised.
As a responsible member of the international community, Pakistan upholds the principles and purposes of the UN Charter including territorial integrity and sovereignty of member states. Guided by these principles, and in exercise of our legitimate rights within international law, Pakistan will never allow its sovereignty and territorial integrity to be challenged, under any pretext or circumstances.
Iran is a brotherly country and the people of Pakistan have great respect and affection for the people of Iran. We have always emphasized dialogue and cooperation in confronting common challenges including the menace of terrorism and will continue to endevaour to find joint solutions.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar who is currently in Davos to attend the 54th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), has decided cut short his visit in view of the ongoing developments.
At WEF, the Prime Minister participated in the Informal Gathering of the World Economic Leaders (IGWEL), and delivered keynote address at the event titled “Trade Tech’s Trillion-Dollar Promise” and held meetings with participating leaders on the sidelines.
Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani is in Kampala, Uganda, to participate in the 19th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Third South Summit of the Group of 77 & China. His participation in these important summits is a reflection of the high priority Pakistan attaches to promoting cooperation among the Global South, including on issues related to sustainable development. The Foreign Minister has also cut short his visit in light of recent developments.
The 14th of January 2024 marks a painful milestone for the human conscience. It was the 100th day of Israel’s war on Palestine, which has taken over 24,000 lives in Gaza – a toll that is escalating with each passing day. The indiscriminate violence by Israel has to end. Humanity must prevail. The international community must play its part in saving the people of Palestine from the barbaric acts of the occupation authorities.
The month of January carries painful memories of three massacres committed by the Indian forces in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) during 1990s.
Over 50 innocent people were martyred and hundreds were injured when the Indian troops had opened indiscriminate fire on peaceful protesters in Gaw Kadal area of Srinagar on 21 January 1990. A few days later, on 25 January 1990, at least 21 unarmed Kashmiris were martyred by the Indian troops in north Kashmir’s Handwara town. On 27 January 1994, a day after India’s Republic Day, Indian troops massacred 27 civilians in Kupwara town.
We remember the martyrs of these massacres and pay rich tribute to their sacrifices. The perpetrators of these massacres should be held accountable.
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.
Spokesperson: Let’s start with Khalid sb.
Khalid Mehmood, Express News: Ma’am, Iranian forces are again preparing and there are some reports that they are preparing missiles. If they attack again then will Pakistan’s response be the same as today’s response?
Spokesperson: I would not like to indulge in speculation. Pakistan has said that we would like to have peaceful relations with all countries in the region, including with our neighbour Iran. And, we have also said that Pakistan’s security and sovereignty is sacrosanct and Pakistan remains ready and is willing to protect itself.
Mateen Haider, G News: There was an earlier statement made by you that Pakistan carried out strike. First, you’d like to share details of these strikes, whether it was through regular Pakistan Air Force or through drones or missiles and what are the details of casualties?
Spokesperson: It is my understanding that these details will be coming soon from ISPR. So, I will not indulge in operational details.
Spokesperson: Ji Azaz sb
Azaz Syed, Geo News: Iranian State Media has recently reported that they have also sought explanation from Pakistan. Although, they attacked first and we have retaliated, but their state media is saying that they have sought some kind of explanation from Pakistan. Have you received any kind of communication from Iran?
Spokesperson: As you know, this incident took place this morning. And, at this point, I’m not aware of any contact that took place in the last two three hours.
Spokesperson: Yes, our friend from IRNA.
Afzal Reza, IRNA: Ma’am, there are some reports regarding some countries trying to deescalate the tension between two brotherly countries. Comments?
Spokesperson: As I said earlier, Pakistan considers the people of Iran as our friends and brothers and we have no interest in escalating any situation and we hope that others understand this. And we also believe that acts like the one which took place a couple of nights ago, create difficulties and give the adversaries of our friendship the pretext to create more difficulties in the region.
Ali Hussain, Business Recorder: Ji thank you ma’am. Iran violated Pakistan’s sovereignty and carried out strikes inside Pakistan and Pakistan in response retaliated and carried out the same strikes inside Iran. What’s next? Is there any channel of communication between the two countries currently to de-escalate the situation? Or, where both the countries are heading toward?
Spokesperson: As I said earlier, Pakistan has also always emphasized dialogue and cooperation. And, we have always chosen a path of dialogue. We also believe that dialogue and cooperation is essential for confronting common challenges, including the menace of terrorism. And, we would like to continue to engage with our neighbour to combat this menace and to ensure that peace prevails and…
Ali Hussain: Including Iran?
Ali Hussain: We will continue to engage with our neighbours including Iran?
Spokesperson: Including Iran. We are talking about Iran. We will continue to engage with our neighbour Iran to ensure that peace prevails and that the two countries make concerted and coordinated efforts to combat the threat of terrorism.
Anas Mallick, Capital TV: Thank you so much ma’am. Has there been any efforts for third party mediation by regional stakeholders? And if so, what is Pakistan’s response? Any countries that you would want to mention if there has been any at all? Thank you.
Spokesperson: I am not aware of third-party mediation as you mentioned, Pakistan and Iran do have several channels of communication. And, at this point, I am not aware of any third parties stepping forward in this context.
Jaleel Akhtar, VOA: China has urged Pakistan and Iran to exercise restraint. Has China approached Pakistan and Iran for any mediation because the China is very close friend of both Pakistan and Iran. And earlier they also mediated to de-escalate the situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. What are your comments please?
Spokesperson: As I just said, I am not aware of any mediation by any third party that has taken place or is on the horizon.
Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV: Thank you so much Ma’am. In this Operation Sarmachar, have the hideouts of BLA or BLF been targeted or not?
Spokesperson: Again, on this question, please wait for an advice from ISPR which will be coming shortly.
Adil Nizami, Hum News: Ma’am, we’ve already heard about Marg Bar America, Marg Bar Israel and now you have used a new name which is Marg Bar Sarmachar. Is there any special reason to name it in Persian? As it is an interesting name.
Spokesperson: I am not an expert in Persian language. So, I cannot comment on how interesting it is. But, this is a codename which is as you know, it was an intelligence based operation and our military authorities and ISPR would be better positioned to respond to this question.
Sara Zaman, VOA: So, in your opening remarks, you said that the terrorists that were killed were Pakistanis. So, how has that already been established? How have their identities been established already?
Spokesperson: Pakistan, for the last several months and years, have been in contact with Iran authorities and we have shared with them concrete evidence of the presence of these terrorist hideouts inside Iran and that is why we are very confident of the statement that we have made. For further details, please wait for an advice from ISPR.
Sumaira Khan, Samaa News: Thank you Ma’am, I just wanted to know right after Operation Marg Bar Sarmachar, did we receive any official contact from the Iranian authorities in Islamabad and Tehran, vis a vis the Foreign Office of Pakistan?
Spokesperson: As far as I know, until I came to this podium, I’m not aware of any contact. I underline, I am not aware of any contract.
Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad: Ma’am thank you very much. After India and Afghanistan, how do you see the situation and growing tension with the close, next-door and brotherly country Iran?
Spokesperson: As I said in our opening remarks, Pakistan considers Iran as a close friend. We have great respect and affection for the Iranian people. Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security. And it was not targeted against Iran; it was targeted against certain individuals, terrorist groups, who were having hideouts and sanctuaries inside Iran. So, we should not see it as something that is targeted against Iran. It is clearly focused and targeted against a terror outfits, which call themselves Sarmachars.
Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News: Indian Foreign Ministry yesterday issued a statement justifying Iran attack in Balochistan saying that we understand the actions that countries take in self-defence. What is your take on it?
Spokesperson: I’m sure they will understand the action that Pakistan took in its self-defence today.
Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency: Thank you, ma’am. Since yesterday, what kind of response did you get in your talks with Iranian side? And secondly, have there been any developments to reduce the tensions?
Spokesperson: This question has been asked, and as I said, since until I arrived on this podium, since this morning, I am not aware of any contacts that have taken place between Pakistan and Iran.
Ghazala Noureen, Suno TV: Ma’am, it has been said by the Iranian Foreign Minister that before attacking the borders of Pakistan he held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister. Do you confirm this? Secondly, after the Operation Marg Bar Sarmachar and returning of Prime Minister to Pakistan, is there any possibility to take back the decision of calling back the Ambassador?
Spokesperson: I’ll answer your first question as per the ground rules that we set in the beginning. (For) the first question that you asked our response is absolutely not. There was no such information which was shared with Pakistan prior to the act that took place two nights ago.
Anwar Abbas, Bol News: Ma’am, what is the reason that during these attacks no soldier from both sides was martyred?
Spokesperson: I think I will speak about the operation that we conducted, Operation Marg Sarmachar. This operation was not conducted against the State of Iran against institutions of Iran or any military targets inside Iran. It was against terror targets and that is the reality I hope you would underline.
Kamran Raja, Huashang News: Ma’am, there is already unrest at the borders of neighbouring countries of Pakistan, especially if we talk about India and Afghanistan. The same practice can be seen from Iran on the borders now. So, how does Pakistan see this? Will this unrest situation at borders continue in the future?
Spokesperson: I think your question is not based on facts. Pakistan has demonstrated time and again, that it has the capacity and the willingness to defend itself against all threats that it faces and it has the willingness and the resolve to protect its sovereignty.
Shaukat Piracha, Aaj News: A long impression has been that Iran is very difficult neighbour, and especially the countries in the Middle East from Yemen to Syria or Lebanon, they’ve been complaining Iranian interference into their internal matters and now Pakistan has faced it ultimately. Whether there is any retrospection about Pakistan in itself that why Pakistan was so proactive in dealing with Iran vis-a-vis the pressure from the Western world because for 10, 15 years Pakistan has been one or the other way, siding with Iran. A small brief just one-liner, those killed today in Pakistani action, whether they were Pakistani citizens or Iranian citizens.
Spokesperson: Okay, first regarding Iran, Pakistan enjoys cordial friendly ties with Iran. These are historic ties, and we have remained engaged in a number of dialogues to enhance cooperation between Pakistan and Iran, that includes in the areas of trade, connectivity, people-to-people contacts and energy. Pakistan also believes that this year, we saw some very positive trends in our relationship and there were some key milestones. These include the inauguration of the Mand-Pishin border sustenance market, the 220KV Polan-Gabd electricity transmission lines, the signing of trade agreements. And we also saw that Pakistan and Iran worked closely and consulted with each other on a number of regional and global issues, including in the context of OIC. That is why it was very surprising for us what happened two days ago. And, we believe that there are channels of communication between Pakistan and Iran, and all aspects of concern can be shared between the two countries and we hope that such acts are not repeated again, because such acts only undermine trust and confidence between neighbourly countries.
Asim Ali Rana, Voice of America: Operation Marg Sarmacher, is this operation still continuing or it’s over? Have you achieved your targets or is it still continuing?
Spokesperson: I don’t want to sound like a broken record but please wait for an advice from ISPR which will be coming shortly and it will share these operational details that you’re all very keen to find.
Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination: Ma’am my question is based on the second part of Mr. Paracha’s question, were those who were killed in the recent attack there Pakistanis, some pictures of BLF have also emerged, or was there any Iranian killed too?
Spokesperson: As I said earlier in my opening remarks, our target was these hideouts and sanctuaries of those so-called Sarmachars, who are Pakistan-origin terrorists, and currently based in Iran. And, that was the target of our operation and it was an intelligence-based operation.
Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today: Regarding the situation developed after the violation of Pakistan’s airspace by Iran, does Pakistan think that India would take advantage from this situation and start a propaganda? Secondly…
Spokesperson: Your first question is based on speculation so I can’t respond to that.
Zeeshan Yousafzai, Dunya News: Ma’am, my question is that when Iran attacked, the former Foreign Ministers, Khawaja Asif, Hina Rabbani Khar and other personalities said that we should stay on diplomatic level and not take a knee-jerk action instead. How do you see this? Don’t you think that there could be a war in the region with a little mistake? How do you see this?
Spokesperson: Pakistan believes that there should be peace in the region and especially there should be peace between friendly countries and neighbours. And, that is what we have emphasized all along and we hope that this is a message that all countries in the region will adhere by so that we all live in peace.
Abdullah Mohmand, Dawn TV: As Iran claimed that Pakistan was informed, similarly, Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Ahmed Khan Shakeeb claimed in an interview to the television that the information Pakistan was given regarding terrorism or the use of Afghan soil to us is not enough and true. And if any Afghan citizen is involved in terrorism in Pakistan, that is his individual act. It has no relation with Afghanistan.
Spokesperson: Can you please repeat the question? Is it on Afghanistan or Iran?
Abdullah Mohmand: It is the same thing.
Spokesperson: No, it is not the same thing. Please repeat your question because I got confused in your question.
Abdullah Mohmand: Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Ahmed Khan Shakeeb claimed in an interview to the television that the information Pakistan has given regarding terrorism or the use of Afghan soil to them is untrue. And if any Afghan citizen is involved in terrorism in Pakistan, that is his individual act. It has no relation with Afghanistan.
Spokesperson: We have shared concrete intelligence and information with Afghan authorities about the terror hideouts and sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. They are fully aware of the individuals that we are talking about. And, it is important that the Afghan authorities take action against these terrorists and hand them over to Pakistan and ensure that the soil of Afghanistan is not a springboard of terrorism against Pakistan and the wider region.
Abdul Hadi Mayar, Hum Pashto-1: Thank you, Ma’am. As you said that Pakistan has targeted the Pakistani Sarmachars then should there be any reciprocal conflict between Iran and Pakistan?
Spokesperson: I don’t understand your question.
Abdul Hadi Mayar: The Sarmachars, against whom Pakistan carried out the action, they were not Iranians, but they were Pakistanis. And Pakistan took action against them as Iran claims that it carried out action against its militants in Balochistan. Then there does not seem any direct conflict between Pakistan and Iran. The same as Pakistan, we say that Afghanistan is hosting our rebels and the same has been claiming by Afghanistan. So, there does not seem any direct conflict between Pakistan and Iran. What is your take on this?
Spokesperson: Pakistan has said that we fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. And, the sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security and national interest, which is paramount. And it was directed and targeted against Pakistan-origin terrorists who call themselves Sarmachar and are currently based inside of Iranian territory.
Fida Hussain, RNN/ Daily Sada e Himalaya: Thank you very much madam. Before asking questions, I would like to thank. I’ve been covering Foreign Office previously but I was shifted to my village for quite some time which is in district Ghanche, located near Siachen, in Gilgit-Baltistan. Our delegation of journalists is visiting here which you have so kindly facilitated and I wholeheartedly thank you on behalf of my team. As so many questions have been asked on Iran and Pakistan’s tensions. Whereas, there are stranded families of Gilgit-Baltistan of whom family members are divided between the two countries. Why is there no step taken on humanitarian grounds regarding this issue?
Spokesperson: Thank you very much first for joining us today and for coming to listen to us and sharing your concerns. I think what you just stated is a policy proposal, which we can take back to our concerned departments. I can generally speak about the importance of ensuring that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan or of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, who have divided families, have a right to meet with their family members and for that, there is a need to facilitate such interactions.
Zeeshan Yousafzai, Dunya News: Ma’am, Torkham border is closed from 4 to 5 days and the Chamber of Commerce also held meetings there and they said that there should be two months of relaxation in visa policy for Afghan traders. Chaman border is also closed due to protest and in North Waziristan there is an Angoor Adda route which is also closed from 70 days for trade. What do you think, Pakistan is already facing economic crisis and the trade is also closing with the neighbouring countries? Secondly, Afghan Taliban have also threatened to close the Torkham border permanently. What is your take on this?
Spokesperson: So, regarding the border crossings and the issues that you have underlined, Pakistan has said that the movement of people between Pakistan and Afghanistan should take place on the basis of a valid visa and a valid identity document which is the passport. This is a normal immigration practice around the world. And Pakistan has now identified and ensured that the movement of people across the border should take place on the basis of the passport. And, we hope that our Afghan neighbours would understand the importance of possession of valid documentation when they travel to Pakistan.