Transcript of the Weekly Media Briefing by Spokesperson
Thursday 02 November 2023
[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Assalam-o-Alaikum & Good Morning,
Welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
President of the Senate of the Republic of Rwanda, Dr. Kalinda François-Xavier, is currently on an official visit to Pakistan at the invitation of the Chairman Senate, Sadiq Sanjrani. He has called on President Dr. Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar and held meetings with the Chairman Senate, the Speaker National Assembly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Commerce and Industries and Production, and the Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication.
The discussions during the visit have centered on strengthening bilateral ties, with a focus on trade, investment, connectivity, education and people-to-people contacts. The two sides have agreed to enhance cooperation in agriculture, healthcare, information technology and science & technology. Pakistan has reaffirmed its commitment to engaging with the African Union and to advance its cooperation with the East African Community.
Yesterday, the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan for individuals currently in Pakistan in violation of our immigration laws, came into effect. This applies to individuals who have overstayed their visas or do not possess valid documents for their continued stay in Pakistan.
Last month, the Government of Pakistan announced a one-month grace period for individuals in such cases to leave Pakistan voluntarily. As a result, thousands have left voluntarily for their home countries. This process will continue in an orderly and phased manner. The Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan (IFRP) applies to all foreigners residing illegally in Pakistan, irrespective of their nationality and country of origin.
The decision is in exercise of Pakistan’s sovereign domestic laws, and compliant with applicable international norms and principles. It does not apply to individuals who enjoy refugee status, who will continue to be generously hosted by Pakistan.
Pakistan remains deeply concerned about the dire situation in occupied Palestine. Israel’s relentless and indiscriminate bombing campaign, its inhumane siege of Gaza, and deliberate strikes against civilian targets including refugee camps, hospitals and apartment buildings has created an unacceptable humanitarian situation.
For the last 3 weeks the massacre of Palestinians continues unabated, with the death of over 8000 civilians of which 70 percent are women and children. These war crimes are being perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces with full impunity as the international community continues to repeatedly fail the people of Palestine.
Yesterday, the Senate of Pakistan voiced the sentiment of the Pakistani public and strongly condemned Israeli crimes against humanity perpetrated against the people in occupied Gaza. It also expressed full solidarity and support for the Palestinian people.
We call on the international community to play its part in bringing an end to the atrocities in occupied Palestine. The UN General Assembly resolution of last week reflects the growing international consensus on the situation of Palestine.
We hope this momentum will lead to an early end to the carnage in Gaza. The UN Security Council must act and fulfill its responsibility of upholding peace. It must call for lifting the siege, protecting civilians, and facilitating humanitarian corridors for provision of uninterrupted relief supplies for the beleaguered people of Gaza.
The Indian occupation forces continue to commit human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). During the month of October, the occupation forces killed 17 and injured 10 Kashmiris. In over 200 cordon and search operations and house raids, they destroyed houses and arbitrarily arrested 78 individuals.
These acts reflect a consistent pattern of human rights abuses perpetrated by the occupation forces in IIOJK over the last several decades.
History has shown that endemic human rights situations and systematic violations of humanitarian law can lead to tragedies of unimaginable proportions. The international community must act to avert such a tragedy in IIOJK and urge India to bring an end to its occupation and implement UNSC Resolutions that recognize the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir.
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.
I have an announcement.
Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar will embark on an official visit to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to participate in the 16th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit being held on 8-9 November 2023.
The ECO Summit of Heads of States/Government is an apex forum for strategic guidance, political support, and discourse on regional and global matters, while also evaluating the progress of ECO programs and projects. As a founding member of ECO, Pakistan remains committed to the goals of connectivity and mutual prosperity of the ECO region.
At the Summit, the Prime Minister will reaffirm Pakistan’s commitment to ECO Vision 2025 and promotion of cooperation in the areas of trade, transport, connectivity, energy, tourism and economic growth and productivity. He will present Pakistan’s vision for the future work of the organization and for promotion of regional connectivity and mutual prosperity. He will also engage in bilateral discussions with the leadership of Uzbekistan and participating leaders.
I thank you all!
Question: Firstly, what has been the international reaction to the recently concluded deadline for the repatriation of millions of illegal foreigners who were staying in Pakistan, a move aimed at upholding Pakistan’s sovereignty according to its laws?
Secondly, what specific screening mechanism is the US advocating for in light of recent interactions between Pakistani and US leadership, including US Ambassador’s call on the FM and Samantha Powell’s call with FM? What is Pakistan’s reaction? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: Regarding your first question, it is not my job to voice the statements of foreign countries or organizations from this podium. I can only reiterate what Pakistan has said and what I also said in my opening remarks. The illegal foreigners repatriation plan concerns individuals who are currently in Pakistan in violation of our immigration laws. These are individuals who have overstayed their visas or do not possess valid documents for their continued stay in Pakistan. It applies to all foreigners residing illegally in Pakistan, irrespective of their nationality and country of origin. It does not apply to individuals who have confirmed refugee status in Pakistan.
With regards to your second question, we are engaged with a number of countries, including the United States, with respect to Afghan individuals who are to be resettled in third countries. These consultations continue and Pakistan has impressed on these governments to expedite their visas and approval processes so that they can leave for their destinations without further delay.
Question: In continuation of Mr. Piracha’s question, can you tell us the names of those countries and the exact number of Afghans, we heard that 25,000 Afghans, will be repatriated to the four, five countries including US and Germany? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)
Answer: The number of countries is approximately a dozen, or maybe slightly fewer. We remain in contact with these countries. Firstly, in some cases the lists provided by these countries are under discussion between the two sides. Secondly, it is important that these cases are processed urgently, so that they can return to third countries without further delay. It is important to note that the inclusion of an individual’s name in these lists does not necessarily mean that these countries have agreed to issue visa to that individual. That is why Pakistan is in contact with these countries to ensure expedited decisions in terms of their settlement to third countries.
Question: Has there been any official contact from the Afghan Government for delaying the repatriation process? Secondly, a court in Qatar sentenced eight Indian naval officers to death in a case of espionage. What is your comment regarding this? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk News)
Supplementary Question: Yesterday, Mullah Haibatullah has again requested Pakistan to delay the repatriation process. Please comment on this. (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)
Answer: As you know the decision to implement the illegal foreigners repatriation plan was taken by the Government of Pakistan after due consideration and wide consultation within Pakistan, including with inputs from the various law enforcement agencies and the relevant departments. The repatriation plan is a considered plan and, as we have said, it will be implemented in a phased and orderly manner. Pakistan had also announced a one-month grace period for individuals who were ready to leave Pakistan for their countries before 31st of October. Since its announcement we have been explaining its various facets to the general public as well as to our friendly countries, including to our brothers in Afghanistan. Our consultations with Afghanistan have continued and the two Foreign Ministers also discussed it when they met in Tibet a fortnight ago. Having said this the implementation of the Plan has now begun from the first of October, that is yesterday, and we will continue to implement it going forward.
On the Indian espionage question, first of all Pakistan has seen these reports, which testifies that India’s network of espionage has gone beyond South Asia and now extends to the Middle East and even further than that. We have already commented on the involvement of Indian intelligence in an extra-judicial and extraterritorial killing of an individual in Canada. These developments confirm what Pakistan has said in the past that India has a wide extraterritorial espionage and intelligence network around the world. Pakistan has remained a target of India’s state sponsored terrorism, subversion and espionage for a long time and in 2016, a high ranking Indian naval officer was arrested in Pakistan for his involvement in directing, financing and executing terror and sabotage in Pakistan. For us it is not a surprise and it is no coincidence that the Indians sentenced in Qatar are also retired naval officers. These developments clearly show India’s reckless and irresponsible conduct in clear violation of international law and the UN principle of state sovereignty. It also calls into question India’s reliability as a credible partner and its claims for enhanced global responsibilities.
Question:Pakistan’s has played an important role in international debate on the recent conflicts in Gaza. Pakistan has also participated in the special conference of OIC and sent humanitarian aid to Gaza. What is the next step for Pakistan regarding the intense situation in Middle East? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)
Answer: First of all, I highlighted Pakistan’s position in my opening remarks. Our priority is to have peace and a ceasefire in Gaza, an end to the indiscriminate and inhumane bombing of the people of Gaza, the lifting of the siege and provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. We also hope that the international community will play its role in ensuring that peace prevails in Gaza and the hostilities do not extend to the West Bank or beyond Palestine. Pakistan has sent humanitarian assistance for its brothers and sisters in Gaza. That assistance has arrived in Gaza and has been handed over to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Pakistan is currently working to send another consignment of assistance for its Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Question:Türkiye right now is preparing to prosecute Israel as a war criminal and Journalists Without Borders has also applied to the International Criminal Court. Such concrete steps are being taken nowadays against Israel. Is Pakistan planning to call the International Criminal Court against Israel? (Muhammet Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency)
Answer: Pakistan has concerns about Israeli atrocities which are taking place currently in Gaza and we believe these atrocities amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, as was outlined by the Senate of Pakistan yesterday. As far as the International Criminal Court is concerned, Pakistan is not party to the Rome Statute of ICC, and we are not a member of ICC.
Question: You’ve spoken about the phased manner of IFRP. What is this orderly and phased out manner of repatriation? And what will be its duration? Number two, day before yesterday, the Taliban government had issued a statement alleging severe human rights violations in this repatriations process. Bribery is also being alleged. How do you want to respond to that? Number three, in Saudi Arabia recently about 12,000 Pakistani passports were caught and reported back to Afghan nationals by the Saudi government. Would you want to comment on such reports as well? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: I think on your last question, this question was asked previously as well and I shared with you that such reports are currently under investigation by a high-powered committee. These investigations are being led by the Ministry of Interior, which can share with you further details. With regards to the phased and orderly manner and how this plan will be implemented, the Minister for Interior has already spoken about it and further details are available with the Ministry of Interior about all aspects of this exercise. With regards to the treatment of individuals who are being repatriated, I would like to first underline that this process only started yesterday. Before the 31st, individuals who left, left on their own volition. Secondly, the Government of Pakistan has issued clear directions to all levels of law enforcement that all individuals who are being repatriated should be treated in a humane and respectable manner. In that respect, to ensure compliance and to facilitate individuals who may have any complaints, helplines have been established, both at the federal level and provincial levels. These are 24/7 helplines, where individuals are encouraged to complain if they have witnessed or if they have themselves been victims of any such mistreatment.
Question: Ma’am, I have three questions, First, FATF’s team is on a visit to India and India is asked to answer on 350 points while Pakistan was asked to answer only 26, 27, or 29 points. Do you think that these 350 points are about serious concerns or any security concerns from FATF against India? Secondly, Prime Minister, in a meeting of the federal cabinet announced that the problem of smog or pollution should be raised with India at diplomatic level. What is the plan of the Foreign Office regarding this issue, because Pakistan’s point of view has been that we would not hold any diplomatic talks with India until India takes back its decision of 5th August 2019. Thirdly, does repatriation plan also applies to the Bengali, Bihari or other nationals who came to Pakistan after 1971 or does it apply to those who came here this year or in the last five years? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Answer: Regarding your last question I can give you the general guidelines, as approved by the Cabinet of Pakistan, that this plan will apply to all individuals who are here illegally, do not possess refugee status or valid documents, or have overstayed their visas. I do not wish to comment on individual cases because all decisions will be taken in light of these guidelines. As regards the FATF, as you know Pakistan is not a member of FATF and I personally do not have visibility of the FATF process with respect to India. On your question regarding the Prime Minister’s statement, the Foreign Office will fulfill any expectations that the Government of Pakistan has with respect to our engagement with India and when instructed and advised, we will fulfill our responsibility.
Question: Has Foreign Office analyzed the judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the military courts? Will there be any negative impact of this judgement on the case of Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav? (Adeel Warraich, Dunya News)
Answer: I would have to check with our legal team but my understanding is that this is different as it pertains to an individual who was a serving naval officer of India, who was engaged in espionage against the interests of Pakistan. There are laws of Pakistan with respect to espionage by foreign agents and we are confident that the punishments which have been accorded to Commander Kulbhushan are in line with Pakistan’s laws.
Question: Some countries have announced to cut their diplomatic ties with Israel and also recalled their envoys. Is there any possibility of social boycott with Israel by the Muslim Ummah and the OIC? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: I will underline that Pakistan does not recognize the State of Israel. We do not have diplomatic ties with Israel. We do not have any trade links with Israel. So, this question does not pertain to us.
Question: Spokesperson you just mentioned earlier there are less than a dozen countries who were in contact with Pakistan for resettlement of the Afghans who were once associated with foreign forces or the Western countries. Still there are several maybe hundreds of people, journalists, NGO workers, human rights activists; some of whom have approached the Peshawar High Court. Separately the civil society has also approached the Pakistan Supreme Court to reconsider this policy of deportation of the Afghan illegal migrants, especially for those who could face threats to their life and property if deported back to Afghanistan. Do you think there is any policy consideration to look into the cases of these people sympathetically? (Muhammad Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)
Answer: The Government of Pakistan has said that in implementing this policy, it will be sensitive to some of these concerns which you have highlighted.
Question: Ma’am, will Pakistan consider the cases of Afghani journalists or artists who are in Pakistan if they could establish that they will be in danger going back to their country? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News)
Answer: The policy is very clear. Individuals who are illegals, who do not possess legal documents, who have overstayed their visas will be repatriated. So, there is, at this point, no reconsideration of the policy. As for the repatriation exercise, as I said, we will be sensitive to these concerns.
Question: On one side, you are categorically stating that the policy will be implemented and all those without legal documents will be asked to leave but on the same time, Madam you are saying that the people who have risk of their life while they go back into Afghanistan, their concerns will be addressed. So, what’s the room then for addressing these concerns if policy is so clear? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: What I’m saying is that the repatriation plan is clear. Now we have started implementing it and as we have said, it is going to be implemented in an orderly and phased manner. We also know that it will take some time for the policy to be fully implemented. In implementation of policy, we will take into consideration some of these concerns which have just been highlighted.
Question: Ma’am, Afghanis residing illegally in Pakistan are being repatriated, and their numbers are clear. Are there any other foreign nationals who are being repatriated? Which country do they belong to, and how many are they? (Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Royal News)
Answer: I would not like to list of the countries but there are individuals who are from other countries who have overstayed their visas. We are in contact with their embassies and for repatriation of those individuals.
Question: Ma’am, as many foreigners are residing illegally in Pakistan and most of them are from Afghanistan. Is Pakistan hopeful that there will be peace in Pakistan after their repatriation? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer: I think this is a question that you should direct to the Ministry of Interior because they have a better visibility on our law enforcement and about the law and order situation.
Question: Has there been any contact or engagement with regards to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Afghanistan or any member from the leadership of Afghanistan. Did they request directly, bilaterally or through some other party that this repatriation process should be halted for a while or there should be another extension? So, has there been any engagement so far? (Sumaira Khan, Samaa News)
Answer: Yes, as I said we have had this engagement. We have discussed this Plan with the Afghan authorities. We have shared with them the details of the plan, the thinking behind this plan, why we are doing it and how we are going to do it. Afghanistan Government’s concerns have also been discussed and we have tried to explain to them that this policy is not Afghan specific, it does not pertain to refugees, it pertains to, those who are here illegally. We have also announced that individuals who leave and return to Afghanistan specially those who left before the 1st November are welcome to apply for visas so that they can return to Pakistan in a legal manner.
Question: So what are their concerns? (Sumaira Khan, Samaa News)
Answer: This is something that you should ask the Afghan authorities. But as I said their concerns have been discussed and we have shared with them, details of the plan. Why we are doing it and how we are doing it and we hope that these concerns will be addressed with smooth repatriation process.
Question: Ma’am has the humanitarian aid from Pakistan reached Gaza? And is there any other plan of Pakistan to send more humanitarian aid to Gaza? (Ghazala Noureen, Suno TV)
Answer: I just spoke about it. Yes, the assistance has reached Gaza. It has been handed over to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, and yes, Pakistan is in advanced stages of preparing for sending the second tranche of our assistance.
Question: Is it a part of the policy of repatriation that Afghans cannot carry more than 50,000/- Pakistani rupees? There are some videos in which people are burning the currency because their claim is that they are not being allowed to take more than Rs. 50,000/-. (Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination)
Answer: I would advise you to check with Ministry of Interior. I do not have visibility on this aspect.
Question: In recent days, American ambassador met some journalists and told them that Pakistan has assured that elections will be held in January. On what level this surety was and why was his meeting with the army chief not possible? Secondly, recording the explanations of the officers of Foreign Office, don’t you think that you are becoming a part of the political conspiracy or political engineering by the establishment? Is Foreign office becoming a tool in this? (Abdullah Momand, Dawn TV)
Answer: Regarding your second question, the Pakistan Foreign Office has always respected our courts and whenever we are asked to come and deposit a statement in a court of law, we do that and, in this case too our officers have been summoned by the court to deposit statements and we will do so. Your other question was about the elections. We do not have visibility on the dates of the elections. The dates will be announced by the Chief Election Commission.
Question: Who gave the assurances to the American Ambassador and on what grounds. (Abdullah Momand, Dawn TV)
Answer: You may have asked the American ambassador who gave him the assurance. I do not think it was by this Ministry.
Question: Ma’am, as there is a price hike in gas prices in Pakistan, what is the current status of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: I think you have asked this question in the past also. Pakistan remains committed to the Iran Pakistan gas pipeline. We are engaged with Iran with regards to its future and its development, and we are also in contact with our American friends, in terms of the unilateral sanctions that they have imposed in this regard.