Pakistan has been very vocal about the ongoing carnage in Gaza;Mumtaz

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Transcript of the Weekly Media Briefing by Spokesperson
Thursday 19 October 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,

Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar is currently in China to participate in the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. This visit coincides with the decade-long celebrations for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Prime Minister’s visit programme has four key components: Participation in the Forum; meetings with the Chinese leadership and senior officials; meetings with other participating leaders at BRF; and interactions with Chinese entrepreneurs, think tanks and media.

At the BRF, the Prime Minister outlined Pakistan’s vision for global connectivity through BRI and the pivotal role of CPEC in creating economic opportunities and mutually enriching outcomes as a corridor for growth, innovation, and a green economy. He called for a united global response to address transnational challenges and urged investments in transportation, energy, and the digital economy to bridge infrastructure gaps in the developing world.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister held a delegation level meeting with Premier Li Qiang. The two leaders reaffirmed the Pakistan – China strategic partnership and agreed to further strengthen high-level dialogue and engagement. They also agreed to deepen political, economic, education, science & technology, cultural, and people-to-people relations. The two leaders also reiterated their commitment to strengthen bilateral relations and synergise efforts for the next phase of CPEC.

The two sides have signed a number of MoUs/Agreements in areas of connectivity, communication and transport, including ML-1, trade and commerce, food security & research, space cooperation, health, industrial cooperation, and climate change.

The Prime Minister will meet President Xi Jinping today. The two leaders are expected to discuss the strategic direction of Pakistan-China relations. The Prime Minister will also meet the Minister for the International Department of the Communist Party of China, Liu Jianchao and Chairman CIDCA, Mr. Luo Zhaohui.

On the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum, the Prime Minister has met with fellow leaders participating in the BRF including President of Kenya William Ruto, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, and President of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe. He also met the UN Secretary-General António Guterres to whom he urged to play a proactive role to end killings and carnage in Gaza.

The Prime Minister has also interacted with the heads of leading Chinese companies, as part of efforts to expand Pakistan-China economic partnership. In these meetings, he has emphasized Pakistan’s vision for sustainable development and measures taken to facilitate investments in Pakistan. He has urged Chinese executives to consider investments in vital sectors like ICT, agriculture, renewable energy, and mining.

The Prime Minister will travel to Urumqi, China tonight where he will meet Party Secretary Ma Xingrui and influential Chinese corporate executives, and deliver a speech at the Xinjiang University. He returns to Pakistan tomorrow.

Pakistan remains deeply concerned about the situation of our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Gaza. We strongly condemn the Israeli aggression and blockade, particularly the recent attack on a Gaza hospital. Israel’s actions violate international humanitarian and human rights law. Deliberate attack against civilian targets constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. We call for an immediate ceasefire; an end to the siege of Gaza; and the facilitation of humanitarian corridors for unrestricted relief supplies.

At the urgent Ministerial Meeting of the OIC Executive Committee held in Jeddah yesterday, which was co-convened by Pakistan and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Minister stressed that the core issue underlying the conflict was the failure to implement the two-state solution. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s unwavering support for Palestinian self-determination and advocated for the establishment of a secure, contiguous, and sovereign Palestinian state.

The Joint Communiqué adopted after yesterday’s meeting reflects the unified stance of the Muslim Ummah on the Gaza situation. Pakistan has been actively engaged in consultation with OIC member states as part of our contribution in developing this consensus. In this context, the Foreign Minister has held meetings with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah and the Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. In the lead up of the meetings, he held telephone conversations with the Foreign Minister of Iran, Jordan, Turkiye and the UAE. These conversations were centered around an in-depth discussion of the evolving situation in Gaza, with a particular focus on the ongoing humanitarian crisis faced by the Palestinian people due to Israeli aggression and the siege of Gaza. These diplomatic exchanges exemplify Pakistan’s steadfast commitment to fostering regional stability and advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East.

Given the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza, Pakistan is sending humanitarian assistance for our Palestinian brothers and sisters. A chartered aircraft carrying 100 tons of essential medical supplies, tents, and blankets will depart from Islamabad for Egypt this afternoon. From Egypt, these items will be transferred to the people of Gaza.

Meanwhile, in our part of the world, another oppressed people continue to suffer at the hands of Indian occupation forces in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Restrictions on a large number of political leaders and religious figures continue to remain in place. Last Friday, the Indian authorities sealed Srinagar’s historic Jamia Mosque and placed one of the most prominent Kashmiri leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, under house arrest. Mirwaiz was released only a few weeks ago after a prolonged house arrest of four years. Closing down Srinagar’s Jamia Mosque on different religious occasions has become a norm for the Indian authorities, just as they continue to impose restrictions on Eid prayers and Muharram processions.

We urge India to bring an end to the curbs imposed on political and religious leaders, activists, journalists, and human rights defenders in IIOJK. Pakistan will continue to support our Kashmiri brothers and sisters until the realization of their right to self-determination as enshrined in the UNSC resolutions.

I thank you all!

Question: We have learnt that officials of the Ministry of Interior held a briefing session for foreign Missions in Pakistan regarding the plan of repatriation of the illegal migrants in Pakistan. Please share some details regarding this. (Sumaira Khan, Samaa News)

Answer: Yes, I can confirm that briefing session was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for foreign missions in Islamabad. The briefing was on the illegal foreigners repatriation plan, and Secretary Ministry of Interior Mr. Aftab Durrani and Acting Foreign Secretary, Ambassador Rahim Hayat Qureshi gave this briefing. The key points of the briefing were as follows:

The government has announced the IFRP on 26th of September with a view to repatriate all illegal and undocumented foreigners including those who have overstayed their visas, with effect from First of November. The right to regulate inward and outward movement of foreigners is inherent in the sovereignty of every state. IFRP is a step to this end. Every country has similar laws to regulate movement of foreign nationals. The repatriation of illegal foreigners is a purely administrative and legal matter and will be dealt under the prevailing laws of Pakistan. All foreign nationals legally residing and registered in Pakistan are beyond the purview of this plan. The government remains committed to a thorough implementation of the IFRP in a phased and orderly manner and an elaborate institutional mechanism has been established to address any instances of harassment and maltreatment during the implementation of the plan. The mechanism includes establishment of helplines at the federal and provincial levels to report any incidents for immediate redressal and formation of a high level Coordination Committee at the Ministry of Interior to oversee implementation of IFRP. This committee will be chaired by Secretary Interior himself. So, this was basically the gist of the briefing that was given to foreign diplomats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Follow-up Question: With regards to Sumaira’s question, I just wanted to have an understanding what happens after the 1st of November? You said that MOI will be in the lead but is there a way forward that was given during that briefing, about which you would want to make the public aware? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: What the Government has said and what we briefed the foreign envoys was that from the 1st of November, the laws of the Government of Pakistan will determine how we engage with those individuals who are here illegally. There are certain prescriptions in our law regarding the treatment of individuals, who are here illegally, and this includes deportation. The Government of Pakistan will fulfill its obligations under its own laws.

Question: Coming back to the killing and carnage of the poor people in Gaza, last night, we saw two different events one in Jeddah, the other in New York. Security Council could not pass even a simple resolution calling for a ceasefire. On the other hand, the OIC Executive Committee, called for cessation of hostilities. Are we back in the so-called age of Clash of Civilizations where Muslims are on one side and all the western-countries backing Israel, are on the other side? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: First, Pakistan welcomes the joint communique which was released after the OIC Executive Committee Meeting on Palestine. The meeting reflects the consensus of the OIC countries and, among other demands, it has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the lifting of the siege and for establishment of humanitarian corridors for the people of Gaza. We are naturally disappointed with the results of the debate at the United Nations Security Council. We believe that the United Nations Security Council should play its designated role in bringing an immediate end to the ongoing situation, the bombardment in Gaza and the continuing blockade that is creating a humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian people.

Question: To end the conflict between Palestinian and Israel, Türkiye has put forward a guarantor mechanism idea. Turkish foreign minister a few days back said that the guarantor states should assume the responsibility of contacting Israeli side, Hamas and Fatah. So, what is the Pakistan’s view on Türkiye’s idea of the guarantor mechanism. (M. Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency)

Answer: Pakistan welcomes all initiatives that can contribute to our ultimate objective of immediate ceasefire and lifting of blockade and provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. The initiatives by Türkiye and other countries which aim for peace merit discussion and consideration. We also hope consensus arises which can contribute to the ultimate outcome of peace that we all desire.

Question: There are so many complaints about the Afghan embassy. The CDA says that the Afghan embassy in the residential sector of F-7/4 has become a nuisance for the locality and the CDA declared it a security risk for the residents as well as for the area. The CDA has written letters to the Ministry of Interior and the Foreign Office demanding that the Afghan Embassy be shifted to the diplomatic enclave. I want to know your comments please on this. (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)

Answer: First of all, Pakistan, as the host country, will fulfill all its obligations with respect to the safety and security and smooth functioning of foreign embassies in Islamabad, including the Embassy of Afghanistan. We will remain engaged with the Afghan Embassy to ensure that any difficulties that may arise are resolved in a cordial manner.

Question:​This is with reference to a recent interview given by the Israeli Prime Minister just before the war, he said that the major threat for Israel is Pakistan. How would you comment? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN News)

Answer: The entire world knows that Pakistan has a peaceful posture. It has always called for peace and dialogue with all countries including our neighboring countries. Pakistan has never initiated a war against any country. So, such baseless accusations are completely rejected.

Question: Indian Prime Minister called the Israeli Prime Minister and assured him of India’s support to Israel. But the very next day, Spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External affairs issued a statement in support this independence. How does Pakistan see this situation? Are there some elements within India which are against their policies? Secondly, in India, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi has granted approval for prosecution against Ms. Arundhati Roy, and Shaikh Shaukat Hussain, a Kashmiri from Occupied Kashmir. Please also comment on this. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: On your first question, Pakistan would not like to comment on the internal dynamics of any country, including India. We believe the current situation in Palestine is such that all individuals with conscience are deeply disturbed and have spoken about it. Pakistan has definitely been very vocal about the ongoing carnage in Gaza and we have called for cessation of hostilities and for lifting of the of the siege at the earliest possible. As far as your second question is concerned, we believe that it is very unfortunate when people who are the voice of human conscience are pressured through legal means, and are prevented from voicing their opinion freely.

Question: Pakistan had announced it would send humanitarian assistance to Palestine. If it has already been sent, then what kind of goods are included? A Palestinian journalist, Zainab, has claimed in a tweet that humanitarian supplies have been received from Pakistan for which they are very thankful. Please verify if the humanitarian supplies have reached Palestine or not. (Mona Khan, Independent News)

Answer: I just announced that Pakistan is in the process of sending humanitarian supplies for our brothers and sisters in Gaza. A special flight will be leaving very shortly within the next few hours from Islamabad for Egypt, from where the supplies will be slated for onward delivery to our Palestinian brothers and sisters. What we are sending is essential medicines, blankets and tents, which we believe are essential as the winter sets in and most of the housing has been destroyed in relentless bombing by the Israeli forces.

Question: Last year in December, at the airport of Heathrow, London, a packet containing radiological substance was caught by the authorities. Later, after investigations in Britain, its linkage was said to be from Lahore. Can you please verify the claim and share some more information regarding this issue please? (Ghazala Noreen, Suno TV)

Answer: On the 29th of December, a package containing radiological material was intercepted at London’s Heathrow Airport. This was followed by a hype in the British and Indian media outlets alleging that the confiscated material originated from Pakistan and it was meant for terrorists purposes. On the 9th of June, the British government informed that the UK Police and relevant agencies have completed and closed their investigation and determined that the package was found to contain scrap material as well as three metal bars containing traces of depleted uranium. According to investigations, the amount of the contaminated material was limited and assessed as posing no threat to public safety, and no ill-intent by the parties was found. Pakistan took the matter quite seriously and our relevant agencies made a thorough investigation. Investigations revealed that the confiscated metal pieces were scrap samples shipped by a private scrap dealer. The investigations conducted by British authorities aligned with Pakistan’s position. The British High Commission in a note verbale in June has acknowledged Pakistan’s cooperation in this matter.
Although this matter has been closed, Pakistan remains very concerned about the disinformation campaign in some pockets of the British media which ensued after this incident. Some British media outlets followed by the Indian media completely twisted the facts to malign Pakistan. Pakistan has a robust nuclear security regime and effective measures are in place to counter any illegal trafficking or theft of sensitive materials. Nuclear and radiological materials in Pakistan remain under strict material control and accounting from start to end. Pakistan takes strong exception to the inaccurate and motivated reporting of the incident by some media houses. It would be more appropriate to first conduct thorough investigations before giving background briefings to the media in London.

Question: Recently, Indian national security advisor, Ajit Kumar Doval, gave a statement in which he stated by pointing at Pakistan that there is a country blocking land access to Central Asia. Please comment. (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News)

Answer: Pakistan as a matter of principle and policy supports regional connectivity. We also believe that connectivity projects should be agreed and implemented in an atmosphere of goodwill and cooperation and should be for mutual benefit of participating countries. Unfortunately, the situation in South Asia is such that we do not have conducive bilateral environment for connectivity projects. India’s opposition to an important connectivity project, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is known to all. We believe that its expectations with regards to connectivity and land access should be grounded in reality.

Question: A couple of questions. Firstly, the PCB has launched a protest with the ICC with regards to the lack of issuance of visas to Pakistani journalists and with regards to the Code of Conduct violation that the team had to face during the match in Ahmedabad. Do you have a comment?

Secondly, We heard the Foreign Minister this Sunday saying that Pakistan has been in contact with the Afghan side regarding the humanitarian aid for earthquake relief. He added that the Afghan side has fulfilled their requirements internally therefore Pakistan has not sent any aid to Afghanistan. But just yesterday, there was a tweet from the Afghan Taliban Spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid that says that aid is still coming in and as per his tweet, aircrafts were landing from Turkey and from Saudi Arabia. So, is it actually the case that the aid that Pakistan plan to send is fulfilled or the Afghan side has denied that? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: With regards to the earthquake assistance to Afghanistan, I have said in the past, and I reiterate Pakistan, has offered and remains ready to provide assistance to its Afghan brothers and sisters. If there is any additional need, we remain ready to hear from Afghanistan, and we’ll offer that assistance when required.

As for your first question, we believe that it is the responsibility of India as the hosts of the ICC World Cup to provide a safe and conducive environment to the participating teams, including the Pakistani cricket team. Our concerns with regards to the recent developments are in that context. We believe it is the responsibility of ICC to ensure that India complies with its obligations as the host of the World Cup. On visas, Pakistan has been in constant contact with the Indian authorities and we have asked for urgent issuance of visas to all Pakistanis who are in possession of tickets for the World Cup matches. Similarly, we have asked for issuance of visas to all Pakistani journalists who have been accredited with ICC. It is regrettable that Pakistani spectators and journalists have not been able to travel to India due to non-issuance of visas.

Question: Are you in a position to confirm that there will be no extension in the date for repatriation for the people living illegally here in Pakistan? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN News)

Answer: The Government’s position is very clear. The position of the Government of Pakistan is that the deadline for voluntary return of illegal foreigners to their home countries is 31st of October and from the 1st of November, the repatriation plan kicks in as per Pakistani laws.

Question: There were reports that 12000 Pakistani passports were being sold to Afghanis. Has Pakistan taken any action on this? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: First of all, any such reports when received are investigated and these investigations are ongoing in this case as well as confirmed to you by our Foreign Minister last week. It is the Ministry of Interior which deals with these matters and it is taking the lead in this investigation.

Question: Would Pakistan like to threaten Israel? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Pakistan believes in peace and dialogue and we believe in the supremacy of international law. That is our position with respect to our behavior internationally. I think, therefore, this is not really a valid question.

Question: The US President visited Israel and expressed his full support to Israel during the ongoing situation. What is the reaction of Government of Pakistan on such attitude from a superpower? Secondly, regarding the bombing on a hospital in Gaza, Joe Biden said that Israel is not responsible for the bombing on the hospital, rather blamed Hamas. In the United Nations Security Council, the US vetoed the UN resolution calling for ceasefire in Gaza. What are your comments on this attitude of USA in the situation of war? (Rashida Sial, Abb Takk TV)

Supplementary Question: As Rashida discussed the dire situation in the Middle East, emphasizing the potential for escalation, my question pertains to the joint communique issued by the Executive Committee of OIC in Jeddah. The communique primarily comprises condemnation, expressions of concern, and calls for action. In contrast, the entirety of the Western world is firmly aligned with Israel, offering support in military, political, and various other capacities. Has any specific country within the Muslim Ummah proposed a tangible initiative that goes beyond mere condemnation? (Almas Haider Naqvi, Daily Dunya)

Answer: First of all, Pakistan’s position is that we must have an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities in Gaza. We do not believe in escalation. So, our position and the position of OIC as reflected in the communique is focused on peace efforts, on cessation of hostilities, lifting of the siege against the people of Gaza and provision of humanitarian assistance. We believe that the international community needs to work together to ensure that peace prevails, ceasefire is attained and the humanitarian assistance is allowed to go into Gaza. We are in this context, very disappointed with the results of yesterday’s debate at the United Nations Security Council. We believe that it is the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to call for cessation of hostilities, as maintenance of peace is their prime responsibility under the UN Charter. They should all work towards that end. As our Prime Minister said, it is important that the backers of Israel impress upon Israel to forthwith end these hostilities as they continue to operate in an environment of impunity.

Question: Two students of Palestine were attacked in Gujranwala. Has FIR been launched and criminals been arrested or not? Secondly, regarding the humanitarian supplies, is any team also going for humanitarian assistance or are we only sending tents, blankets and medicine? (Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination)

Answer: It is in kind assistance and the assistance that I outlined is tents, blankets and essential medicines. With respect to the incident that you refer to I would advise you to contact the Ministry of Interior or the Home department for further details.

Question: As we saw the US vetoed the resolution on ceasefire in the UNSC. Pakistan being the only Muslim nuclear power, can we send the Army under any mandate if not to fight Israel but to protect Palestinians? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Answer: We have no such plans.