Pakistan has high hopes from the OIC Islamic summit that is taking place in Riyadh; Mumtaz

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Transcript of the Weekly Media Briefing by the Spokesperson
Friday, 10 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.

Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar attended the 16th ECO Summit in Tashkent on 8-9 November 2023 held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The Prime Minister reiterated Pakistan’s steadfast commitment to ECO’s goals of regional growth, connectivity, development and mutual prosperity. He presented Pakistan’s vision for the future work of the organization and for promotion of regional connectivity and mutual prosperity. The Prime Minister underscored the imperative of regional cooperation for promotion of trade, investment, development of transport and communications infrastructure, and sustainable economic development.

Prime Minister Kakar vehemently condemned the incessant and lethal bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli occupation forces. He called for the resolution of the Palestinian question in accordance with the relevant UNSC and OIC Resolutions. The Prime Minister also invited international attention on the growing intolerance, xenophobia and Islamophobia, called for building political and legal deterrence against the abhorrent rise of Islamophobia and for fostering mutual respect, interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence.

On the sidelines of the summit, the Prime Minister held bilateral meetings with President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Heydar oghlu Aliyev, and President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev. He also met with Secretary General of ECO, Ambassador Khusrav Noziri. These meetings focused on strengthening bilateral relations, actively promoting regional connectivity and development and strengthening ECO as an organization.

Earlier this week, on 6 November 2023, the people of Pakistan and Kashmiris around the world remembered the victims of the mass killings in November 1947 in Jammu. 76 years ago, the Dogra Army of Prince Hari Singh, backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had systematically massacred about 237,000 Muslims in a premeditated and systematic manner.

We remember and honour the victims and call for accountability of those responsible for these mass killings. The international community should commit to never allow such atrocities to take place again. India must comply with its international obligations and respect the rights and freedoms of the Kashmiri people who have an inalienable right to self-determination.

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.

Pakistan is deeply concerned about the heinous crimes being comitted against the Palestinian people as Israeli forces continue with their campaign of terror and brutality in Gaza. For over a month, the people of Gaza have been subjected to the worst forms of collective punishment. Israeli forces are committing crimes against humanity with impunity as they indiscriminately massacre defenceless civilians and deliberately deprive them of food, water, shelter and medical care. The use of phosphorus bombs and threats of nuclear holocaust are being made against a people under occupation who are being forcibly evicted from their land.

As a tragedy of epic proportions unfolds in Gaza, the UN Security Council must act to fulfill its responsibility to uphold peace and call for an urgent and unconditional ceasefire, lifting of the siege and commencement of rapid, unhindered humanitarian assistance. Backers of Israel must prevail upon it to abandon its plans for settler colonialism, forced displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. As an occupying power, Israel must fulfill its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and forthwith end the carnage in Gaza.

Pakistan welcomes the forthcoming Extraordinary Islamic Summit to be held on 11 November 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The OIC Summit has been convened in response to the unprecedented Israeli attacks on Gaza and its environs, which have posed a grave threat to civilian population and precipitated a humanitarian crisis.

Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar will travel to Saudi Arabia today, to participate in the Extraordinary Islamic Summit. At the Summit, and the CFM preceding it where Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani will participate, Pakistan will continue to play its role to advance international consensus and galvanize efforts for an urgent end to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and urgent provision of relief assistance to the people of Gaza.

I thank you all.

Question: The government has announced a policy for the repatriation of illegally residing Afghans, and an action plan was also started. American Embassy has sent a letter to 200 Afghan journalists, in which it is mentioned that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has assured that those journalists can live in Pakistan as long as they want to. Isn’t it a violation of national policy? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: In this context, I would like to invite your attention to the press conference by the Prime Minister held two days ago, in which he underlined Pakistan’s policy with regards to individuals who are destined to be settled in third countries. Pakistan is in contact with these countries, including the United States, and we are working out the modalities for the settlement process to be completed as early as possible so that these individuals can reach their final destination without further delay.

Question: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has expressed concern about the alleged detainment and intimidation of the Afghan refugees and against the members of the Ahmaddiya community. The agency allows for particular concern that the Pakistani government may forcefully return the Afghanistan’s religious minorities who fled persecution under the Taliban. Would you like to comment on that please? (Muhammad Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)

Answer: I would like to first of all highlight that Pakistan’s policy with regards to repatriation of individuals who are currently in Pakistan in violation of Pakistan’s immigration laws is based on international practice. This policy is reflective of Pakistan’s desire to implement its own laws, which include sanctions for individuals who are here illegally, and these sanctions include fines, prison sentence and deportation. These laws are similar in many countries, including the United States. Pakistan is implementing this policy with full confidence that our policy is in conformity with international practice. We have also said that this policy does not pertain to and does not apply to individuals who have confirmed refugee status in Pakistan and that we are sensitive to the concerns that some of these individuals may have with regards to their return to Afghanistan. The statement that has been referred to is also based on an inaccurate assessment of the situation of minorities in Pakistan. Pakistan is a country of laws. It is a country where the laws and constitution provide freedom of practice of religion and provide protection to religious minorities. Crimes by individuals targeting any minority are prohibiting under Pakistani laws.

Question: The White House has now confirmed that Israel will suspend its barbaric bombing for four hours and will continue killing the Palestinian for the rest of 20 hours. How does Pakistan respond to such an amazing arrangement, which allows killings of children, women, girls and the elderly? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: We have seen the statement which has been issued by the United States. Pakistan’s position is very clear. We have called for immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. We believe that tactical pauses in military operations do not provide adequate space for humanitarian assistance to reach their target audience. Nor does it end the forced displacement of the people of Gaza. It is critical that civilians must be protected and a ceasefire must be introduced so that the families can safely stay at their homes and humanitarian assistance may reach them as is their right.

Question: Two questions. The Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid has sort of rejected the statements made by the Prime Minister in his presser. He said that Pakistan should not be blaming Afghanistan for their internal problems if they’re not able to take care of their own security problems. How would you want to comment on that? Number one. Number two, yesterday the Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson in his weekly briefing was asked with regards to the tensions at the Line of Control and the working boundary. He said that the border forces between Pakistan and India remain engaged and that they’re also raising the matter through diplomatic channels. Would you like to comment on what are these diplomatic channels, what measures have been taken because yesterday itself the Indian side had alleged a ceasefire violation in Samba sector? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: First of all, Pakistan remains committed to the ceasefire and we hope that India also shows its commitment to the ceasefire along the Line of Control, as per the understanding between the two countries. With regards to any specific incident along the Line of Control, I would advise you to contact the Ministry of Interior and ISPR for details. Lastly, in case there is a diplomatic communication from the Indian side, we will give our considered response in light of our version of events that have taken place along the Line of Control.

Question: What about the Muttaqqi question? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: Well, I do not want to respond to any particular individual but I would like to highlight that Prime Minister’s statement of Wednesday was very clear in which he outlined Pakistan’s policy. He highlighted that Pakistan is taking measures related to repatriation of foreigners, because these individuals are here in violation of Pakistan’s immigration laws. This statement was neither new nor extraordinary. The Prime Minister said what Pakistan has been saying all along that we have concerns about Afghan territory being used by terrorist forces against Pakistan, and we have asked Afghanistan on several occasions to rein in these terrorist groups and take action against them. The Afghan Government is fully aware of our deep concerns about the hideouts and sanctuaries of terrorist groups that threaten Pakistan. They have made certain commitments to Pakistan and to the international community that the Afghan soil will not be used against Pakistan and we expect that Afghanistan will fulfill this commitment and take effective measures against these terrorist entities.

Question: While having a look on Pakistan-Afghan relations either in context of verbal threats or practical actions in past. Do you think that this afghan conundrum is a failure of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: Pakistan’s foreign policy has been consistent that we want to have friendly ties with our neighbour Afghanistan. Pakistan has done everything possible to maintain positive relations with Afghanistan and in that context, we have remained engaged with Afghanistan on all issues of concern. Despite our misgivings, and despite our serious concerns, Pakistan has maintained a channel of communication with Afghanistan. There is, of course, a challenge that we face and the challenge is that the Afghan territory is being used by terrorist entities against Pakistan. So, our foreign policy is a reflection of our security concerns that Pakistan has and we have expressed those concerns very clearly to the Afghan authorities and asked them to take immediate and effective measures against these terrorist entities.

Question: My question is about what kind of concrete steps should be taken against Israel to stop the massacre of the civilians? What the Pakistani government think about it and do you have any initiative about it? (Muhammet Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency)

Answer: Pakistan has high hopes from the OIC Islamic summit that is taking place in Riyadh tomorrow. There are a number of proposals which are under discussion at the level of senior officials and later today the Foreign Ministers are also going to discuss. Pakistan will support the consensus that emerges from the OIC. Our objective is clear. Our objective is to end the carnage that is taking place in Gaza, the forced displacement of people must end, the siege must be lifted, and the people of Gaza must have access to humanitarian assistance. Lastly, we must ensure that this threat does not extend beyond Gaza to the West Bank and the neighboring countries of Palestine.

Question: Ma’am. during this interim period, Pakistan has taken two big policy level decisions, which Pakistan is implementing. The first is the repatriation of the refugees and the second one is again about Afghanistan when Pakistani Prime Minister said that Pakistan won’t be supporting Afghanistan on international level. Don’t you think that these policy decisions should have been taken by an elected government and in that case, these policy decisions would have been more effective? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)

Answer: You know Mr. Azaz, I will not respond to a political question. I can only state that Pakistan’s policy is that of friendliness towards all its neighbors, including Afghanistan. There are concerns that Pakistan has, those concerns have been clearly articulated and conveyed to the Afghan authorities and those pertain to the terrorist threat that emanates from Afghanistan. We have urged Afghanistan to take action against these terrorist groups and terrorist entities and this is not a new policy.

Question: In Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, politicians, Islamic leaders, and scholars are being stopped from raising their voices for Palestine. Please comment on it. Secondly, the Palestinian Foreign Minister has expressed his concern that Israel will possibly use nukes in Gaza. What would be the stance of Pakistan if such a situation occurred? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: I think on your second question, we have already issued a statement and I would refer you to that statement. Pakistan rejects statements that call for nuclear holocaust and nuclear attack against civilian populations. We urge the international community to protect Palestinian civilians from such an eventuality. With respect to any restriction that the occupation forces have imposed on the people of IIOJK, for us, it is not new. The people of IIOJK have been under curbs for the last several decades. They have serious limits on their freedom to express their opinion and to demand their rights or the rights of other people under occupation.

Question: Two questions, First, regarding OIC, you said there are some suggestions. What are the suggestions? Because in the Islamic world, including Pakistan, disappointment is rising as Muslim countries are not taking any concrete actions against Israel. Could economic sanctions or economic boycotts be an idea? Number one. Number two, continuing what Azaz asked regarding Afghanistan. In previous government of Imran Khan, we have been advocating for Afghanistan, but now there is no voice being raised for Afghanistan on any international forum. Are there any changes in our policy? Thirdly, regarding the killings of five Pakistani individuals by Indian occupation forces in Kashmir, what are the steps being taken to bring back their dead bodies? Has India returned the dead bodies? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: First, regarding relations with Israel and the response of the OIC, the OIC outcome document will reflect the consensus of member states. That document is still under negotiation at the level of senior officials and so it is not appropriate for me to comment on it. Pakistan’s own position has been clear; we do not have relations with Israel or economic ties with Israel. So, this question does not pertain to Pakistan. With respect to Afghanistan, Pakistan considers Afghanistan an important neighbour. Our friendliness is towards the people of Afghanistan. Our heart pains when we see people of Afghanistan, facing difficulties because of war, strife, economic hardship, and Pakistan has therefore spoken about the humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and about peace and stability in Afghanistan. That is something that Pakistan will continue to do so because we believe peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential for a peaceful neighborhood for Pakistan as well. We will also continue to speak for humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan.

Question: What about the dead bodies of Pakistanis in possession of India? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: The concerned authorities are seized of this matter and when there is a development we will share it with you.

Question: Is there any plan to send a medical team to Gaza from Pakistan, and will Pakistan demand to keep its UN peace forces there in Gaza? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)

Answer: First, Pakistan does not have access to Gaza. As you know Gaza is under siege. Pakistan has sent humanitarian assistance, but at this point there are no plans for sending any medical teams to Gaza. Regarding your second question, We believe that there should be ceasefire. We believe that people of Palestine have a right to live as a free people and the occupation must end. The idea of trusteeship is decades old and it is no longer valid in today’s age. As far as UN forces are concerned, I think this is a speculative question because at this point, there is no such debate. For the time being there is only one question which is being debated which we have been unable to resolve as international community and that is the question of ceasefire. That is the top priority for Pakistan and should be the top priority for the United Nations Security Council as well.

Question: Three questions, First, the IDF released a video in which they are targeting the concert through their Apache helicopters. Do we condemn this act because this crime was alleged on Hamas and such a huge crisis started? Secondly, different organizations from Yemen, Iraq, and Syria are targeting American bases because America is supporting Israel. What would be our policy regarding this? And thirdly, Israel has stated that after the war, it will keep its military presence in Palestine for an indefinite period. How do we see this statement, and do we condemn this statement and whether it is a pretext to settle in Palestine and further settlement in Palestine? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Yes, we definitely condemn and reject any statement that showcases a perpetuation of occupation of territories that belong to the people of Palestine. We have said time and again that we would like to see ceasefire in Gaza. We have also said that we would not like this conflict to spread. That is why we are concerned about reports that there are incidents where parties are attacking each other beyond the main theater of war. Lastly, regarding the footage that you have mentioned, I have not seen the footage and I would like to confirm its veracity before commenting on it.

Question: Ma’am, why is Pakistan deporting Afghans after 40 to 45 years? Is Pakistan achieving its goals by deporting Afghans? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: I feel like a broken record, but anyway. First, we have said that we are not repatriating individuals who are here legally or who enjoy refugee status and even those Afghans nationals with NADRA issued cards. So, our position is that it is not about individuals who have been here for generations. It is about individuals who are here illegally and have stayed here in violation of our immigration laws. And as I said earlier, this is not just about the Afghan nationals but individuals of all ethnicities and nationalities who are overstaying their visas. Why we are doing it is something that has been explained by the Prime Minister in his media briefing on Wednesday. In that statement, he explained that it is the sovereign right of Pakistan to implement its laws and that is what we are doing.

Question: Thank you ma’am. Two questions, first, the Afghan Foreign Ministry has urged Pakistan to ensure that the border tribes are allowed to cross border without any visa and that the current mechanism should continue. How would you respond to that? Number one. Number two, Spanish police in a statement has said that it has arrested 14 people that includes Pakistanis and Spanish nationals of Pakistani origin, who were conspiring a terror activity inspired by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, the TLP. How would you want to comment on that? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: We have seen these reports and our consulate and our embassy are following this case. At this point we are still waiting for the actual charges which will be brought against these individuals. Once we know exactly what are the charges, we would be able to comment about that. With regards to your other question about Afghanistan, I think Prime Minister spoke very clearly and our position is that like any two sovereign countries, the movement of individuals between Pakistan and Afghanistan should take place as per international norms. Any individual who wishes to come to Pakistan from Afghanistan or from another country should do so on their passports and in accordance to the visa regime that is applicable.

Question: What are your comments regarding the countries that are openly supporting Israel financially and militarily? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: We have said earlier and I said today as well, we urge the backers of Israel to urge Israel to end its campaign of horror and carnage against the people of Gaza and urge and press Israel to agree to a ceasefire so that the people of Gaza have access to humanitarian assistance, and that they can live peacefully in their own land.

Question: Ma’am, as Prime Minister is visiting Saudi Arabia for OIC summit, is there any meeting scheduled with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman there? (Rizwan Ahmed Abbasi, Daily Ausaf)

Answer: You know it’s not a bilateral visit. It is an OIC summit and there will be a number of leaders there. The visit is very short and during that visit there may be some bilateral or sideline meetings depending on the time available and the window available for such meetings during this important multilateral conference.