Transcript of the Weekly media briefing by spokesperson ministry of foreign affairs Mumtaz Zahra Baloch
Thursday, 21 December 2023
Welcome to the Foreign Office.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar undertook a one-day visit to Kuwait on the occasion of the sad demise of His Highness Amir Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. He met with the new Amir, Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and offered condolences on behalf of the Government and the people of Pakistan. The State of Kuwait has lost a visionary leader who will be remembered as a well-wisher and friend of Pakistan and for his great contributions in advancing bilateral relations between the two countries.
Yesterday, the inaugural round of Pakistan-Brunei Bilateral Consultation and Cooperation (BCC) was held in virtual format. It was co-chaired by Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Ambassador Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi and Permanent Foreign Secretary of Brunei, Pengiran Norhashimah Binti Pg Mohd Hassan. The two sides engaged in extensive discussion on bilateral relations, regional developments and multilateral issues. They agreed to develop a broad and multifaceted partnership with focus on trade, investment and close cultural cooperation.
This month, Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi issued 166 visas to Indian Hindu pilgrims for visits to Shree Katas Raj Temples in Punjab and for participation in annual Celebrations at Shadani Darbar Hayat Pitafi, Sindh. Pakistan also issued visas to 3000 Sikh pilgrims from India on the occasion of the 554th Birthday Celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak this month to visit Pakistan from 25 November to 04 December 2023.
Under the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, Pakistan welcomes and facilitates thousands of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims from India to visit Pakistan to attend various religious festivals and occasions every year. The issuance of pilgrimage visas is in line with Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate visits to religious shrines and promote interfaith harmony. This year, 6824 visas were issued to Indian pilgrims visiting Pakistan.
Last week, Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani addressed letters to the leadership of the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the European Union, inviting their attention to the illegality of the recent judgement by the Supreme Court of India on the status of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). In these letters, the Foreign Minister has underscored that under international law, domestic legislation and judicial verdicts cannot over-ride UNSC resolutions and change the status of an internationally-recognized disputed territory.
The Foreign Minister has called on the UN Security Council to ensure full implementation of its resolutions on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute; and to urge India to end its grave and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK and to reverse all its illegal and unilateral actions in IIOJK undertaken since 5 August 2019.
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 remains deeply concerned over the ongoing campaign of brutality and large-scale massacre unleashed upon the Palestinian people. We strongly condemn Israel’s ongoing war on hospitals and its barbarous bulldozing of tents in the courtyard and vicinity of the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Gaza that crushed to death numerous Palestinians including women, children and wounded patients under treatment. The crimes against humanity in occupied Palestine are a haunting stain on the conscience of humanity. Pakistan calls for holding Israel accountable for its actions and the UNSC to take immediate effective action to impose a ceasefire and lift the inhumane siege against Gaza.
Pakistan is also deeply concerned over the recent statements made by senior Israeli officials rejecting creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state. Such statements, especially the comments on the “Oslo Accords”, reflect the true intentions of the Israeli occupation authorities, their disregard for International law and commitments and rejection of a just resolution of the Palestinian question.
Pakistan firmly believes that the only just solution to the Palestinian question is the creation of an independent, viable, sovereign and contiguous Palestinian State along pre-June 1967 borders with Al-Quds-Al-Sharif as its capital.
We will continue to support international efforts to bring an end to Israel’s ongoing campaign against the Palestinian people. Pakistan will, therefore, participate in the “Consultative Conference on Palestine” scheduled to take place in Tehran, on 23rd of December, 2023. We will share more details in due course.
Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today: It is being said by America that no weapons were left in Afghanistan after the US Army left in 2021. Is Pakistan satisfied with this statement? If it is true then from where do the Taliban which are active in terrorism in Pakistan are getting advanced weapons? My second question is that interim Afghan government has invited Maulana Fazlur Rehman to Afghanistan and he has accepted this invitation. What would be the role of the Government of Pakistan in this situation?
Spokesperson: Regarding your second question we do not comment on visits or invitations of private individuals to foreign countries. So, that’s my response to your second question. Regarding your first question, Pakistan is deeply concerned about the possession and use of modern sophisticated arms and weapons by TTP, which is a listed organization, listed terrorist organization. The threat that it poses requires collaborative action by the international community and collaborative strategies to neutralize this threat. We will continue to work towards this end.
Mateen Haider, G News: Yesterday, there was Baloch national army commander who surrendered along with 70 associates and in his briefing, he publicly and openly said that they were funded by Indian intelligence for carrying out subversive and terrorist activities in Balochistan. After Kulbhushan Yadav, this is another open confession, in which India’s involvement has been established, and one of the horrifying fact was that one of the army helicopter was also gunned down, on-board the southern Commander Lieutenant General Sarfraz. Right. So, how would you like to comment on this? Would Pakistan officially approach any international forum to expose India’s subversive and terrorist activities and funding to the Baloch terrorist and separatist organizations?
Spokesperson: Thank you. I will not comment on any specific case because we would be making specific comments on particular cases when it is the right time to do so. But, Pakistan is concerned about the involvement of Indian intelligence agencies in supporting, financing terrorists elements and terrorist activities inside Pakistan. There are a number of cases where we have substantive evidence of the involvement of terrorist elements, which are funded and supported by India, and in coming days we will be sharing more details with the media.
Muhammet Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency: There are some allegations that Afghan Taliban have asked Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, to play the role of a mediator between Kabul and Islamabad, and if this is true, why is the Kabul leadership asking a representative of a political party to do this instead of communicating directly with Islamabad?
Spokesperson: I do not have any comments to offer on such speculative media reports. Perhaps that question may be best addressed to the Afghan authorities because we are not aware of any such initiative.
Qurat ul Ain Shirazi, The Independent: I have two questions, Afghanistan claims that it has arrested 40 TTP fighters. Has Kabul conveyed this to Islamabad formally or Pakistan seeks details about this from the Afghan government? Second, you think after what’s been happening in Gaza will Pakistan think of recognizing Israel?
Spokesperson: I think on your second question, this proposal has not been on the agenda, is not on the agenda of any decision maker in Pakistan. So, the question of recognizing Israel is not even a consideration. With regards to the first question, we have noted some media reports with the figures that you have mentioned. At this stage, we are unable to confirm the existence, scale or effectiveness of any action along those lines. We of course expect from the Afghan authorities to take effective action against terrorist groups, especially TTP, and we hope that any meaningful action will be reflected on ground with reduction of terrorist incidents sponsored by individuals who enjoy sanctuaries inside Afghanistan.
Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News: Thank you very much. I have two question(s), madam. The first is, we saw different meetings and interaction by the Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir in Washington D.C. with think tanks, officials, both from State Department and Pentagon. My question is, obviously I’ll not ask anything about his meetings with Pentagon but when he interacts with the Secretary of State Blinken then obviously MoFA comes into play. So, what has been the discussion about the role of international community in mitigating threats from Afghanistan. So, what has been the outcome of redressal of Pakistani security threats from inside Afghanistan? Any collaboration that has been discussed? And my second question is, yesterday, Indian media was running that Dawood Ibrahim has been poisoned in Karachi and he’s admitted to some hospital. And, I also saw late night, last night, a concocted tweet by Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar from his fake ID that was also in circulation. Anything that you have noticed and you want to tell the truth whether Dawood Ibrahim is admitted in Karachi hospital or he is poisoned over there? Thank you.
Spokesperson: First of all, we must remember that India has the habit of propagating false news and accusations against Pakistan. There is credible evidence, which has come to light, including through the Disinfo, EU DisInfo labs that India routinely engages in false news and targets Pakistan and that is why we would not like to comment on such false narrative that they propagate to target Pakistan. With regards to the visit of Chief of Army Staff to the United States, as I spoke about it in our last briefing, the visit was in the context of promoting understanding and cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in the realm of security and defence and there were detailed discussions between the two sides. I would not be able to share with you detailed readout of these meetings, and I would advise you to refer these questions to the ISPR.
Anas Mallick, Capital TV: Ma’am Anas Mallick. You said that you would not want to comment on a visit of a private individual. But, the Afghan government and the Afghan Cd’A both have confirmed that they’ve offered Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the said private individual, for mediation between the Pakistani government and the TTP. So, in such an event, would Pakistan be willing to take up the offer through this private individual who’s not so private because he was previously the chairperson of the Kashmir Foreign Affairs Committee as well. Would Pakistan be willing to take up the offer for talks with the TTP through Maulana Fazlur Rehman?
Spokesperson: On talks with TTP Pakistan is very clear. There are no talks taking place, and there are no talks on the agenda between the State of Pakistan and TTP. Our issue right now that we are focusing on is the action that the Afghan authorities must take against TTP elements and rein them in so that the terror threat against Pakistan from the Afghan soil is eliminated.
Abdullah Mohmand, Dawn TV: As you said regarding TTP, is Pakistan asking along with financial and military assistance from America the support of drones to operate against TTP in Afghanistan? Similarly, will Pakistan engage in any deal or discussion with Iran to get the drone technology? Thank you.
Spokesperson: The second question that you have asked is very specific. I would not be able to respond to that question. The Ministry of Defense would know the details. What I can share with you that Pakistan has a close relationship with Iran and our conversations to promote political, diplomatic, (and) economic ties between the two countries continue. I do not have specific details on collaboration in the defence field. As far as the question relating to the US support is concerned, Pakistan has been in talks, not just with the United States, but with many countries around the world, in terms of enhancement of Pakistan’s capacity to fight terrorism and these talks have continued. Similarly, Pakistan has been engaged with the neighbours of Afghanistan to help bring peace, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan. We have no designs to create difficulties for the people of Afghanistan. Our complete focus is to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan and to work with our Afghan brothers and sisters to ensure that terror threat from Afghanistan does not target Pakistan.
Allah Noor, Mashriq TV: Ma’am Allah Noor from Mashriq Peshawar group. Ma’am, has Pakistan taken up the issue of terrorism in Pakistan from Afghan soil in the United Nations Security Council? And the second question is regarding TTP, Afghan government stated that many people have been arrested. So, does Pakistan believe this, has any evidence been shared from Afghan authorities? Is there any important leader amongst the arrested?
Spokesperson: I think on your second question, I have already responded that we are yet to see substantive facts and action that would result in effective results on ground with the reduction of terror incidents being sponsored by TTP that is now holding sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. With regards to your first question, as you know, Pakistan is not a member of UN Security Council. However, our Permanent Representative at the United Nations has been highlighting this concern that Pakistan has about our security, about the rising threat of terrorism, and our desire for peace in the region. And we will continue to do so.
Syed Asif Ali, Din News: Ma’am Syed Asif Ali from Din News. According to the reports of United Nations and U.S. Department of State, almost more than 20 terrorist organizations including Daesh, Al Qaeda, TTP and others are working to destabilize Pakistan. How do you see India’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan? Second question is that when will the Kartarpur corridor be operative, because as you said that we have issued visas to more than 6,000 Hindu and Sikh pilgrims? It was closed due to Corona pandemic.
Spokesperson: First regarding your question about the terror threat that Pakistan faces, we have said on several occasions that Pakistan is concerned that Indian network of terrorism, abductions and assassinations has expanded globally, beyond South Asia, where it was already quite entrenched. Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism from individuals and entities supported by Indian intelligence agencies. And we also have concrete evidence that Indian officials, including Commander Kulbhushan Yadav, have been involved in espionage and similarly subversive activities inside Pakistan.
Syed Asif Din: And, Kartarpur?
Spokesperson: On that I can share with you more details in future but the Kartarpur corridor remains open and Pakistan welcomes Sikh pilgrims to visit Kartarpur.
Farhan Ali, Public News: Ma’am Farhan Ali from Public News. According to media reports, USCIRF is concerned at the increasing use of blasphemy law in Pakistan to target individuals on basis of religion and its disproportionate use against minorities. Your remarks?
Spokesperson: Sorry. The report on Pakistan?
Farhan Ali: USCIRF is concerned at the increasing use of blasphemy law in Pakistan to target individuals on basis of religion and its disproportionate use against minorities.
Spokesperson: Okay, we have seen the report of USCIRF on this subject. We believe that this report is based on faulty assumptions, full of unsubstantiated allegations and non-reflective of the ground realities in Pakistan. Pakistan is mindful of its responsibility to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws for personal gain or interest. The government has instituted a number of safeguards to prevent misuse of blasphemy laws. These safeguards are underwritten by our judiciary that takes very careful consideration of blasphemy cases. As a pluralistic society, Pakistan is fully determined to protect and advance the constitutionally guaranteed human rights of all its citizens and foster interfaith harmony.
Ihsan Ul Haq, APP: Ma’am, last night protestors from Balochistan were stopped at Srinagar Highway, do these steps not affect our fair stance on Kashmir and Palestine? Don’t such issues increase the problems of the Foreign Office?
Spokesperson: As you know this question does not pertain to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is a question that is best addressed by the Ministry of Interior and our relevant law enforcement authorities as well as our Ministry of Law and Justice. So, I would advise you to contact the relevant authorities.
Arslan Majeed, Huashang News: Ma’am. Arsalan Majeed from Huashang News. Ma’am, yesterday the head of the Baloch National Army surrendered along with 70 members. So, how do you see further development of CPEC considering the Chinese engineers or workers working in Balochistan and the development of Balochistan?
Spokesperson: Pakistan remains committed to providing security to all foreigners and foreign investments inside Pakistan, especially our Chinese friends who are here to support the development and progress of Pakistan. So, Pakistan will continue to take action against all terrorist groups that threaten Chinese nationals, Chinese companies and institutions and will continue to protect them.
Abdullah Mohmand, Dawn TV: Firstly, Mushaal Mallick, advisor to the Prime Minister, said in a media talk that a committee is being constituted in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Kashmir. What would be its impact? She also claimed that Pakistan has not advocated Kashmir’s case effectively after 5 August. And the third question is that the American National Security Advisor said that America left weapons in Afghanistan according to a policy, and this weaponry was given to the Afghan forces. Comment on this please.
Spokesperson: First regarding Kashmir, Pakistan remains committed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and we will continue to fight their cause at all diplomatic and international forums and advocate for their right of self-determination. Our Missions around the world and our leadership remain committed to calling on the international community at every occasion for implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, which will determine the future of Jammu and Kashmir. In this context, Pakistan also remains engaged with relevant ministries and departments, including the Ministry of Human Rights, to promote Pakistan’s viewpoint and to project the voice of the Kashmiri people. As for your second question, Pakistan is concerned that TTP has in its possession very sophisticated weaponry, which is now being used against Pakistani law enforcement authorities and civilians and it is important that we find ways to disarm them and to ensure that this advanced weaponry is not used against Pakistan or create instability inside Afghanistan.