Transcript of the Weekly Media Briefing by Mumtaz Zahra Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Thursday 14 December 2023
Welcome to the Foreign Office.
Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar is visiting Azad Jammu and Kashmir today to express Pakistan’s complete solidarity with the Kashmiri people. In his address at the Legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, he will reiterate Pakistan’s vehement rejection of the illegal and untenable verdict of the Supreme Court of India on the status of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
The Indian Supreme Court’s endorsement of India’s illegal and unilateral actions in 2019 neglects the disputed nature of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The Indian Supreme Court has absolutely no jurisdiction over Jammu and Kashmir which is an internationally-recognized disputed territory. Nor is any provision of the Indian Constitution applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. Under international law, the final disposition of the Jammu and Kashmir region would be guided by the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
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 appreciates the messages of sympathy and condolences from the international community over Tuesday’s terrorist attack on Pakistan security forces in Dera Ismail Khan.
The members of the UN Security Council have condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack and expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences. They have also recalled that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to which Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan is affiliated, is listed by the Security Council ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee.
Members of the Security Council have underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice. They have urged all States to cooperate actively with the Government of Pakistan, as well as all other relevant authorities in this regard.
We have noted the statement by the Afghan Interim Government that it will investigate the terrorist attack of 12 December. Afghanistan must take strong actions against the perpetrators of this heinous attack and hand them over to Pakistan along with the TTP leadership in Afghanistan. We also expect Afghanistan to take concrete and verifiable steps to prevent the use of Afghan soil by terrorist entities against Pakistan.
Pakistan welcomes the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 12 December 2023, demanding an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, and “ensuring humanitarian access” to the people of Gaza.
The UNGA resolution is a reflection of an international consensus and growing global public anger at the ongoing Israeli atrocities that have claimed the lives of more than 18000 Palestinians, with about 8000 children. It is critical that the international community brings an end to Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people.
Pakistan condemns the increasing Israeli hostilities in the West Bank and attacks against Lebanon and Syria which are in breach of the territorial sovereignty of these countries. Israel is acting in complete disregard of International Law and humanitarian norms. The international community should take meaningful action to stop the expanding Israeli aggression which can trigger a wider and more dangerous conflict engulfing the entire region.
Pakistan believes that lasting peace in the Middle East hinges on the peaceful and just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in accordance with the relevant UNSC and OIC resolutions.
Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe), Ambassador Shafqat Ali Khan visited Moscow from 11-14 December 2023 to hold bilateral consultations with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko. The two sides positively assessed the development of bilateral relations and agreed to enhance high-level dialogue and engagement and cooperation in trade, energy counter-terrorism and connectivity. The two sides also agreed to continue constructive engagement on regional issues including Afghanistan and cooperation at multilateral fora, especially the United Nations (UN) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
On the sidelines of the consultations, Pakistan’s National Coordinator for SCO Altamash Wazir exchanged views with his Russian counterpart to discuss cooperation in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperating Organization.
Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Asif Durrani is representing Pakistan at the second Global Refugee Forum (GRF) being held in Geneva from 13-15 December 2023.
The GRF brings together the international community to discuss global refugee situations and examine joint pathways for burden and responsibility sharing for refugees. As a major refugee-hosting country for over four decades, Pakistan is among the pioneer co-conveners of the GRF.
In today’s session, Ambassador Durrani will underline that international burden sharing and responsibility needs to be more proportionate, equitable and predictable. He will also call for continued international responsibility in supporting Afghan refugees, one of the oldest protracted refugee situations.
Pakistan-UK Counter-Terrorism dialogue is being held today in Islamabad. Director General (Counter Terrorism) Abdul Hameed will lead the Pakistan side while the UK delegation will be headed by the Head of Counter Terrorism and Extremism Network (CTEN) for Asia Chris Felton. The two sides will discuss bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism, especially cyber-security cooperation, counter-terrorism finance, capacity building and cooperation among counter-terrorism-related institutions. The dialogue will also cover the exchange of assessment on the regional counter-terrorism landscape and counter-terrorism cooperation at multilateral forums.
Question: Zabiullah Mujahid in his statement regarding terrorist attack in Pakistan has said that Afghanistan had nothing to do with a deadly attack on Pakistan’s security forces which were targeted by six militants in the northwestern Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP). While pledging for the probe, the interim Afghan government has also stated that, Kabul should not be blamed for every issue. What is Pakistan’s take on this? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad)
Answer: Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism for the last several decades. And our reaction, our public reaction and our bilateral dialogue on these matters are based on facts which have been determined by our security and law enforcement authorities. And, our law enforcement authorities have determined that terrorist incidents in recent months have their links with individuals belonging to TTP or its affiliates who have hideouts and sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. And that is a fact and we expect the Afghan authorities to take effective action against these terrorist sanctuaries and hideouts and the results on ground will speak for themselves of the effectiveness of the action taken inside Afghanistan.
Question: Two questions. Firstly, yesterday we saw a tweet from the caretaker Balochistan Information Minister. He suggested that Pakistan should give US some drones bases particularly to target Al Qaeda and the TTP. Is that a government policy statement or is that a statement attributed just to Balochistan government? Number two, with regards to the D.I. Khan attack, has it been established on the part of Pakistan that indeed those who were involved in this heinous terror attack were Afghan nationals? Would you want to share details on that, particularly Afghan nationals, the attackers? Thank you. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: On your second question, with respect to individuals directly responsible, I would advise you to consult our law enforcement authorities. What I would like to do is invite your attention to the press release that we issued a couple of days ago, in which we underlined the involvement of a terrorist group affiliated with TTP, which has claimed responsibility for this terrorist incident and Pakistan has called on Afghanistan to take action against its leadership and those responsible for this attack. With respect to your first question, I would not like to comment on the personal remarks of a public official of a province who does not have a foreign policy portfolio or has a defence portfolio.
Question: Firstly, the verdict of Indian Supreme Court was just announced and the issue of Kashmir is still disputed in United Nations Security Council. Do you think the silence of these international forums including UNSC indicates them standing by the Indian Supreme Court’s decision. Secondly, the Army Chief General Asim Munir is on a visit to America and reportedly he will meet Biden administration along with military officials and will discuss Kashmir and Afghanistan issue. So, was any input taken from the Foreign Office? If yes, then what was the input provided by the Foreign Office before his visit? (Abdullah Mohmand, Dawn TV)
Answer: When any senior official or public official, government official visits a foreign country, there is a process of consultations and preparation and in this case as well before the visit of the Chief of Army Staff to the United States, a consultation process was undertaken and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was involved, and we provided our input in the preparation of this visit. He has been invited by the relevant US authorities. As explained by ISPR, he is expected to meet with the relevant defence officials. He is also expected to have engagements with the officials in the State Department and defence related engagements. Further details you may seek from ISPR, which I believe will be sharing information based on the various meetings as they take place.
Your other question was with regards to the international reaction to the latest decision by the Indian Supreme Court. First and foremost, the decision by the Indian Supreme Court is an endorsement of the illegal and unilateral steps that India took in 2019 and the international community including the United Nations have clearly articulated their perspective on this very serious violation and breach of international law. You have also seen that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation yesterday expressed concern at the Indian Supreme Court’s verdict. We have also seen statements by the People’s Republic of China and Turkiye, who have reaffirmed the principles of international law and called for the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Charter and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Pakistan has always been a strong advocate of the Kashmir cause and we will continue to bring to the attention of the international community the illegal steps which are being taken by India and the subjugation of the Kashmiri people and we will in the coming days be sharing details of those efforts by Pakistan.
Question: Good to know that this visit is taking place with the consultation of all stakeholders. What exactly is the agenda of this visit? And secondly, since there have been numerous attacks from inside Afghanistan to Pakistan, the deadliest one in D.I. Khan area, whether Pakistan plans a hot pursuit to defend itself because the self-defence is the right of every sovereign state, including the proposal or the comment of using drones to kill all those who try to kill Pakistani security forces and civilians. (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: Your second question is based on a speculation and a hypothetical situation. We have made some concrete demands on Afghanistan and we have made them public with respect to the Tuesday’s terrorist attack. We expect Afghanistan to take those actions. Afghanistan has said it would investigate the terror incident; we expect them to do more than investigate but to take effective concrete action against these terrorist groups and to hand over the culprits and the TTP leadership to Pakistan. I would therefore not speculate on any further steps that Pakistan may take in the future. With respect to the visit of the Army Chief to Washington, I would again, respectfully advise you to consult ISPR for further details of his visit. But, I would like to underline that this is his first visit to the United States in his current position. It is a normal practice of exchange of visits that takes place between friendly countries where the Chief of Army Staff visits the country concerned for discussions on defence related matters.
Question: Ma’am, when a demarche was delivered to Afghan Interim Government, there were some demands which included a demand that the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan should publicly condemn the terrorist incident at the highest level which has not been done yet. What was the purpose and necessity of this demand? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News)
Answer: The first thing that we expect from any country when such a heinous attack takes place is an expression of condemnation and sympathy. Pakistan has received such messages of sympathy from a large number of countries. We expect similarly strongly worded statements from the top leadership of Afghanistan as it would reflect their seriousness in combating this menace of terrorism and to signal to these terrorist groups that they are not welcome in Afghanistan.
Question: Some media outlets have reported that Israel has started pumping seawater into the tunnels in Gaza. This is a practice that will poison the land of Gaza with salt and it means that people will no longer be able to use their land because of the poison. So, what do we think about these methods that may cause the people of Gaza to be left without land, wheat and bread? (Muhammet Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency)
Answer: Pakistan strongly condemns the measures being taken by Israel against the people of Gaza. The inhumane bombing, the inhumane siege of the people of Gaza, the attacks against hospitals, the attacks against United Nations facilities and the use of measures, which will have long term implications, humanitarian, ecological and demographic implications for the Palestinian people. We expect the backers of Israel to call upon Israel to desist from such inhumane practices.
Question: Thank you Ma’am. Pakistan has always been demanding that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used against Pakistan but despite that these attacks are not stopping. So, will there be any effect of the recent attacks on Pak-Afghan bilateral relations, like on Afghan transit-trade or closure of the Afghan border? (Javed Hussain, 92 News)
Answer: Pakistan has always said that we would like to have very positive friendly relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to facilitate trade, bilateral and transit trade, as we have done for the last several decades. We would like to facilitate our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan in meeting their humanitarian needs. There is only one issue that we hope can be eliminated as we move forward in developing this friendship and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan; and that issue is that of terrorism, the terrorist threat that Pakistan faces because of the hideouts and sanctuaries of TTP and affiliated groups inside Afghanistan. We expect the Afghan authorities to take action, concrete and verifiable action, against these terrorist groups so that the people of Pakistan and people of Afghanistan can live in peace and prosperity.
Question: After the verdict of Indian Supreme Court, does Pakistan think that India could carry a false flag operation to divert the globe’s attention? Secondly, Senator Talha Mehmood stated that a letter from Pakistan could possibly waive off the punishment of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. So, has there been this kind of formal contact with America earlier? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: I would have to take back your second question because I need more details on this specific question. So, perhaps some other time. With regards to your first question, what India has done is that it has tried to silence the voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir for their freedom. This voice has not been extinguished despite their continued efforts for over the last 70 years. They have been involved in several strategies to divert international attention from the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. I would not like to guess what they can do in future but their past track record is clearly something that should worry the international community because they have the ability to target other countries, nationals of other countries without regard to international law. They have been doing that in South Asia, and now their network of espionage and terrorism has gone global.
Question: Thank you ma’am. Ma’am, for the last two months, thousands of people are protesting at Chaman border and their demand is to revoke the new visa policy regarding Afghanistan. What are your views regarding this? There are thousands of people protesting for two months now. (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)
Answer: As you know the policy of one document was approved by the Cabinet of Pakistan and it is its decision that any individual who visits Pakistan should visit on the basis of valid documentation, passport and in view of the visa arrangement with that country. So, the policy is that any Afghan who wishes to visit Pakistan should apply for a visa on his or her Afghan passport and then come to Pakistan for the duration of the visa according to the normal practice, as is the case in immigration laws of any country.
Question: Ma’am, I want to know that an American private security group named FOG (Forward Observation Group) have surfaced and are fighting in Gaza. So, what is the take of Pakistan that a foreign Army has been hired and they are involved literally in activities, killing civilians and involved in genocide. What is our take on this? Secondly, on social media it has been seen that plenty of Indian users, social media users, are making blasphemous comments in the debate on Gaza and Israel. (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Answer: Regarding your first question, I am not in picture about the profile of the organization that you have pointed out. I can only say what Pakistan has said in the past that Pakistan believes that international humanitarian law must be respected. Attacks against the people of Gaza must cease. The siege against Gaza must be lifted, and any atrocities against civilians must end. With regards to your second question, I do not have any comments because there is all kinds of noise pollution on the social media and any individual who comments in their personal capacity, I do not believe warrants a response from the official spokesperson of the Government of Pakistan.
Question: There are reports and I confirmed today morning with some TTP senior officials that during our negotiations between Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and these negotiations are facilitated by the Afghan Taliban in these negotiations are going in a third country, so have you any information that Pakistan is engaged in negotiations with TTP? (Abdullah Mohmand, Dawn TV)
Answer: Pakistan strongly denies such reports or speculation of any talks, which are claimed to be taking place between Pakistan and TTP. There is absolutely no dialogue taking place.
Question: Just like Security Council has asked for ceasefire in Gaza with a majority yet nothing has happened. So, do you see it, like the resolutions of Kashmir, this is a double standard? When there is a resolution on Iraq or other country, it is immediately implemented, but where there is a matter of Muslims, especially Gaza, why is there so much silence? What is the solution if resolutions of Security Council are not implemented? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)
Answer: Under international law, the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council are binding on all members of the United Nations. It is very unfortunate that the United Nations Security Council has failed in its responsibility to call for a ceasefire and the UN General Assembly has demonstrated the will of the majority of the member states by calling for the ceasefire. So, Pakistan calls on the United Nations Security Council to fulfill its responsibilities under the UN Charter and forthwith impose ceasefire in Gaza.
Question: Out of the 5292 Pakistani prisoners in jails in the UAE, how many have completed their sentences but are still in jail? Please guide me regarding Central Jail Sharjah because there are reports that people have been in prison for 18 months and have not yet been heard. Secondly, Pakistan and South Korea have completed their 40 years of diplomatic relations. Also which of South Korea’s mega projects have been completed with Pakistan, and which of them are in the pipeline in the future? (Syed Asif Ali, Din News)
Answer: For Pakistanis who are in jails in UAE, you specifically asked for Sharjah. Since this question was sent to us in advance, I have the data with me. There are 554 prisoners in Sharjah Central Jail of Pakistani nationality. Our Mission has a permanent interface with the jail authorities in UAE and we undertake routine visits to these prisons to address any issues that they arise and those individuals who complete their sentences are immediately deported to Pakistan after fulfillment of procedural requirements.
With regards to Pakistan’s relations with the Republic of Korea, you’re absolutely right. We are this year commemorating the 40 years of establishment of the diplomatic ties. This relationship is characterized by mutual respect and commonality of views on a number of international issues. The two countries have robust dialogue on political economic, trade and investment ties. Pakistan and the Republic of Korea also consult and cooperate in multilateral forums. As you know, we are also working together in the context of Uniting for Consensus group regarding reform of the UN Security Council. Republic of Korea is also a regular contributor of troops for the UNMOGIP which oversees peace between India and Pakistan. There are seven projects worth $522 million being undertaken by the Economic Development Cooperation Fund of the Republic of Korea. In addition, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has four projects amounting to $35 million currently underway in Pakistan.