Pakistan want peaceful and friendly ties with Afghanistan; Mumtaz

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Transcript of the Weekly Media Briefing by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch
Friday 1 December 2023

Assalam-o-Alaikum & Good Morning,

Welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thank you for joining us.

Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar is in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates to participate in the World Climate Action Summit, as part of the UN Climate Change Conference 2023 (COP 28).

Prime Minister Kakar’s agenda in Dubai includes high-level participation at the Summit and some bilateral meetings on the sidelines. He will address the summit tomorrow, where he will present Pakistan’s vision for climate change, advocating for common commitments in mitigation, adaptation, climate finance, and the loss and damage fund. He will also emphasize equity and global cooperation for climate resilience. At COP28, Pakistan aims to collaborate with developing countries, for the operationalization of the ‘loss and damage’ fund, a meaningful outcome from the Global Stock Take, and the fulfillment of the long-overdue goal of mobilizing US$100 billion annually in climate finance.

Before proceeding to Dubai for the World Climate Summit, the Prime Minister undertook bilateral visits to the United Arab Emirates and the State of Kuwait on 26-28 November 2023 and 28-29 November respectively.

In the meeting between Prime Minister Kakar and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral strategic cooperation. The leaders also discussed regional and global developments, particularly focusing on the dire situation of human rights and humanitarian situation in occupied Palestine. Prime Minister Kakar also reiterated Pakistan’s full support for the UAE’s Presidency for COP 28.

The two sides concluded a number of MoUs pertaining to investment cooperation in the sectors of Energy, Port Operations Projects, Waste Water Treatment, Food Security, Logistics, Minerals, and Banking & Financial Services.

During his visit to the State of Kuwait, the Prime Minister met the Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Meshal Al Jaber Al Sabah, and the Prime Minister His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah of Kuwait. The leaders expressed satisfaction at the trajectory of relations and agreed to remain in close contact to take forward and strengthen Pakistan-Kuwait ties.

MoUs pertaining to investment cooperation in the sectors of IT, food security, minerals, mangroves base expansion and water management were signed during the visit.

Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani visited Brussels this week to attend the International Conference on a Global Alliance to Counter, Migrant Smuggling.

At the Conference, the Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of addressing the root causes of irregular migration and called on developed countries to offer safe and legal migration pathways, highlighting the importance of protecting migrants’ rights. He also outlined Pakistan’s proactive legal and administrative measures to curb illegal migration and human smuggling.

In his meetings with EU officials and parliamentarians the Foreign Minister focused on mutually beneficial cooperation in climate change, food security, green technologies, artificial intelligence and GSP Plus.

Yesterday, Pakistan and China held the 4th round of Maritime Consultations in Islamabad. The consultations were co-chaired by Director General (China) Mohammad Aamir Khan and Deputy Director General Wang Jinfeng of the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs. The two sides discussed bilateral maritime cooperation and agreed to further enhance cooperation in maritime domain.

This week Pakistan was elected, with overwhelming support, as Vice Chair of UNESCO Executive Board for the term 2023-2025 from the Asia Pacific Group. We are grateful to all members of UNESCO for their overwhelming support and the trust reposed in Pakistan’s candidature.

Also this week, the people of Pakistan joined the international community in observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. We reaffirm our support for our Palestinian brothers and sisters in this time of great ordeal and trauma for the Palestinian people.

We are disappointed that after a brief pause, Israel has restarted bombing the Palestinian people. The temporary pause offered a crucial respite to the suffering people of Gaza and allowed exchange of prisoners. Pakistan, reiterates its call for a durable and sustained ceasefire to enable supply of extensive and robust humanitarian assistance; urgent medical aid to the injured; and shelter to those who have been displaced as a result of indiscriminate and inhumane bombing campaign by Israeli occupation forces.

We are deeply concerned at the escalating Israeli aggression against the West Bank and the escalation of hostile acts against the Palestinian population. We strongly condemn the Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp and acts of violence and repression against the returning prisoners and their families.

The international community should take immediate and decisive steps to bring an end to Israel’s campaign of terror against the Palestinian civilians. Pakistan supports the call for a comprehensive investigation into attacks against medical facilities, schools, mosques, churches, residential buildings and water facilities and urges full accountability for the war crimes being perpetrated in occupied Palestine.

The authorities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) continue to treat Kashmiri people with an iron fist. Reports suggest that a few days ago, seven Kashmiri students of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology in Ganderbal district were arrested for celebrating Australia’s victory over India in the final match of the Cricket World Cup. Their arrest has taken place under India’s infamous anti-terrorism law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. It is shocking that cheering a cricket team during a world cup, of which India was the host, is considered an act of terrorism in India.

This development is a clear manifestation of India’s misuse of counter-terrorism laws and its erroneous and vicious application of terrorism charges. A group of UN Special Procedures has already underscored that India’s framework of counterterrorism laws is ripe for abuse. We hope that sanity will prevail and these students will be set free. More importantly, India must repeal these draconian laws and stop using the bogie of terrorism to suppress dissent in IIOJK.

Lastly, Additional Foreign Secretary (Africa), Ambassador Shaharyar Akbar Khan, will lead a delegation to the Peacekeeping Ministerial Meeting to be held in Accra, Ghana, on 5-6 December 2023. This annual event follows a series of preparatory meetings, including one in held in Islamabad in August 2023, focusing on the “Safety & Security of Peacekeepers.” Our participation highlights Pakistan’s enduring commitment to UN peacekeeping, with a history spanning over six decades as a leading troops contributor.

I thank you all!

Question 1: I have two questions. The first one some news websites have claimed that the TTP has announced that it will attack China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects and target construction machinery and workers unless the Pakistan pays 5 percent tax to the TTP. So, are these allegations true? And do you think that these threats will affect the CPEC projects? And secondly, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to attend the COP 28 and Prime Minister Kakar also is in Dubai right now. So, is there a possibility of talks between Indian and Pakistani leadership in Dubai? (Muhammet Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency)

Answer: Answer to your second question is no such meeting is planned. As to your first question I would like to underline that Pakistan is strongly committed to protection of workers and projects under CPEC and we will continue to defend foreign Pakistani nationals, including Chinese nationals and workers and Chinese projects under CPEC who are in Pakistan, and we will defeat the designs of any terrorist entity against CPEC or any other investment projects in Pakistan.

Question 2: The countries that are responsible for the deterioration of conditions in Afghanistan due to which lakhs of Afghan citizens left their country and took shelter in Pakistan, how many Afghans have those countries accepted in their land? Secondly, how is it being ensured that the humanitarian assistance sent by Pakistan and other countries is reaching Gaza? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: On your first question, first of all, I do not want to dwell into history because Afghanistan unfortunately has suffered for a long time because of internal strife and because of foreign intervention. It is very unfortunate what has happened to the people of Afghanistan and we believe it is the responsibility of the international community to support the Afghan people and to support their reconstruction and rehabilitation. With regards to the Palestinian question, as I have said in the past, there is only one border crossing. That is the Rafah border crossing with Egypt through which humanitarian assistance can flow in and Pakistan’s assistance has gone to Gaza through the Rafah crossing. As you know, there are serious curbs by the Israeli occupation forces and humanitarian assistance which has been committed and which has already been sent by a large number of countries around the world is finding it difficult to reach the people of Gaza.

Question 3:​ Recently, there was a conference in Russia in which the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan participated, including representatives of Northern Alliance including Ahmad Wali Massoud and Ustad Muhaqiq. During the conference, they indicated that for the last two or three years they are trying to negotiate with the sitting Taliban government, but they have not heard. So, a military resistance could start against the incumbent Taliban government. What will be the take of Pakistan in case any such development taken place? Especially since Afghan Taliban government is also supporting TTP in Pakistan and we have again and again asked them to stop such intervention. (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Thank you, as I just said, Afghanistan has suffered a great deal, the people of Afghanistan have suffered a great deal because of war and strife over the last several decades. And Pakistan, as a neighbor, has also felt the pain because of the instability and war in Afghanistan. So, Pakistan has always called for peace and dialogue and we would advise parties to refrain from military means to resolve the differences and to engage in dialogue for any political differences that they may have.

Question 4: Couple of questions on Afghanistan. Firstly, if you can just elaborate on the data with regards to the repatriations how many as of today, where it stands? Number two is that the Afghan Taliban’s official Kaleemullah Khan has said some really obnoxious things about Pakistan and the founding father of the country as well. Has Pakistan taken up the matter officially through diplomatic channels? And, number three is with regard to the Bannu attack on the 26th of November. We’ve seen a series of attacks that have taken place recently. Has there been any response from the Taliban regime regarding Afghan nationals being involved in these acts. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: On your second question about a statement by an Afghan official, we do not believe that statement deserves any response, because it would not be dignified for any decent person to even take it seriously.

Secondly, with regards to the question of data on repatriation, the exact details are available with the Ministry of Interior because this data is coming on a daily basis or an hourly basis through our law enforcement agencies and our civil administration officials. What I can share with you is that we are very satisfied with the number of individuals who are leaving for Afghanistan voluntarily and the number of repatriations involving the law enforcement officials is very small compared to the voluntary repatriations taking place. This is encouraging for Pakistan because that gives us a hope that these individuals would apply for visas for Pakistan in future and come here through legal means on Afghan passports. With regards to the Bannu attack and other terrorist attacks that have recently taken place in Pakistan, there are concerns of our law enforcement officials that there are links of these attacks with individuals and TTP operatives who currently reside inside Afghan territory. Pakistan has expressed our serious concerns and we hope that the Afghan authorities will take immediate action against these individuals and hand them over to Pakistan.

Question 5: Former US diplomat Henry Kissinger died at the age of 100. In 1970s, Pakistan facilitated US, for China through Henry Kissinger. Some people consider them as an authority in diplomacy and some people consider him as a controversial personality. How does Pakistan see or view him? (Adeel Bashir, Roz News)

Answer: We express sympathies the family of Mr. Henry Kissinger. May he rest in peace. We believe history would be the best judge for his contributions in the field of diplomacy and as a US Secretary of State or as a National Security Adviser and the decisions that he took in that capacity.

Question 6: Ma’am Pakistan has supported Afghanistan on every forum since Afghan Taliban took control in Afghanistan. OIC summit was also organized in Pakistan for Afghanistan, which also demanded return of their assets. Even after all this they said that Pakistan should control terrorism on their land it is not their responsibility. How does Pakistan see such statements? And is Afghan Government considered as threat to the world? Thirdly, is there any demand of Pakistan from Afghanistan government other than that Afghan Government should control TTP? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)

Answer: First, Pakistan has always said that we would like to have peaceful and friendly ties with Afghanistan. We have great sympathies with our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan who have suffered a great deal because of the difficult humanitarian and security situation in Afghanistan and for that reason Pakistan has advocated internationally that humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan must continue. We have also called for the financial and economic relief for the people of Afghanistan. With respect to the terrorist groups, which have sanctuaries and hideouts in Afghanistan, Pakistan has serious concerns about their continued presence and activities as these individuals and entities continue to attack Pakistan and cause loss of life inside Pakistan.

Question 7: Pakistan is having elections on 8th of February and the Election Commission of Pakistan with the consultation or advice of the Foreign Office has issued invitations to election observers from the individual countries or international organizations. So how many observers have been invited and how many are coming to Pakistan? Second question is about Afghanistan and TTP that you have very eloquently elaborated. Has the Afghan Government, Taliban Government offered any option in response to various proposals from Pakistan for handing over these terrorists who have been attacking Pakistani soldiers and civilians inside Pakistan? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)

Answer: These are ongoing conversations and I would not like to divulge all the details which are still being discussed between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, our position has been clear that there should be effective, meaningful action against these terrorist groups and we should see concrete results of the action that Afghanistan takes against these terrorist groups. As far as your questions about the elections in Pakistan and invitation to foreign observers is concerned, I do not have that data with me. So, I’ll have to take it back and may be respond at some other occasion.

Question 9: Other than Hafiz Gul Bahadur, how many people has Pakistan demanded to be handed over from Afghanistan? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Again, this is something that is being discussed between our intelligence officials. I would not like to discuss any names at this stage.

Question 10: Since the Taliban took over Kabul, Pakistan relations with the Afghan Taliban have remained difficult, despite Pakistan’s demands to hand over the TTP linked people to Pakistan. How optimistic are you that these conversations you’re referring will have the desired result? (Muhammad Jaleel Akhtar, VOA Urdu)

Answer: We are obviously very disappointed that we have not seen the kind of results that we have expected from the Afghan authorities. We believe, that the channels of communication should continue and we would continue to impress on Afghan authorities to take effective action against these terrorist groups. We have been given certain assurances with reference to our demands on the Afghan authorities. We now like to see effective action against these groups and substantial results on the ground with respect to any action that has been or is being taken against these terror outfits.

Question 11: Ma’am, my question is that is there any method to check the performance of our Embassies around the world? I recently came back from Malaysia and our embassy there did not know about how many Pakistani students are studying there on scholarship basis. (M. Naveed Ahmed Khan, Daily the Spokesman)

Answer: I think you are combining two different issues. First of all, as you know, according to Pakistani laws, every Pakistani who travels abroad has an obligation to register themselves with the Embassy. Unfortunately, many Pakistanis do not register themselves with our Missions. So, our Missions have incomplete data of Pakistanis who are based in those countries. Secondly, with respect to how we appraise the performance of our missions abroad, there are several mechanisms including very robust KPIs defined for ambassadors and for officials in embassies, against which every individual is assessed and appraised.

Question 12: There’s a petition in the Supreme Court with regards to the deportation of Afghans or illegally residing Afghans and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been issued a notice as well. Does Pakistan really believe that those being deported are refugees and are being deported legally. The petition says and I quote that those being deported have already applied for a political asylum in the country? Would you want to comment? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: First, I would not like to speak on a case that is subjudice. Secondly, we have said, repeatedly, this policy pertains to individuals who are in Pakistan in violation of our immigration laws and these individuals are in violation of our visa regime, or have overstayed their visas, or do not have regular documentation. This does not pertains to those with refugees status.

Question 13: Recently, two retired Army officers, Adil Raja and Haider Mehdi were court martialed in Pakistan. Now as they are considered as accused, what is Foreign Office doing to bring them back? (Ghazala Noreen, Suno TV)

Answer: I would like to share with you that mutual legal assistance and extradition cases are the domain of the Ministry of Interior, which directly communicates with partners in foreign countries. So, if you would direct your question to the Ministry of Interior perhaps you would have a more satisfactory answer.

Question 14: It has been reported in yesterday’s news, Pakistan has imposed a ban on import of wheat from some seven or eight countries, including India and Israel. Does it mean that Israel was earlier allowed to export wheat to Pakistan and is there any direct relations between the two countries? (Ihsan ul Haq, APP)

Answer: No, absolutely not. And we have no diplomatic ties with Israel and we do not have trade relations with Israel. Similarly with India our trade relations with India remains suspended at this point.

Question 15: The US Justice Department has announced charges against a man accused of orchestrating for the Indian government an attempted assassination of a Sikh leader in the US. How does Pakistan view the development? (Mudassar Chaudhary, The Destination)

Answer: These revelations released by the US authorities are the latest in a series of such reports that confirm the existence of a global network of Indian intelligence that is involved in espionage and extra-territorial killings. This network has been engaged in assassinations and abductions in South Asia for decades and Pakistan has remained a target of India’s state sponsored terrorism, subversion and espionage. We have been inviting international attention to these activities of Indian intelligence services. Last year, Pakistan released a dossier with credible information on Indian involvement in the Lahore attack. We condemn these acts and believe that India’s irresponsible and reckless conduct is a clear violation of international law and the UN principle of state sovereignty.