Transcript of the Weekly Media Briefing by Spokesperson
Thursday 23 November 2023
[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This week Pakistan is holding separate Bilateral Political Consultations with Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe), Ambassador Shafqat Ali Khan is leading the Pakistan delegation for these talks.
These consultations will be an occasion to exchange views with our friends in the region on a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore further engagement and cooperation especially in the areas of environment, information technology, energy, education, and trade and investment. It will also be an opportunity to discuss important regional and global developments and key issues on the multilateral agenda including climate change.
The Bilateral Political Consultations with Denmark took place on 21 November 2023 in which the Danish side was led by Under Secretary for Foreign Policy, Anders Tang Friborg. The two sides extensively reviewed the entire ambit of bilateral relations covering political relations, trade and investment, climate change, green energy and people-to-people contacts. Expressing satisfaction at the positive trajectory of bilateral relations, the two sides agreed to further enhance dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Pakistan-Sweden Bilateral Political Consultations are being held today in Stokholm while the BPC with Finland will take place tomorrow in Helsinki. Head of the Department for Asia and the Pacific, Oscar Schlyter, and Director General of Global Affairs, Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt, will lead the Swedish delegation. The talks with Finland in Helsinki will be led by Director General, Department for the Americas and Asia, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Jari Sinkari.
Like the rest of the world, Pakistan impatiently awaits the truce that is expected to come into effect tomorrow. It presents an opportunity to establish a humanitarian corridor facilitating the delivery of food, water, fuel and other humanitarian aid to the besieged people of Gaza.
We believe that a durable and sustained ceasefire is critical for bringing the much needed relief to the Palestinian people and to respond to the immense humanitarian needs in Gaza that include extensive and robust humanitarian supplies, 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 forces.
Pakistan supports the call for an international peace conference to restart the peace process. We believe that peace in the region can only be achieved with the implementation of the relevant UN resolutions calling for a two-state solution, culminating in a viable, sovereign and geographically-contiguous Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
The International Children’s Day was observed earlier this week. It is a reminder of the vulnerability of children in armed conflict. As stated by the Executive Director of UNICEF Gaza is today the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Since October 7, nearly 6,000 children have been killed accounting for 40 percent of the deaths in Gaza. We call for the protection of children of Gaza who are the prime victims of the indiscriminate bombing campaign and will live the rest of their lives affected by immense loss and trauma.
We must also not forget the plight of children in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) who are living in an environment of violence and oppression. Heavy deployment of armed personnel and unbridled use of force have created an environment for trauma and distress the children of IIOJK. About 100,000 children have been orphaned, children have been arbitrary arrested, killed, injured, and even blinded because of the use of pellet guns by Indian forces. India should immediately end its oppression of IIOJK and fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Now couple of announcements.
Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar will undertake an official visit to Dubai, United Arab Emirates to participate in the World Climate Action Summit, scheduled to take place on 1-2 December 2023, as part of the UN Climate Change Conference 2023 (COP 28). Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani and the Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination will be part of the delegation.
Prime Minister Kakar’s programme in Dubai includes participation in the high-level events at the Summit and bilateral meetings with counterparts from participating countries.
The Prime Minister will present Pakistan’s vision for climate change and call for implementing common climate commitments across all areas, including mitigation, adaptation, climate finance, and loss and damage. He will underline the centrality in the climate change debate of the established principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. He will also emphasize the need for closer global cooperation for building climate resilience.
At COP28, Pakistan will work with other developing countries and seek operationalization of the ‘loss and damage’ fund for all climate vulnerable developing countries, as well as meaningful outcome of the first Global Stock take (GST). It will also reiterate its call for the developed countries to urgently and fully deliver on the long overdue goal of mobilizing US$ 100 billion per year as climate finance for developing countries.
Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani will visit, Belgium to attend the International Conference on a Global Alliance to Counter Migrant Smuggling being held on 28 November 2023. He will undertake this visit at the invitation of the European Commissioner for Migration of Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson. The conference, to be held at the ministerial level, will feature the participation of EU Member States, the European Parliament, EU Justice and Home Affairs agencies, partner countries of origin and transit, as well as various international organizations.
At the conference, the Foreign Minister will shed light on the measures undertaken by Pakistan to mitigate irregular migration and present legal pathways of migration as a viable alternative within the framework of the recently launched Migration and Mobility Dialogue with the European Union.
Question: So I would like to draw your attention and seek your comments on the report of Financial Times that the United States has foiled an Indian plot to assassinate an America based Sikh leader and the United States have conveyed its deep concern to India. Another Intercept report has detailed that Indian RAW is also involved in plotting and executing assassination of Europe and US based Kashmiri leaders and that India is also planning to assassinate some Kashmiri and prominent Pakistani leaders in Pakistan. (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: As we have said in the past, Pakistan has remained a target of India’s state sponsored terrorism, subversion and espionage for a long time. And we have also seen that India’s network of espionage and extraterritorial killings has gone global. We have condemned and we are concerned about India’s reckless and irresponsible conduct, which we believe is in clear violation of international law and the UN principle of state sovereignty.
Question: Ma’am I have two questions. The first one, yesterday UNHCR expressed concern over Pakistan’s deportation of irregular migrants, and UNHCR representative in Pakistan reiterated his call for any return to Afghanistan to be voluntary, safe and dignified, regardless of legal status in Pakistan. So how is Pakistan managing this process and what is the reason for UNHCR’s concerns? And, the secondly, yesterday Pakistan ambassador to Moscow, Khalid Jamali, said that Islamabad applied to join the BRICS economic bloc so could you please confirm this development? (Muhammet Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency)
Supplementary Question: The Pakistani ambassador talking to the Russian media said that Pakistan has applied for the BRICS membership and they’re banking on the support of Russia. Why BRICS membership will be important for Pakistan and what benefits Pakistan is looking for in future if it’s admitted in this platform? (Muhammad Jaleel Akhtar, VOA Urdu)
Answer: Yes I can confirm that Pakistan has made a formal request to join BRICS, which we believe is an important grouping of developing countries.
Pakistan enjoys friendly ties with most of the members of BRICS, as well as the newly invited group of countries. Pakistan is also an ardent supporter of multilateralism and is a member of several multilateral organizations. It has played an important role for global peace and development. Pakistan is an important developing country and has made important contributions in promoting peace, solidarity and cooperation among countries of the south.
We have taken this decision after having noted the BRICS related developments in Johannesburg and its proclaimed openness to inclusive multilateralism. We believe by joining BRICS, Pakistan can play an important role in furthering international cooperation and revitalization of inclusive multilateralism. We also hope that BRICS will move forward on Pakistan’s request in line with its commitment to inclusive multilateralism.
Your other question was on UNHCR statement. First of all, I would like to highlight that our current drive to implement our immigration laws is focused on individuals who are here illegally. It does not apply to individuals who are here on refugee status. And UNHCR, we believe, has the mandate to deal with refugees. We agree that refugees who are in Pakistan shall return to their home country in honour and dignity through a consultative process, which is a tripartite consultative process between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and UNHCR.
Question: At the highest level of the Head of State of Pakistan, a statement has been attributed that there could be one state in the Middle East. So, the Foreign Minister says that Presidency did not ask us, but the message from the Head of the State has been conveyed everywhere. Why this lapse took place and what are its implications? And second question is, now that the ceasefire, maybe tomorrow will be implemented for six days. How Pakistan is going to contribute for prolongation of this ceasefire or a permanent truce, and whether any third tranche of humanitarian assistance is being planned from here to Gaza through Rafah border? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: Regarding your first question, I think there is perhaps a misunderstanding about the press statement which was erroneously issued. It was withdrawn and a new press statement was issued by the President’s office. So, I would invite you to look at the revised press statement which was issued by the Presidency which clearly articulates Pakistan’s position with respect to the Palestinian question, and its commitment to a two-state solution.
Your other question was, yes, regarding Pakistan’s contribution to the ongoing efforts for permanent ceasefire and for a peaceful resolution of this issue. Pakistan as you know, is an important member of OIC and in that capacity, it has contributed to the development of a consensus position of OIC on the war on Gaza. This position, basically underlines the importance of a permanent ceasefire, a lifting of the siege of Gaza and provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. And more importantly, the OIC has called for resumption of a dialogue pertaining to long-term peace in Palestine, leading towards a two-state solution. Pakistan has supported the call for an international conference for this purpose, and we hope that with the support of other Islamic countries, we can play a part in this regard. Our Foreign Minister remains in contact with his counterparts in the Middle East including with the neighboring countries of Palestine. We hope that together these Foreign Ministers will contribute to international consensus with regards to a peace conference on the Middle East and the Palestinian question.
Question:Nine US senators, moved a resolution in Congress and demanding suspending Pakistanis aid until the surety of free and fair election. So, what’s your comment on that? And in the European Union in its report, raised serious concerns about the freedom of expression in Pakistan as well on enforced disappearances. In the report, they said that, the space for freedom of expression is shrinking, cultivated by the state and that journalist are imposing self-censorship while working in Pakistan. So, what is your opinion? (Abdullah Mohmand, Dawn TV)
Answer: We have read the reports about the letter by US lawmakers, and we have also seen the report that has been published by the European Union. Pakistan is committed to upholding the values of democracy, justice and the rule of law. These principles are our national priorities and anchored in our Constitution. The Election Commission has announced the date for elections and preparations to complete the electoral process are already underway. As a polity, Pakistan remains steadfast in its commitment to the constitutional order, religious freedom, freedom of expression and the rule of law.
Question: First, a follow up to Mr. Mateen question on the Intercept story. The Intercept story, particularly mentions a Pakistani intelligence document by the Intelligence Bureau that talks about assassination or attempts of assassination of Sikh leaders in the country. Would you want to particularly comment on that and the nature of the report, because it cites an official document? Secondly, yesterday a story emerged in The Guardian, the British media, that said that Pakistan is charging hefty exit fees for Afghans leaving the country through the foreign missions. Would you want to comment on the veracity of the report and state facts for the record?(Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: First, regarding the Intercept story. You know very well we don’t comment on purported leaks that any media story is based on. Secondly, we have already underlined that India has been involved in espionage and terror activities inside Pakistan and that is a concern that Pakistan has voiced in the past. If you would recall last year we issued a dossier on the Lahore attack, providing credible evidence with regards to Indian involvement in a terror attack inside Pakistan. So, this is an issue of serious concern for Pakistan. On the Guardian story, we believe that this story is based on inaccurate understanding of the situation. The fact is that under Pakistani laws, like the immigration laws in several countries, including the United Kingdom, there are fines and punishment for individuals who overstay their visas or are found to be in violation of immigration laws. So, any fines that Pakistan has imposed or will impose will be in conformity with our laws.
Question: Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav, has been involved in terrorism in Pakistan. A court in Qatar has also made a decision regarding Indian spies. Will Pakistan take this issue to the International Court of Justice? Because this will further strengthen Pakistan’s case. (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)
Answer: Pakistan made a very solid case against Commander Kulbhushan Jhadav, who was prosecuted under Pakistani laws and we believe he has been convicted rightly under Pakistan’s laws, and we do not need endorsement from outside for implementation of our own laws.
Question: Ma’am in the last weekly briefing you said that we have shared a report regarding TTP with the Afghan government. What is the progress on that report or what measures have they taken on that report? Secondly, where are the hideouts of TTP in Afghanistan and if Afghanistan does not take measures regarding TTP, is there any plan for approaching America, UN or OIC? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Supplementary Question: In extension to Allah Noor’s first question, there was reported visit of the Afghan intelligence GDI chief to Islamabad, where this report was reportedly shared. Would you want to confirm the reports of this visit or deny and where and how was this list of targets or assets shared with the Afghan authorities? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: I will not like to delve into any questions pertaining to intelligence because there is sensitive information that is under discussion between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I can only underline that Pakistan is concerned about the terrorist threat that emanates from Afghanistan and the hideouts and sanctuaries of TTP inside Afghanistan. We expect Afghan authorities to take immediate action against these entities and individuals so that they do not pose any threat to Pakistan.
Question: About my question regarding approaching the US or UN, regarding terror threat from Afghanistan? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer: Yes this question was missed. As I said last time, we have a channel of communication with Afghanistan and it is our determination that at this point that channel is functional. Therefore, I would not like to indulge in a hypothetical situation at this stage.
Question: As we all know, there is a genocide ongoing in Gaza. Still in Pakistan’s Foreign Office, a bazaar was organized last Sunday. Don’t you think history will write that during the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Gaza, there was a bazaar organized in the Foreign Office? (Aun Sheerazi, Such TV)
Answer: I think your question is based on inaccurate information. First, the charity bazaar, which was held last weekend, is not a novel phenomenon. It takes place almost annually. With the exception of COVID times, it is an annual feature. The funds raised are used for charity and if you have seen our reports previously, PFOWA has made generous contributions for people in need. It also presented a cheque to the Palestinian Ambassador for the children of Gaza. For this weekend’s charity event as well, the proceeds raised will be used for charitable causes. Lastly, I would underline that the Embassy of Palestine was an active participant in the charity bazaar organized by PFOWA and the Palestinian ambassador was personally in attendance and they fully supported this activity.
Question: Israel during the first ten days of war has issued licenses for exploration of gas reserves in Gaza to various multinational companies. So, what is your take on it? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)
Answer: I am not aware of the information on which you have based your second question and I need to confirm the veracity of this news.
Question: What is the purpose of meetings of diplomats from the US and UK based in Pakistan with Pakistan’s political parties’ high-ranking officials? Is Foreign office also informed of such events? Secondly, please inform about Pakistan’s working relationship with Afghanistan. (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not aware of the details of meetings which are being held by these ambassadors with political leaders. We are not briefed. Any details about these meetings can be sought from these embassies.
Secondly, as I said Pakistan has a working relationship with Afghanistan, our embassies are fully functional. We have recently received the Minister of Commerce of Afghan Interim Government in Islamabad, where commerce related matters were discussed. We also remain in contact with Afghanistan to discuss border related and security related issues. So yes, our conversations continue with Afghanistan.
Question: As you reiterated Pakistan and most Islamic countries support the two-state solution of Palestinian issue. But of late there are rumors of a greater Israel plan and there are also reports in the international media that Israel is planning to construct a highway linking the Jewish settlements in the West Bank with the mainland Israel. So, don’t you think these rhetorics are jeopardizing prospects for a two-state solution? (Abdul Hadi Mayar, Hum Pashto-1)
Answer: Pakistan is concerned about the rhetoric that has come out recently from Israel about the future of the Palestinian land. We condemn these statements and believe that such rhetoric is unhelpful with respect to realization of a two-state solution. We also consider Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine as illegal and their perpetuation are a serious roadblock for creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. We have called for an urgent international conference for consideration of the Palestinian question and for resumption of a credible peace process, leading to a two-state solution and creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al Sharif as capital.
Question: Ma’am, my question is, UP government has banned production, storage, distribution and sale of Halal-certified food and medicine with immediate effect, with items for exports still permitted. Is this another sign of Hindu majoritarianism and shrinking space for minorities in India? (Farhan Ali, Public News)
Answer: Yes, we have seen these reports that you mentioned on the ban by the authorities in Uttar Pradesh on Halal-certified food items and the subsequent crackdown on shops and malls where Halal-certified products were being sold. Halal-certification enjoys worldwide acknowledgement and, in that backdrop, such discriminatory steps are a manifestation of increasing Islamophobia under official patronage in India. Banning the sale of Halal-certified food products is an affront to the rights and freedoms of Muslims in India and this is yet another measure which has limited the space for Muslims to freely practice their religion in India.
Question: Madam I have two questions to ask you. Recently, Prime Minister Kakar stated in an interview that during the talks in Kabul, persons from TTP were also present. In what capacity were people from TTP were present? Secondly, Prime Minister Kakar also stated that Afghan government should take any action against them or hand them over to Pakistan. Have you received any response on this statement of Prime Minister from Afghan government? And my second question is that a delegation from Arab countries recently visited China regarding cease fire in Gaza, that China should play its role. Does Pakistan have any role or did Pakistan also participate in it? (Abbas Jaffer, Daily District News)
Answer: Regarding your first question, as I said earlier, Pakistan has been engaged with Afghan authorities with respect to our concerns about terrorism and the sanctuaries for terrorist entities inside Afghanistan. We expect the Afghan authorities to take decisive action against these terrorist entities, so that this terror network is completely eliminated. Regarding your question about the visit of some OIC and Arab countries to China, this visit took place in the context of a decision taken by the summit of OIC and Arab League countries, which was held in Riyadh a few days ago. A committee was established to represent the entire membership of OIC and Arab League and take up this question of atrocities in Gaza to important international players, including the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. This visit of the committee took place in that context starting with China which is currently the chair of the United Nations Security Council.
Question: Ma’am, as you said, the Foreign Office has not been informed or briefed about the meetings of foreign ambassadors with Pakistan’s political party leaders. What are the protocols for the meetings of foreign ambassadors with political party leaders? Do they follow those protocols? (Saqib Ali, Daily Kashmir Times)
Answer: Pakistan is an open country and in Pakistan like in many other countries around the world, the ambassadors and embassies have the privilege to meet with local officials and political leaders. In that respect many of these meetings take place and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs therefore, is not always represented when these meetings take place.
Question: The caretaker Prime Minister during Margalla dialogue last week said that Pakistan will have better relations with Afghanistan when there is a legitimate government to which the Afghan government responded, relations will improve when Pakistan has a wise leadership quote unquote that’s what Zabuillah Mujahid was quoted by Afghan Media. Do you want to comment on that? Number two, day before yesterday, we saw that there was commotion and that still continues at the Chaman and at the Torkham border with regards to the transit trade, while the crossing remains open. After the implementation of the one document policy, there seems to be some problems with regards to the movement of trucks. Would you want to clarify Pakistan’s position? Thank you. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: Yes, since the first of November, Pakistan has started enforcing this policy relating to travel on one document. We have underlined that any foreigners who would come to Pakistan should come with valid visas. In that respect, there are certain mechanisms which have been worked out with Afghan authorities and there are certain other mechanisms which are being worked out and that includes with reference to individuals, the truck drivers who will be coming with cargo. Pakistan is currently in contact with Afghan authorities and we have given a certain timeframe, after which all such individuals and truck drivers will have to cross the border with valid visas. Our embassy in Afghanistan remains committed to processing these visas in expedited manner. On your first question, I would not like to enter into a ping pong of words with Afghanistan. What I would like to highlight is that Pakistan remains committed to strengthening its close ties with Afghanistan. We believe there is great potential in our bilateral relations, which can be harnessed with concerted action against terrorist entities. And we believe this is what was outlined by the Prime Minister in his statement. We remain engaged with Afghanistan for a smooth and friendly relationship.
Question: The previous days Afghan customs authorities took serious exception to application of Pakistani visa restriction to the Afghan, to the driver involved in Afghan transit trade. So, is the visa restriction for trade truck drivers also applicable to the transit trade? (Abdul Hadi Mayar, Hum Pashto-1)
Answer: Yes, this is what exactly I was sharing in response to the question by Mr. Anas Mallick and yes visa condition on passports applies to drivers of any nationality who may be coming to Pakistan. We are in contact with Afghan authorities for smooth implementation of this stipulation that Pakistan has made. Our embassy in Kabul and our consulates there remain ready to facilitate the visa process.
Question: Former Spokesperson of TTP, Ehsanullah Ehsan, wrote an article against Pakistan in Al Marsad, a news agency in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Information of Afghanistan dismissed the services of the news agency; it was an anti-Pakistan article. Was it their self-initiative, or had this matter been raised with them? Just for information. (Abdullah Mohmand, Dawn TV)
Answer: Pakistan has been conveying our concerns to Afghan authorities on the activities of TTP on several occasions and through various channels and we welcome any steps that Afghan authorities take against the TTP and other terrorist outfits, which are active inside Afghanistan and threaten Pakistan’s security.