Places of worship of Muslims in India are under attack; Mumtaz

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by the Mumtaz Zahra Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, 01 February 2024

Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani is in Belgium to attend the Third EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum.

Yesterday, the Foreign Minister held bilateral meetings with a number of European Union officials, including the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Stefano Sannino; the EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom, Frans van Daele; the Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra; and the Chair of European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the countries of South Asia, Nicola Procaccini. The discussions focused on cooperation between Pakistan and the European Union in trade, investment, digital technology, climate action, health, and connectivity. Foreign Minister Jilani will hold further bilateral meetings with EU officials and Ministers of other participating countries over the next few days.

The Foreign Minister will participate in the plenary session of the Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum tomorrow. He will also participate in a roundtable session on ‘Economic Resilience and Investment’ to underscore investment opportunities for foreign investors in Pakistan.

At the Forum, the Foreign Minister will call for an equitable international economic order and cooperation to stimulate inclusive growth and bolster economic resilience of developing countries. He will express Pakistan’s commitment to sustainable economic development, reducing carbon footprint and enhancing climate resilience. He will reaffirm Pakistan’s commitment to building a robust and resilient economy and outline Pakistan’s vision of a long-term partnership with the European Union by introducing new strands of cooperation.

Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, visited Pakistan on 29 January 2024 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani. He held in-depth meetings with Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani and met with Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-HaqKakar and the Chief of Army Staff. This was an important visit where the two sides reaffirmed their long-term commitment to bilateral relations.

The two sides underlined the imperative for collective and collaborative approaches to confront terrorism, which is a common challenge to both Pakistan and Iran. We agreed to further strengthen institutional mechanisms on security cooperation and to immediately appoint liaison officers in Turbat and Zahedan. It was also agreed to expand initiatives for economic and development cooperation, including through early operationalization of the joint border markets. Another significant understanding was the establishment of a Joint Coordination Mechanism at the level of Foreign Ministers to oversee and steer progress on a common agenda for prosperity and development.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi shared credible evidence linking Indian agents to extra-territorial and extra-judicial killings of two Pakistani nationals on Pakistani soil. These cases have exposed the increasing sophistication and brazenness of Indian-sponsored terrorist acts inside Pakistan, with striking similarities with the pattern observed in other countries, including Canada and the United States. India’s assassination of Pakistani nationals on Pakistani soil is a clear violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and a breach of the UN Charter. It is critical to bring to justice the perpetrators, facilitators, financiers and sponsors of these extra-judicial and extra-territorial killings. The Indian network of extra-judicial and extra-territorial killings is now a global phenomenon that needs coordinated international response. India must be held accountable internationally for its blatant violation of international law.

As part of its proactive diplomacy and deepening engagement with Small Island Developing States, Pakistan has formally established diplomatic relations with St. Kitts & Nevis in the Caribbean and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.

Pakistan will continue to widen its diplomatic footprint and expand cooperation with countries across the globe. We intend to enhance outreach to Small Island Developing States which remain important partners for Pakistan at the multilateral level.

Over the last three years, Pakistan has established diplomatic relations with Palau, Kiribati & the Dominican Republic.

Pakistan is deeply concerned about the ongoing oppression of the people of Gaza by the Israeli occupation forces. We strongly condemn its attack inside the Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin. This event is the latest in a series of inhumane war on hospitals which fall in the category of war crimes being perpetrated against the people of Palestine. These ongoing atrocities go against the spirit of the provisional measures decided by the International Court of Justice to protect the people of Gaza.

The suspension of funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) amid the ongoing war and suffering in Gaza also goes against the spirit of the ICJ’s provisional measures that called for provision of essential services and humanitarian assistance to address the challenging conditions faced by the Palestinians in Gaza. We urge reconsideration of the decision to suspend funding of UNRWA which has a crucial role in protecting and supporting the Palestinian people.

Pakistan also calls for the full implementation of ICJ’s provisional judgment to uphold human rights, dignity, and identity of the Palestinian people as per the UN Charter, relevant resolutions, and international law. The implementation of these provisional measures requires an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to bring about an end to the suffering faced by the people of Gaza. The UN Security Council should, therefore, play its mandated role to impose a ceasefire and protect the people of Gaza from ongoing atrocities.

On Monday, the Government and people of Pakistan will observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day. On this day, Pakistanis and Kashmiris around the world reaffirm their solidarity with the Kashmiri people in their just struggle for realization of their inalienable right to self-determination. In line with the past practice, an elaborate programme has been outlined to observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day with traditional zeal and fervor.

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.

Thank you!

Khalid Mehmood, Express News: Ma’am, two Pakistanis were targeted by India inside Pakistan. There is Indian involvement in an incident in Mach and political rallies are also being attacked in Balochistan in which Indian R&AW is reportedly involved. Will Pakistan raise this issue on an international forum or has Pakistan prepared any dossier?

Spokesperson: With regards to the recent terrorist attacks and incidents, I would like you to contact our law enforcement authorities which would have more details about such attacks and the perpetrators of these crimes. As far as the two cases that we brought before you on Friday on that Pakistan has shared the evidence that we have collected with friendly countries and with relevant countries, especially countries with which we would need further cooperation in holding to account individuals who are behind these terrorist attacks.

Jaleel Akhtar, VOA: Thank You. a report submitted at the United Nations Security council by ISIL and Al Qaeda Taliban committee has assessed that the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has been receiving significant backing, not only from Al Qaeda, but also getting support from the Afghan Taliban and executing their attacks within Pakistan. Pakistan has been raising concerns about TTP safe havens in Afghanistan. What are your comments about this report, please?

Spokesperson: As you said yourself, Pakistan has been raising concern that terrorist groups and entities that threaten Pakistan have found safe havens and sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. We are very concerned that these individuals and entities have a free hand to attack Pakistan, and to sponsor terrorist activities inside Pakistan. And we urge Afghanistan to take immediate and effective action against these terrorist entities, hand over their leadership to Pakistan, and those individuals who have been involved in terrorist activities inside Pakistan. We have shared concrete evidence with regards to their involvement with Afghan authorities.

Anas Mallick, Capital TV: Thank you so much ma’am. We saw the brutal killing of at least nine Pakistanis in Iran just last week, just hours before the Iranian Foreign Minister was due to be in Islamabad. Has the Iranian government shared any details of the incident as to the perpetrators of this act of terror? What are their investigations? Was it a security lapse, and so on and so forth? Can you let us know?

Spokesperson: First of all, this murder of Pakistani nationals in Iran was an inhumane act, which has been condemned by Pakistan and by Iran. The authorities in Iran, especially the local authorities have been engaged with Pakistani authorities, especially our Mission in terms of treatment of the injured and in repatriation of the dead bodies from Saravan to Pakistan. Yesterday, these dead bodies returned to Pakistan. With regards to the circumstances of this terrorist attack, our two sides are engaged with each other and we are in close consultation and we are expecting Iranian authorities to share with us, details of these attacks, as soon as the investigations are completed.

Shaukat Piracha, Aaj News: Former Prime Minister has been sentenced 10 years rigorous imprisonment in the cypher case and today, shortly before your briefing, detailed judgment of 77 pages has been released. As per the judgment, the said cypher has not been returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that showing cypher has damaged Pakistan relations with friendly countries and that the enemies of Pakistan benefited as a result. Since some document is directly related to this ministry, what’s your comments, comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the judgment and the sentence delivered by a judge?​

Spokesperson: First, as you just said that this judgment was released just short while ago, we have not had the opportunity to go through the judgment and secondly, we do not wish to comment on any judgment of the courts of Pakistan including this one.

Shabbir Wahgra, PTV:​Thank you ma’am. As Pakistan is going to elections on 8th February. How many international observers and international journalists have been issued visas? In the last government press release it was announced that around 81 international journalists have applied and out of them 49 has been issued visas while 32 cases were in process. Can you have any update?

Spokesperson: On this, I will repeat the answer that I gave last time. The details of such cases are with the Election Commission of Pakistan and with respect to the journalists, it is with the Ministry of Information as they are the relevant bodies to share information with the media.

Shaukat Piracha, Aaj News: The Ministry of External Affairs of India released a brief statement on the press conference conducted by His Excellency the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan. Where they termed Pakistan as epicenter of terrorism.

Spokesperson: First of all, with regard to that statement, we believe that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has not denied the veracity of the charges leveled by Pakistan in the statement that we issued on Friday. In our statement made by the Foreign Secretary, we provided credible evidence of India’s involvement in extra-territorial and extra-judicial killings in Pakistan. And secondly, India’s charges of terrorism against Pakistan are neither new nor credible. And we have seen in very recent past that India has even leveled charges of terrorism against individuals who support opposing cricket teams during cricket matches, so their claims of terrorism against other countries are just ridiculous. The reality is that India is involved in terrorist incidents inside Pakistan and it has been involved in such terrorist incidents and extra-judicial killings and extra-territorial killings in countries around the world. And it is not just Pakistan which has made these claims. These claims are now coming from other countries with frequency.

Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News: In a briefing from Foreign Office, it was said that Indian secret agencies act against Pakistan from a third country. Can you share the name of that country? Secondly, has Pakistan recorded its protest with them or shared any details that their soil is being used against Pakistan?

Spokesperson: Yes, Pakistan is in contact with those third countries from where such criminal acts have taken place. And we are hoping that with their cooperation we will be able to bring to justice the backers, financiers and perpetrators of these terrorist extra-judicial killings.

Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today: Regarding Babri Masjid’s case in Ayodhya, and Prime Minister Modi’s inaugurations of the Ram Mandir. Now there’s another development in Delhi named Sunehri Masjid. And a notice to demolish Sunehri Masjid has already been issued on the grounds that it is causing disturbance to traffic. Please comment on it.

Spokesperson: We have issued a statement recently on the inauguration of the Ram Mandir at the site of the historical mosque and it is very concerning that places of worship of Muslims in India are under attack on various charges. And we are also seeing a concerted campaign to demolish these mosques and replace them with temples. These acts, we believe will remain a blot on the face of India’s democracy for the times to come.

Asghar Ali Mubarak, Daily Mail International: Ma’am, have the Pakistani Missions abroad been given some special instructions in respect of 5th of February, the Kashmir Solidarity Day? We see even in face of the genocide in Gaza, the international community is not effective anymore.

Spokesperson: In my opening statement, I outlined that the government and people of Pakistan will observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day and, in that context, an elaborate programme has been developed to observe Kashmir Solidarity Day with traditional zeal and fervor and that includes the activities of Pakistanis and Kashmiris around the world, including at our Missions abroad.

Nazim Tasci, Anadolu Agency: Thank you ma’am. As you know, Israel doesn’t allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza where it continues its attacks and imprisons the people of Gaza to hunger and famine. So, what do you think about Israel’s policy of forcefully starving the people of Gaza and leading them to death and famine?

Spokesperson: First of all, denying people food, water, electricity, fuel, the way Israel has done against the people of Gaza for the last few months, is deplorable and inhumane. We also believe that such activities amount to collective punishment and war crimes and these are also issues of concern which have been identified by international humanitarian agencies and by the United Nations. We urge the international community to force Israel to lift the siege of Gaza, so that the people of Gaza can enjoy their freedoms and so that the humanitarian catastrophe that they are facing comes to an end.

Muddasar Chaudhary, The Destination: Pakistani Foreign Minister and Iranian foreign Minister were present here for a conference, however due to paucity of time, not many questions could be answered. Right after that conference ended, we saw that there was an attack in Mach. Which lists have been shared and what steps have been taken to stop such incidents? Because it is being said from both sides that there are terrorists in border regions. What would be the next strategy in dealing with such cases?

Spokesperson: I don’t understand how you have linked the two developments. The terrorist incident, not just in Mach, but other parts of Balochistan are condemnable and the Pakistani authorities are taking steps to protect the people of Pakistan. Details regarding these terrorist attacks are available with our law enforcement authorities and they would be best placed to respond to this question. As far as Pakistan and Iran are concerned, the two sides have reaffirmed their commitment to work together to fight the common threat of terrorism. In that context, the two Foreign Ministers came to a comprehensive understanding, which included the appointment of liaison officers in each other’s territory in Turbat and Zahedan so that the two countries can closely coordinate in fighting the threat of terrorism.

Azaz Syed, Geo News: What’s Pakistan’s conclusion that the attack which was carried out on 16th of January was carried out by the local RGC commander or it was ordered directly by the Iranian government. What is Pakistan’s conclusion?

Spokesperson: First of all, on the 16th of January incident, we have made several statements, and Pakistan has expressed its concern about the violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. These concerns have been directly shared with the Iranian authorities. Our focus right now is to look forward and not backward. And we wish to work with Iran to ensure that such incidents are not repeated, that there is a full understanding that Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is sacrosanct. And we also wish to move forward so that the two countries work together to fight out the common threat that we face, that of terrorism

Allah Noor,Mashriq TV: Ma’am, we often hear statements from Afghanistan regarding the Durand Line, Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Afghanistan often claims territory up to the Attock. Previously, Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs, Noorullah Noori also said that Durand line is a hypothetical line between the two countries. What is Pakistan’s stance on this? And secondly, a detailed judgment regarding the cypher case was released today which states that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party Chairman, Imran Khan has not sent back the cypher to the Foreign Office but there were some other reports that cypher, in its original form is safely kept in the foreign office. What are your comments on this?

Spokesperson: First of all, Pakistan-Afghanistan border is an internationally recognized border. It has legal validity and it is a reality that the international community accepts. Any other ideas about Pakistan-Afghanistan border are a reflection of a fanciful imagination which is not grounded in reality. And there is absolutely no point in debating this aspect because Pakistan-Afghanistan border and its validity has never been on the agenda between Pakistan and Afghanistan and will never be.

With regards to your second question, again as I said I will not like to comment, as I have not yet seen the judgment that has come out. I would only like to say with respect to confidential communications that Pakistan undertakes, especially this Ministry undertakes with its Missions abroad, these communications are protected under the Official Secrets Act and I am not at liberty to comment on those communications.

Syed Asif Ali, Din News: Despite the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav, his network is still active along the border of Balochistan and Iran and BLA is its beneficiary. Now, as 9 Pakistani nationals have been martyred, has Pakistan issued a travel advisory for Iran or is there any programme to issue a travel advisory?

Spokesperson: At this point, there is no advice which has been given or is planned with respect to Pakistanis traveling to Iran. Iran is a neighbour of Pakistan. It is a friendly neighbour of Pakistan and we expect and hope that Iranian authorities will provide full protection to any Pakistani who travels to Iran or is living there and we will continue to work with our Iranian neighbors to ensure that Pakistanis in Iran remains safe and protected.

Ali Hussain, Business Recorder: My question is not related to the court’s judgment. I just want to know that there is an allegation on Imran Khan that our whole system’s security has been or was compromised when he waved the cypher in a public rally. Regarding this, was the dignity of our communication system for Missions really breached? And is the original cypher safely kept in foreign office?

Spokesperson: As I said earlier, these communications are protected by official Secrets Act and I am not at liberty to speak about the presence or absence of a particular document, which is secret in nature, in this Ministry. I can however state that we have recently done an audit of our communication systems and we are reassured that these systems as per our recent audit are safe and protected.

Aijaz Hussain, GNN: I want to ask that when these positive exchanges were ongoing between Pakistan and Iran and the situation matter was heading towards normalcy, 9 Pakistanis were killed. And what has been agreed between Pakistan and Iran? Because yesterday in a Corps Commander meeting it was reflected that there would be no compromise on the sovereignty of Pakistan. What is the understanding that how long will we wait if Iran does not share these lists, before we attack those targets? Because it is confirmed after those 9 killings there is still presence of the terrorists who attack Pakistan’s interests and it is Pakistan’s duty to neutralize them.

Spokesperson: First of all, I would not like to engage in hypothetical situation. We recently had very good communications with the Iranian authorities and the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister to Pakistan was very successful in the sense that the two sides came to a clear understanding, on the expectations from each other and about the concerns that we have about terrorism. There was a clear understanding that we will fight this terrorist threat and we will work closely with each other and for which the appointment of liaison officers in Turbat and Zahedan would play a critical role. So, at this point, I do not wish to contemplate hypotheticals, because we are quite hopeful that with this understanding, both countries can move forward from a very sad episode and work together to address common challenges and common threats.

Asghar Ali Mubarak, Daily Mail International: Ma’am, when Iran-Pakistan relations were suspended, a Pakistani contingent visiting Chahbahar was stranded. All exchanges were stopped. So are those now being resumed?

Spokesperson: The two sides are engaged with each other to resume such cooperative exchanges and visits which are required to take place between the two sides.

Shaukat Piracha, Aaj News: What is the time frame when these measures agreed between the two countries will be implemented specifically the posting of liaison officers and the opening of five extra trade points. Number one timeframe, and number two, when you repeatedly talk of understanding with Iran, is there any possibility that the two countries can have joint operations against militants both inside Iran and inside Pakistan? How to fight jointly against the common menace of terrorism?

Spokesperson: At this point, the answer to your last question is that at this point, such operations are not contemplated. We will coordinate our efforts and that is why we will have these liaison offices which will help the two sides in understanding each other’s concerns and perspective and facilitate action against terrorists acting against the interests of our two countries.

With respect to your question about the timeframe, I’m not in a position to give you a time frame. But as far as the appointment of liaison officers are concerned, that we expect to take place as soon as the administrative procedures are completed in terms of nomination of individuals and so on. So that will take place very soon.

With regards to the border markets there has been an understanding of the two countries and the two Foreign Ministers have agreed to speed up the process. It will take some time because there are a number of departments involved including the customs authorities of the two countries and Ministries of commerce, and they will have to discuss with each other the modalities before these border markets are inaugurated.

Abdullah Mohmand, Dawn TV: It was claimed that due to the leaked cypher, Pakistan relations with other countries suffered damage. As a Foreign Office Spokesperson, can you tell me with which countries and in which manner were Pakistan’s relations were damaged? Secondly, Pakistan has claimed that anti-Pakistan elements are present in Iran. So, what is the number of terrorists as per lists shared by Pakistan with Iran? Do they only belong to BLA? Or are there people from Al Qaeda and the TTP as well?

Spokesperson: With regards to exchange of intelligence and security related information, we will not be able to share such details publicly at this stage because these are sensitive in nature and have operational implications, if any such information is released. With regards to Pakistan’s relations with other countries, Pakistan has made efforts to develop and solidify its relations with countries around the world and this is a priority for Pakistan. Any bilateral relationship may face some challenges from time to time. But it is important for us to move forward and to strengthen our dialogue and cooperation. We have been engaged with countries around the world, big and small, in all continents and in order to strengthen our dialogue processes and cooperation with all countries, including countries in our neighborhood and countries in far regions of the world.

Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today: Ma’am, there was a conference held in Afghanistan on regional cooperation in which Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan’s envoys participated. What are the updates regarding this matter?

Spokesperson: With regards to your last question, our Head of Mission, Ambassador Ubaid Ur Rehman Nizamani attended the conference, and Pakistan remains committed to engaging with neighbours of Afghanistan, to work together for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and we hope that such conferences and activities contribute to a peaceful region.