Plebiscite is the only solution for the future of Jammu and Kashmir; Mumtaz

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Transcript of the Weekly Press Briefing by the Mumtaz Zahra Spokesperson ministry of foreign affairs on
Thursday, 15 February 2024

The 14th round of the Pakistan-Russia Consultative Group on Strategic Stability took place on 7 February 2024, co-chaired by Additional Foreign Secretary (Arms Control and Disarmament), Mohammad Kamran Akhtar, and Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs S.A. Ryabkov.

The two sides discussed issues related to international security, regional stability, and various aspects of arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation. Issues around biological, space and information security, as well as new and emerging technologies, including the military use of artificial intelligence, were also discussed.

Pakistan and the Commonwealth of Dominica have formally established diplomatic ties. A joint communique formalizing ties between the two countries was signed by the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram and the Permanent Representative of Dominica to the United Nations, Ambassador Philbert Aaron. This decision reflects Pakistan’s firm commitment to enhance its diplomatic outreach and expand cooperation with countries across the globe.

We endorse the statement of OIC strongly condemning the ongoing Israeli military aggression against Gaza and the expansion of indiscriminate attacks on the Rafah city. OIC has raised alarm on expansion and escalation of the pace of the Israeli aggression and warned against an unacceptable attempt to forcibly displace the Palestinian people from their own land. Israel’s merciless onslaught against the 1.4 million displaced people in Rafah is a blatant defiance of the provisional measures outlined by the International Court of Justice in its interim order.

Pakistan calls on UN Security Council to fulfill its responsibility mandated under the Charter of the United Nations and to urgently intervene to impose a ceasefire and bring an end to the massacre of the Palestinian people. We also call for an immediate reversal of the decision by some countries to suspend UNRWA’s funding. The siege of Gaza must be lifted to prevent further deaths and suffering from famine and non-availability of decent medical care. Pakistan stands resolute in its unwavering diplomatic, moral, political, and humanitarian support to the besieged people of Gaza.

India’s campaign to curb dissent in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) remains in full swing. On 10th February 2024, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), conducted multiple raids on 15 properties of Jammat-i-Islami, Kashmir in different cities. These raids were part of an ongoing crackdown against the Kashmiri political organizations. Jamaat-i-Islami is one of the six political organizations already proscribed by India.

We urge the Indian authorities to end intimidation and persecution of the Kashmiri political activists and parties. All Kashmiri political prisoners and activists should be released and the people of Jammu and Kashmir should be able to enjoy their rights and freedom.

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.

Questions and Answers

Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News: Many capitals and important position holders globally have commented on Pakistan’s elections, including the US State Department and White House. Also many overseas Pakistanis have made provocative questions to officials abroad. So, what are your comments? Does Pakistan welcome such remarks?

Spokesperson:​As you said, Pakistan Foreign Office has already made a statement on the general elections held in Pakistan last week. The statement was made in the context of commentary from foreign governments, even before the completion of the electoral process. While we value constructive advice from our friends, we believe making negative statements even before the completion of electoral process is neither constructive nor objective. Pakistan is a democratic country. It is proud of the freedom of expression guaranteed under our Constitution. And in that context, we respect the statements by Pakistanis on our democratic process. It is part of our democratic process that Pakistanis wherever they are, they speak about Pakistan’s political process. We do not, therefore, have any comments with regards to Pakistanis making comments about our own political system.

Anas Mallick, Capital TV:​Thank you so much ma’am. Firstly, the United States has said that it has both publicly and privately raised concerns with regards to the allegations of rigging in Pakistan’s election. Would you want to confirm what sort of private communication are you talking about, diplomatic or personal? Number two, in a statement that Piracha sb was also talking about. In that statement where you’re saying that the internet was not shut down, there are still a 131 million internet users in the country as per PTA data, out of which 128 million use mobile cellular networks. This is the same amount of number, which was eligible for the right to vote. So, does that mean that the State of Pakistan and the Foreign Office is justifying the violation of rights to 128 million people that is equivalent to the number of people who were allowed to vote as well? Thank you.

Spokesperson:​Regarding your second question, I think you are reading too much into a very clear statement. The statement was about the internet. And the statement also clearly mentions that cellular services were suspended so I will not go into details of what happened, why it happened and so on. With regards to the comment that you have referred to by the US State Department, I am not aware of the bilateral messaging that has taken place post elections.

Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today: Ma’am, recently a report was issued by UN which expresses concerns on activities of Al Qaeda and TTP and how Al Qaeda gives training to TTP. Your comments please?

Spokesperson:​I think this question was raised in the last briefing as well two weeks ago. Pakistan has said that we are concerned about the rise of terrorist entities in our region and the terrorist threat that Pakistan continues to face from terrorist entities, which have hideouts and sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. Many aspects of this report that you mentioned corroborate what Pakistan has said in the past. We have called on the Afghan authorities to take immediate and effective action against these terrorist groups and individuals so that they do not threaten Pakistan’s security.

Mateen Haider, G News: Recently, we have also seen a one of the most serious statement made by the US State Department’s Spokesperson about elections in Pakistan. So although two respected colleagues have already made and you have, but somehow do you think that Pakistan will pay attention to some of the reservations expressed by Pakistan’s international partners, who have been keenly supporting human rights, democracy and elections In Pakistan. So, the reservations expressed by these foreign countries will, Pakistan pay attention to this or Pakistan straight away reject? And then, in Islamabad did Foreign Office brief the foreign envoys on post-election scenarios because most of the foreign missions have been keenly observing, monitoring and watching these elections and they have also their reservation. So, if as a usual activity, have these envoys been taken into confidence, and to clarify Pakistan’s perception and position?

Spokesperson: Thank you very much. First, the election process in Pakistan is an internal sovereign affair of Pakistan. Pakistan is a democracy. People of Pakistan have voted in 10s of millions and there were unprecedented number of women and young voters who participated in this exercise. We have also welcomed foreign observers including the Commonwealth Observer Group and in that context, Pakistan has shown its willingness to be transparent in the election process. The Election Commission of Pakistan is the relevant body that will comment and respond to any queries regarding the election process and any complaints that any individual in Pakistan have on the electoral process. As far as foreign governments are concerned, our view is clear that Pakistan undertakes its constitutional obligations seriously. It is the right of the people of Pakistan to enjoy freedoms and democracy and any steps that Pakistan takes in this regard is in conformity with our own constitutional obligations and not because there is some advice coming from abroad.

Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International: Ma’am Pakistan’s national elections have been conducted. It is being observed that Pakistan’s elections are being made controversial using the reports of international observers who were invited here. So, what is the number of the countries or foreign correspondents whom you have invited in this regard? Have you protested through their Ambassador or High Commission, because Pakistan’s political system is being made controversial to sabotage Pakistan’s upcoming government?

Spokesperson: First of all, I do not know which report are you referring to. The report that I have seen, the interim report of the Commonwealth group, that report has spoken about the transparency of the process, the participatory nature of the process, and it has highlighted how the Government of Pakistan facilitated inclusion of millions of new voters in the electoral lists. So, I am not aware of the report of any observer where the Pakistan’s electoral process has been criticized. There are some media reports, which are critical and we do not comment on media reports. Pakistani nationals and Pakistani political parties, have every right to comment on Pakistan’s political process. However, on this Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no comment to offer.

Anwar Abbas, Bol News: Two short questions. First Indian media has reported that the Indian budget for Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, is more than 14 billion which 5 times more than the demand of Pakistan from IMF. Please comment on it. Secondly, Maulana Fazal-Ur-Rehman has said that an Afghan National was awarded victory against him. Can Afghan citizens contest elections from here? Thank you.

Spokesperson: On second question I have no comment to make because it is a question, which is most relevant to the Election Commission of Pakistan, and only the Election Commission of Pakistan can comment on the statement made by any political figure in Pakistan regarding the elections. As for your first question, we have seen such reports but we believe these are based on frivolous comparisons. Such ridiculous and misleading comparisons cannot undermine the reality of India’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and the inalienable right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to self-determination. We also believe that pouring money into an occupied territory can neither absolve the occupying power from its responsibilities nor can it legitimize its illegal occupation. Jammu and Kashmir is one of the oldest unresolved disputes. It has been on the agenda of the UN Security Council since 1948 and the UN Security Council resolutions reaffirm the right of self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News: Ma’am, there were nine Indians imprisoned in Qatar under charges of espionage and were sentenced to capital punishment which was converted to life imprisonment later. They have now been released. As Pakistan also accuses India on extra territorial killings, how does Pakistan see this release and what could be its effect on India’s extra territorial activities?

Spokesperson: First, we have seen media reports on the latest development in this case; we do not want to comment on bilateral issues between the two countries. However, as we have said in the past, this case is a clear manifestation of India’s network of espionage and extraterritorial killings, which has gone beyond South Asia and now extends to the Middle East and beyond. We have also seen that in the past, India has been responsible for extraterritorial killings inside Pakistan and Pakistan has remained a target of India’s state sponsored terrorism, espionage, and extraterritorial and extrajudicial killings. For us, it was no surprise that the case revolved around Indian nationals who were retired naval officers because in Pakistan too, a few years ago, we arrested a high-ranking Indian naval officer who was involved in espionage. These activities are a clear demonstration that India is behaving recklessly and irresponsibly, in clear violation of international law.

Syed Asif Ali, Din News: Now that it’s almost more than a week that elections were held in Pakistan and the government making process has also begun. Has Foreign Office completed its initial homework, are Foreign Presidents being invited and will Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi be invited?

Spokesperson:​I think this is a bit early to ask this question. Any decision with respect to our foreign policy direction and our foreign engagements in coming months will be decided by the new government, when it takes office. And, in that respect, Ministry of Foreign Affairs as always does its homework and we are always ready to provide our input and advice to the political government whenever asked.

Abbas Jaffar, District News: Yesterday Pakistan’s Chief Justice gave his remarks in which he said that UN should be called in Gilgit-Baltistan to hold a referendum so that people living there could know their status. What is your comment on it?

Spokesperson:​I have not seen the statement of the honourable Chief Justice in this respect. The Pakistan Foreign Office always respects its superior judiciary and we will examine any such advice that comes to us from the judiciary.

Azaz Syed, Geo News: Ma’am, this question is related to an event in history. Recently former Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani in an interview has shared that the former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had informed him that Osama bin Laden was present in Pakistan. And when we checked, Condoleezza Rice visited Pakistan in December 2008. Is it correct that Americans shared the information that Osama bin Laden is most likely present in Pakistan, almost three years before the 2 May 2011 operation by the Americans?

Spokesperson: First of all, as you said, this is a question of history. And I do not have details of any such conversation. Also, I’m not aware of the details of any information that may have been shared and its timing especially since according to you such a conversation took place three years before 2nd of May 2011.

Naveed Siddique, Dateline Islamabad: United States recently announced and approved a $60 billion dollar aid package for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine to counter Palestine, China and Russia. Don’t you think that this decision will refuel the aggression in the world?

Spokesperson: I do not have details of this aid package and the purpose behind the aid package given by the United States to any country. Pakistan does not comment on bilateral relations between other countries. However, we have endorsed the statement of OIC and Arab League made at the summit level late last year in which Islamic and Arab leaders called on all countries to refrain from providing weapons and ammunitions to Israel, which is used against Palestinian people.

Jaleel Akhtar, VOA Urdu: Thank you Spokesperson. UN is going to host the Doha Conference on Afghanistan. And I would like to have your comments and reportedly, the Taliban Interim Government is saying that there should be no discussion on a possible appointment of UN envoy for Afghanistan. And they are saying that they should be given an opportunity that the delegates could hold a meeting with the UN Secretary-General. I would like to have your comments whether Pakistan will be attending this conference and what are your comments about the agenda of this meeting?

Spokesperson: Our participation in this Doha dialogue meeting is being considered and we will be finalizing our participation very shortly. The meeting is being convened by the UN Secretary-General to discuss approaches for international engagement with Afghanistan in a more coherent and structured manner. And our likely participation would be part of our efforts to actively engage with the international community, including the United Nations to strengthen efforts for lasting peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.

Audience: Dates?

Spokesperson: 18th and 19th of February. And as far as the agenda is concerned, Pakistan will work with the participating countries, especially the neighbours of Afghanistan to work towards our common objective for peace and prosperity inside Afghanistan.

Abdullah Mohmmad, Dawn TV: There were two cases of extrajudicial killings by India in Pakistan on which Foreign Office gave a briefing. What are the developments on the talks which were being held with third countries and developments in other cases? Secondly, Army Chief Syed Asim Munir, addressed the youth some weeks ago and stated that India never accepted Pakistan as a state that is why there is no chance of normalizing relations with them. So, is Foreign Office’s policy same as his policy?

Spokesperson: First, regarding third countries from where Indian agents were involved in extraterritorial and extrajudicial killings inside Pakistan, Pakistan is in contact with those countries. And, this is an ongoing process. When we have further details, we will share with the media. With regards to the other cases that we referred to earlier, those cases are still at various levels of investigation and we will share further details when it is time to make these details public. With regards to our relationship with India, it is no secret that we have had a difficult relationship over the last several decades. Pakistan has always said that we would like to have peace with all our neighbours including India. However, we have seen especially in recent years, that India has an approach of belligerence towards Pakistan and towards this region and that creates a negative environment for peace and dialogue which makes it difficult to have a normal relationship between Pakistan and India.

Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today: Ma’am, on the action taken by India on 5th of August 2019, and Indian Supreme Court’s subsequent verdict validating it, what is the way forward?

Supplementary Question Mudassar Iqbal, The Destination: We are seeing criticism in Indian media on our elections but we are also seeing that elections of Lok Sabah are to be conducted soon and 635 paramilitary companies have been deployed in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. What are your comments on that? And secondly, India has taken a plea for death penalty for Yasin Malik. What are your comments on that?

Spokesperson: We have always expressed our concern about the Indian military presence in Indian-Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. There are already about a million strong presence of Indian forces inside Indian-Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and these forces are responsible for suppression of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. And we time and again called for a solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute on the basis of the UN Security-Council resolutions that call for a plebiscite under the UN’s supervision and that we believe is the only solution for the future of Jammu and Kashmir. In that respect, we also believe that the measures that were taken by the Indian authorities in 2019 were illegal and the decision taken by the Indian Supreme Court to legalize their illegal steps are unacceptable. They are illegal; they have no standing under international law and that is why Pakistan has brought this message to the international community, to the United Nations, and we believe there is only one solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and that is what I just said that is a free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations as per the wishes of the Kashmiri people and the UNSC resolutions. As far as Yasin Malik is concerned, we have expressed our serious concerns about his prolonged and continued imprisonment. We have condemned the illegal and fictitious cases in which he has being framed and we have also rejected the basis of awarding him death penalty.

Ali Hussain, Business Recorder: Ma’am, few days ago, Caretaker Prime Minister stated that we are thinking about accepting the Interim Government of Afghanistan. So, will this decision be taken by Caretaker Prime Minister or will this decision be taken by the elected government or has this decision already been made by the State of Pakistan? Your comments are required regarding this please.

Spokesperson: First of all, there is no change in our position with respect to our relations with Afghanistan, and our policy remains consistent. Pakistan will continue to pursue friendly ties with Afghanistan while continuing to raise the concerns that we have on some important issues especially the question of terrorism and security. Any future direction on Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan will come from the elected government when it takes office.

Azaz Syed, Geo News: Ma’am, recently China has accepted the Taliban Ambassador in their country and in many ways, this is acknowledgement of Taliban Government by China. So, what’s Pakistan’s view on this and is Pakistan seriously considering to accept Taliban ambassador to Islamabad?

Spokesperson: First of all, as I have said in the past this decision by China is according to their own legal systems and their own internal considerations. Pakistan will take any decisions in this respect according to its own laws and national priorities. And as I said, any future direction in this respect will be set by the new elected government.