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Press Briefing by the Foreign Minister on 28 August 2018

(2018-08-29) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Thank you very much for your presence today. You have watched my speech in the Senate about the blasphemous caricatures today. The Prime Minister was also present in the Senate. A Unanimous resolution was passed and a general motion was presented against the blasphemous caricatures. On the occasion, the government presented its point of view in the Senate. All the senators were unanimous on the issue and there was no opposition. The good thing was that the senators from minority sects also agreed with the views expressed in the senate against the blasphemous caricatures.

As per the wishes of the Members of the Parliament, today, I also wrote letters to six OIC Foreign Ministers. I also wrote letter to the Secretary General OIC and requested him that the Committee of Permanent Representatives may be convened on urgent basis so that we can have a unanimous standpoint against the subject issue. I intend to discuss this issue in OIC Council of Foreign Ministers' Meeting in New York on the side lines of UNGA. Today, the Turkish Foreign Minister called me and congratulated me. While acknowledging the receipt of my letter, he agreed that the issue may be discussed in the Council of Foreign Ministers' meeting which will take place on the side lines of UNGA in New York in September.

Let me tell you that we have raised this issue on different forums, including, the offices of the UN Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the EU. You know that the EU is not the same any more as it was a few decades ago. The EU must understand that how such event can have negative impacts on their society, keeping in view the fact that today there are tens and hundreds of Muslims living in Europe as the citizens of their countries. The sentiments against the blasphemous caricatures are not limited to the Muslim world rather they are worldwide. Everybody knows that freedom of expression has certain limits.

In my telephone call with the Dutch Foreign Minister, I underscored the sensitivity of the issue. I also conveyed to him the strong resentment in Pakistan against the blasphemous caricatures. The Dutch Foreign Minister stated that they have their own laws under which every citizen is guaranteed freedom of expression. He elaborated that the Dutch government has nothing to do with the events and had distanced itself from the far right individual, involved in the event. In response, I conveyed that sometimes nations pay the price for the individual acts, as such acts promote extremism and intolerance in the societies.

We have decided that an effective voice may be raised unanimously from the OIC platform. I assure the people of Pakistan that we are aware of their sentiments and we will stand with the Muslims around the world in raising the voice against this event.

The floor is open for Questions.

Question:

We all know that such events have been organized in the past as well, which hurt the sentiments of Muslims. Do you think it is a conspiracy against Muslims? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal - Kashmir Post)

Answer:

The personalities like that of Geert Wilders are far right personalities, who organized these kinds of events for publicity stunts. They are ignorant of the fact that the societies are becoming more and more multicultural and aware.

Question:

There is a growing demand from the public in Pakistan that Pakistan may end trade and diplomatic relations with such countries. How would you like to comment? Secondly, do you think that it is a step towards clash of civilization? (Mazhar Iqbal - Public TV)

Answer:

I fully understand the sentiments of public in Pakistan. If Pakistan does something one sidedly, it will not have a great impact. Therefore, we will wait until the issue is discussed at the OIC forum. Regarding your second question, I may say that it is an extreme speculation.

Question:

Has your Dutch counterpart assured you that he will stop the subject event? Secondly, do we have an effective strategy to deal with such situations? (Shahid Maitla - Bol News)

Answer:

As I said earlier, the Dutch FM remarked that there is a legal system in place in his country and people can have recourse to law/courts against a person who is involved in such incidents. In response to your second question, I must say that we condemn such events and we will effectively take up this issue at the OIC forum so as to have a unanimous view of the whole Muslim world. Please note that today I proposed in the Senate that there should be a committee comprising members, both from opposition and government and the committee may come up with certain recommendations, which will be implemented.

Question:

Is Pakistan thinking of ending diplomatic relations with the Netherlands? (Ghazala Noreen-Ab Tak)

Answer:

We would like to assess the situation whether following a certain course will have a solid impact or not. I believe in a collective way forward.

Question:

As you are aware that this is a sensitive issue, do you think that the Muslim countries may convene an emergency conference like that of the Holocaust Conference in order to raise awareness in Europe and to convince the Dutch government to stop the event? (Umar Abbas - Waqt News)

Answer:

I think we have to take steps to form public opinion against such events. People need to be educated and convinced.

Question:

What may be the possible agenda as far as the Iranian Foreign Minister's visit to Pakistan is concerned? The Prime Minister of Pakistan in his very first speech talked about strengthening of relations between Iran and Pakistan? Can Pakistan play a conciliatory role between Iran and other countries with which Iran has differences? Recently, sanctions have been imposed on Iran. What are your comments? (Afzal Raza - IRNA News)

Answer:

We welcome the Iranian Foreign Minister to Pakistan. There is no set agenda for the subject visit. We share a long border with Iran and we enjoy brotherly relations with Iran, which we intend to improve further. We believe in the unity of Muslim Ummah.

Question:

You may be aware that Tehreek-labaik Ya Rasool Allah has warned that if Pakistan would not end diplomatic ties with the Netherlands, they will organize a long march from Lahore to Islamabad. What according to you will be the strategy of the Foreign office? Secondly, the Prime Minister and you have received congratulatory letters from different Heads of States/Governments and the Foreign Ministers including Prime Minister Modi and your Indian counterpart. How would you like to respond? Your comments please! (Anas Mallick - Wion News)

Answer:

I said earlier that we will take a collective way forward after raising the issue at the OIC forum. To your second question, I must say that there are diplomatic norms which we have to follow and certainly we will respond positively. I must appreciate the visit of the Indian Water Commissioner to Pakistan, which was long overdue and it is not an issue limited to India and Pakistan rather it has become a regional issue. We are in a semi-arid zone and we need to address the water issues. I believe, this is a positive development and I said in my initial pressers that we are not shy of engagement.

Question:

As you know that there was a misunderstanding developed between the United States and Pakistan in the wake of Mike Pompeo's call to the Prime Minister. What do you think will be the possible impact of the same on Mike Pompeo's visit to Pakistan and what can be the agenda of the meeting? (Muhammad Jalil - Voice of America)

Supplementary Question

Do you think that the Prime Minister will meet the US Secretary of State during his visit?

Answer:

We issued a statement already, whereby we clarified our stance. Regarding your second question, there is a possibility that the Prime Minister may meet the US Secretary of State.

Question:

Recently, it has been witnessed that Pakistan's relations with Russia have been improved. How would you like to comment? (Amajad Ali - PTV News)

Answer:

I must say this is a good sign. There is possibility of further improving our relations. I have been informed that the Russian FM intends to meet me. I have accepted the offer and I will be meeting him on the sidelines of the upcoming UNGA Session.

Question:

The OIC Platform is under pressure. Do you think the OIC may be able to convince the Dutch government to stop the event? Do you think that Pakistan will again give a demarche to the Dutch Ambassador? Secondly, Pakistan enjoys good relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia. How will Pakistan balance its relations with both countries, as both are in the interest of Pakistan? (Faisal Raza Khan - 92 News)

Answer:

Regarding your first question, I cannot pre-empt the decision of the OIC until we discuss the issue at the OIC forum. We have already given a Demarche right after the first Cabinet Meeting. As far as relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia are concerned, both are brotherly Muslim courtiers with whom we have relations based on mutual respect.

Question:

Will you meet the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Suraj in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA Session? (Saad Umar - Rose TV)

Answer:

So far, there is no such meeting scheduled. I will not hesitate if such a possibility arises.

Question:

Who will lead the delegation of Pakistan to the UNGA Session this year? (Naveed Saddiqui - Dawn News)

Supplementary Question:

The UNGA Session is a forum that provides opportunity to the Heads of State/ Government to interact with their counterparts. It is also an opportunity for countries to improve their foreign relations. As a Foreign Minister you may not be able to meet the Heads of States/Governments. What are your comments? (Majid Jahral - News One)

Answer:

I will be leading Pakistan's delegation to the UNGA Session in New York. Let me explain, we have just formed the government and there are some pressing domestic issues that need immediate attention. The government has to deal with major issues like fiscal deficit, inflation, poverty, institutional dysfunction, etc. It is due to these reasons that the Prime Minister has preferred to stay back.