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Record of the weekly Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, August 30, 2018

(2018-08-30) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Opening Remarks

Assalaam-o-Alaikum!

Let me begin by giving a brief round-up of the events on the foreign policy front:

In a special message on first ever International Day for Victims of Terrorism, on 21 August, 2018, the Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan, on behalf of the people and Government of Pakistan, paid tribute to all those who have lost their lives and suffered immensely at the hands of terrorists. The Prime Minister thanked the law enforcement agencies and armed forces, who have rendered immense sacrifices, to ensure the safety and security of Pakistan and its people. Pakistan has been one of the major victims of terrorism. We stand with the international community to eliminate this menace and reiterate that we will extend all possible support to the victims of terrorism.

The Indian occupation forces during different operations killed ten (10) people including Abdul Ahad Pinchoo, Jana Begum, Tariq Ahmad Malik in Pulwama, Baramulla, Kupwara and Islamabad districts in the last two weeks.

We denounce the use of brutal force and pellets against the innocent Kashmiris.

We are deeply concerned about the gross human rights violations in the IoK and continued illegal detention and deteriorating health of senior Hurriyat leaders including Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Masarat Alam Butt, Syeda Aasiya Andrabi, Nahida Nasreen and Fahmida Sofi,Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Aiyaz Akbar, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Peer Saifullah, Mehrajudin Kalwal, Farooq Ahmad Dar, Ghulam Muhammad Khan Sopori and hundreds of Hurriyet leaders and activists languishing in notorious Indian Tihar Jail in New Delhi and other different jails and interrogations centers. We also strongly condemn the continued house arrest of APHC Chairman, Syed Ali Gilani and arrest of Muhammad Yasin Malik.

Recently, the Indian Government banned Al Jazeera TV following a documentary report telecast by thisInternational News Channel on the situation in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The objective and factual documentary was not acceptable to Indian Security Agencies, who are used to the tamed domestic Indian media. The Indian media follows the brief provided by the Indian Government, especially the establishment and the MEA.

I summoned the Indian Deputy High Commissioner Mr. J.P. Singh and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control on 18th August 2018 in Dana Sector, resulting in shahadat of an innocent civilian. The Indian forces along the Line of Control and the Working boundary are continuously targeting civilian populated areas with heavy weapons. In 2018, the Indian forces have carried out more than 1900 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the shahadats of 31 innocent civilians, while injuring 122 others. This unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing since 2017.

The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws. The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation.

I urged the Indian side to respect the 2003 Ceasefire arrangement; investigate this and other incidents of ceasefire violations; instruct the Indian forces to respect the ceasefire, in letter and spirit and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary. I also urged that the Indian side should permit UNMOGIP to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

The Charge d'Affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on 20 August 2018 and a strong protest was lodged on the announcement by leader of the Dutch Freedom Party and Parliamentarian Geert Wilders to hold a competition of blasphemous caricatures. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam. All our Missions have been instructed to raise the matter with their host governments. Pakistan's Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva and New York have also been directed to take up the matter with the UN UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN related bodies and procedures.

The matter would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the sidelines of the 73rd Session of United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, 2018. Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi will lead the Pakistan delegation to this meeting and will raise the issue of blasphemous caricatures.

The Government of Pakistan would continue to vigorously pursue the matter with the Dutch government and raise it at the relevant international fora to prevent this abhorrent act from taking place.

The World Bank Regional Vice President Mr. Hartwig Schaefer called on Foreign Minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 29 August 2018 and felicitated the Foreign Minister on assumption of office, as well as, the formation of the new government. Views were also exchanged on matters of special significance to the new government including education, agriculture and rural development with special emphasis on regional connectivity as well as World Bank's collaboration in CASA-1000 and Khyber Pass Economic Corridor (Peshawar-Torkhum-Kabul Motorway). World Bank agreed to collaborate with the Agriculture Task Force for reformation and restructuring of the Agriculture sector. In addition, they also discussed the challenges to the Indus Waters system due to construction of reservoirs in India and to address these issues through the good offices of the World Bank.

Foreign Minister thanked the World Bank and solicited it's support for development priorities of the new government. The Foreign Minister also shared Prime Minister's vision of a ''peaceful neighbourhood.''

The Foreign Minister in his Press Briefing on 20 August, 2018 said that the foreign policy will begin and end with the national interest of Pakistan. The Prime Minister has indicated that he wants to see the Foreign Office as the most viable of all Institutions. We need peace in our country and in our region. Pakistan shares a long border with Iran and wants peaceful relations with it. Pakistan and China enjoy exemplary relations. He stated that nobody can deny the importance of the US-Pak bilateral relations. Pakistan needs to understand the US demands and the US has to cater for our needs.

The Foreign Minister during the Press Conference underscored the importance of the huge Pakistani community of 9.2 million, living abroad.

H.E Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain called Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi to congratulate him on the election victory of his party and on assuming office of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. He expressed his keen desire for further solidifying the existing bonds of friendship between Pakistan and Bahrain. The Foreign Minister congratulated his Bahraini counterpart on achieving Tier-1 status on Anti Human Trafficking efforts. He expressed gratitude for H.M. King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa's generous gift of King Hamad University in Islamabad, saying it would serve as a strong bridge of friendship between Pakistan and Bahrain.

Nepalese Foreign Minister called Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and congratulated him on the election victory of his party and assuming the office of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. The Foreign Minister expressed his admiration for the resolve and determination displayed by the Government and people of Nepal, as they rebuilt the country after the devastating earthquake. He also expressed the desire for enhancing economic relations between Pakistan and Nepal to a level commensurate with the political relationship and the existing goodwill. The Foreign Minister also emphasized Pakistan's commitment to the principles and objectives of SAARC and its importance for regional development.

Ambassador of People's Republic of China Mr. Yao Jing called on Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his office. The Chinese Ambassador congratulated the Foreign Minister on his assumption of office and formation of new government in Pakistan. He said that Pakistan and China are ''Iron Brothers'' and close friends. He reiterated his government's desire to work closely with the new government of Pakistan to further strengthen Pakistan-China bilateral relations. The Foreign Minister thanked Ambassador Yao Jing for good wishes and said that Pakistan and China are close friends and strong partners.

The outgoing Ambassador of the US in Pakistan, Ambassador David Hale also paid a farewell call on Foreign Minister at his office. Ambassador Hale said that the United State is taking great interest in the Prime Minister's reform agenda, a readiness to turn the page. This was also the objective of Secretary Pompeo's visit to Pakistan. The Foreign Minister underscored the importance of the longstanding relations with the US and said that he looked forward to welcome Secretary Pompeo in Islamabad. He told Ambassador Hale that his interactions with the US leadership would be based on honesty and sincerity, so as to develop a sustained partnership in the interest of both the countries. The Foreign Minister thanked Ambassador Hale for his services in Pakistan and congratulated him on his next assignment as Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the Department of State.

Iranian Foreign Minister also called Foreign Minister Makhoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and showed interest to visit Pakistan on 30-31 August, 2018. Furthermore, Japan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Kazuyuki Nakane will be visiting Pakistan today. The Chinese State Consular and Foreign Minister will also be in Pakistan on 8-9 September 2018.

In the end I would like to congratulate Ms. Nargis Hameedullah who has made us enormously proud by winning a bronze medal at karate in the Asian games. We wish her the best of luck.

Now the floor is open for questions:

Question

Reportedly, our friendly countries are continuously writing to us to be part of Chabahar Project. Do you think it is appropriate for Pakistan to be part of the project where India is already a main stakeholder with 500 million US$ investment. Secondly, Prime Minister was briefed by the Foreign Office - what changes can we expect in Pakistan's foreign policy in the coming days, particularly with reference to Pak-US relations? (Mazhar Abbas - Republic News)

Answer

Chabahar and Gwadar are both complementary projects. We are considering all the aspects and we want to move forward together. The presence of India has nothing to do with Pakistan and benefit us

Regarding your second question, the Foreign Minister has already briefed all of you about the visit of the Prime Minister last week in his Media Briefing. The Foreign Minister laid special emphasis on the importance of the huge diaspora of around 10 million Pakistanis living abroad and how we can benefit them and be benefitted from their presence abroad.

Question

As indicated by the Foreign Minister, the Chinese Foreign Minister will visit Pakistan - what would be the agenda of the proposed visit? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Kashmir Post)

Answer

State Counsellor/Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi will visit Pakistan in early September. Both sides will exchange views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest. CPEC being one of the important components of the bilateral relations will also be discussed.

Question

There is a report published in ''The Nation'' that America has shared the transcript of the call between Prime Minister of Pakistan and US Secretary of State and that the US stance seems to be factual. Secondly, where was the decision to divert the call of US Secretary of State to Prime Minister instead of Foreign Minister taken? (Bashir Chaudhary - Channel 24)

Answer

We would want the episode to end. The Foreign Minister has commented on this in detail. Politically, we need to move on.

Question

The bilateral trade between AJK and IOK has been disrupted since long. When will the trade be restored between the two countries? (Razik Bhatti - Kashmir Express)Answer

This needs to be viewed in the larger context of Pakistan- India relations There are few ongoing efforts and we have to see when these efforts can bear fruit. However, trade is a smaller part of a larger problem. Unless we address the larger problem, we cannot address the small problems individually.

Question

Reportedly, Prime Minister Modi in his letter mentioned that India want good ties with Pakistan and on the other hand India is continuing LoC violations at the international border. What is your comment on this? Secondly, the Indian High Commissioner is visiting Kartarpur Sahab and as per the reports, he is also scheduled to visit Nankana Sahab as well. What is the purpose of his visit and is the government really doing something to open the Kartarpura Corridor? (Anas Mallick - Wion TV)

Answer

I will respond to your second question first. As I have mentioned above, we are making efforts to narrow the gap between Pakistan and India. The Kartarpura Corridor can be one of the moves in this regard, however, it cannot be considered in isolation.

Regarding your first question, India Pakistan relations are a complex conundrum. There are no easy solutions to the difficult problems facing both the countries. Any move for peace will definitely ensure tranquility on the LoC and WB and resolution of all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The road would be difficult, but I can assure you that we, both India and Pakistan, have to take this journey.

Question

Recently, the militaries of India and Pakistan took part in a mega anti-terror drill of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Russia aimed at expanding cooperation among the member countries to deal with the growing menace of terrorism and extremism. Do you think that this cooperation will also boost stability in South Asia, a region facing a more complicated counter terrorism situation? Secondly, in one of the recent statements, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan very categorically stated that the present government is working on UNSC Resolution 1267 which deals with the sanctions on different organizations. What is the progress in Pakistan on that front? (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj News)

Answer

In response to your first question, the Joint Exercise titled ''Peace Mission 2018'' was conducted by the Central Military Commission of Russia at Chebarkul, in the Ural Mountains of Russia from 22-29 Aug 2018 within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) framework. The exercise was aimed at enhancing tactical level cooperation among member countries for countering terrorism. Around 3,000 soldiers from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, India and Pakistan took part in the joint military drills.

The exercise is part of the routine joint military exercises conducted under the aegis of SCO to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation among the Member States. As a member of this important organization, Pakistan is open to collaborate with all other Member States in the area of counter-terrorism. Pakistan believes that cooperation amongst member states will further boost SCO's vision of regional peace, stability and development within the ambit of the organization and beyond.

Since becoming a full member of the SCO, Pakistan has been actively participating in all meetings of the SCO including its permanent body Regional Anti-Terrorism Structures (SCO-RATS), as well as, its various working groups. This was the first time Pakistan participated in the joint drills under the SCO framework. We support SCO's efforts for regional cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Regarding your second question, as a responsible member of the United Nations, Pakistan takes its international obligations very seriously. We have been implementing Security Council sanctions related to assets freeze, arms embargo and travel ban on all listed individuals and entities.

I would like to refer you to the latest twenty second report of the Monitoring Team of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Sanctions Committee which lauded Pakistan's counter terrorism efforts by acknowledging that extensive counter-terrorist operations have led to a reduction in the terrorism in the country. Earlier, in February 2018, the Monitoring Team in its 21st Report had also noted with appreciation that Pakistani military operations have ''denied space for ISIL to establish an organizational structure in the area.''

Pakistan would continue to implement its obligations arising under UNSC 1267 Sanctions regime.

Question

First of all, I would like to appreciate your efforts in highlighting the competition of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) with the Dutch government. I believe it is a sensitive issue and the Dutch Foreign Minister has clearly said that he cannot do anything in this regard. So what is your strategy to halt this competition? (Ms. Bushra - Country News)

Supplementary Question

Tehreek Labaik (TLYP) has demanded that the Dutch Ambassador in Pakistan may be expelled at the earliest. Is there any decision from the Government of Pakistan in this regard? Do you think a situation can arise to expel the Dutch Ambassador from Pakistan? (Rashida Sial - Abb Tak)

Supplementary Question

As we have observed that such incidents are repeated every now and then. So are we going to have an Emergency Meeting of the OIC on the lines of the Holocaust Conference? (Anwar Abbas - Waqt News)

Answer

Pakistan has taken a serious note of the nefarious plan of the Dutch parliamentarian to hold a competition of blasphemous caricatures. Pakistan has already raised the issue on the OIC platform. In this regard, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has written a letter to the OIC Secretary General, suggesting collective action by the OIC to resolve the issue.

Foreign Minister has written letters to his counterparts to unite on the OIC platform and collectively raise the matter with the Dutch Government.

The OIC Ambassadors group in Geneva will raise this matter in the forthcoming Human Rights Council Session which is taking place on the 10th of September in Geneva.

Pakistan has also proposed to include this issue in the agenda of the Annual Coordination Meeting at the Ministerial level to be held in September next month in New York on the sidelines of UNGA.

Regarding expulsion of Dutch Ambassador, we have not decided yet.

Question

I would like to know about the Iranian Foreign Minister's engagement in Pakistan who is expected to come today. What is the agenda of the meeting? (Mr. Riaz - Pakhtunkhawa News)

Answer

The Foreign Minister of Islamic Republic of Iran will be in Islamabad today on a two-day visit. During his stay he will hold discussions with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan on issues of mutual interest. He will also meet the Pakistani leadership.

Question

The Foreign Minister of Pakistan has said that we will also consider the interests of America while emphasizing our core national interest. Can you elaborate on this? Second, is the new government taking any decision on Aafia Siddique? Thirdly, is there any new plan for early repatriation of Afghan Refugees? (Sardar Alam - One News)

Answer

When two counteries interact with each other, interests of both sides need to be considered and accomodated. The process of diplomacy is an endeavour to find common grounds to mutual satisfaction.

Regarding Aafia Siddique, I have no information yet.

As far as repatriation of Afghan Refugees is concerned, we have repeatedly raised the issue with the Afghan Government. Additionally, we are consistently raising the issue of infiltration of terrorists from Afghan side and rise of poppy cultivation and smuggling of narcotics.

Question

Reportedly, the Afghan government has alleged that Pakistan is involved in the Ghazni attack and there are media reports claiming that the military establishment of Pakistan has plotted and executed the attack. Your comments please! (Mr. Jalil, VOA)

Answer

These are completely baseless allegations with no evidence. Such reports are an attempt to vitiate the Pakistan-Afghan relations. There is a need to move forward for betterment of our relations.

Question

Will the government take some steps to stop spreading of caricatures, as we had witnessed the blockade of youtube channel in 2012 over release of an anti-Islam movie in Pakistan? (Haider Sherazi - G TV)

Answer

This is an emotional and sensitive issue for all of us. However, our response would be carefully caliberated and measured, directed towards a clear objective.

Question

In the last Cabinet Meeting, the Federal Cabinet decided to pursue the Avenfield Apartment case. Has the government initiated any process through Foreign Office? (Mr. Shabbir Wahgra - PTV World)

Answer

The question pertains to NAB.

Question

There are certain aspects of economic issues which have implication on our foreign policy as in the case of IMF where there were reservations regarding payment for CPEC. Is there any economic wing in the Foreign Office? In case an economic issue has Foreign Policy implications, like Indus Waters Treaty, IMF, CPEC - what is Ministry of Foreign Affairs' perspective on such issues, though they are dealt with by the line ministeries?

Secondly, have you seen the statements of the US Secretary of State regarding IMF? Will this be discussed during his visit to Pakistan? (Mr. Shahid ur Rehman - Kyodo News)

Answer

There is an economic wing in MOFA.

Regarding your second question, In our view, the financial matters, especially any prospective decision regarding multilateral financial institutions, is an entirely different subject. Discussions with the US Secretary of State, on the other hand will focus on all issues of mutual interest.

Question

Has the United States handed over the transcript of the call between the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the US Secretary of State? (Mr. Adeel - Dunya TV)

Answer

As I informed already, we would want the episode to end. The Foreign Minister has already commented in detail. Politically, we need to move on.

Question

Is there any possibility of a meeting between the Foreign Minister of Pakistan with his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the UNGA Session in New York next month? Secondly, in Russia, during the Peace Mission Exercises, The Indian soldiers have shown some positive gesture towards Pakistan soldiers and as a result there is criticism in India. Your comments please! (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Kashmir Post)

Supplementary Question

Last year, the Foreign Ministers of SAARC Member States have met in New Work on the side lines of the UNGA Session. Will they meet again this year? (Naveed Akbar - Dunya News)

Answer

The Informal Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers take place every year on the sidelines of the UNGA Session in New York. So, this year too the Informal Session will be held.

In the wake of recent overtures by both Pakistan and India to lessen the ever-widening gulf between the two neighbours, some future steps are under consideration. I will share details with you, in due course.

I have already responded to the question on the Peace Mission Exercises in Russia earlier.

Question

While I speak, as stated by ISPR, the Prime Minister is being briefed on defence, internal security and other professional matters. The Foreign Minister is also sitting in the meeting. Internal security and defence are integrally related with the foreign policy. What specific issues related to the foreign policy are being discussed? (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj News)

Answer

The new government is recieving briefings from all Ministeries/departments. As you are aware,the PM receieved a briefing in MOFA last Friday. Details of the briefing you refer to may be obtained from ISPR.

Question

There was a strong campaign on social media against the former High Commissioner of Pakistan in Australia. Has Foreign Office conducted any inquiry. If so, please share the details? (Ali Hussain - Business Recorder)

Answer

That episode has been completed. Our new High Commissioner has already arrived in Canberra and has assumed charge.

Question

There are reports that Dr. Tahir ul Qadri has been arrested in Denmark and was investigated in a Police Station. Do you confirm? (Majid Jaral - News One)

Answer

I am not aware of this.