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Record of Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 08 November, 2018

(2018-11-08) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Bismillah IrRehman Nir Rahim,

Assalaam -o- Alaikum,

At the invitation of H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, Prime Minister Imran Khan paid his first official visit to China on November 2-5, 2018. During his visit, the Prime Minister called on H.E. Xi Jinping, President of China, held talks with H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier, and met with H.E. Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and H.E. Wang Qishan, Vice President of China respectively. Meetings were marked by traditional warmth, mutual understanding and trust, and the leaders of the two countries had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Now some highlights from Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where Indian atrocities against innocent Kashmiris have intensified.

Indian occupation forces, during the so called search and cordon operations martyred nineteen (19) including Owais Ahmad Lone, Sahir Makroo, Muzamil Magray, Amir Tantray, Minhajul Mohiuddin, Aqeel Rashid Sofi, Mukhtar Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Amin Mir, Naseer Ahmad Teli, mentally challenged Rayees Ahmad Wani, Mohd Irfan Bhat, Shahid Ahmad Mir, Mohammad Idrees Sultan and Amir Hussain Rather in Baramulla, Islamabad, Shopian, Pulwama and Budgam districts of the Indian occupied territory.

The Foreign Minister has strongly condemned the horrific killing of innocent Kashmiris at the hands of Indian occupation forces in its continuing acts of state terrorism in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK).

The Report of the UK Parliament's All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPKG), on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir coming on the footsteps of the OHCHR report is an important milestone validating Pakistan's position about the Indian atrocities in IOK. Highlighting the Indian atrocities in IOK, it underscores the deliberate immunity provided to Indian occupation forces under the draconian Public Safety Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which creates the official legal enabling environment for them to carry out their human rights abuses with impunity and calls for their urgent repeal. These laws give massive discretionary powers to Indian occupation forces in IOK for arbitrary detention with charges or judicial reviews for upto two years and authorization to use deadly force on pretext of maintaining law and order. In simple words, India gives powers to its occupation forces to label arrest and kill any Kashmiri in IOK as a terrorist, acting as jury judge and executioner in clear violation of its international obligations reflecting an official culture of disregard for human rights.

The report also recommends an urgent investigation into the identities of bodies in mass & unmarked graves with independent forensic verification, ban of pellet guns, for the opening of IOK prisons to international inspection.

The report follows the visit of a nine-member delegation of the APPKG to Islamabad and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The group's report, following the visit, is a damning indictment for India and an encouraging step forward after the UN OHCHR Report. Both these reports underscore the contrast between the human right situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

These reports should serve as a wakeup call for India and make it face the reality of its failure to suppress the indigenous legitimate Kashmiris struggle for the right to self determination in line with the UNSC resolutions. The increasing international censure is a welcome step in the right direction for the cessation of the human rights violations of innocent Kashmiris in IOK but it needs to be accompanied by more.

We urge the international community, especially the champions of human rights, to urge India to immediately halt the human rights atrocities in IOK.

On 26 October 2018, a high-level UAE delegation comprising CEOs/senior officials of major companies called on the Foreign Minister. The delegation was headed by H.E. Dr. Sultan Aljaber, Minister of State and CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), is on a one-day visit to Pakistan, at the invitation of Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

On 26 October 2018, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held an informal discussion with High Commissioners / Ambassadors from Developing Eight (D-8) member countries. Muhammad Hammad Azhar, Minister of State for Revenue also attended the session. Foreign Minister underscored need for implementation of preferential trade, visa and customs agreements to turn D-8 into an economic power house.

On 26 October 2018, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed Mr. Michael Gahler, Chief of EU's Election Observation Mission (EOM) for general elections 2018, at the Foreign Office. The two sides discussed successful conclusion of general elections and peaceful transfer of power to democratically elected government for a third consecutive time.

On 31 October 2018, the Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Javad Zarif met Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office. Both sides underscored the need to promote bilateral relations in all areas including political, economic and defence cooperation. Detailed discussions were also held on regional and global issues including the situation in Afghanistan and ways to work together in the wake of re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran.

On 01 November 2018, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed Mr. Abdul Aziz Kamilov, Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan and 5-members of his delegation at the Foreign Office. He was accompanied by Mr. Ikhtiyor Abullayev, Chairman of the State Security Service and Mr. Ismatulla Irgashev, Special Representative of President of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan along with other representatives of Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Security Service of Uzbekistan. The visit reinvigorated meaningful deliberations in all areas of bilateral cooperation including political, security &defence cooperation, peace process in Afghanistan as well as trade and investment promotion.

On 01 November 2018, the Governor of Osaka congratulated the Foreign Minister on his appointment and expressed his earnest desire to further strengthen economic cooperation between Pakistan and Japan. He solicited support of Pakistan for Japan's bid to host World Expo 2025. He also asked for Pakistan's support to have a sister-province arrangement between Pakistan and Japan. Foreign Minister while acknowledging the position of Japan as an important development partner appreciated the contributions made by Japan in supporting Pakistan's development efforts over the years.

On 25 October 2018, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua called Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Foreign Office and lodged a strong protest on the blasphemous tweets by Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders. The Foreign Secretary conveyed deep concern and disappointment of the government and people of Pakistan on continued and deliberate malicious attempts of the Dutch Parliamentarian to hurt the sentiments of hundreds of millions across the world.

On 01 November 2018, the 4th Round of Pakistan-Germany Strategic Dialogue was held in Islamabad. The two sides reviewed the spectrum of bilateral relations and identified opportunities and possibilities for further cooperation, especially in the spheres of political, trade and investment, education, culture, media, parliamentary exchanges and people-to-people contacts. The Foreign Secretary provided an overview of progress made by Pakistan in strengthening democracy, political stability and improved law and order situation in the country. The German side appreciated Pakistan's positive role in peace efforts in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs visited Islamabad on 6 November 2018. Ambassador Wells called on the Finance Minister and held delegation level talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting took stock of the understanding reached between the Foreign Minister Qureshi and Secretary Pompeo to rebuild the relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Pakistani side emphasized the need to diversify the relationship with particular focus on enhanced economic and trade cooperation and people to people contacts.

The inaugural session of Pakistan - Mongolia Bilateral Political Consultations was held in Islamabad at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 05th November, 2018. The meeting was held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere and covered a vast range of matters of mutual interest including, Pakistan-Mongolia bilateral relations, trade and business, and cooperation on multilateral issues.

On 07 November 2018, Pakistan and Afghanistan held second meeting of the Refugee Working Group (WG) under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Stability (APAPPS) at the Ministry of SAFRON in Islamabad. First meeting was held during visit of the Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to Kabul on 22 July 2018 for the inaugural session of APAPPS. The meeting discussed matters related to Afghan refugees and other Afghan nationals illegally residing in Pakistan. Both sides deliberated on the ways to enhance mutual cooperation for a dignified, gradual, time bound and complete return of the Afghan nationals to their country. It was also decided to observe the agreed timelines and procedures for repatriation of various categories of these persons to Afghanistan.

You are aware of the media furor and speculations about Asia Bibi having left Pakistan. Let me state clearly that Asia Bibi remains at a safe place in Pakistan. I would also request all of you to verify such news before issuing them, in line with standards of objective, impartial journalism to prevent needless sensationalism and controversy.

Let me share the good news with you that Pakistan won a four year term (2018-2022) for the Administrative Council of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) during elections held in Dubai, UAE on 05 November 2018. Pakistan was one of the thirteen countries elected to this important body from the Asia & Australasia region. Pakistan secured 155 out of a total of 177 votes cast. Pakistan's re-election to this Council demonstrates a strong vote of confidence of the international community in Pakistan's advances in the ICT infrastructure and platforms.

The United Nations will posthumously award (late) Asma Jahangir with the Human Rights Award 2018 on December 10. The prize to recognize individuals or organizations for outstanding achievements in the field of human rights is given out every five years. The award will also coincide with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ms. Jahangir served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions from 1998 to 2004 and as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief from 2004 to 2010

Now the floor is open for questions:

Question

Is Asia Bibi in Pakistan and is she in safe hands? Where is her exact location now and in which country is she taking asylum? (Ms. Rashida Sial - Aab Tak)

Supplementary Questions

Reportedly, the lawyer of Asia Bibi, Mr. Saif ul Muluk has left Pakistan because of the intervention of European Union and United Nations. Your comments please! (Mr. Naveed Siddiqui - Dawn News)

Reportedly, the Dutch Embassy in Islamabad is interested in repatriating Asia Bibi to the Netherlands. Has the Dutch side contacted the Pakistani side regarding this? (Sardar Aamir - Royal News) - (Mr. Jaleel - VoA)

You have stated that Asia Bibi is a free citizen. The decision of the review petition is still awaited and the Supreme Court has yet to give a decision on the review petition. Is it because of this that she cannot go abroad? (Mr. Shaukat Paracha - AAP News)

Is Asia Bibi in any foreign Embassy in Pakistan? (Majid Jarhal - News one) - (Syed Mohsin Raza - Daily Assas Publication)

How many western countries have requested Pakistan to send Asia Bibi to their countries (Mr. Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Reportedly, some of the diplomats of the Embassy of the Netherlands flew to Multan to receive Asia Bibi. Is it true? (Salman Hashemi - Forensic Eye)

Reportedly, some of the diplomats of a foreign Embassy were present at Multan Airport to receive Asia Bibi. Can you comment as to which Embassy's diplomats were present at the Airport? (Mr. Shahid Maitla - Bol TV) (Mr. Khurram Shahzad - AFP) - (Mr. Shahid-ur-Rehman - Kyodo News)

You should refer to her as Asia Masih not Asia Bibi ? (Sardar Aamir - Royal News)

Answer :

Let me tell you that Asia Bibi is in Pakistan and is safe.

I cannot comment on the question pertaining to her lawyer.

Regarding the question on review petition, I this is a technical and legal matter.

I would like to request media friends to confirm the authenticity of the news on the subject matter, as it is a sensitive issue and any misleading news item may result in unwanted situation. I am available for any confirmation of news, round the clock and I urge all media houses to confirm and reconfirm any news item with me, especially that having national implications, before publication or dissemination.

Regarding the question on the correct name of Asia Bibi you may say what you want - we shall refer to her as we feel.

Question

During the recent visit of Alice G. Wells to Pakistan, was the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui discussed? (Ms. Rashida Sial - Aab Tak)

Supplementary Questions:

It has been felt that the case of Aafia Siddiqui has lost its importance in the eyes of Pakistani Government. Also, the US embassy in its press release has not made any mention of Aafia Siddiqui while you are stating that Pakistan did take up her issue. What are your comments? (Mr. Majid Jarral- News One)

So far we have not been successful in getting Dr. Aafia Siddiqui released even after the passage of ten years. What is the reason? (Ms. Waheed Zaidi - Capital World)

What is the legal remedy available to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui? (Khalid Azim - Samaa TV)

Reportedly, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's sister has stated that the US side has proposed ways to release her. What are those proposals? Is there any proposal of possible swap of Dr. Shakeel Afridi with Dr. Aafia Siddiqui? (Mr. Bashir Chaudhary - Channel 24)

Has the Prime Minister given any instructions to the Foreign Office for filing a review petition in case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui? (Mateen Haider - G-TV)

What generally is the response whenever Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's case is discussed with the US side? (Khawaja Nayyar - Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer

Please note that Dr. Afia Siddiqui's case stays important. I stated earlier that the issue was taken up with the American side very effectively during the recent visit of Ambassador Alice G. Wells. We have highlighted our position through a detailed press release. I also tweeted on the same issue and reiterated it in my opening remarks today. As you are aware, it is a very sensitive issue and we are treading very carefully in the matter.

Question

Reportedly, there are Pakistanis stranded in Iraq. What exactly Pakistan's Government and our Embassy in Iraq are doing to facilitate these Paksitanis? (Syed Mohsin Raza - Daily Asaas Publication)

Answer

Upon receiving information about the Pakistani zaireen stranded at the Baghdad Airport, our embassy immediately reached the airport where 120 zaireen had missed their flight due to late arrival/non possession of passport. With the Embassy's intensive efforts 69 zaireen were put on the next available flight while 5 have been put a flight which left early morning today.

The remaining 46 belong to one group whose leader Mr. Rizvi, possessing their passport arrived late at the airport after their flight departed. He later disappeared leaving them stranded without air tickets or passports. The group has been unable to contact him. Our embassy immediately provided the group with food, water and medicine. Our officials also contacted Mr. Rizvi and pressed him to arrange for air tickets and accommodation of the zaireen. Our embassy continues to look after the zaireen at the airport, who are all in good health and condition. The embassy is also making all out efforts to facilitate the return of the remaining zaireen.

Question

According to an official US report, the Afghan government has lost control over a record number of districts. Furthermore, the report identified a dangerous trend which could have disastrous consequences for Afghanistan and its neighbors, particularly Pakistan. How does Pakistan see the growing influence of the Taliban and its impact on Pakistan? (Mr. Khawaja Nayyar - Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer

Pakistan has always raised its concerns regarding the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, as we are directly affected by this situation. The US report highlights the increasing ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan. These are utilized as sanctuaries by terrorist elements which cross into for terrorist activities. There is an urgent need to curb these notorious elements.

Question

Reportedly, there is a meeting scheduled in Russia on Afghan Peace Process where the Taliban are also invited. Is Pakistan invited and who will represent Pakistan? What are the expectations of Pakistan from the subject meeting? (Mr. Tariq Wardak - Frontier Post)

Supplementary Question

Who will be representing Pakistan in the subject meeting? (Mr. Mateen Haider - G-TV)

Answer

Let me clarify that the "dialogue" you are referring to is actually the meeting of Moscow Format on Afghanistan. Pakistan has been participating in this process since its inception. This time our Additional Secretary (Afghanistan & West Asia) will lead the Pakistani delegation to the meeting.

You are aware, we have always maintained that the most viable solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is in Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process. Role of Afghanistan's neighbors would be very important in such a process. In our view, Afghan peace and reconciliation process supported by Afghanistan's neighbors and important regional countries would have more chances of success. In this regard, it can be expected that this meeting would contribute to developing regional consensus in support of Afghan peace process.

Question

Reportedly, a trilateral meeting of Pakistani, Chinese and Afghan Foreign Ministers is scheduled to be held in Kabul. Owing to the growing influence of Taliban in Afghanistan, do you think that the meeting will bear any fruitful results? (Mr. Majid Jarral - News one)

Answer

We expect that the meeting can be a step towards lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Question

Recently, India has undertaken connectivity projects in Central Asia. India has provided assistance in building key rail links in Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia. The rail connectivity would link India's "air corridor", allowing trade in dry fruits and agricultural produce between India and Central Asia in a much shorter time. How do you view the increasing involvement of India in Central Asia? How is Pakistan planning to counter Indian influence in the region? (Mr. Shaukat Paracha - AAP News)

Answer

Pakistan shares close cultural, religious and social affinities with the brotherly Central Asian Republics. Many projects on connectivity and trade and transit are underway with different Central Asian Republics either bilaterally or under the auspices of multilateral organizations such as ECO which also involve Iran and Afghanistan.

Pakistan's geostrategic location at the heart of the region makes it a natural conduit for the CARs to the sea. The Gwadar seaport with our national road and railway networks would offer the shortest available route to CARs in the region to a seaport.

Pakistan's efforts at connectivity are not directed at countering Indian influence but aim at creating an environment conducive to enhancing trade and people to people contacts within the region.

Regarding CPEC, let me tell you that CPEC is a flagship project of China's One Belt one Road (OBOR) initiative focusing on connectivity of infrastructure including roads, rail links, sea routes, ports, and connectivity of policy, trade and finance. Located at the crossroads of Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia, it will directly benefit three billion people inhabiting China, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Let me emphasize that CPEC should not be viewed in the prism of regional power dynamics, old style alliance formation or 'Zero-Sum relationship' between different countries. The spirit of CPEC is cooperation and not confrontation; collaboration and not competition. It is a win-win project for everybody in the region and beyond. CPEC contributes towards a regional and an international order based on shared prosperity, mutual benefits and economic

Question

Reportedly, Mullah Baradar has been released on US request and has been allowed to stay in Pakistan to serve as a contact between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Can you confirm it and how many other Taliban has been released? (Ms. Rabia Peer - VoA Dewa Radio)

Supplementary Question

Reportedly, APAPPS meeting was scheduled to be held in Pakistan. Would you like to share the details regarding the dates and agenda of the meeting? Do you think that APAPPS may take a new turn in the wake of Mullah Baradar release? (Mr. Naveed Siddiqui - Dawn News)

Answer

Mullah Baradar was under custody for the last many years after his capture by the Pakistani authorities in a search operation.

His release was facilitated by Pakistan at the US request in order to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan. This decision was taken following the visit of the US Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation, Ambassador Khalilzad to the region and his meetings with Taliban representatives in Doha. He was released to provide impetus to the peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to pursue reconciliatory efforts to expedite and facilitate the process to our fullest ability.

Regarding the question on APAPPS, the review meeting of the Joint Working Group on Refugees took place in the first week of November. The review meeting of APAPPS is also scheduled to be held in Pakistan. We are currently working on the dates for the same. Once the dates are finalized we shall share it with the media.

Question

The US sanctions on Iran took effect from 4 November 2018. How do you think it will affect Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project? Secondly, is there any update on the release of Iranian Border Guards? (Syed Bahadar Hussaini - IRNA News)

Supplementary Questions

The US sanctions on Iran took effect from 4 November 2018. How do you think it will affect Pakistan-Iran business? Will Pakistan be able to continue its business with Iran as usual without invoking the impacts of sanctions on Pakistan? (Khawaja Nayyar - Daily Kashmir Post)

Your comments on the recent US waiver for exemption to India for the Chahbahar Port? (Syed Mohsin Raza - Daily Asaas Publication)

Answer

Pakistan and Iran being next door neighbors enjoy close brotherly relations anchored in history, culture and people to people relations. Pakistan has supported Iran in the JCPoA. The US has granted concessions to eight different countries who are major importers of oil from Iran including India. Pakistan's import of oil from Iran is quite limited at present. Exports from Pakistan to Iran mainly consist of food items, textiles etc. which are not affected by the sanctions

I do not have any update on the Iranian border guards, as yet. However, we remain closely in touch with the Iranian authorities in this regard

Regarding your other question, Chahbahar is an upcoming port project in Iran. Iran has reiterated its desire at the highest level to make Gwadar and Chahbahar ports as complementary or sister projects. We hope to further enhance cooperation with Iran in all such areas of mutual benefit and interest.

Regardless of the US statement, it is a known fact that the grant of exemptions from reimposed US sanctions on Iran relates only to the major buyers of Iranian oil.

Pakistan believes that as a bridge between important regions, we have to view and move on complex economic issues with a win-win approach. Economic projects follow their own dynamics and cannot be best explained merely through political/ strategic logics.

Question

Reportedly, on 2nd November 2018, the UN Secretary General has released the report on the safety of journalists which depicts a very bleak picture of media freedom in Pakistan? (Mr. Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Answer

I have not seen the report yet. I will revert after examining it. However, as is evident from this morning's events, media needs to be more responsible and it is obvious that it has absolutely unfettered freedom in Pakistan. I would again urge to use this freedom with responsibility.

Question

Reportedly, the Foreign Secretary is staying back in China. There is also a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. Why is she staying back? (Mr. Shahid-ur-Rehman - Kyodo News)

Answer

Yes, the Finance Minister during his recent press conference already shared with you that the Foreign Secretary will stay on in Beijing. The Governor, State Bank, Secretaries of Finance and Planning will also be joining her to discuss cooperation on important issues with the Chinese side.

Question

How many Pakistanis are currently in Guantanamo Bay? Your comments please? (Sardar Aamir - Royal News)

Answer

As per the information available with the Foreign Office, there are five inmates of Pakistani origin currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay. These include Mr. Saifullah Paracha, Mr. Majid Khan, Mr. Abdul Rabbani, Mohammad Ghulam Rabbani and Mr. Ammar Al- Baluchi.

Question

Reportedly, some of the European Ambassadors have written a letter to the Prime Minister for taking up the case of the cancellation of registration of certain INGOs. Your comments please? (Mr. Shamim - Online News Agency)

Answer

Let me tell you very frankly that there is a certain procedure for registration of INGOs in Pakistan which needs to be followed in order to complete the registration process. So far, to my knowledge, more than 70 INGOs have gotten registered with the Ministry of Interior following the new process. You can seek specific details from the Ministry of Interior.

Question

How would you comment on the first "deterrence" patrol of the Indian nuclear submarine and the aggressive statements emanating from the highest level in India? (Mr. Naveed Akbar - Aaj News)

Answer

We have taken note of the self-congratulatory messages following the first "deterrence" patrol of the Indian nuclear submarine. This development marks the first actual deployment of ready to fire nuclear warheads in South Asia, which is a matter of concern not only for the Indian Ocean littoral states but also for the international community at large.

The bellicose language employed by the top Indian leadership highlights the threats to strategic stability in South Asia and raises questions about responsible nuclear stewardship in India.

Pakistan is committed to the objective of strategic stability in South Asia and believes that the only way forward for both the countries is to agree on measures for nuclear and missile restraint. At the same time no one should be in doubt about Pakistan's resolve and capabilities to meet the challenges posed by the latest developments both in the nuclear and conventional realms in South Asia.

Question

Reportedly, a trilateral meeting of Pakistani, Chinese and Afghan Foreign Ministers is going to be held in Kabul. On the other hand Pakistan and China are also in the process of finalizing the use of local currency for trade. Do you think that we are getting far from the US and nearer to the Chinese side? (Mr. Haider Sherazi - GNN)

Answer

The growing relations between two countries do not necessarily mean bad relations with any other country. The success on our diplomatic front is evident from the fact that while our Prime Minister visited China, Ambassador Alice G. Wells visited Islamabad to hold talks with Pakistan. This is what called successfully diplomacy.

Question

Reportedly, the Prime Minister has said that Pakistan is ready to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Has the Prime Minister given any specific instructions to the Foreign Office? (Mr. Shahid Maitla - Bol TV)

Answer

You would appreciate these are time consuming and delicate processes, which are generally carried out away from media spotlight.

Question

The ban on Pakistani artists in India has been in place since 2016. How do you view it in the light of Indian claims of being the biggest democracy? Reportedly in light of Indian aggression, especially for cutting Pakistan's water supplies, Pakistan may also ban Indian TV programmes. Your comments? (Mr. Salman Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Answer

People to people exchange, freedom of expression and promoting cultural ties are not only the basic tenets of democracy but also reflection of the openness of any society. You must have seen recent reports where film maker Mahira Omar was denied a visa to India after winning the best documentary awards in the Across the Border category at the 7th Delhi International Film Festival due to which she could not participate. The Indian ban on Pakistani artists which has been in place since 2016 speaks volumes for the Indian "sham-ocracy" and exposes Indian xenophobia and intolerance. Competition and diversity of views enriches everyone. Without them societies stagnate and devolve. Such steps are not only harmful for India but also vitiate an already tense environment.

I believe the second part of your statement pertains to the media reports attributed to the Chief Justice's remarks at a symposium. I will check and revert.

Question

There was a mention of Pak-India dialogue in the joint statement signed between China and Pakistan. What was the stance of Chinese side? Secondly, what was the Chinese position on resumption of the SAARC process and holding the SAARC Summit in Islamabad? (Mr. Anas Malick - Neo TV)

Answer

I cannot comment on the Chinese position on these issues. However, we have been reiterating that Pakistan is ready for dialogue on all outstanding issues, including the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. Similarly we believe resumption of the SAARC process is essential for regional development.

Question

Reportedly, UK Parliament's All Party Parliamentary Group on Jammu & Kashmir has released a report on the worsening human rights situation in IoK. How would you like to comment? (Khawaja Nayyar - Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer

The APPG report coming on the footsteps of the OHCHR report is an important milestone validating Pakistan's position about the Indian atrocities in IOK. Highlighting the Indian atrocities in IOK, it underscores the deliberate immunity provided to Indian occupation forces under the draconian Public Safety Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which creates the official legal enabling environment for them to carry out their human rights abuses with impunity and calls for their urgent repeal. These laws give massive discretionary powers to Indian occupation forces in IOK for arbitrary detention with charges or judicial reviews for upto two years and authorization to use deadly force on pretext of maintaining law and order. In simple words, India gives powers to its occupation forces to label, arrest and kill any Kashmiri in IOK as a terrorist, acting as jury judge and executioner in clear violation of its international obligations reflecting an official culture of disregard for human rights.

The report also recommends an urgent investigation into the identities of bodies in mass & unmarked graves with independent forensic verification, ban of pellet guns, for the opening of IOK prisons to international inspection.

These reports should serve as a wakeup call for India and make it face the reality of its failure to suppress the indigenous legitimate Kashmiris struggle for the right to self determination in line with the UNSC resolutions. The increasing international censure is a welcome step in the right direction for the cessation of the human rights violations of innocent Kashmiris in IOK but it needs to be accompanied by more.

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