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Record of Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Thursday, 27 December 2018

(2018-12-27) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Bismillah Ir Rehman Nir Rahim,

Assalaam-o-Alaikum,

Opening Remarks:

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the first press briefing after the nation celebrated Quaid-e-Azam's birthday, two days ago. I therefore wanted to start today's press briefing by paying tribute and homage to the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Secondly, we have been discussing it with most of you, both collectively and individually, the successes on the Foreign Policy front, especially after the current government took office. This would be the last press briefing by the Spokesperson for the current year, 2018. So, as per practice, I would briefly mention what we have done in the Foreign Policy arena. As you are well aware, the Prime Minister has undertaken two visits to Saudi Arabia and to UAE. Both these visits have been highly successful and the results that you have seen and reported in the media are a testament to this. The Prime Minister has also undertaken a very positive visit to China, our all-weather friend. Additionally, the Foreign Minister has visited Afghanistan many times. In fact, his first visit was also to Afghanistan. We have also received Foreign Ministers from China, Japan and many others over the last 3-4 months. The Foreign Minister led a successful delegation to New York this year, in which he had more than fifty six (56) international engagements both in New York and Washington D.C. The US Secretary of State visited Pakistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan has now visited Pakistan three times. So, all in all, it has been a very intense, productive and proactive 120-130 days of diplomacy that has been carried out by this government.

As I will be discussing later, the Foreign Minister has undertaken a visit to four regional countries within a span of three days. Before that, the Foreign Minister visited Kabul for a Tri-lateral meeting between Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. We tried to reach out to India and a letter was written by our Prime Minister to Prime Minister Modi in September 2018. It laid out a comprehensive roadmap on how to move forward with India on all issues including, of course, the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The Indians agreed to it, as you are well aware, only to back track the very next day. We haven't had much progress with them on the bilateral front so far. However, that has not stopped us from inaugurating the ground breaking of Kartarpur Corridor, in which two Indian Ministers, one Federal and the other a Minister of State, alongwith Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu, a provincial Minister were present. It was very positively received all around the globe, especially by the Sikh community. We are actively working on developing the infrastructure in Kartarpur.

Coming to this week's press briefing, you are well aware that Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi along with the Foreign Secretary visited four regional countries namely Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia from December 24 to December 26, 2018. This was part of government's policy of outreach in the neighbourhood. During these visits, Foreign Minister discussed Pakistan's bilateral relations with the senior leadership of these countries, to strengthen cooperation in various areas. Such cooperation is the key to unleashing Pakistan's considerable potential and expanding mutually beneficial economic cooperation and development.

In this context, Foreign Minister, on 24 December 2018, met President Ashraf Ghani and Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani in Kabul to brief the Afghan leadership on the recent developments in the ongoing peace process after the meeting between Taliban and United States in Dubai, in which Saudi Arabia, UAE also participated and to further discuss strengthening of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On the same day, in his first official visit to Iran, the Foreign Minister held detailed discussions with Foreign Minister Islamic Dr. Javad Zarif on strengthening the already close bilateral relations rooted in common history, culture and people-to-people ties and reaffirmed to increase cooperation. The Foreign Minister elaborated that Prime Minister Imran Khan envisioned strengthening ties with Iran in diverse fields with emphasis on expanding mutually beneficial economic cooperation and development. Regional issues especially the issue of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan was also discussed.

On 25 December 2018, Foreign Minister Qureshi met the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing. The two sides had an in-depth exchange of views covering the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and regional matters including the situation in Afghanistan. Foreign Minister also appreciated China's important role in furtherance of peace and development in Afghanistan, particularly through China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral mechanism.

In his last stop, the Foreign Minister visited the Russian Federation where he held detailed talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on various bilateral and regional issues.

The Foreign Minister while expressing government of Pakistan's desire to forge a long-term, multidimensional partnership and friendship with Russia informed his Russian counterpart of the value Pakistan attaches to its relations with the Russian Federation.

The two sides expressed satisfaction on the upward trajectory of bilateral relations. The first meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev in Shanghai in November 2018 had set the tone to deepen cooperation in all areas.

The Ministers agreed to continue efforts, including through Moscow Format of Consultations, for supporting reconciliation under an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Recent developments concerning Afghan peace process were also discussed. It was underlined that being the most important stakeholders, Pakistan and Russia had shared interests and concerns in Afghanistan and had the common goal of supporting all efforts to restore peace and stability in the country. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov acknowledged Pakistan's efforts in the Afghan settlement and offered Russia's support to bring stability in the region. Both leaders also underscored the need to harmonize various regional approaches for developing a regional consensus on various issues.

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 six (06) Kashmiris including Soliha Mohammad Akhoon, Rasik Mir, Rouf Mir, Umer Ramzan Mir, Nadeem Sofi and Faisal Javid Khanday in Pulwama district of the Indian occupied territory.

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

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and the Board of Investment is hosting a two-day Envoys' Conference on Economic Diplomacy starting today. The Conference, which involves participation by our Ambassadors and Heads of Missions from select capitals, representatives of public and private sectors, and government institutions, will deliberate ways and means to enhance Foreign Direct Investment and trade, particularly exports. The event will be attended by Minister for Finance, Revenue & Economic Affairs; Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textiles, Industry & Production, and Investment; Advisor to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, and Chairman Board of Investment.

On 24 December 2018, Pakistan and Egypt held 8th Round of Political Consultations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad. Special Secretary (Middle East, OIC and Legal Affairs), Syed Hassan Raza led the Pakistani side whereas Egyptian delegation was led by Assistant Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs, Mr. Khaled Sarwat. The two sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction at the strong bilateral ties. The two sides discussed ways and means to strengthen and diversify the existing cooperation including in political, economic, trade, investment, defence, education and cultural fields. The two sides underscored the need for exchange of high level visits between Pakistan and Egypt to inject greater content to bilateral relations.

Pakistan strongly condemns the shooting and suicide attack at a government building in Kabul on 24 December 2018 that has resulted in loss of over 40 precious lives and injuries to many others. We express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the recovery of the injured. Pakistan stands together with the government and people of Afghanistan in this hour of grief.

Now the floor is open for questions.

Question

There are reports of harassment by Indian authorities of Pakistani diplomats posted in New Delhi. Something similar had happened some months ago. These harassment incidents are once again making the headlines. Some visitors to the Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi have been checked and interrogated. In addition, attempts were made to hack the email account of one of our diplomats in New Delhi. So what are your comments as to why India is violating the diplomatic norms and diplomatic code by harassing our diplomats. Your comments please! (Mr. Mateen Haider - G-News)

Supplementary Question

We have seen reports in Indian and Pakistani media as well, where allegedly India has claimed that their diplomats in Islamabad are also being harassed. What are your comments on that and secondly, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid has alleged that Pakistan is meddling in Bangladeshi politics especially in the upcoming polls in Bangladesh. What is your take on this? (Mr. Anas Mallick - Wion TV)

Answer

On your second question regarding Bangladesh, the question was raised in the last press briefing and was appropriately responded to. We stand by that answer.

For the first question, Pakistan stands for upholding the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and has always endeavored to facilitate the working of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, within the diplomatic norms, international law and practice. It remains our position that the smooth and unhindered functioning of diplomatic missions is essential.

Question

There are reports circulating in the media about the reported killing, in Afghanistan, of the alleged mastermind of an attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi. Would you like to comment on that? (Mr. Tariq Mehmood - Hum News)

Answer

I have seen these media reports, I will have to check their veracity.

Question

Afghanistan's soil has been used against Pakistan for the past many years. Has Pakistan raised this matter with the US Special Representative Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.?

Secondly, it has been widely reported that Pakistan has convinced the Afghan Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government. Has some major breakthrough in this regard been achieved during the recent visits of the Foreign Minister?

Thirdly, on one hand, Pakistan is engaging with China, Russia and Iran to further its efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and on the other, Pakistan and the US remain engaged for a solution to the Afghan crisis. Is the US supportive of Pakistan's efforts to engage with other regional countries? (Ms. Rashida Sial - Aab Tak TV)

Answer

The visit was essentially part of government's policy to strengthen relations with all neighbors and regional countries. That was the main thinking behind Foreign Minister Qureshi's visit to four regional countries. As part of the same effort Foreign Minister will soon visit Qatar. Pakistan's longstanding position to give peace and reconciliation a real chance in Afghanistan has become the basis of an international consensus. Recent developments in Afghanistan (Moscow Format Consultations, Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, the Abu Dhabi meeting) have all led to this widely acknowledged agreement. This new opening in Afghanistan and willingness of all countries who agree on Pakistan's important role as facilitator has provided a significant opportunity to also strengthen our bilateral relations with all the neighbors, especially for promotion of trade, economic and people to people linkages. The visit also provided an opportunity to listen to views of the leadership in these countries for promoting a joint regional approach in Afghanistan and explore realistic possibilities of regional integration in economic terms.

Hence the purpose of the visit was two folds. First, to explore possibilities of a win-win framework for regional connectivity and economic development to help achieve the ultimate objective of economic development and prosperity in the region. Second, to strengthen regional consensus on Afghanistan that is the key for medium to long term sustainability of an Afghan led, Afghan-owned solution.

Question

As you have highlighted in your opening remarks that the current year is about to end and we will soon be entering into 2019, so what message Pakistan wishes to give to India for betterment of bilateral relations and overall peace in the region? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal - Kashmir Post)

Answer

We have time and again given the same message. I don't need to repeat it.

Question

My question is with regard to the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad which has moved now from the diplomatic area to non-diplomatic area which is at a public place. Due to security measures in place, the general public is facing hardships as a result of closure of road in its vicinity. I would like to have your comments on this. (Mr. Khalil Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Answer

I will check and get back to you.

Question

There were talks in UAE where Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad represented the US side. After the talks, he rushed to Pakistan, had one meeting and went back. What was the precise message he brought?

Secondly, what was the one liner which the Foreign Minister carried to Kabul, Tehran, Beijing and Moscow especially amidst the reports of US drawdown from Afghanistan before the next Presidential elections in the US? (Mr. Shaukat Mehmood Paracha - Aaj News)

Answer

I cannot share the intricate details of the visit.

However, I will reiterate the two key points of Foreign Minister's visit which were exploring possibilities of a win-win framework for regional connectivity and economic development to help achieve the ultimate objective of economic growth and prosperity in the region. The second point was strengthening regional consensus on Afghanistan that is the key for medium to long term sustainability of an Afghan led, Afghan-owned solution.

Question

Recently a report in one section of the US media has allegedly claimed that the CPEC is not only about economy and trade but has military dimensions as well. What are your comments on this media report?

Secondly, you undertook a visit to Kathmandu with regard to SAARC. Has anything positive come out of your visit with regards to holding of 19th SAARC Summit in Pakistan? (Mr. Majid Jarral - News One)

Answer

CPEC is an economic project between Pakistan and China. CPEC has helped Pakistan in improving its economy, especially energy and infrastructure, have improved under CPEC. It is a bilateral economic project, which is not against any country.

On your second question, my visit was to attend the Programming Committee Meeting of SAARC, which approves the yearly budgets and programmes of SAARC, its institutions and bodies. On the Summit, however, there is no further movement.

Question

Sir, it has been five months since this government took office. What were the successes of Foreign Office during these five months? Was it the opening of Kartarpur Corridor or the stand Pakistan took after President Trump's tweets followed by the US President's letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan? (Mr. Zahid Farooq Malik - Daily Metro Watch)

Answer

I have already responded to this in my opening remarks. However, I will again say that it has been a very interesting and active 4-5 months of diplomacy. Foreign policy is a blend of different colors with associated highs and lows. Definitely, Kartarpur Corridor is a big high for us and so are our efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Again, the visits of Prime Minister to China, Saudi Arabia and UAE are another big high for us. We have not been able to achieve success with India, but we have made efforts to which they were not forthcoming.

On the whole, you can see, we have made substantial progress. Today we are holding the Envoys Conference on Trade and Investment.

Question

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has appointed two former intelligence chiefs, Amrullah Saleh and Asadullah Khaled as Interior and Defense Minster respectively. They are known to have a vehemently anti-Pakistan stance. How do you see this development for the ongoing peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan? (Mr. Adeel Warriach - Dunya TV)

Answer

I will not comment.

Question

Sir, you have narrated the successes of Pakistan foreign policy in the current year. My question is with regards to the current situation in Afghanistan, where many world powers have failed to resolve the issue. Will Pakistan be able to resolve the elusive Afghan peace? (Mr. Zaheer - Samma TV)

Answer

The intricacies surrounding international relations and international issues are complex and hence not easy to resolve. Efforts and endeavors are being made in this regard. The Foreign Minister has visited four regional countries within the last three days in pursuance of these efforts. We will continue to make these efforts. However, the results are not solely in our control.

Question

Recently, both India and Pakistan have released prisoners who had completed their sentences. Will you please update on the number of Pakistani prisoners incarcerated in Indian jails? How many, of those jailed, have already completed their sentence? What efforts are being made by the government for their early repatriation? (Syed Asif Ali - Din News)

Answer

341 Pakistani prisoners including 154 civil prisoners and 187 fishermen are currently incarcerated in Indian jails. 45 prisoners including 12 civil prisoners and 33 fishermen have completed their sentence.

Our Mission is in contact with all relevant Indian Affairs and State governments for repatriation of Pakistani prisoners. The High Commission also engages with the Indian media to highlight the plight of Pakistani prisoners. A law firm has also been hired to assist and facilitate the repatriations. Where required, NGOs working for prisoners and civil rights activists are also engaged to facilitate repatriation of Pakistani prisoners.

Question

President Donald Trump made a surprise trip to Iraq to visit US forces stationed there. It was condemned both by the Iraqi politicians and the militia leaders and his meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister was also cancelled due to disagreement over the venue. So what is the response of Pakistani government on this development? (Mr. Ali Jaswal - Chinese Global News Network)

Answer

We cannot comment on the relations between two Sovereign Nations.

Question

Sir, as you have mentioned the Foreign Minister's visit to Russia, the Russian President Putin has visited India nine times. So, do you think that in near future the Russian President may visit Pakistan? (Chaudhary Hassan Riaz - Channel-5)

Answer

There is a positive relationship between the two countries. Prime Minister Imran Khan met Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev in Shanghai recently. Now the Foreign Minister has also visited Moscow. These are incremental steps being taken to build this relationship further. All the steps and gestures are positive and in the right direction.

Question

Sir, my question is with regards to the recent visit of the Foreign Minister to the regional countries. Has any agreement been achieved during the visit envisaging a role for Iran and Russia in the Afghan reconciliation process?

Secondly, like Kartarpur Corridor was delinked from all other bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, can the same be replicated for the divided families of Kargil-Ladakh area? Has the Foreign Office devised any proposal on this separately? (Mr. Fida Hussain - Radio News Network)

Answer

There is no particular proposal in this regard. You all are aware that India is not willing to come to the negotiating table. In these circumstances, we cannot move forward.

On your first question, I have already responded to it.

Question

You have briefed us on the ongoing efforts Pakistan has made for Afghan peace and reconciliation. Reportedly, Iran has also held talks with the Taliban. Are these talks part of the same ongoing mechanism or is there a parallel channel that Iran has opened up with the Taliban? (Mr. Ali Hussain - Business Recorder)

Answer

I have nothing more to add to the comments I have made earlier in this regard.

Question

The talks that were held between the Americans and Taliban in Abu Dhabi in which Pakistan was also represented was reportedly the first round of these negotiations. It is now being reported that the follow up meeting to this first round will take place in Saudi Arabia. Do you have the details on this? (Mr. Muhammad Jaleel - VoA)

Answer

No. I have nothing more to say on this issue.

Question

I need your comment on the reported killing of the alleged mastermind of Chinese Consulate attack in Karachi? (Mr. Amjad Ali - PTV News)

Answer

This question has been asked previously. I have seen these reports and I will get back to you on this once I have checked these.

Question

Sir, my question is with regards to Pakistan's efforts to highlight the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. We have seen huge increase in Indian atrocities in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where at times, more than sixteen to seventeen innocent Kashmiris have been killed in cold blood by the Indian occupation forces in a single day. My question is do you have the number of Kashmiris martyred by the Indian occupation forces this year? Secondly, what progress has Pakistan made for convening OIC Contact Group Meeting in Islamabad? (Mr. Ali Asghar Mubarak - Daily Mail Islamabad)

Answer

More than 500 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred by the Indian occupation forces in Indian occupiedJammu and Kashmir this year. We have highlighted this at all fora. OIC Contact Group Meeting on Jammu and Kashmir was held on 30 April and 27 September 2018 in Jeddah and New York, respectively. The Foreign Minister in his speech at the UNGA highlighted the atrocities perpetrated by India in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

This year, a report by the OHCHR on Jammu and Kashmir was issued, which is a very comprehensive report. Besides this, there is a report by the UK All Parties Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPKG) which highlights the issues of human rights in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. These reports have discernibly unnerved India.

On February 5th, we are especially observing Jammu and Kashmir Solidarity Day in London. Our efforts to highlight the Jammu and Kashmir dispute continue.

Question

The Foreign Minister, in his address to the Parliament, hinted at India's role in the overall peace efforts in Afghanistan. Is the positive role of India, for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, part of the discussions being held with both China and Russia, so as to bring India into the equation for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, rather than its role in sabotaging the peace process? (Mr. Tariq Mehmood - Hum News)

Answer

There is no role for India in Afghanistan.

Question

Sir, there was a question with regard to Pakistani prisoners in India. My question is that is Pakistan getting consular access for its prisoners in India? (Mr. Naveed Akbar - Aaj TV)

Answer

There are some problems in getting consular access. However, our Mission perseveres and actively pursues issues of all such prisoners.

Question

With reference to the speculation of partial withdrawal of US from Afghanistan, what is Pakistan's stance on this especially when it has in the past favored partial withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan? (Ms. Shumaila Andleeb - APP)

Answer

I have already answered this question. I have nothing to add to this.

Question

Sir, it is the economic policy which dictates the foreign policy. However, in a recent decision Prime Minister Imran Khan has banned import of furnace oil which will affect the industrialization in Pakistan. What are your comments on this? (Mr. Khalil Hashmi - Forensic Eye)

Answer

The question pertains to the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Petroleum. Please refer your question to them.

Question

Reportedly, the gas and water connections to the residences of Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi have been disrupted. Are these reports true? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal - Kashmir Post)

Answer

I have already answered this question.

Question

How many Indian diplomats are posted in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad? Secondly, the Foreign Minister has visited the regional capitals i.e. Kabul, Tehran, Beijing and Moscow. The US is also deeply involved in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. Are there any plans to visit Washington in this regard in future? (Mr. Mateen Haider - G-News)

Answer

On your second question, I have already spoken on the issue and have nothing further to add to it.

On your first question, I have to check.

Question

You have given the number of Pakistani prisoners incarcerated in Indian jails. How many Indian prisoners are present in Pakistani jails? (Mr. Adeel Warriach - Dunya TV)

Answer

I will get the numbers and update you on that.

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