Grave and systematic violations of human rights in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) continue to alarm the world conscience. Several international human rights organizations including Amnesty International have addressed a joint open letter to invite the attention of the representatives of G-20 member states, specially invited countries and international organizations, towards the serious human rights violations being committed in IIOJK.
The letter notes the ongoing repressive policies in IIOJK, including restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and intensification of crackdown on independent media and civil society groups. Indian occupation forces are systematically using abusive counterterrorism and state security laws, such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act to incapacitate and persecute human rights defenders and dissenters in IIOJK.
As India hosts the G-20 Summit and presents itself as an important player on the global stage, it should honour its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws and bring an end to the egregious human rights violations in IIOJK.
Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani will chair the 10th Commonwealth Youth Ministerial Meeting (CYMM) being held from 12 to 15 September 2023 in London. The Commonwealth Secretariat is convening the Commonwealth Youth Ministerial Meeting as Pakistan assumes the Chair of the meeting and plays an active part in setting the agenda ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit to be held next year in Samoa. The theme of the meeting is “Aim Higher: Delivering More for Young People in the Commonwealth”. It aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
While in London, the Foreign Minister is also expected to meet with participating Ministers and high-ranking officials of the Commonwealth.
Pakistan attaches great importance to the Commonwealth and its flagship Commonwealth Youth Programme, which is marking its fiftieth anniversary. Pakistan is committed to economic empowerment and meaningful engagement of youth, particularly as the Commonwealth and the Government of Pakistan commemorate 2023 as the “Year of Youth”. Four core areas of education, employment, engagement and environment identified in the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme (PMYP), will be extensively discussed in the upcoming meeting.
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Question: As Prime Minister will be visiting United Nations; will he meet President Biden there? (Adil Hussain Nizami, Hum News)
Answer: The question is about the Prime Minister’s possible visit to UNGA. As I said in my last meeting, we will be making an announcement of the visit when details are confirmed so at this stage, we are unable to make any announcement.
Question: Any follow up that Pakistan contemplates at the moment after the deadly terror attacks on the border against Pakistan’s Armed Forces tickets in Chitral and Torkham incident? And my second question is, we heard a spokesman of USNSC, wherein he stated that President Biden understands the threat perception to Pakistan. How Pakistan reads this understanding of the US President Biden in terms of bilateral security cooperation, which is already ongoing between the two countries? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: Yes, Pakistan and the United States have a robust dialogue, in multiple areas, including on security and counterterrorism matters. And we have been communicating with the United States and other partners both in the region and outside the region about Pakistan’s security concerns and our threat perception. We hope that all our friends and partners will understand security compulsions that Pakistan has in this region, including the threat of terrorism and the security situation because of the aggressive posture from our eastern neighbors vis-à-vis, Pakistan. On the terrorist incident of 6th September, you may have seen that ISPR has issued a statement in which it has outlined the details of the terrorist incident. It also highlights that the security forces of Pakistan are determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism and the sacrifices of our soldiers further strengthen our resolve. The government and people of Pakistan will continue to defend themselves against the terrorist threat whether homegrown or sponsored from abroad. We have communicated our concerns about the latest incident to the Interim Afghan Authorities. We expect them to fulfill their obligations and to deny the use of Afghan soil by the terrorists for perpetuating acts of terrorism against Pakistan.
Question: This is with reference to reported announcement by Chief of Army Staff, Gen Syed Asim Munir in Lahore and Karachi while meeting with the traders, and that billions of dollars are coming from our Arab friends. In this context, I would like to have some information about your preparations and the schedule of the reported visit of Mohammed Bin Salman. (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN)
Answer: Pakistan, as you know, has invited its friends and partners, including the Gulf countries, to come and invest in Pakistan. In the context of SIFC, which has recently been established, we are in contact with all our friends and partners for future investment projects. As far as any high-level visit from the region is concerned, we are not in a position to make any announcement at this stage. Once such a visit is confirmed we will make the announcement.
Question: Torkham border is closed since last three days and there is no information for opening it. Are there any ongoing talks regarding this issue? Secondly, US National Security Spokesman John Kirby stated that weapons / arms worth $7 billion are the leftovers of Afghan National Army not America while Pakistan’s perspective is that all these weapons are the leftovers of NATO and America. Will you please comment on this? (Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News)
Answer: Okay, first regarding the border. As I just said, Pakistan is concerned about the recent incident that took place and the terrorist attack on military posts. We are engaged with the interim government of Afghanistan. We have shared our concerns with regards to the terrorist threat against Pakistan that emanates from the Afghan soil. This dialogue will continue. All these concerns and developments are relevant to the opening or closure of the border as well. With regard to the arms in Afghanistan, we are concerned that the large amount of weaponry that is available in Afghanistan and has now reached some terrorists entities as well, continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, especially when these terrorist entities attack Pakistani civilian and military targets. We do not want to assign blame on anyone but the situation needs international attention. We hope all relevant parties would understand the responsibility that they have in this respect.
Question: Pakistan’s previous two governments had been asserting trade relations with Russia and tried to get the credit of purchasing cheap oil and wheat from Russia. These days, there’s a price hike of oil and wheat in Pakistan. What is the recent status of trade with Russia? In view of Pakistan’s recent political and economic condition, what are the outcomes of former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister’s foreign visits? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: I think you are conflating two different issues. I do not want to comment on the economic or political situation in Pakistan. For that you may contact the Ministry of Information or some other authority. As far as our relations with Russia are concerned, Pakistan and Russia as you know have an important relationship. Pakistan invested in this relationship in the last two decades. We now have a robust dialogue with Russia and over the last several months a number of delegations have been exchanged between the two countries. Our two countries have been discussing matters relating to trade and economic cooperation including in the realm of energy and this dialogue will continue.
Question: Three questions because first relating to Russia. The Russian foreign minister was a short while back in Dhaka and he’s written in his comments that the Soviet Union provided considerable support to Mujib’s fight against Pakistan. You mentioned about how Pakistan has invested in this relationship with Russia. Are we really willing to let go of the past of what happened given the Russian Foreign Minister has written in his own words? Number two, you mentioned about the foreign ministers visit to the United Kingdom for the Commonwealth summit, the Youth Forum. Are we expecting a bilateral with the UK authorities. And number three, the Indian External Affairs Minister had some comments very recently with regards to Pakistan. What is Pakistan’s response on the matter? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: I responded to your last question in my last briefing. The question was, I think asked by Siyar Ali Shah. So, let’s first talk about the visit of the Foreign Minister to the United Kingdom. The programme of the visit is still being finalized and we will be sharing details of the programme as and when it becomes available. With regards to your question about the comments by the Russian Foreign Minister, I have not seen those comments, and I would therefore hesitate to comment on them without reading them. With regards to the recent statement made by the External Affairs Minister of India, I spoke about it at our last briefing as well. Pakistan is concerned that the Indian leadership is obsessed about Pakistan in terms of its domestic political aspirations, and this unhealthy obsession with Pakistan is creating an environment which is not conducive for peace in the region. It is important that the Indian leaders and politicians focus on their own national issues and respond to the challenges that the people of India face instead of worrying about Pakistan and commenting unnecessarily about Pakistan.
Question:Ma’am few days ago a notification was issued by HEC that without the permission of Foreign Office no university can invite foreign dignitaries or ambassadors. What is the reason behind issuing this kind of notification? (Muhammad Awais, INP)
Answer: I must clarify that the notification issued by HEC does not pertain to regular educational and activities of universities. The advisory which was issued by HEC is basically conforms to the existing rules of procedure under which Foreign Office is the Government’s main interface in matters related to the United Nations and other international organizations and entities working in Pakistan. So, it is only in the line with the existing Rules of Business that the HEC has asked universities to consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before making such arrangements or undertaking any activities with the United Nations and other international organizations and entities. We believe that it is important that internal consultations and coordination on such matters should take place before taking up a matter with foreign entities.
Question: HEC has issued the NOC for some foreign universities in Pakistan whose Chancellors are not up to mark up with reference to qualification. Most of them are not even PhD degree holders. Are you concerned about this and having some meetings with the HEC or not? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN)
Answer: This matter pertains to education authorities and not to the Foreign Office. I need to check further details. If you could share the particular case we can discuss it bilaterally.
Question:Ma’am, with regards to India’s move of turning them to Bharat. Does Pakistan see this is an internal matter of India another attempt of BJP government to marginalize minorities in India? (Nouman Ishfaq Mughal, Daily Parliament Times)
Answer: I have not seen any official statement from the Indian government with regards to the question that you have raised. I have, however, seen a lot of media speculation. So, it is not proper for me to comment on media speculation.
Question: Ma’am, the day before yesterday, we saw an attack from Afghanistan’s Nuristan province inside Chitral, particularly in Tehsil of Chitral. There are reports suggesting that several groups of TTP also joined by the Afghan Taliban they’ve attacked and they want to take control of a particular area. In this regard Afghan government has not issued any statement. There are also reports that Afghan government is supporting indirectly and directly. We also have seen a video of Mr. Noor Wali Mehsud directly, giving instructions to the people who have attacked there. Would you mind sharing something latest about what’s happening there in Chitral? And have we discussed anything with Afghan officials particularly about this particular incident? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)
Answer: As I said earlier, there was a very sad incident on 6th September on which ISPR has issued a statement. With regard to the particular security situation in Chitral, the concerned departments including the Ministry of Interior and the home department of the province can share more details. As far as the concerns of Pakistan are concerned, these concerns have been shared with the Afghan authorities and we expect the Afghan Interim Government to fulfill its obligations and deny the use of Afghan soil by terrorists for perpetuating acts of terrorism against Pakistan.
Question: As you know that US is formalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. A couple of days ago some conditions have been put forward from Palestine towards Saudi Arabia on which if normalization happens they won’t have any issue. How Pakistan sees this development? (Syed Faisal Ali, Neo News)
Answer: First, we respect the sovereign right of a country to make its decisions about its foreign policy, as per their national interest and in conformity with international law. We do not consider it appropriate to comment on the foreign policy of another country. As far as Pakistan is concerned, our position on the occupied Palestinian territory is very clear. We remain steadfast in support for the people of Palestine and we urge the international community to address the issue of Israeli aggression against innocent civilians that has been particularly ascendant during this year especially. We also believe in the two-state solution to the Palestinian question on the basis of pre-1967 borders as reaffirmed by the United Nations on several occasions.
Question: The Torkham border closure has a human and economic cost which is now its third day. Is Pakistan in touch with Kabul to reopening of this border because a lot of the goods trucks are stranded on both sides and are carrying perishable goods. Also a lot of people need to cross the border for humanitarian reasons. (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)
Answer: Okay. Yes, the border question was asked earlier as well. We believe that the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan should be a border of peace and amity between the two countries. For generations, it has facilitated exchange of trade and the people across the border on both sides. In that respect, if there is a closure of border from the Pakistan side, it is not because Pakistan wishes to create difficulties for traders and genuine visitors. It happens only when there is a grave security risk and we have to factor in those security considerations whenever the decision to open or close the border takes place. We are in contact with the Afghan authorities to whom we have conveyed our concerns about the security threat that Pakistan faces and our concerns about the recent incident that took place.
Question: A lot of Afghan people have not been issued visas. Is it Pakistan’s policy shift? (Mazhar Iqbal, PNN)
Answer: I would say that Pakistan authorities issue visas to Afghans in hundreds, if not thousands per day. And these visas continue to be given by our Missions. Before issuing these visas, we have to do our due diligence and anybody who applies for a certain type of visa needs to fulfill the criteria for which he or she is applying.
Question: As the current situation in Pakistan, also there are a lot of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. What is Pakistan’s policy regarding Afghan refugees? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: Pakistan’s policy on Afghan refugees has not changed. We have opened our hearts and our homes for the people of Afghanistan whenever they were in difficulty. With the first wave of Afghan refugees coming to Pakistan forty years ago, they have been living in Pakistan, have been working in Pakistan, they have been studying in Pakistan. We would like the Afghan refugees to return to their homeland in honour and dignity for which it is important that conditions are created for their early return. We remain in contact with Afghan authorities as well as with UNHCR to work towards that end.