Islamabad(TNS): Transcript of the Press Briefing by the Spokesperson on Thursday, 04 April 2024

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(Office of the Spokesperson)
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Transcript of the Press Briefing by the Spokesperson on
Thursday, 04 April 2024

Assalam-o-Alaikum,

Welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary, National Security Division, Waqar Ahmad led the Pakistan delegation at the 19th regular meeting of the Secretaries of the Security Councils (SSC) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in Astana, Kazakhstan on 3 April 2024.

The SSC forum discussed strategic security issues affecting SCO member States with focus on terrorism and extremism, illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, transnational organized crime, international information security and misuse of internet. The situations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, particularly in Gaza, were also discussed.

In his statement, Secretary, National Security Division warned about far-reaching consequences of terrorist acts for the entire region and stressed the need for adopting a comprehensive approach to address the root causes. He termed peaceful and stable Afghanistan, a strategic imperative for regional prosperity and called upon all SCO member States to follow a holistic policy and build on broad convergences with the SCO region to address multifaceted challenges confronting Afghanistan.

Reiterating Pakistan’s strict adherence to multilateralism, Mr. Ahmad stressed that international peace and security should be promoted through strict adherence to the principles of the UN Charter and faithful implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions.

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Usman Jadoon, was elected as the Chair of the substantive session of the UN Disarmament Commission for 2024. He was elected by acclamation on the nomination of the Asia-Pacific Group. We are confident that during his chairmanship, Ambassador Jadoon will uphold the principles of multilateralism, dialogue and collaboration and “promote the mandate of the UN Disarmament Commission to consider and make recommendations on various problems in the field of disarmament.”

​The crimes of Israeli authorities continue unabated in the Middle East. Israel’s adventurism in the region reached a new height with its irresponsible attack this week on the Consular Section of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria. The attack is a violation of UN Charter and international law and conventions.

This week’s targeted strikes on the “World Central Kitchen” convoy in Gaza is also not an isolated incident. Over the past six months, Israeli authorities have been involved in gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian law by repeatedly targeting UNRWA, humanitarian relief organizations and unarmed civilians.

Deliberate targeting of a humanitarian convoy, bringing food to people facing famine, is a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The attack has taken place at a time when Israel is creating hurdles in UNRWA’s efforts to bring food and vital lifesaving aid to the people of Gaza. We condemn these atrocities and call for international accountability of Israel for its crimes against humanity.

We also call for immediate, full and effective implementation of the provisional orders of the International Court of Justice in January 2024.

Pakistan welcomes the additional provisional measures ordered by International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 28th March 2024 in the backdrop of the deteriorating situation in Gaza.

The latest ICJ ruling confirms further exacerbation of an already grave situation in Gaza, with famine setting in as a result of continued Israeli obstruction of humanitarian aid, food and other basic necessities. The Court has reiterated its injunction calling for unobstructed provision of humanitarian assistance including food, water, electricity, fuel and medical supplies to Palestinians throughout Gaza.

The decision by the ICJ confirms that Israel continues to defy the earlier measures announced by the ICJ in January 2024, for which Israel must be held accountable.

We also reiterate our call for the full and expeditious implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 2728 adopted on 25th March, leading to a permanent ceasefire, lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance, and ensuring protection of civilians throughout the Gaza Strip.

As the holy month of Ramazan comes to an end, the Indian occupation authorities have once again decided to deny permission to hold Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at Eidgah in Srinagar. The chief cleric of Srinagar’s historic Jama Mosque and senior Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has also been placed under house detention in order to prevent him from attending an event held in the memory of one of his ancestors, late Mirwaiz Molvi Muhammad Yousuf Shah.

The Indian authorities are in the habit of enforcing such curbs in Srinagar for past several years. Imposing restrictions on Kashmiri religious leaders and restraining the Kashmiri public from congregating on special religious occasions have become pervasive in IIOJK. We urge the Indian authorities to respect the right of the people of IIOJK to peaceful assembly and to freely practice their religion.

Pakistan will continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.

I thank you.

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(Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News): I have one question with three parts. Dasu attack jolted Pakistan and then subsequent reports appeared that the suicide bomber came from Afghanistan. Second, yesterday, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghan regime, again called upon Pakistan to hold talks with TTP, while he was speaking in Khost.

(Adeel Bashir, Roze News): Following the second section of Paracha’s question, how do you think that Pakistan, which is a nuclear state, can sit with banned TTP which has no structural system?

Spokesperson: I will reiterate what we have said in the past. Pakistan is not holding any talks with the terrorist organization, the TTP. We have no plans to hold these talks with TTP and we expect the Afghan authorities to take action against these terror groups and their leadership for the crimes they are committing and the terrorist attacks for which they are responsible in Pakistan.

(Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News): And my first question? Subsequent reports after Dasu attacks suggested that the terrorists travelled from sanctuaries inside Afghanistan and were able to hit Pakistan-China friendship. So what has been the follow up of this development?

Spokesperson: Our law enforcement authorities are in the process of completing the investigations and once we have more details to share with the media, they will release that information. At this point, what I can say is that Pakistan remains committed to fight all terror groups and all forces which have targeted Pakistan and have targeted symbols of Pakistan-China Friendship, including the latest attack in Besham.

(Mateen Haider, GTV News):​There is a report that Pakistan has tabled a resolution at United Nations Human Rights Commission on suggesting arms embargo against Israel and the resolution is expected to be discussed tomorrow at United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. So, do you think this resolution will make its impact when the UN Security Resolution is blatantly violated by Israeli authorities?

Spokesperson:​First, this is a draft resolution which is under consideration at the UN Human Rights Council. Pakistan as the coordinator for OIC group in Geneva has tabled a resolution on behalf of the OIC countries and this is not a unique resolution. Pakistan tables resolution on the situation in Palestine every year and this is a continuation of that practice. The draft resolution is still under negotiation and we will be able to comment on its final outcome after it has been adopted. However, I can underline that it outlines the concerns of Pakistan and the concerns of Islamic world on the grave situation in occupied Palestine. It calls for immediate lifting of blockade, immediate ceasefire and condemns the use of starvation as a method of punishment. There is of course as you mentioned the language on arms exports as well. This is nothing unique. You would recall that on 11th of November last year, the joint communiqué of the Arab-Islamic summit outlined that all countries must stop exporting weapons and ammunition to the occupation authorities.

(Afzal Reza, IRNA):​My question is regarding the Iran-Pakistan Economic Cooperation. An Iranian diplomatic and economic delegation, headed by the Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Mahdi Safari, the Deputy Foreign Minister for economic diplomacy of Iran is currently in Islamabad. Can you please tell us the goals of this visit and whether any date has been finalized regarding the expected state visit by the Dr. Raisi from Iran to Pakistan?

Spokesperson:​First of all, Pakistan and Iran have re-engaged and revived all bilateral channels of communication that existed prior to January and there are number of areas of cooperation including in the trade domain. Secondly, as you mentioned, there is a high level delegation from Iran currently in Pakistan where all aspects of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Iran will be discussed. Thirdly, I am not in a position at this stage to announce any dates for the visit of His Excellency, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But I can underline that people of Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit at an early date.

(Anas Mallick, Capital TV): Any sideline meetings for the Secretary, National Security Division in Astana at the NSA meeting?

Spokesperson: I understand there were one or two meetings, which were planned to be held. I do not have a readout of these meetings and perhaps once the delegation is back, we can share more details with you.

(Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News): The Spokesperson of the US State Department Matthew Miller yesterday pledged that the United States wants to expand its security cooperation with Pakistan. We’ve been their partner in the late 80’s and even in the War against Terror there were specific areas where we were cooperating. Now they are again eager to have security cooperation. Which specific area of cooperation have they indicated?

Spokesperson: First, as you know the comment that you are referring to was made in the context of recent exchange of messages between Pakistan and the United States at the leadership level. As you know, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the President of the United States have expressed an interest in working closely to realize common objectives of global peace, and regional stability and socio-economic development. As regards to the security cooperation, Pakistan has always said that it would like to learn from the experience of countries which have been fighting the global threat of terrorism. There are a number of areas in the security domain where Pakistan and the United States can discuss and exchange information and exchange experiences especially in fighting terrorism.

(Azaz Syed, Geo News): Ma’am, may we know what is the current status of Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, particularly following the reservations shown by the Americans? Any deadlines regarding different stages of the project?

Spokesperson: As I said in my briefing last week, the timelines will be conveyed to you by the Ministry of Petroleum. Pakistan’s position on the Iran-Pakistan pipeline has been made very clear; and I spoke about it two weeks ago. Since then, there have been no major developments to make a new statement. So, I would like you to refer to the statement that I made a couple of weeks ago.

(Shrouq Tariq, AFP): My question is regarding the deportation of the Afghan nationals right after Eid. Why do you think Pakistan is taking such a step after so much backlash from the foreign watchdogs as well? And how do you think it’s going to affect the Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations?

Spokesperson: First of all, I would like to underline that Pakistan does not have a specific Afghanistan related policy in terms of illegal foreigners in Pakistan. Pakistan’s position has been that individuals who are in Pakistan illegally, should return to their home country and that includes individuals from Afghanistan. We have also seen that over the last several months, a large number of Afghans have left for their home country voluntarily while a limited number of individuals were deported. As far as any new steps regarding repatriation of Afghan nationals is concerned, at this stage, I am not in a position to announce any new measures. Several measures are under consideration and debate. I’m sure the Ministry of Interior will release the relevant information at an appropriate time for the benefit of the media.

(Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News): The last government had announced One Visa Regime for Afghanistan but last week a delegation went to Afghanistan and made an agreement to issue a temporary document for traders. So, is there a change in the One Visa Regime?

Spokesperson:​First of all, there is no change in Pakistan’s position with respect to One Document Regime. Pakistan has said and we will continue to maintain that travel of foreigners to Pakistan should take place on valid visas on their national passports. That is the case with all the neighbours of Pakistan and we are in the process of implementing the same protocols with Afghanistan. As you know, the Secretary of Commerce was in Afghanistan last week and this issue with regards to the drivers who are engaged in transit trade from both sides, was also discussed. What I would like to underline is that the two sides have agreed on a transition period for full implementation of the One Document Regime.

(Naveed Siddiqui, Dateline Islamabad): Ma’am, Palestine has revived its bid to become full UN Member. What will be the Pakistan position?

Spokesperson: Pakistan recognizes the state of Palestine and will support any such move at the United Nations.

(Anas Mallick, Capital TV): Lots of questions on different topics. First is regarding the Iranian attack that’s ongoing in Chahbahar. What is Pakistan’s position on the matter? Second, a Chinese interagency team was visiting Islamabad. Do you have an update on what really happened in the meetings? And are the hydropower projects being reopened which were shut down like in Dasu and Tarbela. What’s the fate of those projects? And lastly, there have been reports of the Prime Minister’s possible visit to China. Would you want to confirm or deny this report?

Spokesperson: Starting with your last question, I’m not in a position to indicate any dates for the visit of the Prime Minister to China. At this point, there are no firm dates for such a visit. Regarding the visit of the Chinese inter-agency delegation, this was a delegation, a security delegation, led by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was headed by Mr. Bai Tian, Director General of external security department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The purpose of the visit was to exchange views on the safety and security of Chinese nationals and to further deepen our existing cooperation in the field of counterterrorism. I will not go into details of the discussions which were held. The meetings were fairly substantive, both in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry and with our law enforcement authorities. As far as the Chinese hydropower projects are concerned, it is our understanding that there was a temporary suspension and following the security audit and enhancement of security measures, these projects are now functional. Now, coming to the most important development of the day, that is the ongoing terrorist attack in Iran. Pakistan strongly and vehemently condemns terrorism and specifically this attack that is taking place in Iran against the government and civilian facilities. The People of Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan stand in solidarity with their Iranian brothers and sisters and we have always said that we would like to work with Iran to find joint solutions to the terror threat.

(Allah Noor Wazir, Mashriq TV): Does Pakistan think that Afghan government is responsible for the worsening terrorism situation in KPK and Balochistan? Secondly, the attack on Chinese was planned in Afghanistan, has Pakistan contacted Afghanistan regarding this plan or the people related to those who made such plan?

(Azaz Syed, Geo News):​Just like Pakistan was in contact with Taliban in the reign of Ashraf Ghani, So, is Pakistan in contact with Ashraf Ghani or his companions this time or not?

Spokesperson: First, as I said earlier Pakistan is in the process of completing the various aspects of investigation into the terrorist attack in Besham and when we have complete details, we will be sharing with the media. We have said in the past and that is our policy and if there is a clear connection, Pakistan will surely raise this concern with the Afghan authorities. There have been repeated incidents of terrorism inside Pakistan which have been sponsored by individuals who are currently based inside Afghanistan and we expect the Afghan authorities to take urgent, immediate action against all terror groups. As far as Mr. Azaz Syed’s question, I would like to say that Pakistan continues to engage with all sections of Afghan society.

(Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International): Recently in a meeting, the Supreme Commander of Pakistan Armed forces, President Zardari met Army Chief during which human rights violation by India in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir were raised. Is Pakistan going to take any steps for IIOJK like the one recently taken for Gaza in the Security Council?

Spokesperson: As you know, Pakistan is not a member of the UN Security Council, but Pakistan has been a strong voice at the international stage for the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We have spoken out on the ongoing threats to the security of the people of IIOJK and their persistent human rights violations at all international forums, including OIC and the United Nations and Pakistan will continue to do so.

(Javed Hussain, 92 News): Ma’am, has Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif been invited from Saudi Arabia for visit? Any information regarding this? Secondly, is there any meeting scheduled with the Crown Prince?

Spokesperson: Again, I’m not in a position at this stage to make any announcement for upcoming visits. There are many visits which continue to be discussed between Pakistan and the relevant countries. Once all formalities are finalized, only then we make official announcements.

(Mateen Haider, GTV News): Yesterday Reuters released a report that Islamophobic acts and incidents on the basis of hate against Muslims, particularly of Arab origin, and also of other ethnicity is on the rise in the US. How do you comment on these rising Islamophobic and hate related incidents against Muslims in the United States in the backdrop of Gaza incident?

Spokesperson: I will not speak about any specific incident but you are right, there is a concerning and alarming rise of Islamophobic incidents in many parts of the world. Pakistan has called for action by states to put an end to such anti-Muslim and Islamophobic acts and to promote an environment of peace and dialogue within societies and between OIC countries and non-OIC countries.