Islamabad, March 24, 2023 (PPI-OT): Assalam-o-Alaikum and Ramzan Mubarak,
Thanks for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.
Let me begin with the visit of Foreign Secretary Dr. Asad Majeed Khan to China from 16-18 March 2023. He called on China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang and held meetings with Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and with Chairman CIDCA Lou Zhaouhui.
On the 18 March, Dr. Asad Majeed Khan and Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong co-chaired the Third Round of Pakistan-China Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC). The two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, and agreed to expand and reinforce political and security cooperation, bilateral trade, economic and financial cooperation, cultural exchanges, tourism, and people-to-people ties. It was also agreed that Pakistan and China will enhance high level engagements and dialogue mechanisms and make the channels of communication even more robust.
The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and agreed to remain engaged in expansion of CPEC including on participation of third parties to enhance regional connectivity and cooperation. Pakistan and China will further strengthen dialogue and cooperation in multilateral platforms.
The first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Political Cooperation under the framework of Pakistan-GCC Strategic Dialogue was held on 21 March in Riyadh. The Dialogue was co-chaired by Additional Foreign Secretary for the Middle East, Ambassador Rizwan Sheikh and Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Negotiations at the GCC General Secretariat, Dr. Abdul-Aziz Alwaisheg. The two sides discussed the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and GCC and exchanged views on regional and global security; counter-terrorism; and Islamophobia.
Last week, the Prime Minister inaugurated the CPEC 1320 MW Thar Coal Block-1 Power Project. This US$3 billion project, harnessing Thar coal, has created over 8000 job opportunities. It will save around US$2 billion per annum by cutting coal imports thus saving valuable foreign exchange reserves.
It is capable of meeting the electricity demand of 4 million households in Pakistan. The Thar Coal project is a sterling symbol of CPEC and a testament of the thriving All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between Pakistan and China.
Last week in Srinagar in IIOJK, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested senior journalist and human rights defender, Irfan Meraj. We are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Mr. Irfan Meraj and dozens of Kashmiri journalists and human rights defenders, including Khurram Pervaiz, who are under incarceration in prisons across IIOJK and India.
They are prisoners of conscience who are being victimized for shining a spotlight on the dire situation of human rights and fundamental freedom in IIOJK. We urge India to bring an end to suppression of journalists and human rights defenders and to its policy of stifling freedom of expression and assembly in the occupied territory.
Pakistan will continue to raise its voice against these grave and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK. We will also 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.
Now, coming to upcoming diplomatic engagements, Pakistan-Malaysia Bilateral Political Consultations will be held next week in Kuala Lumpur. Agenda includes discussion on political, security and military cooperation, trade and investment ties, cooperation in science and technology, health, tourism and culture. The two sides will also exchange views on the regional and global issues including developments in the Asia-Pacific region, Climate Change, and Islamophobia.
That concludes my opening remarks. I thank you and the floor is open for questions.
Question: What is the response of Pakistan on the statements of Zalmay Khalilzad’s statements? Why is he giving these statements again and again? Is there any reason behind this or these are just his personal view. What are your comments on this, please? (Amir Abbasi, Dunya News)
Answer: I would like to invite your attention to a statement, which was released by this Ministry a few days back and yesterday by the Minister for Information. I have nothing further to add to that.
Question:There are media reports that Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia is being called back. Can you share what are the reasons that he’s being called back and who’s being nominated in his place?(Azaz Syed, GEO News)
Answer: In terms of personnel announcements, I do not have any personnel announcement at this stage. Postings and transfers are normal happenings in this Ministry. I do not therefore, want to add to speculation in the media. I would only like to add here that some of these reports about Ambassador Rathore are incorrect and unfair. Ambassador Rathore is a highly professional diplomat who has served Pakistan well for several years and will continue to do so in the future.
Question: It was being reported in media that import of oil from Russia will begin in the month of March. What is the current status? Also, please share the details of trade agreements which were signed with Russia?
Secondly, it has been 40 days since the IMF team has returned and no agreement has been reached till now. What are the reasons behind this? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: You know these areas do not pertain to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Finance is engaged in negotiations with the IMF and Ministry of Petroleum takes the lead on the import of petroleum and LNG from various sources. So, I would advise you to reach out to these departments for precise response to these questions.
Question: Firstly, there have been reports on digital platforms with regards to alleged sexual harassment and abuse by an Arab diplomat against a Pakistani national. Would you like to comment on these reports and confirm or deny the authenticity of these reports?
On the 29th of March, the Indian side is to host the SCO meeting of National Security Advisors. Will Pakistan be participating? If yes, what will be the level of participation? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: On SCO, I would reiterate what I have said in the past. Pakistan is an active member of SCO. We regularly participate in all SCO activities and constructively contribute to their outcomes and we will continue to do so. In terms of the specific meeting that you have referred to, we will make an announcement closer to the date.
Regarding your first question, we are in contact with the police authorities and with the concerned embassy and the matter is under investigation.
Question: As you have responded to a question by Mr. Azaz Syed, that this is a routine matter. It is the second time this is happened. Before this, Bilal Akbar was called back to Pakistan and now the current Ambassador is being called back, whereas the Consul General, has been given an extension. What are your comments on this?
Secondly, as you said in your statement that journalists are being attacked every day in IIOJK. In Pakistan, on daily basis anyone can also get arrested. What is the view of Foreign Office on this? (Sohail Rana, Daily Post International Baadban)
Answer: First I would reiterate that most media reports about postings and transfers are based on speculation. I would only be able to comment when I have confirmed personnel transfer information. At this stage we cannot comment on any personnel transfers.
Regarding the media in Pakistan, as you know there is a Ministry, Ministry of Information that is responsible for media policy and for engaging with the media. I would advise you to contact the Ministry of Information about policy and relations with Pakistani media.
Question: When you say China and Pakistan decided to remain engaged on expansion of CPEC, which potential countries they have asked to join CPEC and will China and Pakistan jointly decide for their inclusion?
Secondly as Mr. Abbasi just asked about Zalmay Khalilzad’s statement. Increasingly, we see there are statements from the United States including many Congressmen and women who have pointed out regarding political developments in Pakistan.
Is the diplomacy being conducted by our Embassy in Washington is so ineffective, that no perspective from the Government is being projected over there and only the lobbyists are prevailing? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: As I said, CPEC is a sterling symbol of Pakistan-China strategic partnership. CPEC is a bilateral project between our two countries, but it is also a project for regional connectivity.
You are also aware that Pakistan and China have agreed in the past to extend CPEC to Afghanistan. Proposals for participation of third parties including private entities to join CPEC projects proposals remain under consideration of the two sides. When we have a final outcome, we will make an announcement.
Regarding your second question, I would like to underline that Pakistan is a confident democratic country. We are confident that any outside voices cannot influence our democratic polity and governance. People of Pakistan are wise enough to make political decisions on their own and do not need outside advice.
Question: Have we contacted our lobbyists there in Washington with regard to Zalmay Khalilzad’s statement? What is the status of Mr. Robert Grenier? Is he still Pakistan’s lobbyist or the contract has been expired? (Azaz Syed, Geo News)
Answer: Regarding the second part of your question, I would have to check about status of the contract. On the first question, I am surprised why the fascination with this statement. You know very well, there was a statement issued by the Minister of Information yesterday. So, I do not understand why I am being asked again and again about the comments made by an individual in their private capacity on Twitter.
Question: On these questions, I think that Pakistan’s Foreign Office first responded to Zalmay Khalilzad’s statement, then Pakistan’s political leaders and yesterday Pakistan’s Information Minister she also responded. So when we are responding why are we saying that we should not respond? Is there something more to it than just his personal opinion? What are your comments? (Jaleel Akhtar, VOA)
Answer: I would advise you to ask him directly whether it is his personal opinion. He’s available on Twitter. My statement stands. Minister for Information has already commented yesterday.
Question: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has hideouts in Afghanistan and they are also involved in carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan from there. In a recent incident Brigadier Mustafa Kamal Barki was attacked and martyred. Does Pakistan have any intention or plans of targeting the hideouts of TTP present inside Afghanistan? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Supplementary Question: Afghanistan has a border with seven other countries including Pakistan, but no such border incidents including infiltration and terrorism ever happened with any of these countries including Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and other, except Pakistan. Is it due to some issues in diplomatic relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan?
We have always supported our Afghan brother and sisters. Even currently there are around 4 million refugees residing inside Pakistan. So, what is the reason of such incidents? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Daily Payam-e-Khyber)
Answer: First, I reiterate what I said in the past that we are in contact with the Afghan interim authorities on security and counter-terrorism matters including our concerns regarding terrorist entities which have hideouts in Afghanistan.
Our security agencies are in contact. If you recall, our Minister for Defense visited Afghanistan very recently, and all these matters were discussed. We expect the Afghan authorities to take action against these terrorist entities and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to Pakistani people and Pakistani security forces.
Question: Recently Foreign Secretary visited China and it has been reported that the loan of $2 Billion has been delayed. Are there any assurances about this loan and is there any other good news expected soon regarding financial support for Pakistan?
Secondly, are we expecting any other high-profile visits to China? (Mohsin ul Mulk, 24 News)
Answer: As I said in my opening statement Pakistan and China are All-Weather Strategic Cooperative partners and our two countries cooperate on a range of issues including economic and financial matters. We are grateful to the Chinese Government and people for the economic and financial support that China has provided to us in these difficult times. People of Pakistan will remember this for a long time.
Exchange of high-level visits is a hallmark of Pakistan – China friendship. Our two countries have been exchanging these high-level visits throughout the last seven decades. Now that COVID restrictions have been lifted, these contacts and engagements will pick up. When such high-level visits are firmed up we will make announcements.
Question: Since you mentioned the visit of the Defense Minister to Afghanistan. There was a follow up delegation from the Afghan side that had to come to Pakistan.
As per what reports suggest, that delegation has already visited Pakistan last week, for a two-day visit on Saturday and Sunday. Would you like to confirm these reports? What was the level that this Afghan delegation was comprised of and what were the meetings about? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: As I said Pakistan and Afghanistan hold consultations on security and counter-terrorism. Any visits or discussions that pertain to security and counterterrorism, are sensitive in nature. I would, therefore, not like to divulge the nature of these discussions.
Question: Firstly, there are reports that it is under consideration to recall Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia back to Islamabad?
Secondly, has any decision been made with regards to Foreign Ministers upcoming visit to India to attend the SCO meeting? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: I repeat what I have said earlier. I do not have any personnel related announcements.
Second, regarding SCO, I would reiterate what I have said that no decision has yet been made. We will make an announcement in due course.
Question: What happened last week in the Military Health Care meeting of the SCO, Pakistan was asked to either refrain from displaying its map or Pakistan was forced to stay away from the meeting. With this background and with this development, should we expect that the Defense Minister or the Security Adviser or the Foreign Minister will be able to attend further SCO meetings hosted by India as Chair? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: First, Pakistan is an active member of SCO and will continue to engage with it. Regarding that unfortunate development last week, we have expressed our concerns with the SCO and our point has been well registered with the entire organization.
Regarding the future meetings, I cannot predict how things would develop, but I can share with you that yesterday a delegation of Pakistan from Joint Staff headquarters attended the 16th meeting of the expert working group under the Council of the Ministers of Defense of SCO member states. It was a working level delegation that attended in-person.
Question: International conference regarding climate change in Sharm El Shaikh were held after the floods in Pakistan in which the international community committed for Pakistan’s assistance to deal with the destruction of floods. What is the progress on these commitments made by the international community for Pakistan’s assistance? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: COP-27 was an international conference that took place in Sharm El-Sheikh where the international community came together to develop a framework to combat climate change. Pakistan like so many other members of the international community actively participated in the Conference.
We are proud of our contribution in the historic outcome that included the decision to establish the Loss and Damage Fund. We believe once established, the Fund would be a great facility for developing countries in their efforts to combat climate change. At this point in time, discussions are underway to finalize the framework and terms of reference of the Fund and we hope that these discussions would bear positive results.
For more information, contact:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan