Office of the Spokesperson
Opening Remarks for the Weekly Media Briefing by the Spokesperson
Friday, 21 July 2023
Thank you for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.
Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba is on an official visit to Pakistan. This is the first visit by any Ukrainian Foreign Minister to Pakistan since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1993. The Ukraine Foreign Minister called on the Prime Minister and held in-depth talks with the Foreign Minister covering the entire range of bilateral relations, regional and global issues of mutual concern including the security situation in South Asia and the Eurasian region.
The two Foreign Ministers agreed to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, investment, higher education, agriculture, defence, and information technology for the mutual benefit of both countries. They agreed on the importance of regular dialogue and engagement and decided to hold meetings of various institutional mechanisms in due course. It was also agreed to deepen cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari shared Pakistan’s concern at the prevailing situation in Ukraine and offered condolences on the loss of precious lives and immense human suffering. He expressed the hope that peace would prevail so that the people of Ukraine and Russia would enjoy peace dividends. He emphasized the importance of engagement and dialogue and peaceful resolution of disputes and Pakistan’s readiness to support peace initiatives which can bring about peace. He also expressed Pakistan’s support for the resumption of Black Sea Initiative on the basis of dialogue and consultation.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has already briefed you on the Change Management Reforms, an initiative which he had launched upon joining as Foreign Minister. He stressed the need to embrace change and modernization in the Ministry so that it is agile, adaptable, and responsive to national and international realities. The Change Management Reform was initiated to revitalize the Ministry, addressing challenges like bureaucratic red-tape, internal inefficiencies, and outdated tools, with a focus on areas like internal communication, decision-making processes, and career development.
The Foreign Minister emphasized empowering the workforce, investing in their development, and creating a knowledge-based economy through the initiative, aiming to optimize consular services, improve conditions of service, and equip future diplomats with necessary skills.
The Minister of Digital Development and Transport of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Rashad Nabiyev, visited Islamabad from 17th to 19th July 2023. During the visit, he held meetings with Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication, Syed Amin Ul Haque; Minister of Railways and Aviation, Khawaja Saad Rafique; Minister for Communications, Asad Mahmood; and, Minister of Maritime Affairs, Syed Faisal Ali Subzwari. During the visit, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on Cooperation in the field of Information and Communication Technology and Technology Training Courses.
The Foreign Secretary participated in the 30th Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Jakarta, where he presented Pakistan’s perspective on peace and security in South Asia and addressed the global challenges confronting us. The Foreign Secretary paid a courtesy call on Indonesian President Joko Widodo and held meetings with Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN and senior Indonesian officials. He also met with leaders of delegation of participating delegations. Foreign Secretary also witnessed the signing ceremony for the establishment of the Pakistan-Indonesia Business Council and addressed the prestigious think tank Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI).
Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Asif Durrani, is currently on a visit to Afghanistan from 19th to 21st July 2023. This is his first official visit to Afghanistan since assuming his responsibilities as Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghanistan.
Ambassador Asif Durrani met with Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Kabir, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Acting Minister for Commerce, Mr. Nooruddin Azizi, Acting Minister for Public Health, Dr. Qalandar Ibad and the Acting Minister for Higher Education, Sheikh Nida.
The wide-ranging discussions encompassed the entire gamut of bilateral relations. Ambassador Durrani reaffirmed Pakistan’s firm commitment to work closely with Afghanistan in promoting the mutually reinforcing goals of regional peace and security. Pakistan will continue to actively engage with the Interim Afghan Government on all issues of interest.
Special Assistant to the U.S. President and Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council, Rear Admiral Eileen Laubacher, led a high-level delegation to Pakistan for a two-day visit. The delegation included members of the State Department, Department of Defence, and the White House.
On the 19th of July, she called on the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to discuss issues of bilateral interest and to exchange views on the regional and global situation. Foreign Minister underlined that Pakistan had a long-standing and broad-based relationship with the United States that needed to be reinforced and widened. He stressed the need for increasing high-level contacts between the public representatives and officials of both sides. Ms. Laubacher reaffirmed commitment of the United States to solidify and reinforce its ties with Pakistan and expressed the hope that Pakistan and the United States would continue to work together to pursue common interests.
Pakistan condemns in the strongest possible terms repeated Islamophobic acts of act of public desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden. Such disturbing acts are both legally and morally reprehensible. Permission to carry out premeditated and provocative acts of religious hatred cannot be justified under the guise of freedom of expression, opinion and protest.
Pakistan calls for unequivocal condemnation of Islamophobic acts, isolate those who stoke religious hatred, build deterrence, and promote mutual respect, tolerance and harmony among religions, faiths and cultures.
We expect Swedish authorities to take all measures necessary to stop such acts of hatred and incitement. Pakistan’s concerns about the latest incident are being conveyed to the Swedish authorities.
Today, I wish to speak to you about the founder and President of Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party, Mr. Shabbir Ahmad Shah, who completed six years of his continued detention this month. Incarcerated currently in New Delhi’s infamous Tihar Jail, Shabbir Shah has spent 36 years in prison for his political views. The total period of his confinement exceeds half of his life. He was rightly called by the ‘Amnesty International’ as a “Prisoner of Conscience”.
We urge India to put an end to the protracted imprisonment of Shabbir Shah and thousands of other Kashmiri political leaders and activists, whose “basic crime” is to demand their inalienable right to self-determination. These political prisoners must be released and acquitted of the fabricated charges against them.
I have an update on the Greek Boat Tragedy.
Two separate flights carrying the mortal remains of four Pakistanis who perished in the disaster have arrived in Lahore and Islamabad. The mortal remains have been handed over to the families in the districts of Gujarat and Gujranwala. Our Mission in Greece has made plans for the transportation of the remaining dead bodies within the next few days. We also remain in contact with the Greek authorities for identification of the victims.
By Nadeem Faisal Baiga