Exclusive interview with Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Author: Raja Aamir Mahmood Bhatti
Kashmir dispute is the oldest unresolved international conflict in the world? Why is it hanging for so long?
Answer: Jammu & Kashmir is one of the oldest internationally recognized disputes on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which remains unresolved because of India’s intransigence and unwillingness to implement relevant UNSC resolutions and its own solemn commitments made to Pakistan, the Kashmiris, and the international community. India has been scuttling the UN process on Jammu and Kashmir dispute since 1947. The illegal and unilateral actions by the RSS-BJP Indian Government in IIOJK have further impeded the process of settlement of this dispute under international law, relevant UNSC resolutions and other bilateral agreements. It has been clear to the people of IIOJK, Pakistan, and the international community, from the outset, that the motive behind the RSS-inspired BJP government’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019 was to inter alia bring about demographic changes in the IIOJK so that the Muslim majority in the region could be changed by deceit, fraud and brute force. The subsequent steps of promulgation of new domicile law and amendments in various laws, especially regarding acquisition of properties in IIOJK, clearly show that the primary motivation remains the disempowerment and disenfranchisement of the Kashmiri people and further usurpation of their rights. India would be well advised to rescind its illegal actions of 5th August 2019, lift the brutal and inhumane lockdown in IIOJK, and hold a free, fair and impartial plebiscite in IIOJK as per the relevant UNSC resolutions.
India wants usurpation of the rights of Kashmiris
Why Pakistan has not been able to convince UNSC members and international community to intervene and settle the dispute forever?
Answer: Since 5th August 2019, Pakistan has been raising the issue of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in all our bilateral engagements as well as the all international platforms. We have continued highlighting the a) legal, b) human rights, and c) peace and security dimensions of the dispute. We have forcefully raised the issue at the UN, HRC, OIC, IPU and on many others platforms. Owing to Pakistan’s efforts, the United Nations Security Council has discussed the Jammu & Kashmir dispute three times since 5 August 2019 after a gap of more than 55 years. The United Nations Secretary General during his visit to Pakistan in February thisyear expressed called for India to respect “human rights and fundamental freedoms” when dealing with discontent in the territory. During his visit to Pakistan, the OIC Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Jammu and Kashmir, emphasized that Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine remained the top most items of the OIC agenda and assured to take all necessary steps to alleviate the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. On Pakistan’s call, three meetings of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu &Kashmir, were held since 5 August 2019. A 12-member cross- parliamentary delegation from the UK led by the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group (APPKG) visited Pakistan and AJK. The Foreign Affairs Committee of US Congress in a letter to Indian Foreign Minister expressed concern over the situation in IIOJK. Even Portuguese parliament tabled resolution on the humanitarian crisis in IIOJK. World leaders, international human rights organizations as well as the media have been unanimous in their condemnation of the ongoing lockdown and communication blockade by Indian occupation forces in IIOJK.
In a major diplomatic success for our Kashmir diplomacy, the OIC reaffirmed its strong and unequivocal support on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute during the 47th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) held in Niamey, Niger. Some of the other resolutions adopted by the CFM also included strong references to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. Niamey Declaration” explicitly reiterated the OIC’s principled position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute for a “peaceful settlement in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,also reiterated serious concerns on unabated state perpetrated violence in IIOJK, including indiscriminate use of pellet guns on civilians. Pakistan has consistently maintained that there can be no resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute without letting the Kashmiris exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, as enshrined in the relevant UNSC Resolutions.
Do you think that there is a possibility of permanent ceasefire and resumption of peace talks between Pakistan and India? What Pakistan is expecting from India for permanent ceasefire at LOC?
Answer: In attempts to divert world attention from its internal failings and grave human rights violations in IIOJK, India continues to escalate tensions along the Line of Control. The Indian occupation forces have been continuously targeting civilian populated areas in clear violation of the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding, all established humanitarian norms and professional military conduct. Pakistan calls upon India to respect the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding, established humanitarian norms and maintain peace along with LoC and Working Boundary. Pakistan also urges India to allow the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play its mandated role as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.
India has vitiated the atmosphere with its illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August in 2019 in IIOJK
What is the status of Kulbhushan Jadhav case?
Answer: Pakistan remains fully committed to the implementation of ICJ judgment. Our position is consistent that the Indian government should come forward and cooperate with the courts in Pakistan so that full effect could be given to the ICJ Judgment. Sadly, India has so far been evasive and been looking for a pretext to somehow frustrate Pakistan’s efforts to implement the ICJ judgment. The Case is in Islamabad High Court at the moment.
Is Pakistan losing Saudi Arabia’s support and what is the reality of current status of relations between the two countries?
Answer: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always enjoyed unique relations deep rooted in historic, religious, cultural and social ties. The two countries have strong economic, political, security and military cooperation at all levels. Relations between the two brotherly countries have continued to grow over time. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have not only closely cooperated with each other at international fora but have always stood by each other at times of need. Pakistan values Saudi Arabia’s important role in the OIC Contact Group on Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan has an abiding commitment to defending the sanctity of HarmainSharifain. Pakistan remains firmly committed to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia. The people of Pakistan have special reverence and affection for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (KhadimulHarmainSharifain). Frequent high-level visits and close leadership level contacts have been the longstanding tradition of the brotherly relations between the two countries. The visits by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the landmark visit of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in February 2019 have further cemented our relations and provided new avenues of cooperation in trade, investment and other fields. The long-term strategic relationship between the two brotherly countries is time tested and will continue to grow to our mutual benefit.
Prime Minister Imran khan had said previously that he would mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Is there any development in this regard?
Answer: Pakistan is an important country with strong and historical relations with all the countries in the region. It may be recalled that on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Iran, Saudi Arabia, US and Qatar as part of our efforts to diffuse tensions and promote peace in the Middle East. Pakistan is a partner for peace, and believes that war is in no one’s interest.
There are media reports that Saudi Arabia pressing Pakistan to recognize Israel?
Answer: These reports are mere fabrications, and do not hold any weight. Prime Minister Imran Khan had clearly articulated Pakistan’s position that unless a just settlement of the Palestine issue, satisfactory to the Palestinian people, was found, Pakistan could not recognize Israel. The Prime Minister had stressed that Pakistan’s policy in this regard was rooted in Quaid-e-Azam’s vision. The Prime Minister’s remarks are an unequivocal reaffirmation of Pakistan’s position on the subject, leaving no room for baseless speculation. For a just, comprehensive and lasting peace, Pakistan will continue to support a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions as well as international law, with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of Palestine.
All parties in Afghanistan must honor their commitments for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire
Can you share the main points of Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit?
Answer: Foreign Minister of Iran Dr. JavadZarif visited Pakistanon 11th November 2020. During his visit he held a one- on -one meeting, followed by delegation level talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The two Foreign Ministers reviewed all aspects of bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi emphasized the importance of optimally utilizing the existing bilateral mechanisms to increase cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, connectivity, security and people-to-people exchanges and to strengthen mutual collaboration in multilateral fora. In this regard, he underlined the need for regular interactions at multiple levels. Foreign Minister Qureshi apprised Dr. JavadZarif of the worsening humanitarian and human rights situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). The two Foreign Ministers also exchanged views on the rising Islamophobia in different parts of the world and agreed to undertake efforts to counter this negative trend.
How Pakistan is seeing Afghan situation after US Presidential election?
Answer: Pakistan’s position on the situation in Afghanistan is clear and consistent. Pakistan has always supported a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan has consistently underlined that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan has facilitated the process that culminated in the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020, and also supported the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations and the agreements on rules and procedure between Afghan parties. Pakistan stresses upon the importance of an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. All parties must honour their respective commitments and work for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire. The Afghan leaders must seize this historic opportunity to achieve durable and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
Dr Abdullah Abdullah told in an interview that he was assured by Pakistani leadership that they would play their role in convincing the Taliban to truce or reduce the level of violence. Would you please confirm?
Answer: Pakistan has always urged all stakeholders in Afghanistan to pursue an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Pakistan has been pursuing the policy to reach out to all stakeholders with a view to facilitate the Afghan peace process. The Intra-Afghan Negotiations have provided a historic opportunity for Afghan leadership to establish long-lasting peace, and it is now upto the Afghans to seize this unprecedented opportunity. We urge all sides to reduce violence leading to Ceasefire.
On strategic partnership between Pakistan and US where do you see it headed?
Answer: Pakistan attaches great importance to its partnership with the U.S. that has been a factor for peace and stability in the region. We look forward to working with the new administration to further strengthen our bilateral ties and continue our partnership to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We would welcome resumption of structured dialogue with the US.
How do you see things proceed at the FATF? Is it not our failure that we could not come out of FATF gray list?
Answer: FATF has assessed Pakistan to have completed 21 of the 27 Action Items under the current Action Plan. In the six partially addressed items, significant progress has been made by Pakistan, duly acknowledged by the wider FATF Membership. The statement coming out of the FATF Plenary is a testament to the progress made by Pakistan. Pakistan remains committed to complete all remaining action items by the next cycle.
Do you think that Chinese government is satisfied with Pakistan regarding implementation of CPEC?
Answer: There is a lot of disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda aimed at CPEC. However facts speak for themselves. Let me reiterate, as often underscored by our leadership, that CPEC is a transformational project and is positively contributing to Pakistan’s economy, national development, and regional growth. Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Xi Jinping, in their meetings, reached consensus on further promoting and expanding CPEC as a High-Quality Demonstration Project of BRI. We are in consultations with China on further expanding CPEC and making it a centerpiece for regional connectivity and prosperity. The 10th JCC on CPEC will be held soon that will give further impetus to the execution and expansion of CPEC projects. Let me share with you that during COVID-19, both Pakistan and China have made every effort to ensure that CPEC projects are completed on time. We believe that in post-COVID 19 world, CPEC and BRI would become hub for regional growth and trade. We welcome third countries to invest in CPEC’s SEZs.
There were media reports that Chinese President will visit Pakistan but later on it was postponed, when the next visit of Chinese President is scheduled.
Answer: Pakistan and China are “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partners” and enjoy excellent bilateral relations. High-level exchange of visits between the two countries is hallmark of this relationship. Both sides remains diplomatically engaged to ensure regular exchange of visits from both sides.
How do you see the recent revelations exposed by EU DisinfoLab in itslatest report?
Answer: Pakistan strongly condemns India’s reprehensible tactics against Pakistan that have, once again, been exposed by the EU DisinfoLab, in its latest Report. The Government of Pakistan views these mischievous activities of launching unsubstantiated propaganda as part of India’s unrelenting smear campaign against Pakistan and its preoccupation with maligning Pakistan. Publication of the recent report by EU DisinfoLabfurther substantiates Pakistan’s position in front of the International community India not only spread disinformation but also abused international institutions in its desire to malign Pakistan. Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the international community to India’s such nefarious designs and ill intentions to undermine democracies in the region through structures of fake news organizations and think tanks. Pakistan has already put forth irrefutable evidence, extensively documenting India’s active planning, promoting, aiding, abetting, financing and executing terrorist activities in Pakistan. For far too long, India has masqueraded itself as a ‘victim’ of terrorism. It is time that the world saw the reality of India as a state-sponsor of terrorism and a purveyor of anti-Pakistan propaganda globally.
By spreading such falsehoods, India can neither cast a shadow on the international stature of Pakistan nor can divert the attention of the international community from India’s horrendous human rights record. We urge the UN Human Rights machinery, particularly the Human Rights Council (HRC), to take a serious look as to how a prestigious platform such as the HRC could be misused in such a manner against a member state. The relevant authorities in Switzerland and Belgium must investigate the finances and transparency of the relevant NGOs registered within their jurisdiction. We also reiterate our call that the EU authorities take full cognizance of this massive disinformation campaign against Pakistan and initiate steps to hold accountable those who misused their procedures and abused the European institutions. For durable peace and stability in the region, India must eschew the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, stop its global smear campaign against Pakistan, and let the Kashmiri people exercise their right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.”