• Tue. May 23rd, 2023

Pakistan rebuffs US report on internal affairs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday rejected what it called “ill-informed reporting exercises about the internal affairs of sovereign states as pointless, irresponsible, and counterproductive” in reference to allegations against Pakistan in the International Religious Freedom Report released by the US Department of State.

“I would like to reiterate that we categorically reject the baseless assertions made about Pakistan. We are proud of our religious diversity and pluralistic social fabric. Pakistan’s Constitution sets a robust framework for wide-ranging legal, policy, and affirmative measures to safeguard and advance the rights and freedoms of all Pakistanis, irrespective of their faith. These rights and constitutional guarantees are protected, upheld, and reinforced by an independent judiciary,” said the spokeswoman at the Foreign Office during the weekly presser.

Apart from other allegations, the US report talked about re-designating Pakistan as a country of particular concern, releasing blasphemy prisoners and other individuals imprisoned for their religion and beliefs, and repealing blasphemy and anti-Ahmedi laws.

“We strongly believe that each state itself has the primary responsibility to promote and protect the religious rights and freedoms of its citizens. With this understanding, Pakistan has always engaged constructively with the international community in promoting mutual understanding of the important question of religious freedom and minority rights. In our interactions, including with the United States, we have raised serious concerns about the steady surge in anti-Muslim hatred, racism, and Islamophobia. We hope to work with international partners to counter these pernicious forms of religious intolerance, discrimination, and Islamophobia,” she added. Pakistan, she pointed out, welcomed the important statement made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Affairs, Dr. Fernand de Varennes, on the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

“In this statement, the Special Rapporteur has warned against Indian plans to hold the G-20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar. He has rightly said that India is providing a “veneer of support to a façade of normalcy” at a time when massive human rights violations, illegal and arbitrary arrests, political persecution, restrictions, and even suppression of free media and human rights defenders continue to escalate,” she said.

Pakistan agrees with the Special Rapporteur that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir should be “decried and condemned, not pushed under the rug and ignored” with the holding of the G-20 meeting. Members of the G20 should pay due attention to these observations and sage advice. To queries regarding the future of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, the spokesperson said that Pakistan considers the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project an important project that symbolises the friendship between Pakistan and our neighbour, Iran.

“We remain committed to this project. Secondly, there are some issues regarding its completion, for which both countries are engaged in talks. We will continue to discuss with Iran all aspects of the completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Lastly, I would not preempt anything that would take place in the future because our consultations and conversations are ongoing, and it is premature for me to comment on anything that could happen several months from now,” she said. Responding to critical comments from abroad, including U.S. Congressmen writing a letter to US Secretary of State Zalmay Khalilzad’s comments and advice from the European Union on Pakistan’s internal turmoil, the spokesperson said Pakistan has the full ability to deal with all domestic challenges in accordance with our laws and Constitution.

Pakistan, she said, is a vibrant democracy and has mechanisms in place to deal with all issues that arise domestically. It thus has the ability and the will to deal with domestic matters under our laws and our Constitution. “First, Pakistan has several channels of communication with friendly governments, and through these channels of communication, all matters of mutual concern are discussed at length. Second, in all such public statements, I reiterate that Pakistan has the capacity to deal with its domestic matters and to resolve our domestic issues in accordance with our laws and constitution,” she reiterated. When questioned about visits abroad by the army chief and meetings by the prime minister and the president with foreign diplomats and whether the Foreign Office was taken into confidence, she responded in the affirmative.

“Yes, under the government rules, whenever government officials travel abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is consulted, and that includes the foreign visits of senior defence officials. The same is true when senior government officials and our leadership meet with foreign diplomats and leaders. In this context, the visit of the army chief to Doha was in pursuance of furthering Pakistan’s defence relations with Qatar, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fully supports defence engagements with Qatar,” she explained. Regarding leadership, when the president or prime minister meets with foreign diplomats, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is informed and consulted. “We have also been informed of recent meetings of our leadership with foreign ambassadors,” she said.

Commenting on IIOJK, the spokesperson recalled that for the last seven decades, Pakistan has been a consistent and passionate supporter of the Kashmir cause and the rights of the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, including their right to self-determination as envisioned under the UN Security Council resolutions and promised by the international community several decades ago. “We believe that the stunts and gimmicks by India in IIOJK cannot hide the reality that Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute, which remains on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. These activities cannot divert the attention of the international human rights community from the suppression of the people of IIOJK by the Indian occupation forces. Pakistan has been raising our concerns for the Kashmiris and their rights at every possible forum, and we will continue to do so,” she added.

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