ISLAMABAD: The first Foreign Office briefing for the year took place on Thursday. Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal started the briefing by voicing Pakistan's regret at the last minute postponement and non-issuance of visas by India for the visit of the 192 Pakistani Zaireen to participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia (RA) in Delhi from 1-8 January 2018.
"This is indeed unfortunate and runs counter to the letter and spirit of the 1974 Protocol and objective of people-to-people contacts. Besides being a violation of the bilateral Protocol, and the basic human right to religious freedoms, such measures also undermine the efforts aimed at improving the environment, increasing people-to-people contacts and normalising relations between the two countries," stated the spokesperson.
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The spokesperson also remarked that it was unfortunate that India did not allow their blind cricket team to visit Pakistan.
Dr Faisal also touched upon the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK).
"Indian occupation forces during violent, armed and illegal operations and fake encounters killed three Kashmiri youth including a 17-year-old boy, Fardeen Ahmad Khanday, and 19-year-old, Manzoor Ahmad Baba, in Pulwama district", he said.
"Two other defenceless innocent Kashmiris were injured after Indian forces used brute force and fired bullets and pellets on protesters in Shopian, Pulwama and Bandipore districts," he added further.
The spokesperson also condemned the over one thousand Hurriyat leaders and activists including Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Massrat Alam Bhat, Nayeem Ahmad Khan and students languishing in different jails in IoK.
Calling upon the world human rights defenders to stand up for Kashmiris in IoK, the spokesperson added that Indian occupation forces in Bandipore, Kupwara, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts continue to terrorise Kashmiris by illegal house searches day and night.
The spokesperson also stated that the government has handed over a list of 457 Indian prisoners in Pakistan, to the High Commission of India in Islamabad on January 1, 2018. Pakistan will also release 146 fishermen on January 8.
Also, in accordance with Article-II of the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between Pakistan and India signed on December 31, 1988, the list of nuclear installations and facilities in Pakistan was officially handed over to a representative of the Indian High Commission at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 1.
Regarding international events, the spokesperson reiterated the government's steadfast support for the Palestinian cause. He also stated that the people and government condemn the heinous terrorist attack on a Coptic Church in Helwan in the South of Cairo on December 29.
"We would like to convey our deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims. Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and expresses its support and solidarity with the brotherly people and Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt," he added.
Regarding Afghanistan, the spokesperson stated that the government of Pakistan has committed US $1 billion as development assistance to Afghanistan and undertaken multiple projects in the fields of education, health, and infrastructure, provision of scholarships, training and capacity building of Afghan professionals. "In addition to hosting millions of our Afghan brethren for almost four decades, Pakistan is committed to constructively contributing in the institution building and development of Afghanistan," he said.
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Dr Faisal said Pakistan also strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in the Afghan city of Jalalabad and the northern province of Balkh. "We are grieving the loss of precious lives and express our heartfelt condolences with the bereaved families and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded", he added.
"We express solidarity with the government and people of Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism. We believe concerted efforts by states, and close cooperation among them, are needed for eliminating the common challenge of terrorism," he stated further.
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