ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday said it was ready to play its part in promoting a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine to bring the ongoing conflict between the two countries to an end.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch during a weekly press briefing noted that dialogue was necessary for the conflict to end.

“Both Russia and Ukraine are our friends. We have a close relationship with the Russian Federation,” she said and referred to flurry of visits exchanged between Pakistan and the Russian Federation in recent months.…we hope that this conflict will end soon on the basis of constructive dialogue and communication.

Referring to a recent visit to Iran by Chief of the Army Staff General Asim Munir, she brushed aside the impression that someone else was in the driving seat on foreign policy decision making and the role of civilians had been restricted to issuance of symbolic statements.

Spokesperson says Islamabad will continue to raise issues of concern with Afghan authorities

“I think this is a misunderstanding of how foreign policy is conducted and how we develop relations with any country,” she remarked.

She explained that Iran was a very close neighbour and friend of Pakistan, and the relations between the two countries were multifaceted.

She said these were in the economic domain, political domain, connectivity, science and technology, education, culture, and defence and security as well.

“Relevant departments in Pakistan have developed strong links with their counterparts in Iran.

“The visit of the Chief of Army Staff was in the context of his meetings with the military leadership of Iran at the invitation of Iranian defence officials to discuss defence cooperation,” she said.

She pointed out that in Tehran, he met the Chief of General Staff and military commanders, and discussed bilateral issues of concern in security and defence. She also reminded that very recently, foreign secretary Dr Asad Majeed Khan was in Iran and there he held extensive talks with Iranian authorities including his counterpart.

She said Pakistan had and will continue to raise issues of concern with the Afghan authorities. She expressed the hope that Afghanistan would adhere to the commitments that it has made with Pakistan and the international community and ensure that its soil is not used for terrorism against Pakistan.

Asked to comment on the recent remarks of Indian Minister for External Affairs about Azad Kashmir, she said it was a fanciful imagination of India to consider that Azad Jammu and Kashmir is or will ever be a part of India. It has never been in history and will never ever be a part of India. They can keep on dreaming.

She also talked 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.

She urged 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,” she said.

Greek boat tragedy victims

Giving an update on the Greek boat tragedy, Ms Baloch said two flights carrying mortal remains of four Pakistanis who died in the disaster have arrived in Lahore and Islamabad.

The mortal remains have been handed over to families in Gujarat and Gujranwala districts. Our Mission in Greece has made plans for transportation of the remaining bodies within the next few days. We also remain in contact with the Greek authorities for identification of the victims, she said.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2023

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