Pakistan achieved historic milestones at the year 2021, SMQ
Islamabad : Foreign Minister Press Briefing for the Year End Review – 2021
May this be a year of continuing peace and progress for Pakistan, our region and, the world.
From the perspective of Pakistan’s foreign policy and promotion of our external relations, I am happy to be here today to reflect on 2021, which has has been a very significant year.
Pakistan has proactively and consistently advanced our diplomatic objectives on a range of diplomatic fronts, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
We have consolidated friendships and further strenghtened bilateral relations with major powers and key partners across all regions. Led by the Prime Minister, Pakistan has continued to be a leading voice at multilateral forums with strong advocacy on issues of sustainable and equitable development, climate change, debt relief, corruption & illicit financial flows, and Islamopobia. And we are pressing ahead on the clear pathway provided by the policy shift with increased focus on geo-economics, leveraging our geo-political significance.
We have successfully and effectively put forward our perspective and narrative on major foreign policy issues including Jammu and Kashmir dispute and the situation in Afghanistan.
2021 has also been an exciting year of reform and evolution for us at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the strategic reform planning under Vision FO in 2020, became a reality in 2021.
To this end, we launched a robust Economic Diplomacy agenda, Public Diplomacy Initiative, engaged in large scale digital reform and leveraged Science Diplomacy the details of which I am happy to share with you here today during the course of this press conference.
In 2021, I am confident to say Pakistan truly cemented our role as a regional pivot with concrete and tangible actions to cement a reputation for responsibility, reliability and friendship.
Before I get into the details of this, I want to share with you some key numbers and statistics for a macro look:
In 2021, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
7 days a week
Across Multiple Timezones
85 Bilateral Exchanges
With over 50 Countries
35 Senior Leadership visits to Pakistan
32 Senior Leadership Visits by Pakistan
18 Countries Visited
Over 50 High-level Multilateral Engagements
35 International Forums
5 Pakistan sponsored/cosponsored Resolutions were adopted by the UN
25 Public Diplomacy Engagements at the Foreign Minister Level
70 year Celebrations held with 6 Countries
20 Economic Diplomacy Engagements at the Foreign Minister Level
114 Missions Online
Across 3 Social Mediums
Now I would like to take you through some key elements through the year.
The developments in Afghanistan – in the run-up to and post 15 August turn of events – presented a major challenge to Pakistan as the immediate neighbour that has historically suffered the most from the consequences of instability in Afghanistan.
Post 15 August, Pakistan played a pivotal role in the safe evacuation of over 80 thousand individuals across 42 nationalities, consisting of diplomats, International NGO workers, the media and many, many others. Our officers worked day and night, to make this happen. This is what a responsible nation does. We played our part. Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged Rs5 Billion aid to Afghanistan, the first consignments of which have already started.
Pakistan has consistently advocated that there is no military solution to the situation in Afghanistan and no alternative other than a negotiated political settlement.
With a vital stake in a peaceful Afghanistan and sensing this window of opportunity for durable stability after 40 years of conflict, Pakistan geared its diplomacy in advocating and garnering regional and international consensus on the need for constructive and sustained engagement with the new interim authorities in Afghanistan with a view to help address the multiple challenges confronting the Afghan people, particularly the humanitarian crisis and the risk of economic collapse.
This included the establishment of the six country format of immediate neighbors of Afghanistan on Pakistan’s initiative, our participation in the Moscow format and other meetings, and the Troika Plus Meeting held in Islamabad including the interaction with the Afghan interim authorities.
17th Extraordinary Session of OIC CFM
The high point of these activities was the Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers hosted by Pakistan in Islamabad on 19 December to focus on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
Attended by over 70 delegations, including 30 at the Ministerial/Deputy Ministerial level, and representations from various regional and international organizations, and international partners, it provided a wider platform to address the humanitarian and economic challenges confronting the people of Afghanistan. The meet led to a substantive, action-oriented outcome that included:
- establishment of a Humanitarian Trust Fund under the Islamic Development Bank
- Launching of a Food Security Program
- Appointment of a Special Envoy of the OIC Secretary-General
Along with other important decisions, the Conference also addressed the issues of liquidity, enhanced access to banking channels, unfreezing of Afghan assets, and ensuring that sanctions are not an impediment to humanitarian assistance.
In the wake of the OIC Conference, the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2615 reaffirmed that the provision of humanitarian and other assistance to Afghanistan was not a violation of UN sanctions. It is a positive and important development.
In line with the Government’s policy to focus on geo-economics, economic diplomacy has assumed high priority in the conduct of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Throughout the year, under my Vision FO, I have personally remained engaged with our missions abroad to review their activities regarding export and investment promotion, increasing investor confidence, enhancing remittance inflows, tourism promotion, and broadening of trade ties with host countries.
This effort to promote and expand our trade and investment portfolio across the world together with steps taken at various levels at home have led to concrete achievements over this year including:
-improvement by 39 points in Pakistans ranking in Ease of Doing Business
-7% increase in trade with Africa
-improvement by 59 points in Pakistan’s Business Confidence Ranking
-USD 2.9 billion deposited in 299000 accounts across 175 countries in Roshan Digital Accounts
-USD 2 billion invested in Naya Pakistan certificates
-24.1% increase on home remittances to a record high of USD 18.7 billion (during 8 months of FY 2020-21)
-an increase of over USD 2 billion in the export of information technology and information technology-enabled sectors.
These figures speak for themselves and showcase Pakistan’s immense potential as an economic powerhouse.
In 2021 I was also pleased to come together with Foreign Minister, Minister of Trade for Hungary Péter Szijjártó to virtually inaugurate the Hungary-Pakistan Trade & Economic Window. This was followed by Foreign Minister, Minister of Trade for Hungary Péter Szijjártó’s maiden visit to Pakistan with a high level business delegation with a specific focus on Economic Diplomacy, for which a business networking event was curated at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under my Public Diplomacy Initiative.
We will continue to build upon these initiatives to consolidate economic gains in the years ahead.
This year, Digital Diplomacy was a core focus under my Vision FO, and in line with Prime Minister’s vision of a Digital Pakistan.
As founding member, we welcomed Secretary General of the Digital Cooperation Organisation Deema Al Yahya to Pakistan this year, with plans for greater digital expansion and trade.
Under the digital reform agenda, we launched the Foreign Minister’s Portal that provides the diaspora direct access to all 114 Pakistan Missions abroad based in 87 countries with a view to efficient handling and addressing of their issues.
All 114 Missions have been brought online on social media platforms like twitter, Facebook and Instagram enabling greater transparency and access.
Our Missions have also proactively promoted the Roshan Digital Accounts providing digital banking solutions to millions of Non-Resident Pakistanis.
Prime Minister Imran Khan launched ‘Automation of Power of Attorney’, corresponding to a long-held demand of overseas Pakistanis. Initially launched as a pilot project in ten Missions in the United States and the United Kingdom, this facility will be extended to all Pak Missions abroad.
I am satisfied to note that the Ministry has embraced Vision FO fully. Over 1000 Virtual meetings have been held by Missions and Ministry combined over the past year.
In 2021, Pakistan’s Diplomatic outreach achieved momentous growth as a result of our various public diplomacy initiatives.
This year we celebrated 70 historic years of friendship with Argentina, China, Germany, Spain and Thailand, hosting high impact Public Diplomacy events to add a new and renewed people to people dimension to our ties. In 2022, we will be celebrating key milestones in our friendships with many others including UAE, US, UK and the EU.
A key component of Public Diplomacy is Cultural Diplomacy. Our collaboration with Pakistan’s most compelling cultural export “coke studio” in 2021 made waves and was a real first for the Government having crafted and executed a public-private partnership on this scale.
I was also pleased to have hosted 50 diplomats from Islamabad representing 35 countries to Lahore for a weekend of sport, culture and academic diplomacy.
Pakistan celebrated key global days throughout the year including World Environment Day where we hosted a bike rally led by myself. We were also happy to find ourselves in a relatively better COVID19 environment that enabled us to host the annual PFWOA charity bazaar.
In 2021 I was also happy to have the second iteration of the FM Honour’s List, where we recognized 25 bright Leaders under 40 from the overseas Pakistani community, for their exceptional achievements in the fields of innovation, sustainability, science, technology, academia, politics and social work.
I would now like to speak about our
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We had 85 bilateral exchanges with over 50 countries over the year, making it a year of impactful diplomacy strengthening our foreign relations.
Benefiting from technology, I also held virtual meetings and telephonic conversations with counterparts from more than 50 countries.
High Level Visits
High-level visits have been instrumental in providing momentum to our diplomatic efforts. Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi and I visited 18 countries.
The Prime Minister visited Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Saudi Arabia twice.
GCC + ME Countries
President Alvi visited UAE in October to inaugurate the Pakistan Pavilion at Expo-2020. Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia twice – in May and October.
I undertook a number of bilateral visits to the Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar and Iraq.
Incoming bilateral visits included Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed 7 MoUs/Agreements including the MoU to operationalize Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC). Pakistan’s exports to and remittances from KSA and UAE grew, and a record number of manpower was exported to Qatar in 2021. Kuwait eased visa restrictions for Pakistani nationals, and under the bilateral agreement on recruitment of healthcare professionals, around 1800 personnel from Pakistan have already reached Kuwait. Pakistan and Bahrain convened the 2nd Session of the Joint Ministerial Commission in July. The first-ever single country Defence Exhibition was organized by Pakistan in Iraq in April.
This robust diplomatic outreach throughout the year showcased the strength of Pakistan’s time-tested and fraternal relations with its Gulf and Middle Eastern partners.
Pak-Iran relations were marked by regular interactions at the leadership level rooted in common faith and shared values.
President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan met President Raisi on the sidelines of the ECO Summit in Ashgabat and the SCO Summit in Dushanbe respectively. I had the pleasure of visiting Iran thrice over the course of this year. Bilateral Political Consultations at the Foreign Secretary level were also held in Islamabad.
Historical and cordial ties with Turkey saw continuing upward trajectory with the exchange of high-level visits and frequent telephonic consultations. President Arif Alvi visited Turkey in August 2021. I traveled to Turkey twice and the visits were reciprocated by the Turkish Foreign Minister.
Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) Cargo Train was launched on 21st December.
Pakistan hosted the 2nd Trilateral Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan, which also adopted the “Islamabad Declaration”.
Central Asian Republics
In line with our ‘Vision Central Asia’, Pakistan pursued active diplomatic outreach to the Central Asian Republics (CARs). During the year, the President of Tajikistan visited Pakistan, President Alvi visited Turkmenistan for the 15th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit and Prime Minister Imran Khan undertook visits of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Prime Minister also virtually participated in the 14th ECO Summit and led the Pakistan delegation to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit. Virtual Summit between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev was also held during the year.
Engagement with East Asian partners continued under Vision East Asia policy, with a round table between the Foreign Secretary and the resident ASEAN Ambassadors.
Pakistan also held various political dialogues with Korea, Japan, Thailand and Australia and New Zealand.
Sustained interaction continued with the European partners. I visited Germany, the UK and Belgium. I also co-chaired the 6th Round of Pakistan-EU Strategic Dialogue in Brussels which adopted a comprehensive Joint Communiqué.
There were incoming Foreign Ministerial visits from Hungary, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Denmark.
Bilateral Political Consultations/Dialogue were held with Norway, EU, Switzerland, Italy, besides the inauguration of Hungary-Pakistan Trade and Economic Window (HPTEW) and the first Hungary-Pakistan Business Forum during the year as i mentioned earlier.
With the Russian Federation, there was growing warmth and strengthening of relations. Besides telephonic conversations between the leaders, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Pakistan in April. We also met in Dushanbe in September.
Bilateral trade increased by 20 percent during the first ten months. We also maintained close engagement on Afghanistan.
Pakistan remains committed to the longstanding relationship with the United States and looks forward to expanding it as a broad-based mutually beneficial partnership. To this end, I held bilateral talks with Secretary Blinken in New York. Energy and Climate Change Dialogues were initiated in September. We also saw the resumption of U.S. Congressional visits to Pakistan, as well as the visit of a bipartisan Senate delegation in December.
Pakistan’s exports to the United States rose by 39 percent to cross the $5 billion mark for the first time. As a result of the Government’s efforts, Pakistan was included in Amazon’s Seller’s List. The United States supported Pakistan’s Covid-19 response through the provision of 27.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. We also maintained close engagement on Afghanistan.
In pursuance of the Prime Minister’s directive and the ‘Engage Africa Policy’, there were a series of substantive and unprecedented initiatives during the year. Of the five new Missions to be established, Kigali became operational in March. Pakistan hosted virtual celebrations of Africa Day with 27 African nations, and celebrated ‘Pak-Africa Friendship Day’ in 15 African Capitals. Food assistance, flood relief and scholarships were provided to partners. We signed 12 MoUs on BPC with Various African countries and 1 MoU on Visa Abolition with Senegal.
Pak-Niger Business Forum was organized in Niamey in September while the 2nd Pak Africa Trade Development Conference was held in Lagos in November, both with strong participation of business communities.
2021 marked an important milestone in Pak-China friendship, as the two countries celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in a befitting manner with over 140 events and activities held across Pakistan and China. These included the launch of Joint Logo by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and myself on 2nd March, participation by leadership in special receptions on 21 May, and establishment of 20 sister city/province relationships.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also sent a message of felicitation to President Xi Jinping on the occasion of Centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
These events reinvigorated the sentiments of bilateral ties, reaffirmed our determination to strengthen all-weather strategic cooperative partnership, continue our joint efforts for the high quality development of CPEC and further elevate Pakistan China friendship to a new pedestal of bilateral cooperation, as envisaged by the leadership and peoples of the two countries.
Pakistan continued to receive medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines from China to strengthen its pandemic response. Pakistan and China also maintained close coordination on the situation in Afghanistan.
Besides leadership level interactions, various meetings, consultations and forums were organized by both sides. Pakistan’s exports to China during the first ten months of 2021 were recorded at US $ 2.85 billion (growth of 77% year-on-year). China remained the largest source of Net FDI to Pakistan.
Despite Covid-19, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) entered the new phase of high-quality development. The 10th meeting of CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) was held virtually on 23 September 2021.
Within our region, under SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Fund, Pakistan extended anti-pandemic medical equipment and other assistance to SAARC Member States including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Maldives. SAARC Secretary-General visited Pakistan last week. Pakistan reaffirmed its willingness to host the 19th SAARC Summit.
Pakistan deeply values its ties with Bangladesh and looks forward to fortifying the existing bonds, building new ones and working together for a better future for our peoples and the two countries.
During the year, Prime Minister Imran Khan extended an invitation to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit Pakistan, who while accepting the invitation has also invited Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Bangladesh.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka in February provided fresh impetus to existing bilateral relations, with renewed leadership level interactions. Organization of Trade and Investment Conference, a Sports Diplomacy event, signing of various MOUs on trade and investment, science and technology, tourism, and cultural exchanges, extension of US$ 50 million Defence Credit Line facility, PKR 52 million sports assistance, establishment of Asian Civilization and Culture Centre, and 100 MBBS/BDS scholarships for Sri Lankan students were also announced during the visit.
Unfortunately, the prospects of durable peace and stability in our region, and the great potential for economic development and regional cooperation have been held hostage by the hegemonic and hostile behavior of India, whose BJP-RSS Hindutva inspired leadership has adopted a particularly irresponsible and politically motivated anti-Pakistan posture, and a patently anti-Muslim approach at home.
India’s unilateral and illegal actions in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) since 5 August 2019 aimed at undermining the status of the disputed territory, perpetuating its illegal occupation, and altering its demographic structure, and the unabated widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and state-terrorism perpetrated against the innocent Kashmiris have further vitiated the environment and threatened international peace and security.
Pakistan desires friendly relations with all its neighbors including India. But as the Prime Minister has said, the onus is on India to take necessary steps to create an environment conducive for dialogue. Resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute is a prerequisite for durable peace and stability in South Asia.
Regrettably, amidst the worsening situation in IIOJK, the persecution of Kashmiri people and leaders has continued unabated. Almost the entire Kashmiri leadership is either detained or under house arrest on trumped-up charges. The world was witness to the highly reprehensible and callous manner in which the Indian occupation acted following the death of iconic Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Geelani in Indian custody.
In one of the biggest ever crackdowns in the IIOJK, 1400 Kashmiris were arrested arbitrarily in October, 2021. Since 5 August 2019, more than 502 Kashmiris have been martyred by Indian occupation forces in fake encounters and extra-judicial operations. Out of these around 78 persons have been martyred in Indian custody.
Pakistan has remained active at all forums to firmly oppose the unilateral and illegal Indian actions in IIOJK since August 2019.
Pakistan’s full spectrum efforts are backed by national consensus. Pakistan has highlighted the legal, human rights and peace and security dimensions of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and supported the just struggle of the Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination at all fora including the UN.
India’s actions are in clear violation of the UN Charter, UNSC resolutions, international law, including human rights and international humanitarian law particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Jammu and Kashmir remains an internationally recognized dispute and one of the longest outstanding items on the UN Security Council’s agenda. Numerous UNSC resolutions have established that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite held under the UN auspices.
This was also reaffirmed by UNGA President Volkan Bozkir during his visit to Pakistan in 2021. Like the UN Secretary-General, he reiterated that the United Nations’ position on Jammu and Kashmir is governed by the United Nations Charter, and applicable Security Council Resolutions.
The UNSC has deliberated the Jammu and Kashmir issue three times since 5 August 2019. The UN Secretary-General has called on all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
To better inform the international community about the scale of Indian atrocities in IIOJK, Pakistan unveiled a comprehensive dossier on 12 September 2021 comprising irrefutable evidence of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity by Indian occupation forces in IIOJK.
The Prime Minister and I have sent around 25 direct communications since 1 August 2019 to P-5 leadership, UNSC President, UNSG, OHCHR and the EU. This includes 8 communications sent this year.
During 2021, UN Special Rapporteurs sent five Joint Communications on the human rights violations in IIOJK. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has remained engaged with the human rights situation in Kashmir. They have also called for release of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez.
The OIC has maintained its strong and consistent support on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
A delegation of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the OIC visited Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir in August 2021. OIC’s Special Envoy for Jammu and Kashmir and OIC’s Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs visited Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir from 8-12 November, 2021. The visits reinforced the centrality of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute for lasting peace in South Asia.
Earlier, the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir met at the Ministerial level on the sidelines of the 76th UNGA Session and issued a strongly worded Joint Communiqué reaffirming OIC’s support for the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people for the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination.
The international community must hold India accountable for its barbarity in Kashmir and ensure a just resolution to the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Meanwhile, Pakistan will continue to extend all possible moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their just struggle for self-determination.
Minorities in India
In addition to the brazen violations of human rights in IIOJK, the disturbing trend of persecution of minorities especially Muslims, vandalism of their places of worship under the BJP-RSS combined government in India has intensified over the course of the year. While Islamophobia has touched new heights, the Christian community is also under unprecedented attack by the supporters of Hindu Rashtra.
The brutal eviction drive against Muslims of Assam, vandalization of mosques, shops, and houses belonging to Muslims in Tripura and the most recent violent calls for Muslim genocide by Hindutva proponents in Haridwar, Uttarkhand expose the macabre reality of today’s India.
Religious Tolerance in Pakistan
Pakistan on the other hand accords the highest primacy to the rights of minorities and their places of worship. Pakistan celebrated the second anniversary of the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor on 9 November 2021 which was described as the ‘Corridor of Peace’ by the UN Secretary General.
Pakistan hosted devotees from India and all across the world for the 552nd birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak from 17-26 November. These included pilgrims from across the Kartarpur Corridor after the last minute decision of Government of India to open the Corridor following a 20-month long closure from its side. The corridor has been opened from Pakistan side since 29 June 2020 after a temporary closure on 16 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the year, Pakistan effectively utilized its strong profile and leading role in multilateral fora to safeguard and promote the country’s vital interests and objectives.
Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the 76th UNGA Session on 25 September during which he deliberated on the situation in Afghanistan, Jammu and Kashmir, and the challenges of Islamophobia, COVID-19 and the accompanying economic crisis and Climate Change.
I participated in the 76th UNGA from 21-25 September in New York and held numerous bilateral meetings on the sidelines.
Pakistan continued to serve on several key bodies of the UN system and also assumed leadership positions at various fora.
From January 2022, Pakistan will assume chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China – the largest grouping of developing countries in the UN. Earlier Pakistan served as the President of ECOSOC for the term 2020-2021.
During the year, Pakistan got elected to 7 UN bodies.
Pakistan received high-level visits from the UN, including the UNGA President, High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Executive Director of World Food Programme (WFP), Director General of International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Under Secretary General of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator. The Secretary General of the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) also visited Pakistan.
I was proud to join hands with Turkey, Sudan, and Palestine to convene an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly on Palestine in May.
Important resolutions sponsored by Pakistan were adopted by the UNGA. These included :
- Resolution on Universal Realization of the Right of Peoples to Self-determination
- New resolution on Countering Disinformation for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
- Promotion of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue co-sponsored by Pakistan and the Philippines
OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in its 47th Session had unanimously adopted a resolution put forward by Pakistan to designate 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. A high-level event was organized in New York to commemorate the Day with the participation of myself, the UN Secretary-General and other dignitaries.
I thank you and I am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.