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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday welcomed the decision taken by the UN chief to invoke Article 99 of the UN Charter to bring to the attention of the UN Security Council the dire security situation and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza due to Israeli occupation forces continued massacre of the Palestinian people.

Speaking at her weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said the decision taken by UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres to invoke Article 99 demonstrates his conscionable assessment of the catastrophic situation in Gaza.

“Pakistan strongly and unequivocally condemns the continued use of force by Israel and its indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian facilities and infrastructure in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” she said, adding the suffering and collective punishment endured by the besieged people of Gaza is unprecedented and unacceptable.

UN chief invokes rare Article 99 of UN’s charter

As the Secretary-General has underscored in his letter to the President of the UN Security Council, “civilians throughout Gaza face grave danger” and “nowhere is safe in Gaza”, she said there was a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian lifeline essential for survival.

“The situation is fast deteriorating with potentially irreversible implications for Palestine and for peace and security in the region. Such an outcome must be avoided at all costs. We join the Secretary-General in his call to the international community to end the ongoing situation and avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” he added.

She further stated that the UN Security Council must perform its primary responsibility under the Charter, impose an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and protect the people of Gaza from an impending genocide.

“We call on Israel’s backers to urge Israel to end its barbaric attacks and inhumane siege against Gaza,” she said and also proposed holding an international conference for long-term peace on the Palestinian question.

She stated that durable peace in the region would emerge from the internationally agreed two-state solution and from the creation of a secure, viable, contiguous, and sovereign state of Palestine on the basis of the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Talking about a series of visits by senior US officials to Pakistan during the week, she said that these visits are part of ongoing dialogue with the US on a range of issues including, “but not limited to, the situation in Afghanistan.”

These visits include Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Julieta Valls Noyes; Special Representative on Afghanistan, Tom West; and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Elizabeth Horst.

“Pakistan remains committed to sustained engagement and dialogue with the United States,” she added.

“There is nothing out of the ordinary that these officials are visiting Pakistan. We are ready to discuss with them all aspects and issues that they bring to the table,” she added.

Asked about the total number of Afghans destined to be resettled in the US, she said Pakistan had received an updated list from the US side and “we are in contact with the American Embassy in developing the mechanics for the early repatriation of individuals on those lists to the United States.”

She said it was important that the process of verification and issuance of visas should be expedited. “We hope that this process will be completed at the earliest,” she added.

She further stated that there were three incoming visits from the United States and the meetings which took place on Thursday and had taken place in recent days were related to Afghanistan and Afghanistan-related matters.

“There are some other bilateral aspects which may come up under discussion in the coming days,” she added.

Asked if there is sharing of evidence regarding TTP hideouts in Afghanistan during the meetings with the US officials, she refused to give further details about the “sensitive nature” of some of these conversations. “But as you know intelligence-related information is normally shared through intelligence channels,” she replied.

To another query, she said: “In the meetings between Pakistani and US officials, the meetings, we fully expect the US authorities to raise any concerns they may have on any issues. Similarly, we will also share our observations on matters that need their consideration.”

When her comments were sought on former prime minister Imran Khan’s statement before a court in the cypher case, urging the judge to summon former army chief General Bajwa and US officials in the court as witnesses, the spokesperson said that it is the practice of Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to pronounce publicly on cases which are sub-judice.

“We will respond to the court after consultation with and guidance from our legal team as per practice, and as per the guidelines given by the esteemed court,” she added.

On the Indian parliament’s recent decision to pass legislation pertaining to the future of IIOJK, she said that it is yet another farce to perpetuate India’s occupation and to deny the people of Jammu and Kashmir their right to self-determination.

She said that Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognised disputed territory, whose final disposition is to be made in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and as per the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

“Any other process cannot serve as a substitute to the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people,” she said, adding that Pakistan has never recognised India’s occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and it has reportedly rejected the relevance of the Indian Constitution to this disputed territory. “We, therefore, categorically reject any measures that perpetuate India’s occupation,” she stated in categorical terms.

She also rejected the statement by Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah who had stated in the parliament that “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is ours and 24 seats have been reserved for POK in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly”.

“The reality is that history cannot be undone. No rhetoric can falsify the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory under international law, whose final disposition is to be made in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and as per the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” she said.

She further stated that the irresponsible statements by leadership in India cannot conceal India’s own responsibilities and commitments to the Kashmiri people, Pakistan, and the United Nations of holding a free and fair plebiscite enabling the people of Jammu and Kashmir to determine their own future.

To another question about media reports that Taliban regime’s interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani even travelled on Pakistani passport to Doha for negotiations with the American officials before his Pakistani passport was canceled recently by Pakistan, the spokesperson expressed her inability to confirm.

“I do not have the facts to respond to the question. Maybe I will be able to comment on some other occasion when I have more information,” she said in response to the query.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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