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    FO confirms PM Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Turkey next week

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Asim Iftikhar addressing his weekly briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, on May 27, 2022. — Facebook/foreignofficepk

    ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Friday that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would be visiting Turkey next week — his first visit to Ankara after assuming the top office last month.

    FO spokesperson Asim Iftikhar, in response to a question during his weekly press briefing, said: “The prime minister would be visiting Turkey next week, and we would be sharing with you more details containing elements, specific elements and engagements envisaged during this visit.”

    Former prime minister Imran Khan went to Turkey on a two-day visit in January 2019, where he met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara and other senior government officials.

    PM Shehbaz has held two foreign trips this month to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), respectively, after assuming office on April 12, as he sought to strengthen bilateral ties with the oil-rich states.

    Following the prime minister’s visit, Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan told Reuters this week that the Kingdom was finalising the extension of the $3 billion deposit to Pakistan.

    Pakistan is in dire need of external finances, hurt by high inflation, reserves declining to as low as less than two months of imports, and a fast-weakening currency.

    Other foreign engagements

    On other foreign engagements, the spokesperson said Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visited Davos, Switzerland, to attend World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting from May 23-26, with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar accompanying him.

    He said on the sidelines of the event, the foreign minister — accompanied by Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman and Khar held bilateral meetings with — Queen Máxima of The Netherlands, Foreign Minister of Finland Pekka Haavisto, Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, and others.

    Prior to Davos, at the special invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Bilawal visited China — his first bilateral visit abroad since assuming office last month — on May 21-22, the Foreign Office spokesperson said.

    Condemnation of Yasin Malik’s conviction

    While beginning his press conference, the spokesperson strongly condemned and rejected the mala fide conviction and sentencing of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik in a grossly suspicious and contrived case registered under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) dating back to 2017.

    The spokesperson noted that the Indian Charge d’Affaires (Cd’A) in Islamabad was called to the Foreign Office on 25 May and conveyed Pakistan’s strong indignation over the highly reprehensible sentencing of Malik.

    Earlier in the week, in a strong statement, Foreign Minister Bilawal condemned the Indian court’s fallacious conviction of Yasin Malik and demanded his urgent and immediate release.

    The foreign minister has also written letters to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bache let and OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha, apprising them of the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK). In particular, the foreign minister expressed grave concern over the sham conviction of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik.

    “India must harbour no delusions. Pakistan will continue to raise its voice to express its concerns and highlight the gross excesses that India continues to commit with unchecked impunity against the Kashmiri people and their political leadership in IIOJK,” Iftikhar added.

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