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ISLAMABAD, Feb 18 (APP): Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri Thursday said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was scheduled to visit Sri Lanka later this month at the invitation of his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Addressing the weekly press briefing, the spokesperson said the Sri Lankan prime minister had extended an invitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Sri Lanka which was accepted by the latter.

“The visit is likely to take place later this month,” he told media replying to a question.

He said the two sides were currently working on the elements of the programme of the prime minister’s visit, keeping in view the COVID-19 related health safety protocols.

He said the prime minister would be the first head of government to visit Sri Lanka after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed office last year, which is reflective of the importance both countries attached to this important relationship.

The spokesperson said Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoyed close cooperative relations, which were deep-rooted in history and the high-level exchanges from both sides were a hallmark of this friendly relationship.

Regarding AMAN-21 exercise, he said with the participation of 42 nations, including ships and aircraft from China, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, US, and UK, it was yet another manifestation of Pakistan’s global engagement and abiding commitment and contribution to the promotion of international peace and security.

“Contrary to the Indian propaganda, Pakistan enjoys friendly and cooperative relations with the comity of nations, he remarked. The event was also addressed by President Dr Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi underscoring the critical role of Blue Economy in promoting sustainable growth and development.

To a question, the spokesperson said Pakistan provides maximum facilitation to the Sikh Yatris from all over the world, including India, for visiting their religious sites in Pakistan.

The Sikh as well as the international community, including the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who while visiting Kartarpur described it as “Corridor of Hope”, have immensely appreciated this landmark initiative of Pakistan.

“We believe that India should also facilitate Sikh Yatris for visiting their religious sites in Pakistan,’ he stated.

He told media that while addressing the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Prime Minister Imran Khan emphasized the need for a common plan and strategy for global recovery, survival and prosperity.

To end poverty and hunger, the prime minster proposed a five-point agenda including to invest in sustainable agriculture infrastructure; ensure adequate and fair prices for agricultural and food products; apply new agricultural technologies to enhance food production; adopt digital technologies in agriculture; and re-think our patterns of food consumption and production.

About the foreign minister’s visit of Egypt, the spokesperson mentioned his discussions with Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry, Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and other dignitaries. During his the meeting with the President, the foreign minister expressed Pakistan’s desire to further strengthen and diversify bilateral ties between the two brotherly countries.

Apprising media of the visit of Head of Afghan Massoud Foundation, Ahmad Wali Massoud, along with a delegation, the spokesperson said the dignitary called on the prime minister and the speaker National Assembly and would also meet the foreign minister and other dignitaries.

Touching the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), he said as part of its propaganda, India has taken another group of New Delhi based diplomats on a ‘guided tour’ to IIOJK. The fact that the people of IIOJK greeted the envoys with spontaneous and voluntary strike has evidently expressed the true feelings of the Kashmiri people against the illegal Indian occupation.

It may be recalled that the choreographers of last such visit to IIOJK had come under sharp international criticism for presenting retired soldiers as apple growers to the visiting envoys.

“We believe that such guided tours are a smokescreen, aimed at diverting international attention from India’s egregious human rights violations in IIOJK and creating a false impression of ‘normalcy’,” he added.

He said the visit meant nothing in the absence of access to all the areas and free interaction with the Kashmiri people and the civil society in an atmosphere free of intimidation.

Equally, meeting the senior Hurriyat leadership including those incarcerated on trumped-up charges would have enabled an objective assessment of the ground realities, he added.

He said in its 2020 report on Muslim communities in non-OIC countries, the OIC General Secretariat has raised serious concerns on the treatment of Muslim population in India and IIOJK.

He said the findings of the report were another reminder of the need for the world community to hold India accountable for continuing failure to meet its human rights obligations.

As part of Pakistan’s regular diplomatic outreach to keep the international community fully apprised of the developments relating to IIOJK and the region, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood briefed the Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Islamabad.

About the Roshan Digital Account, he said over 87,000 accounts had been opened so far from 97 countries around the world. The overseas Pakistanis have also sent $500 million to Pakistan in just five months through their Roshan Digital Accounts.

The spokesperson told media that workshop on “Exchange of Good Practices in tackling COVID Pandemic and the Way Forward” is being organized for SAARC member countries plus Mauritius and Seychelles in a virtual format today.

In line with its policy of enhanced regional and international cooperation in dealing with the pandemic, Pakistan is also participating in the said workshop and sharing its good practices with the regional countries.

Regarding Afghan peace process, he said, Pakistan appreciated the progress made in the peace process during the last one year, particularly the developments, including signing of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement, start of the Intra-Afghan Negotiations and agreement on the rules and procedures.

He said the Intra-Afghan Negotiations have now advanced into an important phase where all the negotiating sides are required to show continued commitment and responsibility for moving forward towards reaching a comprehensive political settlement. It is important for Afghan to seize this historic opportunity.

Pakistan has also continued to reiterate its calls on all sides for taking measures for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire, which is linked to progress in the Intra-Afghan Negotiations.