The year 2024 marks a significant juncture in Pakistan’s relationship with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

The year 2024 marks a significant juncture in Pakistan’s relationship with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as Islamabad is set to host the forum’s Heads of Governments meeting in October this year, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said on Thursday.

In the weekly press briefing, the FO spokesperson said that Pakistan has assumed the rotational Chairmanship of the SCO Council of Heads of Government (CHG), the organisation’s second most critical decision-making body.

She said that before the October summit, there would be a ministerial meeting and multiple rounds of senior officials meetings to concentrate on fostering cooperation in finance, economics, socio-cultural affairs and humanitarian efforts among SCO member countries.

She told the media that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and senior cabinet members are currently visiting Kazakhstan for the SCO Council of Heads of State and SCO Plus Summits. Earlier, they also went to Tajikistan for a bilateral visit.

During the SCO Summit in Astana, the prime minister also participated in the inaugural Pakistan-Azerbaijan-Turkey Trilateral Summit.

In Dushanbe, the focus of his meetings was enhancing comprehensive cooperation between Pakistan and Tajikistan on regional and global issues of mutual interest.

During the visit, Pakistan and Tajikistan signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which includes scheduled high-level dialogues involving leaders and Foreign Ministers.

Govt offers education to Palestinian students

Zahra revealed that the government has allowed medical students from Gaza to complete their medical education in Pakistan.

The decision was made on the directions of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar by the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) to enable Gaza students to continue their medical education in Pakistan on humanitarian grounds.

She said the Palestinian students from Gaza in batches of 20-30 will soon join medical colleges in Pakistan. The decision will enable Gaza students to complete their medical education in Pakistan in the fields of cardiology, orthopaedics, oncology, paediatrics and surgery to address the critical needs in Gaza’s health care system.

‘International Religious Freedom report biased’

Commenting on a recent International Religious Freedom report, she expressed that unilateral reports assessing other countries’ human rights situations were not free from political bias and presented an incomplete and distorted picture.

The methodology adopted in preparing these reports and the mandate and expertise of its authors are not transparent, she added.

“It is unfortunate that the report refers to certain incidents in Pakistan last year without highlighting the strong political will shown by the government to hold the perpetrators accountable as well as the remedial efforts undertaken and the legal and administrative protections in place for religious minorities.”

It cannot be viewed from the lens of any single country’s social and legal perspective, she said.

‘Kashmiris’ arrests clear act of political vendetta’

She told the media that the Indian authorities’ campaign to crush dissent in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) remained relentless. She told a prominent Kashmiri lawyer and former President of the High Court Bar Association, Mian Abdul Qayoom has recently been arrested on fabricated charges. He suffers from multiple chronic ailments and old age.

“His arrest is a clear act of political vendetta. We urge the Indian authorities to release Mian Abdul Qayoom and thousands of other Kashmiri political prisoners, dissenters and human rights defenders.”

The spokesperson said Pakistan will continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to our Kashmiri people for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.

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