RAWALPINDI: Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor held a news conference on Thursday, warning the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) not to cross the line.
The military spokesman said the army was using confidence-building measures with the PTM and not handling them with heavy-handedness. “They [PTM] are hurt and have suffered in the war. We still want to deal with them politely but they are headed in the direction where the same will happen to them which happens when the state establishes its writ.”
During his news conference, Major General Ghafoor outlined the three demands of the PTM and the steps which had been taken to address them. The first demand of the PTM was over check posts, with the military spokesman informing reporters that Pakistan Army had decreased its check posts in KP-Fata to 331. “When we believe there is no need for even one check post we will remove them.”
The second demand of the PTM was to clear landmines, the process of which DG ISPR said was underway. “Our troops have also suffered casualties due to these mines and unexploded bombs. One day we will clear the area of mines,” he added.
The DG ISPR spoke on the third demand of the PTM which war over missing persons. He said there were 7,000 mission persons cases from 2010-11. “From these 7,000 cases over 4,000 have been settled. 3,000 plus cases are under process with 2,000 cases with the commission.”
According to Major General Ghafoor, it could not be proven that those missing were not part of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or any other faction. “We want this process to move further and for it to be resolved.
He stressed that the PTM was headed in a direction where they might cross the line and the state would have to use force against them.
‘Pakistan standing at a watershed’
Speaking on the country’s future, DG ISPR said Pakistan was standing at a watershed where the country could either head in the right direction or not. He said lessons should be learnt from the past, adding that the country had internal and external fault lines. “Our internal fault lines were exploited by our enemies.”
He also called on the media to play a positive role in projecting Pakistan’s image. “Media is the fourth pillar of the state and you [journalists] are the opinion makers. If just for six months you create positive public awareness about Pakistan both locally and internationally, see where the country reaches.”
Major General Ghafoor called on everyone to play their role for a more prosperous Pakistan.
In his statements on Pakistan’s security situation, DG ISPR said Pakistan’s war on terror had been mostly fought in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Showing a graph of terrorist incidents in the country, DG ISPR explained, “The average of terrorist incidents has fallen since 2013. The number of civilian casualties has also decreased.”
On Balochistan, Major General Ghafoor said this province made 43 per cent of the country with only 6 per cent of the population. “We have changed our deployment according to the geography of the province. This readjustment is focused on the socio-economic projects in the province.”
He said terrorist incidents in the province had fallen and that 18 had taken place in 2018. “In the last three years, over 2,000 Ferraris surrendered in the province which was a good step.”
The military spokesman said the law and order situation in Karachi had improved in the last few years. “In 2018, barring the last two incidents, the security situation improved drastically and the credit for that goes to the law enforcement agencies.”
Terming Karachi as the country’s economic engine, the DG ISPR said the situation in the city would further improve.
The military spokesman said 44 major operations had taken place under Radd-ul-Fasaad in the country. “Our aim for de-weaponisation is not where it needs to be. We will work with the government on this.”
Stating that no war can end with just operations, Major General Ghafoor stressed the need for social-economic development. “Enduring peace in FATA will come through socio-economic development.”
The number of polio cases in the country has also decreased, and the day would come when Pakistan would be polio-free, DG ISPR said.
He also spoke on the threat on the western border, stating that if there could be surety from Afghanistan, Pakistan could bring its troops back. “We cannot do this because of the threat…The fencing will be complete by next year and this will lead to a decrease in cross-border attacks.”
Commenting on the accountability process of the Pakistan Army, DG ISPR said, “We are a disciplined force. There is a chain of command and rules and regulations. There is a branch which is tasked with discipline and accountability.”
He added despite the measures in place if rules were violated punishment was given. “In 2017-18 almost 400 Pakistan officers have been given punishments which range from a warning to dismissals and even jail.”
The military spokesman also said officers faced stricter punishments than soldiers.
Relations with India
The DG ISPR told reporters ceasefire violations at the Line of Control (LoC) had risen.
“In 2017 there were 1,881 ceasefire violations and this year till now there have been 2,593 violations. In 2018 there were 55 civilians martyred and 300 injured which is the most in history.”
He added that the civilians’ casualties showed India was deliberately targeting civilians. “We cannot target civilians like this. Ceasefire violations is a concern and we hope Indian understands they impact this was on relations.”
Further, Major General Ghafoor said the Pakistani government had taken several initiatives with India so relations could improve. He said the Indian government does not agree to diagloue.
He added that the government had tkaen the initiaive in Kartarpur and made a corridor for the Sikh community so they could fulfil their obligations.
“The government took the initiative to make the Kartarpur corridor which was projected in a negative light in the Indian media,” he said.
Showing a slide of the corridor, the DG ISPR said from the point of entry there would be fencing till the place of worship and there would only be one-way entry. “This is a good project which the government will complete in six months. It will have a capacity of 4,000 pilgrims daily. We hope India will give a good response to this goodwill gesture of ours.”
Responding to a recent statement by the Indian army chief in which he said talks could not be held until Pakistan became a secular state, DG ISPR said: “They [India] do not need to tell us what kind of country we should be. Are they secular? Look what is happening to the 200 million Muslims there.”
The military spokesman said there was a need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan, when asked about US President Donald Trump’s letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan. He emphasised that Pakistan had always stressed the need for a political reconciliation in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan will take every step to make this reconciliation successful. This political reconciliation must succeed. We hope the US leaves Afghanistan as a friend of the region, not as a failure.”
In response to another question, DG ISPR categorically stated that Pakistan would never fight anyone’s war.
“There is no doubt that we will never fight anyone’s war. This war was imposed on us.”
PM’s statement taken out of context
When asked about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement during a recent television interview of the army supporting PTI’s manifesto, DG ISPR replied that he had listened to the prime minister’s interview thrice.
He told reporters that the prime minister’s statement on this issue was taken out of context.