ISLAMABAD: A categorical assurance was extended on behalf of Pakistan Army on Thursday that prevailing situation within the country is not heading towards [enforcing] Martial law and it would act according to the constitution.
During a detailed press briefing here, Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor stated that there are no organised strongholds of any terrorist organisation in Pakistan anymore. “There are threats to Pakistan’s borders, but added that the important question to ask is if the threat is by state or non-state actors. We have deployed 100,000 soldiers at eastern border and 200,000 on western border”.
He said; “There are serious threats for Pakistan due to uncertainty in Afghanistan as 50 percent of its territory is controlled by Taliban and due to TTP and other non-state actors, Army is focusing on security of western border.”
While discussing threats from India, Ghafoor stated that India is repeatedly violating ceasefire at Line of Control (LoC). “2017 saw highest ceasefire violating across LoC as 222 civilians have been effected by it but India has also paid the price through our response and Pakistan will keep on giving strong response to Indian aggression,” he maintained.
On question of threat by Indian Air Chief about targeting Pakistan’s nuclear sites, the DG ISPR stated that if India dares to try it, everyone will see Pakistan’s response.
While addressing a press conference on Thursday, he stated that there are no organised bases of any terrorist organisations in the country anymore and there are no terrorist safe havens in the country. “More than 50 per cent of Afghan territory is out of their control, which is also affecting Pakistan.”
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor accepted that there are threats to Pakistan’s borders, but added that the important question to ask is if the threat is by state or non-state actors. He added that Afghanistan has been at war for four decades and after 9/11 the war entered Pakistan.
Moreover, he expressed satisfaction over the performance and results of military operations that were successfully carried out. ‘Pakistan should seek pride in its military forces, due to which Pakistan against all odds, has stabilized itself”, said Major General Asif Ghafoor.
According to him, in order for the country to counter terrorism-related problems, the security forces and other organizations need to work hand-in-hand.
He observed that Muharram processions were peaceful despite threats in Balochistan and Karachi. He also spoke of a Bohri community gathering in which 21,000 foreigners participated, including 12,000 Indian citizens.
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor conducted a wide-ranging press briefing at the army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi to discuss several key issues, including relations with Afghanistan, India and the US, internal security and civil military relations.
The press conference followed a visit to Kabul by Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Sunday and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s key meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on matters of mutual concern.
During the briefing, Maj Gen Ghafoor discussed the security threats at Pakistan’s eastern and western borders, stressing that the important question was “whether the threat is because of a state or non-state actors” and what the country’s response to it has been.
“Pakistan is an indispensable reality,” he asserted. “When multiple interests collude, it is natural that conflicts arise,” he began.
“There has been war in Afghanistan for the past four decades. We fought with the jihadis against the Soviet Union. We have fought well, as a nation, the war that entered our borders after 9/11,” he said, apparently underscoring a recent statement made by the foreign minister recalling the US’s “wining and dining” of jihadi outfits during the Afghan-Soviet Union war.
“There are no organised bases of any terrorist organisation in the country anymore,” Ghafoor stressed. “On the ground, more than 50 per cent of Afghan territory is out of their [Kabul’s] control, which is also affecting Pakistan,” he said, shifting the focus to the political instability afflicting Pakistan’s western neighbour.
“There is a strategic threat that exists on the western front which forces us to keep our army at the borders, because of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other such non-state actors. Our [western] border also meets Iran. It is important to mention that our deployment is not against Iran or Afghanistan, but against non-state actors,” he explained.
“In the east, we have a border with India which is unsafe because of India’s inappropriate actions,” he said adding “The ceasefire violations in 2017 are considerably more in number than any other year before this, with 222 civilian casualties along the Line of Control. However, India has also paid a price due to our response [to attacks] and we will continue to do so [respond] if it does not act with restraint,” he warned.
“Threats from India are perpetual. We are a peaceful country and we do not want war with them, but we will defend ourselves and have the capability to do so,” he asserted.
Returning to relations with Iran, the DG ISPR said Pakistan had ongoing coordination and contact with Tehran. “The army chief will soon visit Iran to improve relations,” he said.
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor also provided a bird’s eye view of the security situation in the country.
“Operation Raddul Fasaad is ongoing. Operation Khyber 4 is in the ground-clearing phase,” he said.
Recalling that Muharram observations remained peaceful despite emergent threats in Balochistan and Karachi, he also spoke of the Bohra community’s Ashura commemorations which saw 21,000 foreigners, including 12,000 Indian citizens, visit the country to be in the company of their spiritual leader during the month.
“Other smaller events also took place,” he added, naming the World XI tournament, Miranshah cricket match which also included foreign players, and an international hockey match in Karachi.
“Show me a single country which was facing such threats in 2008 and 2009. There are no countries like this, because all other countries who faced such problems either collapsed or had to have foreign armies take control. This is why you will hear the narrative that the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are not in anyone’s control,” he said, referring to recent media reports that ISI officials had ties to militant groups.
“It is important that institutions work with each other. The institutions that are a part of the soft prong take charge when security improves,” he said.
“If a foreign team is ready to play in Miranshah on one phone call, it means that they know what the situation there is. It takes time to get results,” he said, “Specially when you have spent 15 years fixing what the world wanted to destroy.”
“We have to take this war to logical end. If we end bilateral contact, things can be reverted. But if we are resolved, then nothing can happen [against us] in Pakistan. Even right now, we have intelligence about four agencies working against us.”
“We have travelled a long way. We are moving towards our destiny which is a peaceful Pakistan. ISAF could never have succeeded without us.
Responding to cross-border firing at the Line of Control, he said: “Unlike India, we cannot fire indiscriminately as there are Kashmiri brothers on the other side as well, so when there are casualties on that side, it is soldiers and infrastructure. But war is not the solution, so we are talking to them at all levels to stop this.”
When asked why there had been no press release issued following a special corps commanders conference at GHQ, he responded: “Silence is also an expression.”
Responding to a question about the Milli Muslim League, the political wing of the Jamaatud Dawa, in polls, he said: “Every Pakistani has the right to participate in the polling process.”
Explaining the issue of Rangers deployment outside the accountability courts on Monday, he said that the Rangers fall under the Interior Ministry. Three wings of Rangers were requisitioned under Article 147. Once this happens, there is local coordination. This has been happening since 2014 and is refreshed every three months.”
“Sometimes it happens that police ask the Rangers for assistance, and they take action. When the National Accountability Bureau had its first hearing, there was some trouble when the former prime minister was appearing. A letter was written to the Rangers, and there was some coordination in the night as well, so the Rangers reached the court at 7am,” he explained.
“If a soldier is doing his duty and is told not to allow irrelevant people… It is possible that someone who did not have a card was a relevant person, but Rangers personnel do not know. Even if the army chief does not have a card, he is informed by personnel that he is not allowed [to pass].”
“Any type of instability, either political, economic or developmental, cannot be in country’s interest, so [the matter] needs to be resolved.”
Responding to a question about alleged links between the ISI and militants, he said: “Having links is different from supporting. Name any intelligence agency which does not have links. Links can be positive, and he [US Defence Secretary James Mattis] did not say there was support, so the narrative that I talked about is relevant here as well. We should not be a part of it. We have our own narrative.”