Pak Army urges opposition not to drag force into politics


ISLAMABAD: After the bombardment of accusations by opposition regarding choosing, bringing and backing Imran Khan and his political party into the government, Pakistan Army today, for the first time, clarified its position and refuted all such blames.

Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) told the media persons said that such allegations are baseless and unfounded. “We were asked to hold the elections, we did our job fairly and impartially, nothing more than that. There is no truth at all in opposition allegations”, he emphasised.

When his attention was drawn towards a threat by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, President, Pakistan Development Movement (PDM) to launch long march towards Rawalpindi (that means towards GHQ), Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said we shall look after them, will offer them tea and snacks if they decide to stage a long march towards Rawalpindi. “What else can I say at this stage”, I don’t see a reason for [them] coming to Rawalpindi”, the chief of the military’s media wing said.

Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, DG-ISPR, addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi on Monday. (The Nation TV photo)

It may be recalled that Maulana Fazlur Rehman had said earlier this month that the 11-party opposition alliance’s movement would no longer be directed only at the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government but also “his backers”, hinting that its possible long march to the capital “could also be to Rawalpindi”.

He had said if the PTI government refused to resign by January 31, the PDM leadership will announce the long march to Islamabad and decide its date. “It will also decide whether the long march should be staged towards Islamabad or to Rawalpindi,” the PDM chief had added. Rawalpindi is a metonym for the headquarters of the Pakistan Army.

Maj Gen Iftikhar was also asked by a reporter whether any “stern action” would be taken against those propagating an “anti-army narrative” — an apparent reference to some PDM leaders.

The ISPR chief responded: “When it comes to criticism or allegations levelled, the army is doing its job. As to why are we not responding to that, only such allegations are responded to which have some weight or are based on facts.

“We have our hands full and we neither want to get involved in such things nor will we. We have stayed the course [and] we will stay the course. There is nothing to worry about; we are not worried.”

He emphasised that the morale of the entire army and that of the families of the martyrs was very high.

At the beginning of the briefing, Maj Gen Iftikhar said he had convened the press conference to shed light on the country’s security and border situation and to present a comparative analysis of security challenges of the past decade.

“The last 10 years were a challenging time in every aspect for Pakistan,” he said at the start of his presser, adding that in 2020 alone, the coronavirus pandemic and locust attacks put Pakistan’s food security and economy in danger.

On the other hand, he said, proscribed organisations were being facilitated to harm Pakistan on the western border.

“Despite all these challenges, the state, institutions, the armed forces and intelligence agencies and most importantly the Pakistani people unitedly faced these challenges,” Maj Gen Iftikhar said, adding that along with restoring peace in the tribal districts along the western border, socioeconomic projects had been launched.

Concrete steps were taken to solidify the Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders and “as a result of successful operations against terrorism, the security situation improved considerably,” he noted.

“Whether it was India’s designs or hybrid warfare, whether the challenges were internal or external, we not only showed and identified [them] but also combatted them successfully and the world is recognising it too because the truth always prevails.”

The ISPR chief said there had been a 35pc reduction in major terrorism incidents in 2020 compared to 2019, while terror incidents which had hit an annual peak of 90 in the year 2013 had now fallen to around 30. Law-enforcement agencies also averted more than 50pc of the terror threats over the course of the last year, he added.

Listing some of the measures taken in the security domain, Maj Gen Iftikhar said Operation Raddul Fasad had “consolidated the achievements of the entire decade”.

“Through this operation, the support base, facilitators, abettors, financiers [of terrorism] and weapons were destroyed to a large extent. Thankfully, today in Pakistan there is no organised terrorist infrastructure like in the past,” he added.

Under the operation, he said, 371,000 intelligence-based actions were conducted in the last three years alone. “If we evaluate the manifestation of success, in 2007-08, only 37 per cent of the areas in the tribal areas were under state control. Today, they have all become part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he added.