RAWALPINDI: Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor said the Pakistan Army aspired to resolve the issues faced by the people living in the tribal areas, but the stance taken by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) would no longer be accepted.
“In light of the Chief of Army Staff’s directives, the forces will ensure that the masses don’t face issues. Everything will be done under the constitution,” he said in a news conference. “They have enjoyed their liberty.”
The spokesperson said that the army had refrained from taking action against the PTM’s controversial slogans because of its consideration of common Pashtuns who were being provoked.
“What kind of revenge are you talking about? What kind of revenge do you want to take with the army? No one can fight the state. We are refraining from taking action because we are taking into consideration the people being provoked, otherwise it’s not difficult to deal with you,” he added.
The DG ISPR said he was the first one who engaged with the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement. “I was directed by the Army Chief to speak to the PTM and directed not to deal with them strictly.”
“We worked on their genuine demands. We cleared the un-exploded bombs from the area. We deployed 48 teams, as much as 45 per cent area was cleared of mines. We launched awareness campaigns to tell people which areas they shouldn’t visit because of the presence of un-exploded bombs,” he said.
“We also suffered 101 casualties during the clear up operation.”
The Pakistan army spokesperson questioned where were the PTM leadership when the forces were fighting against the Taliban militants in erstwhile FATA.
Their third demand was about ‘missing persons’, with the DG ISPR stating that the legal commission had identified nearly 2,500 cases.
“It’s not their demand. The demand is of Pashtun brothers. The PTM leadership doesn’t even live there. The local people have genuine problems there.”
Having commented on the three demands of the PTM, the DG ISPR then put the following questions to them and alleged that PTM received funds from Afghan security service, NDS and Indian spy agency, RAW.
How much funds have you collected in donations from abroad, isn’t it more than what you have shown on the website?
22 March 2018 – how much funds NDS provided you to continue the sit-in?
Islamabad sit-in: How much funds RAW provided you?
April 18, 2018 – Who was Manzoor Pashteen’s relative who went to the Indian consulate, Kandahar? And how much funds were provided to them?
How much in funds did the Indian consulate in Jalalabad provide to you?
How many dollars did Indian diplomats give to you in May 2018?
March 31, 2019 – How much funds did NDS provide to you for Arman Luni’s funeral?
What do you mean by Lar-o-Bar?
Why did Mashal Khan Takkar come to Kabul from Canada?
What is the connection with Baloch separatists?
In what capacity did the PTM say it will receive SP Tahir Dawar’s body?
What constitution allows you to go to Afghanistan by force to take the body?
Why is any person who speaks for the Pakistan Army killed immediately?
Why does TTP’s Mufti Noor Wali say PTM and TTP are the same? How do you share the narrative with them?
Responding to a question asked by media, the Pak Army spokesperson said that the party which is supporting PTM once called Rao Anwar their brave child.
“25 million Pakistani children are not in schools. There are over 30,000 Madrasas in Pakistan and 2.5 million children receive an education here,” said the DG ISPR.
“The government and support institutions have decided to mainstream all these Madrasas… Their curriculum will include contemporary subjects… These Madrasas will be under the Ministry of Education,” DG ISPR added.
According to Major General Ghafoor, the Army Chief had engaged with Ulema from all sects on this and they all agreed that it was necessary to mainstream Madrasas and contemporary education must be taught.
The syllabus for the Madrasas would not include hate speech and would ensure respect for other sects, said the military spokesman.
He added that Madrasa students, after completing their studies, would have degrees and have the same opportunities as the students studying in private schools.
Elaborating further, Major General Ghafoor told members of the media that in the first phase, a legislative bill would be prepared. In the second, the syllabus would be reviewed, teachers assigned and finances discussed. In the third phase, mainstreaming of the Madrasas would take place.
According to the DG ISPR, at the start of this process, Rs2 billion would be required and then Rs1 billion annually would be required.
‘India continues to lie’
The military spokesperson began his news conference speaking on the Pulwama attack and India’s baseless allegations of Pakistan’s involvement.
“Since the last two months, India has been telling countless lies. As a responsible country, we have not responded to their lies. Lies have to be repeated again and again. Truth only needs to be spoken once,” DG ISPR asserted.
Dismissing Indian claims of massive causalities in Balakot, DG ISPR stated there was no damage done and local and international media had been taken to the site to show them the truth. “We will facilitate Indian media if they choose to come to Balakot to see the truth,” Major General Ghafoor offered.
The DG ISPR also clarified why he had initially said two Indian pilots had been captured. “When there is a war you receive reports from the ground. When I came to the press conference, I tweeted based on reports that there were two pilots. After the news conference, reports were clear that there was one pilot. How is it that you [India] are ready to accept one of our statements and not the other?”
Addressing other lies, Major General Ghafoor said the US stated that there were no F-16s missing from Pakistan’s fleet. “India should tell US to give a statement that Pakistan has one less F-16.”
The DG ISPR added that Pakistan was waiting for the appropriate time to honour its pilots who had downed the Indian planes.
The military spokesperson warned India not to test the country’s resolve as the Pakistan Army would defend the people of Pakistan whenever required.
‘Support for Kashmir runs in our veins’
Speaking on the Kashmir issue, Major General Ghafoor said that support for the Kashmiri people “runs in our veins.”
“It is in our veins to support our Kashmiri brethren in their (struggle for) independence.’
According to the DG ISPR, Pakistanis were ready all the time to fight for Kashmir and it was in their minds to do whatever it takes for their independence.
“There is a continuous struggle for supporting Kashmiris so they get their rights.”
“If India is sincere for peace in the region, they should hold talks and resolve the Kashmir issue,” he added.
‘No organised terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan’
Major General Asif Ghafoor spoke of the relevance of Pakistan in the region and how terrorism and militancy took root in the country.
He said there was foreign influence in Afghanistan since the last 40 years; first with Russian forces and then with coalition forces led by the US. According to the DG ISPR, the impact of the Afghan war in 1979 and revolution in Iran led to Madrasas opening in Pakistan which advocated jihad. He added that sectarian clashes also started taking place due to the influence of other proxies including Saudi Arabia and Iran in the region. “Terrorism and militancy started to seep into our society.”
Speaking on the landscape changing post 9/11, DG ISPR said power struggle in the region was present not only due to geopolitics but also on geo-economy. “International powers wanted to force Pakistan to make policies according to their agendas.”
“The concept of Hindutva in India in which Muslims have been targeted raises genuine concern for Pakistanis,” the DG ISPR said, attributing another reason for radicalisation.
To overcome the impact of terrorism in Pakistan which was caused due to the operation of international forces in Afghanistan, DG ISPR said since 9/11 kinetic operations were conducted against terrorist organisations.
“There have been 1,237 kinetic operations since 9/11. Near 100,000 IBOs have been conducted all across Pakistan. 17,531 terrorists have been killed. Near 450 tons of explosives have been recovered through operations and IBOs. Weapons were recovered and their training infrastructures were dismantled.”
“Today we can say with conviction, evidence and logic that there is no organised terrorist infrastructure present in Pakistan.”
The DG ISPR said in the policy domain Pakistan passed the anti-terrorist act, counterinsurgency regulation and through an act of Parliament military courts were formed.
Major General Ghafoor further said Pakistan had intelligence sharing cooperation with 70 countries. “We paid the price for this. Over 81,000 Pakistanis including personnel of the armed forces were either martyred or injured.”
“The overall impact on the economy of Pakistan amounted to over $300 billion in losses.”
The DG ISPR also mentioned that while Pakistan was busy in conducting kinetic operations, thrice we had to go to the eastern border.
Action against proscribed organisations
The DG ISPR said that after kinetic operations were completed, the state of Pakistan decided to take action against proscribed organisations and formulated the National Action Plan.
He dismissed that recent actions against proscribed organisations were being taken due to external pressures. “The state of Pakistan had made the decision a long time back to rid our society of extremism, terrorism and steps were being taken for this.”
“On January 1, 2019, the decision was taken on how to deal with proscribed organisations but there was an issue of finances. The decision-making body decided that execution would be difficult without finances. In February when this was announced, for the first time in the history of Pakistan the government allotted funds for this.”
To control the welfare setup of these organisations, DG ISPR said the government had made a setup that all hospitals and Madrasas which are not violent and extremist would be brought under the supervision of the government.