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  • Jun 5th, 2018
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The Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Monday said that military should not be dragged into politics while anticipating that general elections 2018 will be held on time. Addressing a press conference, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor congratulated the government on completion of second consecutive democratic tenure, saying no one is happier than the military that the government has completed its five-year tenure.

He said Pakistan Army will play the constitutional role if called in to provide security in general elections 2018, adding that elections are the responsibility of Election Commission of Pakistan. He said his office never tried to dictate any media group or journalist to act according to its wishes. Major General Ghafoor reviewed the status of Pakistan-India relationship and a recent call to renew the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement.

Regretting that ceasefire violations by Indian troops at the Line of Control have been higher than usual in 2017 and 2018, he recalled that 1,881 incidents in 2017 alone had left 52 dead and 254 injured. The number of cross-border incidents had similarly increased to 1,500 by the first week of June in 2018 alone, he noted.

"The Indian army target innocent citizens of Pakistan, while we respond and target their forces," he said, before explaining that this situation was not tenable and hence an agreement had been reached by the two countries' directors general of military operations to avoid further conflagration and ensure that their 2003 ceasefire agreement would not be violated.

Commenting on a cross-border firing incident that occurred after the agreement was reached, the DG ISPR explained that Pakistan would not have responded to Indian firing, but was "compelled" to do so only because civilians were targeted and there were casualties on the Pakistani side. He also complimented the Pakistani media on showing responsibility on the matter and for not inciting provocation, adding that Pakistan wants to respect the truce.

"We are willing to ignore the first shot that is fired from the Indian side, provided it does not result in a casualty on our side," he said. However, the second shot would be responded to kind, he said. "The Indians have to realize and understand where they want to go in the future," he said. "We are two nuclear powers and there is no space for war."

"Pakistan's desire for peace should not be construed as a weakness," Major General Ghafoor warned. The army spokesperson said that the recent meeting between Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Afghan delegation went positive, and it was agreed upon that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are indispensable to each other. "Nobody wishes for peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan," he added.

The DG ISPR said that the fencing of the border is one of the factors that would help stem illegal cross-border movement and terrorist infiltration. "More than 50 percent of the Afghan territory is not in the control of their state," he noted, saying this would help contain the fallout. He mentioned that seven Pakistani officers had been martyred in 71 incidents of firing from across the Afghan border since the fencing started.

He acknowledged that the country's relations with the United States are strained, but Pakistan's stance is that the army, with the help of the public, has fought terrorism and done what no other armed force in the world could manage. "We have learnt that national interest comes first and we will not compromise on this," he stressed, saying the political and military relationship would be on the same page against any external threat.

"Nobody is more desirous of the US success in Afghanistan than we are," he assured. "We want them to return successful and Afghanistan forms a government that reflects the will of the Afghan people." The DG ISPR reiterated that there is no presence of organized terrorist groups in Pakistan, and there is no presence of organized Haqqani Network in the country as well.

He said Zarb-e-Azb was a capacity-based operation and after that Radd-ul-Fasad was started which was against all kinds of terrorists, extremists and their supporters.

The army spokesperson also reiterated that the military desires respectable repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, "after which the army can target all remaining terrorist networks." "The Americans and the Afghan officials have acknowledged our successes in Zarb-e-Azb," he said. The army spokesperson also said relations with Iran are progressing rapidly and security situation is improving.

About merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said some tribal elders were not in favor of the amalgamation whereas majority of the people supported the move.

Talking about the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), the ISPR director general said he had met its leaders Manzoor Pashteen and Mohsin Dawar, who shared their concerns regarding the death of Naqeebullah Mehsud and missing persons. "Their demands are justified and we assured them that their issues will be resolved. Then, all of sudden Manzoor Ahmed turned into Manzoor Pashteen. His IDs began to be operated from Afghanistan and other foreign countries," he said.

Subsequently, protests were staged against the army not only in Pakistan but also abroad, he added. "Now we have evidence that they are being used by foreign elements. We are being compelled to use force. We don't want to use force. A picture of an 8-year-old girl was shown on social media that was allegedly shot by security forces or Taliban. There has been no fatality in FATA," he said.

The DG ISPR said propaganda was initiated against Pakistan military with articles and campaign on social media to discredit the institution. He, however, admired the youth for responding to such propaganda on social media. He said many allegations were leveled against the army in the past which proved wrong with the passage of time.

The DG ISPR while talking about "The Spy Chronicles" said the military examined contents of former Chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General (retd) Asad Durrani's book co-authored with former Indian spy chief.

"It has been 25 years since he retired from the army and he had been retired earlier than his time, that too, on disciplinary reasons. General Durrani expounded on incidents which took place after his retirement. The institution [military] took notice as the book came out and sought an explanation from him."

He said an inquiry has been ordered into the book and whatsoever will transpire thereof will be brought to the light. The DG ISPR said the former spy chief didn't seek no-objection certificate (NOC) before authoring the book.

Pakistan Army does not tolerate any disciplinary violation, he said, adding results of the inquiry against Asad Durrani will be shared with the public. The army spokesperson also praised national media for playing, what he called, a positive role in the midst of the challenges being faced and asked 'anyone' to state on record that the army has been dictating press coverage.

"Please do tell us on your evening talk shows if army has given any notes to any owner of the channel. I have only said [to media owners] that Pakistan needs to come together and Pakistan needs to further its successes and strengths: please do what you can to this end," he said. He said that since January this year, more than 10,000 troll social media accounts have been spewing anti-army and anti-forces contents which are not fact-based.

The DG ISPR said that those re-tweeting from troll social media accounts need to act responsibly, adding that many Pakistanis have not seen these social media accounts. He expressed concern that such accounts are more of a lethal threat to youngsters. The army spokesperson further said that a lot of accusations were made but time proved all the accusations to be false. "No army [in the world] has been as successful as Pakistan army in the war against terrorism," he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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