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Pakistan Army on Monday warned Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) of a possible action, saying that the group has received funds from Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies for pursuing its campaign. Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor addressing a press conference said that he had personally met the PTM leadership and catered their demands, and also questioned the PTM who sponsors them financially.

On the PTM website, he said, they have stated the amount of funds that has been collected from Pashtuns across the world. "But let me ask how much NDS [National Directorate of Security] and Afghan intelligence agency finance you [PTM] to run your campaign and how much Indian RAW sponsored you for the first sit-in in Islamabad?' he asked.

"Those who are playing in the hands of [other] people, I would like to tell them that their time is up...Their time is up," he warned. "What revenge are you seeking from the army? No one can fight with one's own state. We had been told by the Army Chief to deal gently with PTM since day one," the DG ISPR said, posing questions to the PTM leadership. "Why does TTP speak in favour of PTM? Why is your narrative similar to that of TTP's?" he further asked the PTM leadership.

"When Superintendent of Police Tahir Dawar is killed in Afghanistan, in what capacity did PTM talk to the Afghan government, and said that the Pakistani government should not be handed over the dead body and it should only be given to the Dawar tribe?

"Why did NDS give you funds for Arman Loni's funeral and the dharna that followed? If you have these funds, why don't you use these funds for the development?" Gen Ghafoor further asked the PTM leadership.

He further stated, "When Arman Loni died, funeral prayers were offered for him in Afghanistan. But how is it when 10 policemen lost their lives trying to protect 800 students giving police entry exams in Balochistan, you did not go to the funeral prayers for those 10 personnel. And no funeral prayer was held for those 10 personnel in Afghanistan".

He continued when Loni died, the Afghan President gave a statement in his favour and PTM endorsed it.

He said PTM has already enjoyed every liberty and now possible action must be taken against the group. The DG ISPR individually responded to the demands made by the PTM at its rallies and meetings, adding that COAS General Bajwa has given instructions in this regard too that they should be dealt with lawfully so that people do not face any problem.

"When we took action against the TLP (Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan), people said why action is not taken against PTM as they speak up too much as well."

He said he was the first person to engage with PTM as per the Army Chief's directives who said, "Do not use a harsh hand with them."

"I met with [PTM leader] Mohsin Dawar, and they had three demands. They said that mines and unexploded bombs still exist in tribal areas, their demand was genuine, we created 48 teams and 45 per cent of these areas were cleared. Around 101 casualties of the Pakistan Army also occurred in those areas while clearing them of those mines. We let those casualties happen as they happened in the line of duty," he said.

He said that PTM's next demand was about clearing away checkposts. Pakistan Army has lost thousands of soldiers at these checkposts, he added.

He said that recovery of missing persons was their third demand and they created a list of those missing persons. The list has shortened to 2,500 cases at present and the commission is working day and night to resolve those cases of missing persons, he said, adding these were also the demands of the people living there.

"I would like to ask the PTM to provide me another list, besides the one of the missing persons, of all the strength of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that exists in Afghanistan, so that I could tally the two to see if any of the missing persons is actually sitting there.

He requested Pashto speaking not to be deceived by the people functioning against Pakistan's interests. The military spokesperson also warned India not to test the nation's resolve - two months after a terrorist attack in occupied Kashmir that brought the two nuclear-armed neighbours to the brink of war. "India must not test Pakistan's resolve. It is not 1971 anymore," Gen Ghafoor said.

Referring to the Indian narrative, the military spokesperson said that India has been lying for the past two months while Pakistan, on the other hand, is exhibiting responsibility despite these lies. Maj Gen Ghafoor reiterated that none of Pakistan Air Force's (PAF) F-16 fighter jets was missing, the fact which was also proven right by a report in an American news publication.

"In your [Indian] rhetoric, you keep using nuclear power as a threat. Nuclear weapons are not a threat rather they are weapons of deterrence that should not be mentioned lightly." The military spokesperson also said that the armed forces have to provide security to improve the business environment.

"For that we need to resolve all our disputes, and Kashmir tops the list. Now India should decide whether it wants a repeat of February 27 or whether it wants to work to eliminate poverty."

While targeting youth of Pakistan, the DG ISPR said, "Pakistan has made its way against terrorism as we are succeeding in the war on terror, but there is still a lot to do. From 1960-1970, Pakistan was in good condition, socially and economically. GDP was over 11 per cent, there was law and order in the country and social indicators were high."

He also complimented the country's media, saying if the same media was present during the 1971 war, East Pakistan and West Pakistan would not have split up. Maj Gen Ghafoor also mentioned the relevance of Pakistan geographically and presence of international proxies in the country.

"Iranian revolution made an impact on our society and seminaries, giving rise to the concept of jihad," he added. "Terrorism reached Pakistan after foreign forces entered Afghanistan," said the military spokesperson. Reiterating that there is no organised terror entity in Pakistan, the DG ISPR stated kinetic operations have been conducted to kill terrorists and dismantle their organisations.

"The state's will and capacity is also based on financial capability. While we were conducting kinetic operations, we had to deal with threats on our eastern border at least three times." "We have an intelligence-sharing policy with 70 countries. We have incurred economic losses of $300bn to fight the war on terror."

"Pakistan witnessed a surge in religious seminaries. In 1947 we had 247 seminaries. In 1980, the number went up to 2,861. And now there are over 30,000 seminaries. Out of these, only 100 are involved in propagating terrorism," said Gen Ghafoor, while elaborating on steps to control and bring seminaries into the mainstream.

"In February, money was allotted to bring the seminaries into the mainstream. To control the welfare activities of proscribed organisations, the government has made a system to mainstream their social activities." The military spokesperson added that to bring the seminaries into the mainstream, they will have to start teaching other subjects as well so that students have skills other than religious studies.

"All seminaries will be brought under the Ministry of Education so that contemporary subjects can be taught. We will formulate a syllabus which will not have hate speech and the students will be taught respect for different sects." "The students will also receive a degree which will be associated with the education board."

"The mainstreaming has three phases. The first is to prepare a bill which will be ready in around a month. The second phase requires training of teachers and the third phase will be the implementation of the bill," he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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