Pakistan at ‘watershed of history’, says DG ISPR

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Warns PTM not to cross the line; Pakistan suffered due to ‘weak economy, lack of governance, flaws in judicial and education systems and religious extremism’

Sarwar Awan

Rawalpindi

Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor on Thursday reflected upon the nation’s “fault lines” and mentioned that over the past 70 years Pakistan has suffered due to “weak economy, lack of governance, flaws in judicial and education systems, and religious extremism”.
Addressing a news conference here, the military’s spokesperson said, “We have fought wars, tackled terrorism, rendered sacrifices and our economy suffered from it but today we are at a watershed of history from where the situation can be turned towards betterment.”
The military spokesman said the army was using confidence-building measures with the PTM and not handling them with heavy-handedness. “They [PTM] are hurt and have suffered in the war. We still want to deal with them politely but they are headed in the direction where the same will happen to them which happens when the state establishes its writ.”
He said the PTM had started out with three demands which were a reduction in check posts, clearance of mines and missing persons. Major General Ghafoor said as the security situation had improved, the Pakistan Army had decreased its check posts along with their operating procedures. “In 2016 there were 469 check posts in KP and Fata, as we speak today there are 331. We will not keep a single check post if we feel the security situation does not require it.”
The DG ISPR warned that the state will use its authority if PTM crosses the line. He added that the soldiers at the check posts could be from Turbat, Landhi, Lahore or from Gujrat. “He [the soldier] is miles away from home and is standing there to protect the residents of that area.”
The military spokesman also linked this to the security situation in Afghanistan. “We have improved the security situation at our end…If today we can get surety that Afghanistan has control we can bring back the 200,000 troops. We cannot do this as the threat across the border has not been eliminated.”
He added that border fencing was underway and by the end of next year when this is completed the cross-border threat would be decreased.
The ISPR chief also raised concerns over the increasing ceasefire violations on the Line of Control and Working Boundary by the Indian forces, saying 55 civilians have been martyred due to Indian cross-border aggression this year, the highest in history. He said that Indian forces were deliberately targeting civilians across the LoC.
Ghafoor highlighted that Pakistan has taken several positive initiatives for peace with India, the latest one being the groundbreaking of Kartarpur corridor. The ISPR chief, while regretting that the initiative was negatively presented in India, hoped that India (in time) will “positively respond to this goodwill gesture”.
He said that the corridor will be constructed in six months after which 4,000 Sikh pilgrims will be able to visit the Kartarpur daily. “It will be a one-way corridor from the Indian side to Kartarpur, and the Sikh pilgrims will remain restricted to Kartarpur,” the spokesperson said.
Giving an overview of the domestic security situation, the ISPR chief said law and order situation has greatly improved across the country. “Incidents of terrorism and other crimes like abduction and extortion have greatly decreased in erstwhile Fata, Balochistan, and Karachi,” he said.
Moreover, a total of 2,200 ferraris have laid down their weapons in Balochistan during the past three years. Ghafoor further urged the disgruntled elements in Balochistan to “relinquish their violent path and join the national mainstream”. While discussing the matter of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, the military’s spokesperson said that the PTM had made three demands — clearance of landmines, reduction in security check posts and recovery of missing persons. “In 2016, there were around 469 check posts [in erstwhile Fata] but as of today their number has been reduced to 331,” Ghafoor said, adding that further reduction in the number of check posts was directly related with the security situation across the western border [in Afghanistan]. “The cross-border threat is still there; we are building a fence along the border,” he said.
Talking about the clearance of landmines from the area, he revealed that 43 teams of military engineers were currently working in Fata districts and have cleared landmines from 44 per cent of the war-torn area.
Furthermore, Ghafoor said that 4,000 out of 7,000 pending cases of missing persons have been settled, while “the process is underway in the remaining cases”.
The ISPR chief also urged the media to play its “effective role in projecting a soft image of Pakistan as it did to shape public opinion against terrorism”.
Responding to a question about the reported heavy military build-up by India, he said Pakistan was a “confident and responsible nuclear-capable state and any misadventure from India will be responded in a befitting manner”.
The DG ISPR spoke on the third demand of the PTM which was over missing persons. He said there were 7,000 missing persons cases from 2010-11. “From these 7,000 cases over 4,000 have been settled. 3,000 plus cases are under process with 2,000 cases with the commission.”
According to Major General Ghafoor, it could not be proven that those missing were not part of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or any other faction. “We want this process to move further and for it to be resolved.
He also called on the media to play a positive role in projecting Pakistan’s image. “Media is the fourth pillar of the state and you [journalists] are the opinion makers. If just for six months you create positive public awareness about Pakistan both locally and internationally, see where the country reaches.”
The military spokesman also compared Balochistan to KP, Fata and spoke on the deployment of troops in these areas. He said in Fata which was 3 per cent of the country’s geography over 200,000 troops had been deployed. There were 65,000-70,000 troops deployed in Balochistan which was 43 per cent of the country’s geography and 6 per cent of the population.
“Lately we have changed the deployment there [Balochistan]. Our forces and headquarters were initially in Quetta but according to the geography we have split them to different sectors and done a readjustment. But this readjustment more than operations is aimed at providing security to socio-economic projects.“
According to the military spokesman, the Pakistan Army was focusing more on Balochistan due to the improved security situation in KP and Fata.
The DG ISPR stressed that no war could end just by conducting operations. “When your kinetic operations end there is a need for socio-economic development. “
He added despite the measures in place if rules were violated punishment was given. “In 2017-18 almost 400 Pakistan officers have been given punishments which range from a warning to dismissals and even jail.” The military spokesman also said officers faced stricter punishments than soldiers.
In response to another question, DG ISPR categorically stated that Pakistan would never fight anyone’s war. “There is no doubt that we will never fight anyone’s war. This war was imposed on us.”
When asked about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement during a recent television interview of the army supporting PTI’s manifesto, DG ISPR replied that he had listened to the prime minister’s interview thrice. He told reporters that the prime

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