Islamabad - The Pakistan Army announced the successful completion of Operation Khyber-IV near Afghan border on Monday, hours before Trump was to deliver a speech outlining new US strategy on Afghanistan to end the military stalemate there.

The army last month launched the major ground offensive in one of the last two terror pockets in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, as part of country’s efforts to establish state writ in the region and also deny Da’ish any space in the country.

In a detailed press conference, ISPR DG Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor also said that Afghan soil was still being used for spreading terrorism in Pakistan by Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies.

He denied the impression there was a stress in civil military relations.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said 3,300 operations were carried out across the country under operation Raddul Fasaad. He said that 1,728 intelligence based operations were conducted in Punjab alone.

The ISPR DG claimed that now there was no organised infrastructure of any terrorist organisation in the country.

Khyber IV operation

Giving details of Khyber IV operation, the ISPR head said this operation has been completed with achievement of ground objectives in Rajgal and Shawal valleys.

He said 52 terrorists were killed, 31 injured and four surrendered during operation this operation.

He said two soldiers of Pakistan Army also embraced martyrdom and 15 others injured in the effort.

Gen Ghafoor said 152 landmines were dismantled during the operation. “Khyber-IV was initiated following three earlier operations in Khyber Agency.”

The process of clearance is underway in the agency, he said, adding 91 check-posts have been established in Rajgal valley.

ISPR DG said that 95 percent IDPs of the area have returned to their homes. He said Fata reforms are imperative for development of the area.

‘Friction, not conflict’

Answering a question, ISPR DG dispelled the notion that there was a conflict between civilian institutions and the military.

“There is friction sometimes, but there are no problems between the civilian [government] and the military. It is all part of statesmanship,” he said.

“These issues will not disappear overnight, you need to see how much we have improved compared to the last 17 years. We want to — and are moving towards — a Pakistan where there is peace, stability, rule of law and [freedom for] all institutions [to] work.”

To another question, Major General Ghafoor said that the Dawn leak issue has been resolved. He said it was the prerogative of the government to open inquiry into any matter it deems fit, including Dawn leaks.

He was referring to the former interior minister Nisar Ali Khan’s presser a day earlier, wherein the latter demanded making the report public.

Foreign hand in terror

The ISPR chief said that terrorists were being operated and supported from across the border.

He said militants tasked with carrying out terrorism and inciting sectarianism were working at the behest of Indian spy agency RAW and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS).

“[Also,] as many as 250 cross border attacks from Afghanistan have been foiled during the current year,” he said.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said Indian made improvised explosive devices were recovered from the arrested terrorists.

“Some of the terrorists were affiliated with the group of self-confessed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadav”, he added.

No real sectarian conflict

During his briefing, ISPR director general said there was no deep-rooted sectarian divide in Pakistan.

He recalled the 2013 Raja Bazaar incident in Rawalpindi, when at least eight people were killed and over 80 others injured during an Ashura procession after unknown men snatched guns from policemen and opened fire. A mosque was also set on fire, and a number of shops were gutted.

“The attack on the Sunni mosque was claimed by a Shia organisation,” he said. “However, the people who did this [...] carried out the attack posing as [Shias] to fan the sectarian divide,” he said.

He played a video for his audience, asking them to “decide for yourself whether there is a sectarian divide in Pakistan or not”.

The video was a taped confession of two suspected terrorists, one named Shahzaib and the other Ajmal. Both were allegedly involved in the 2013 Raja Bazaar attack.

Shahzaib, a ‘terrorist commander’, narrated that he hailed from Bajaur Agency. In 2013, he and a group of seven others were told to wear black clothes on Ashura and incite chaos in Raja Bazaar with the aim to aggravate the sectarian divide between Shias and Sunnis.

“We set fire at Fuwara Chowk during a Shia procession. After that we left,” he said.

Ajmal confessed to his involvement in the same operation, referring to Shahzaib as his ‘commander’. He additionally claimed that the team was in contact with a commander based in Kunar, Afghanistan.

The details of his confession appeared to match the claims made by Shahzaib.

Ghafoor claimed the group shared similarities with the network supporting Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, which he said had ties to the Afghan National Directorate of Security and India’s Research and Analysis Wing.

“Further investigation is ongoing,” he said, adding that since a Shia-Sunni conflict did not exist to the extent that “these people” wanted it, “first they created this faultline and now they are exploiting it.”

Punjab CM was target

Gen Ghafoor said the suicide bomb attack which appeared to target police officials outside Arfa Karim Tower in Lahore was, in fact, a bid to target Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“We had prior intelligence and a threat warning and it was being worked on,” he said. “The target was the CM Punjab: he had an engagement there but his programme was changed at the eleventh hour, so they [the attackers] were instructed to target police.”

“More suicide bombers targeting the CM have been arrested,” he claimed.

Kashmir

ISPR Chief said that India wants to label the continuing freedom movement in held Kashmir as terrorism. However, he added, resistance in the held valley was an internationally-recognised freedom movement.

Replying to a question, he claimed that only one incident of terrorism had so far taken place in Karachi in the continuing year, saying operation in the metropolis had brought significant results.

“These issues will not disappear overnight, you need to see how much we have improved compared to the last 17 years. We want to — and are moving towards — a Pakistan where there is peace, stability, rule of law and [freedom for] all institutions [to] work.”

To another question, Major General Ghafoor said that the Dawn leak issue has been resolved. He said it was the prerogative of the government to open inquiry into any matter it deems fit, including Dawn leaks.

He was referring to the former interior minister Nisar Ali Khan’s presser a day earlier, wherein the latter demanded making the report public.