ISLAMABAD - Praising Pakhtuns’ role in peace, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor has warned the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) against indulging in anti-state activities.

“Your time is up,” he said while addressing a press conference at GHQ on Friday. The army’s spokesperson addressed a host of issues, including historical perspective of the present security situation, mainstreaming seminaries and strained Pak-India relations. He praised the media and youth for strongly defending Pakistan’s stance.

Delivering a message to Pakhtuns in Pashto, Maj-Gen Ghafoor urged them not to be tricked by people working against Pakistan’s interest.

Mentioning the PTM leadership’s visits to Afghanistan, he raised questions about the funding it was receiving from India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS). He said the PTM website had different details of funding it got from foreign countries.

He said: “When action was taken against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), people used to question why action had not been taken against the PTM as they speak up too much as well.

Message to Pakhtun people

My respected Pakhtun brothers, sisters, mothers, elders and youth. First, I pay my salutations to you.

As a representative of the Pakistan armed forces, I want to tell you that the Pakistan armed forces belong to you, just like Pakistan belongs to us all.

We will all — including Pakhtun population — prosper if Pakistan is prosperous and thriving. And, if God forbid, some evil befalls Pakistan, it will be a loss for the entire country.

You know that some people – misled by others – want to provoke you against Pakistan and its institutions. I want to say that the state acknowledges your sacrifices and it is working ceaselessly to solve your problems.

The armed forces will not rest until your issues are resolved.

We hope that you will not pay any heed to their rhetoric and instead will stop these anti-state forces and play your role in strengthening Pakistan,”

“This was because Chief of Army Staff (COAS) had directed to engage with the Pakhtun nationalist group and don’t put an iron hand on them. I was the first one who got engaged with the PTM.”

The military spokesperson said that instructions of the army chief would be followed and common people would not face any problem. He regretted that the PTM used to raise anti-army slogans and asked for taking revenge on the army.

Meeting PTM demands

Maj-Gen Ghafoor told the media that the army had responded to three basic demands of the PTM – demining of Fata, elimination of checkpoints and enforced disappearances.

“We have deputed a team of 48 engineers to clear the mines,” he said, adding that around half of the area had been cleared. “A total of 101 casualties of the Pakistan Army occurred in those areas while clearing these mines. Also, 600 soldiers were martyred at these checkpoints during the operations,” he said.

He said the Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances had shortened the list of missing persons from 8,000 to 2,500 cases. He asked the PTM to share the list of manpower of TTP that was sitting in Afghanistan as well as other insurgent groups so that he could tally these to see if any missing person was actually sitting there.

Pak-India relations

The DG ISPR narrated the story of escalation in tension between Pakistan and India after the Pulwama attack. He said that India had been telling lies since February 27 when the Pakistan Air Force downed their two aircraft.

He said, “We have not responded to the lies because we don’t want to retaliate. We took international media to the place where India had made airstrikes inside Pakistan.

“India said that it downed Pakistan’s F-16. Ask the US to give a statement that one F-16 from Pakistan’s fleet was missing.

“I ask India to tell who was sitting in the Brigade HQ in Nowshera area of Indian-occupied Kashmir when Pakistan made missile strikes near it.

“India says that Pakistan’s attitude needs to change. We say that you cannot to change our attitude.”

He said that India had been threatening with the use of its nuclear power. He said, “Nuclear power should not be used as a threat; it should be used as deterrence.

The military spokesman urged India not to test Pakistani nation’s resolve. “Do not test our resolve. The Pakistan Army will fully defend the country with the support of the nation.”

MEDIA WINS MILITARY’S PRAISE

Maj-Gen Ghafoor appreciated the role of the media and said had this media been in the war of 1971, East Pakistan would not have separated.

He lauded the Pakistani youth for defending Pakistan’s stance on the social media, saying. “India should remember that neither it is 1971 nor it is that Pakistani army.”

He said the Pakistan Army had to go to the eastern border four times due to escalation in tension with India while it was busy in kinetic operation after 9/11.

Pakistan understands that there is local audience of Indian leadership because of general elections and they are overshooting, he said. “But if their behaviour will not change after elections, our behaviour will also change,” he said.

He invited India to sit on the negotiations table if it wants peace in the region. “Now India has to decide whether it wants incidents like that of February 27 or to end poverty in the region,” he said.

PROSCRIBED ORGANIZATIONS

The ISPR DG said the army and other LEAs were conducting kinetic operations and that was why they were unable to strategize against these banned militant organizations. “Earlier, when the army chief spoke on occasion of Youm-i-Shuhada, he said that monopoly of violence should rest with the state alone.

“On January 1, 2019 a decision was made on how to bring these people or organisations into the mainstream but no funds were allocated for this purpose. In February, the government allocated funds for the first time.”

MAINSTREAMING SEMINARIES

Maj Gen Ghafoor said that 25 million children in Pakistan were currently out of school. “In 1947, there were only 247 madrassahs in Pakistan and the number rose to 2,861 in 1980 and now the number is over 300,000 after the promotion of jihad was made due to the Afghan war,” he said.

Less than 100 madrassahs were found to be promoting extremism out of these. If these madrassahs were shut, what would happen to millions of children who go there,” he questioned.

He regretted that there were no job opportunities for the students of these seminaries. He said this government was planning to bring all these madrassahs under the Ministry of Education.

“As a first step, the government is introducing legislation to mainstream all these, then funds will be arranged, teachers will be employed and syllabus will be finalised. He said that Rs1 billion will be required each year for the mainstreaming programme.

Historical perspective of bad security situation

He said Pakistan’s social development indicators were good in 1960’s and 1970’s but four reasons created a bad security situation in the country.

“First Pakistan inherited Kashmir issue and second is the geopolitical location of Pakistan that had been a battle field of proxies. In 1980’s, jihad was promoted in the country during the Afghan war and the proxies between Saudi Arabia and Iran led to sectarian violence.

After 9/11, the entire security landscape changed, he said adding that fourth reason was the increasing Islamophobia.

Since 9/11, Pakistan has carried out 1,237 kinetic and 1,000 intelligence based operations against all militant organisations.

And 7,531 terrorists have been killed. We have intelligence sharing with 70 countries,

“Over 81,000 Pakistanis and armed forces personnel martyred or injured in this war on terror,” he said adding that the country had to bear losses over $300 billion.

No infrastructure of organized terrorist group

Responding a question regarding the presence of IS or Daesh in Pakistan in the wake of terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, the army spokesman said there was no  infrastructure of organised terrorist group in Pakistan.

But, he added that would be wrong to say that there is no presence of any terrorist organisation in the country. He said that repatriation of 2.7 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan was must in this connection.

Security on Pak-Iran border

The military spokesperson said that Pakistan had 909km friendly border with Iran that was also called as border of peace. He said that militants from Afghanistan could infiltrate into Pakistan from this side of border because there was no security deployment there. “Through bilateral coordination, we are fencing some areas of that border and checkpoints would be established at its other areas.” He said that there was no issue that terrorism was exporting from Pakistan from this side.

Questions to PTM

The military spokesperson dared the PTM leadership to answer some questions. Here they are:

l How much funds have you collected in donations from abroad, isn't it more than what you have shown on the website?

l How much funds NDS provided you to continue the sit-in, on March 22, 2018?

l Islamabad sit-in: How much funds RAW provided you?

l Who was Manzoor Pashteen’s relative who went to the Indian consulate, Kandahar? And how much funds were provided to them?

l How much in funds did the Indian consulate in Jalalabad provide to you?

l How many dollars did Indian diplomats give to you in May 2018?

l How much funds did NDS provide to you for Arman Luni’s funeral?

l What do you mean by Lar-o-Bar?

l Why did Mashal Khan Takkar come to Kabul from Canada?

l What is the connection with Baloch separatists?

l In what capacity did the PTM say it will receive SP Tahir Dawar’s body?

l What constitution allows you to go to Afghanistan by force to take the body?

l Why is any person who speaks for the Pakistan Army killed immediately?

l Why does TTP’s Mufti Noor Wali say PTM and TTP are the same? How do you share the narrative with them?

l How do you share the narrative with them?

l How much funds you have generated?

l Why did you forbid Afghan authorities not to hand over the dead body to the government of Pakistan?”

l To whom PTM leaders belong to – Pakistan or Afghanistan and whose policy they will follow?