Islamabad - DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Thursday that Pakistan has taken several positive peace initiatives with India and expressed the hope New Delhi will positively respond to opening of Kartarpura corridor.
Addressing a press conference the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations however questioned India’s claim of being a secular state.
In an apparent response to Indian army chief Bipin Rawat’s recent statement, he said India should first live up to its own concept [of secular state] and see what’s happening with minorities on its own land.
Rawat last week said that Pakistan needs to be a secular state to have better ties with India, inviting sharp reaction from Islamabad.
“What is happening with religious places of minorities in India,” Major General Asif Ghafoor said in reference to the Babari Mosque episode.
He pointed out that Pakistan, on the other hand, is giving full protection to its minorities and their religious places.
The chief of Pakistan Army’s media mouthpiece regretted that the visa-free Kartarpura corridor initiative was negatively presented in India. However, he expressed the hope that India will positively respond to this goodwill gesture.
He said the initiative was taken to facilitate the Sikh community and to ease their pilgrimage, adding 4,000 Sikh pilgrims will be able to visit the Kartarpura daily.
He said the border corridor will be solely a one-way transit passage and it will be completed in six months. “Pakistanis will not be able to use the corridor to travel to India”, he added.
He regretted that Pakistan’s eastern neighbour has not agreed on resuming dialogue with Pakistan and criticised the hard line BJP-led government for the deterioration of ties.
Expressing his concern over increasing ceasefire violations on the Line of Control and Working Boundary by the Indian forces, DG ISPR said 55 civilians have so far been martyred this year, which is the highest number in the history during this period.
He said Indian forces are deliberately targeting civilians across the Line of Control.
Answering a question about heavy military build-up by India, Maj-Gen Asif reiterated that Pakistan is a confident and responsible nuclear capable state and any misadventure from India will be responded in a befitting manner.
He said Pakistan wants stability in the region as war has always brought destruction and miseries to people.
Regarding Afghan peace process, DG ISPR said this political reconciliation must succeed. “We wish the United States leaves Afghanistan as a friend of the region, not as a failure.”
Assuring Pakistan’s cooperation for the process, he said Pakistan will facilitate the Afghan peace process to the maximum possible level.
He said Pakistan has always been holding the stance that political reconciliation is the only solution to the Afghan conflict.
Major General Asif Ghafoor said 2.7 million Afghan refugees have been living in Pakistan for 40 years, and we want their repatriation in an honourable manner.
He said Pakistan is fencing its 2611-kilometer border with Afghanistan to check cross border terrorism. He said Pakistan has cleared its areas of terrorists through successful kinetic operations.
Pakistan on a ‘watershed point’
Answering a question, the head of military’s media wing said Pakistan has reached a watershed point where internal fault lines like economy, governance, and religious and sectarian diversity have to be addressed.
He reflected upon the nation’s “fault lines” and recalled 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”.
“We have fought wars, tackled terrorism, rendered sacrifices, our economy suffered from it, but today we are at a watershed of history from where the situation can be turned towards betterment”, he emphasised.
He asked who was responsible for weak institutions in the country, and advised that the country needs to move forward, which cannot happen if we do not get over the past.
He urged the media to play its effective role in projecting soft image of Pakistan as it did to shape public opinion against terrorism. On media’s role in moulding public opinion, he asked media houses to raise public awareness on improvements made in the country.
Maj-Gen Ghafoor said in the past few years the country has made positive progress, questioning why did we want to reverse it. “Can we not move towards a better Pakistan from this watershed? We have to make the decision on whether to stay like this or jump on the roller coaster of success.”
“I am the spokesman of today’s Pakistan Army and can tell you that today’s army is not the one from the past. Everyone in the army has seen a time in which their colleague is dying in their arms. For 15 years the Pakistan Army has not been sitting in their homes. They have been patrolling cities and neighbourhoods for your protection. The nation and citizens have also sacrificed a lot. All institutions have worked together, but if you remain in the same ups and downs of the past 70 years, then you will not move towards the silver line which can be seen from this watershed.”
Giving overview of the internal security situation, DG ISPR said that law and order has greatly improved across the country.
He said terrorist incidents have considerably decreased and hopefully there will be complete peace in the country as a result of the ongoing stability operations.
He said incidents of terrorism and other crimes like kidnapping for ransom and extortion have greatly decreased in erstwhile Fata, Balochistan, and Karachi.
He said over three thousand Ferraris have laid down their arms in Balochistan during three years.
He urged the disgruntled elements in Balochistan to relinquish their violent path and join the national mainstream.
He said position of Karachi on the index of law and order in the world has improved from six to 67. He said business activities are fast improving in the city.
The DG ISPR said 44 major operations and over 42,000 intelligence-based operations were carried out across the country as part of Raddul Fasaad Operatin. He said over 32,000 arms of various calibers were recovered.
The general regretted that despite recovering 4.3 million units of arms and ammunition, the country had not been de-weaponised.
Warning to PTM
Regarding the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement demands, he said all the three demands, including reduction of check posts in erstwhile Fata, clearing of mines, and recovery of missing persons, have been effectively pursued.
He said the number of check posts have been significantly reduced while forty-four percent of the area has been cleared of mines. Similarly, he said, 4,000 out of 7,000 cases of missing persons have been settled, while process is underway in the remaining cases.
He said that although Pakistan Army had been asked to deal more strictly with the movement, as PTM was non-violent, it did not resort to such measures.
“We request PTM not to cross the line otherwise the state will have to take action”, he warned.
Accountability of armed forces
Commenting on accountability within the armed forces, he said that the institution was a disciplined force and added that the army has an entire bench led by a three-star general.
Elaborating on the check and balances present within the armed forces, Gen Ghafoor said a correction regime is in place and punishment, ranging from a warning to imprisonment, exists for every unlawful activity. Giving the example of an officer, the spokesperson added that the officer was dismissed from services after he was found guilty of Rs10,000 corruption was proved against him.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that no person or institution is above the law.
Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR) Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor read out the army chief’s message while addressing the media. “We will reconstruct Pakistan brick-by-brick to have a normalised Pakistan… the country will run as per the Constitution,” the army’s spokesperson quoted the COAS as saying. According to Gen Qamar, prerogative of violence rests with the state alone.
PM’s statement taken out of context
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 minister’s statement on this issue was taken out of context.