Time is up for PTM leadership says DG ISPR

Rawalpindi: Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor on Monday, while sharing with the media the information about links of the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) with Afghan and Indian spy agencies, said that time was up for them now as the PTM leaders have already enjoyed a lot of liberty.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said that there should be soft attitude with the PTM even if their demands are not genuine keeping in view the sufferings of Pakthuns during the operation against terrorism.

He said that Pakistan had always aspired to meet demands of the PTM which include clearing areas, which remained under operation, from mines, end of check posts and addressing the issue of missing persons, but their leadership says they would take revenge from the Pakistan Army. “Actually, these are demands of the PTM who are so-called leaders of Pakhtuns,” he said.

He questioned the PTM leaders including Manzoor Pashteen and the members of the National Assembly Mohsin Dawar, and Ali Wazir that where were they when terrorists were cutting throats of Pakhtuns and playing football with their heads. “Now they are talking about protection of Pakhtuns,” the DG ISPR said.

He pointed that it was the Pakistan Army which fought against terrorists and forced them out of the tribal areas. The DG ISPR said as per directives of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, he was the first to engage with the PTM leaders. “The army chief directed me not to deal them hard even if their demands are not genuine,” he said.

About the first demand of the PTM, he said as many as 48 teams of Pakistan Army’s engineers were deployed who so far have cleared 45 percent of area from mines and live bombs. “In the process, we also suffered 101 casualties,” he said.

About the second demand of the PTM, the DG ISPR said it were personnel of Pakistan Army who have been deputed and sacrificing their lives to ensure peace in the area. On the third demand, he said as per identification carried out by the commission constituted for the purpose, the number of missing persons has been reduced from over 8,000 to around 2,500.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said the PTM leaders have also been asked to give lists of manpower of Tehreek-e-Taliban present in Afghanistan so that their names could be compared with the list of 2,500 missing persons. Saying that time was up for the PTM leadership now, the DG ISPR maintained that action would be taken against them as per law of the land if they did not respond to questions about their links with NDS and RAW.

He questioned the PTM leadership as to how much donations they have secured from abroad and whether the amount which they are keeping is not more than what they have shown on the website. He also questioned the PTM as to how much funds the Indian spy agency RAW provided them to stage sit-in in Islamabad in March, last year and who was Manzoor Pashteen’s relative who visited Indian consulate in Kandahar last year and how much funds were given to him.

The military spokesman also questioned the PTM leaders as to how much funds the Indian consulate in Jalalabad provided them and how many dollars did the Indian diplomat in Islamabad gave them in May, 2018. He also questioned as to how much funds did the NDS gave them for funeral of Arman Luni. He also questioned MNA Mohsin Dawar that in which capacity he asked the Afghan authorities that dead body of SP Tahir Dawar should be given to them instead of Pakistan government’s authorities and what are their connections with Baloch separatists.

Major General Asif Ghafoor made it clear on India that Pakistan reserves the right to use every capability for its defence, warning the adversary to refrain from testing the resolve of the Pakistan’s armed forces.

“If such a time comes, India must remember that there will be a repeat of February 27,” he said. Referring to a statement of the Indian army chief that they were not keeping nuclear weapons to fire on eve of Devali, the spokesman for Pakistan Army said that leaders of a nuclear state must remember that such statements are not appropriate, saying that nuclear capability is a weapon of deterrence.

“It is also confidence of the state having nuclear capability, which matters,” the DG ISPR said, maintaining that a state like Pakistan reserves the right to use every capability when it comes to its defence.

The military spokesman said India has been telling uncounted lies since the Palwama incident on February 22 and then the Balakot air strikes on February 27. “We are not responding to their false claims and that is why they are continuing,” he said, adding that they have many facts to reveal, but would do so at a proper time.

He also asked Indian leadership to also tell media as to what was response of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on February 27 at Nowshera area in response to India’s February 26 misadventure. “They hit one target in Balakot with four missiles, whereas we responded with six missiles on four targets,” he said.

He said the media should also be told as to who was present inside the Brigade headquarters of Indian army when the PAF engaged it, but fired missile intentionally at a safe distance, and what was state of ammunition depot and whether it is in working state or not following February 27.

To a question from senior journalist Hamid Mir as to whether Indian army chief was present at the Brigade headquarters on February 27, the DG ISPR said ask the same question from Indian media.

The DG ISPR said if the Indian leadership claim that their air force shot down Pakistan’s F-16 then they could ask the United States that one of F-16 aircraft with Pakistan is missing. He said the Indian leadership should also tell their media how Pakistan artillery engaged Indians on the Line of Control (LoC) when they were planning missile attack on February 28. “They must tell their media that with live disruptive and destructive fire from our artillery, the Indians were forced to their gun positions and how much loss of their soldiers, they suffered,” he said.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said the adversary must remember now it is not the 1971 era, nor it is army of 1971. “Had there been Pakistani media of today in 1971, it must had exposed Indians’ designs and brought forth many facts and East Pakistan might not have separated,” he said, adding that Pakistani media have been playing a key role in operations against terrorism for the last two decades.

Once again making offer of talks to India, the DG ISPR said the Indian leadership should come to talks to resolve outstanding issues like Kashmir if they want peace in the region. “The support for Kashmiri people runs in our veins,” he maintained. He said it was also up to the Indian leadership whether they want repeat of February 27 or they like to fight against poverty which Pakistan have been doing for decades.

Talking about madrassa reforms, he said there are over 30,000 madrassas in Pakistan and 2.5 million children receive an religious education there.

“The government and support institutions have decided to mainstream all these madrassas… Their curriculum will include contemporary subjects… These madrasas will be under the Ministry of Education,” DG ISPR added.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said the army chief had engaged with Ulema from all sects on this and they all agreed that it was necessary to mainstream madrassas and contemporary education must be taught there. He said the army chief says, “Stick to your faith and don’t touch others”.

He said the syllabus for the madrassas would not include hate speech and ensure respect for other sects. He added that the madrassa students, after completing their studies, would have degrees and have the same opportunities as the students studying in private schools and they should be taught contemporary subjects so that they are brought in the national mainstream and earn their livelihood.

He pointed out that a student of Jamia Rashidia had joined the Pakistan Military Academy because he fulfilled the merit.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said that in the first phase, a legislation would be carried through an act of the Parliament, in the second, the syllabus would be reviewed, teachers assigned and finances discussed, while in third phase, mainstreaming of the madrassas would take place.

According to the DG ISPR, at the start of this process, Rs2 billion would be required, and then Rs1 billion annually would be required. He said Pakistan had come a long way in fight against terrorism since 9/11. He said there have been 1,237 kinetic operations and around 100,000 intelligence-based operations.

He said that since 9/11, 17,531 terrorists have been killed, 450 tons of explosives have been recovered besides huge quantities of weapons. “Today we can say with conviction, evidence and logic that there is no organised terrorist infrastructure present in Pakistan,” he said.

The DG ISPR said that in the policy domain Pakistan passed the Anti-Terrorist Act, counterinsurgency regulation and through an act of Parliament, military courts were formed.

Asif Ghafoor further said that Pakistan had intelligence sharing cooperation with 70 countries. “We paid the price for this. Over 81,000 Pakistanis, including personnel of the armed forces, were either martyred or injured,” he said.

The DG ISPR said that after kinetic operations were completed, the state of Pakistan decided to take action against proscribed organisations and formulated the National Action Plan in 2014 when there was no Palwama or FATF. He dismissed the impression that recent actions against proscribed organisations were being taken due to external pressures.

He recalled that on January 1, this year, a decision was taken on how to deal with proscribed organisations. He said that it was also decided that welfare set up of these proscribed organizations including hospitals, schools etc. would now be operated under government’s control.

AlamulKhabar Pakistan