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Sunday Jul 16 2017

Army distances itself from Panama case controversy


RAWALPINDI: Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said on Sunday that the army has no direct link with the Panama case Joint Investigation Team (JIT). 

Addressing a press conference on the launch of a new military operation in Khyber Agency, the army spokesperson faced a barrage of queries related to the country's political situation despite his repeated refusals to get into any controversy. 

In reply to a question, Maj Gen Ghafoor said the two members of the JIT from the military's intelligence agencies worked with honesty and dedication. “It is a sub-judice matter and the Supreme Court will make its decision in the case,” he said.

When asked to comment on reports that the army is part of a conspiracy to remove the government, he said "I don't think this even merits a response. I have shown you what the army is doing".

“It is the duty of every Pakistani to ensure the supremacy of the law and Constitution,” he said in answer to another question. 

Operation Khyber-IV

The Pakistan Army announced on Sunday the launch of a new military operation in Khyber Agency. 

Maj Gen Ghafoor said the follow-up operation, Khyber-IV, has been launched in Khyber Agency's Rajgal Valley today. He added that the Pakistan Air Force is also involved in the operation.  

The DG ISPR informed that the valley, next to the Afghan border, is being used by Daesh and other local militant groups. 

A division-plus size force will take part in the operation, he informed, saying that they hope to unilaterally secure the international border, eliminate hideouts and complete the state's complete physical hold on Khyber Agency in the operation. 

The army spokesperson also gave a country-wide breakdown of the operations taken as part of Operation Raddul Fasaad (RuF), launched earlier this year, stating that the security situation of the country has improved as a result.

Talking about the situation on the Line of Control, he said so far 580 ceasefire violations have occurred this year — the highest in any year. "This indicates the Indian aim of diverting attention from political upheaval in Indian Occupied Kashmir," he claimed.  

The ISPR chief lamented that the Indian army has the choice of opening fire on civilian areas whereas the Pakistan Army cannot do that to Kashmiris across the LoC. 

"There will never be any foreign boots on our ground," said Maj Gen Ghafoor when talking about collaborative efforts against terrorism on the Pak-Afghan border. 

Referring to the ongoing phase-1 of fencing at the Pak-Afghan border, he said on average there is a fort or check post every 1.5 kilometres. 

Replying to a question on Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav's case, DG ISPR said the army chief is reviewing the proceedings of the case and will take a decision on Jadhav's mercy appeal on merit.

In response to another question, Maj Gen Ghafoor stressed that there is no organised Daesh infrastructure in Pakistan and nor will one be allowed. “However, Daesh is getting stronger in Afghanistan but is still far from making a base the way it did in the Middle East.”

He added that splinter groups of TTP adopting the bandwagon of Daesh in Pakistan are already being taken care of by the security forces.

The ISI was not the only institute involved in the Raymond Davis affair, he said when asked to comment on the CIA contractor's book wherein he states former ISI chief Lt Gen (retd) Shuja Pasha orchestrated his release from jail. 

Talking about the military courts, he said at present 40 cases are under process. Regarding the 17 terrorists nabbed in Parachinar, he said their case in the military court will be fast-tracked. 

COAS message:

At the end of his address, he relayed a message from the army chief: "We are building peace in our country, brick by brick, moving from relative stability towards enduring peace. For this, army shall continue to perform its role in and with support of all other state institutions." 

DG ISPR said all state institutions are on one page when it comes to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

When asked to comment on a ‘social media campaign against state institutions’, he said “every person has freedom of expression, but any patriot Pakistani cannot be part of any negative campaign against the army”.

"Ehsanullah Ehsan will be proceeded against according to the law," he said when asked about the future course of action with regards to the former TTP terrorist now in army custody. 

He stated that the army is prepared to respond to any emergency situation with regards to the monsoon floods.