Sunday Mar 18 2018
Web Desk

Pakistan eliminated sanctuaries of all terror groups, including Haqqanis: DG ISPR

Web Desk

Pakistan has rid its soil of all terrorist sanctuaries, including those of Haqqani Network through a well-thought-out military campaign, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations Asif Ghafoor said in an interview with UAE media.

Maj-Gen Ghafoor told Gulf News that Pakistan has taken action against terrorists of all shades and kinds, including the Haqqani Network, which was also the main concern of the United States.

“Earlier, till 2014, Pakistan focused on operations against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] and targeted Haqqani Network during Operation Zarb-e-Azb, [from] 2014 onwards. This was due to lack of capacity and not lack of will. There are no organised terrorists sanctuaries inside Pakistan anymore,” he told the newspaper.

“But all this has come with a huge price. Besides cost in blood of over 75,000 Pakistanis, there has been loss of more than $123 billion to the national exchequer,” he added.

Responding to repeated allegations against Pakistan after attacks in Afghanistan, Maj-Gen Ghafoor said that “lack of effectiveness inside Afghanistan cannot be done away with by throwing blame on Pakistan”.

“Various independent international surveys report that more than 50 per cent of Afghan areas are not under effective control of Afghan forces. There is scanty presence of Afghan forces along Pak- Afghan border,” he continued, asking that the country provide actionable evidence to back up its claim.

No country other than Pakistan is more keen to see a peaceful Afghanistan as we are the immediate neighbours, the major-general added.

He said that Pakistan has conveyed the same to the US. For long-standing peace in Afghanistan, ungoverned spaces inside the country would have to be cleared by Afghan and RSM [Resolute Support Mission] Forces.

“A better Pak-Afghan border security arrangement are quintessential towards this end. Pakistan has long been pursuing this with Afghanistan,” he added.

Another factor in ensuring peace in the AfPak region is respectable repatriation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The residual presence of terrorists elements takes advantages of the 2.7 millions Afghan refugees by disguising themselves as peaceful citizens, Maj-Gen Ghafoor said.

Expanding on the measures taken to ensure lasting peace, he said Pakistan has started to fence entire 2,611-km length of Pak-Afghan border and construction of new forts and posts to deny free cross-border movement of terrorists.

Perpetual threat from India

Commenting on the threats from India, the army official that India is challenging Pakistan along the eastern borders, and also foments unrest through terrorism using Afghan soil.

“And this is not mere rhetoric. Pakistan has arrested a serving Indian naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav working as RAW [Research and Analysis Wing, India’s primary foreign intelligence agency] agent in Pakistan. So we are not having any let-up in safeguarding against Indian threat,” he added.

Pakistan has strong and combat-hardened professional standing armed forces ready to thwart and defeat any threat, he said.

Ghafoor, however, continued that he believes all issues between the two countries, including the core issues of Kashmir, should be resolved to normalise bilateral the relationship.

Pakistan is a peaceful country and doesn’t want conflict with anyone. However, our desire for peace should never be mistaken as our weakness, he told Gulf News.

“For normalised Indo-Pak relationship, all issues including the core issue of Kashmir between the two nuclear countries need to be resolved. India needs to behave like a responsible country, stop atrocities on both sides of the LOC [Line of Control] and also discontinue interference inside Pakistan through state-sponsored terrorism,” Maj-Gen Ghafoor said.

Pakistani troops 'not to be deployed outside Saudi borders'

He also explained that the recent government decision to deploy Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia is part of the ongoing Pak-Saudi bilateral security cooperation since 1982.

“It is neither part of Islamic Force nor it shall be deployed outside KSA borders. The role of Pakistani troops is training and advice,” he said.

Pakistan has similar bilateral security arrangements with other GCC and regional countries too, he added.

The army official also gave his views on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and said it a nation-to-nation project and is not linked to elections or any other event.

“China is our time-tested friend,” he added.

Ghafoor said that the army will ensure security of the project as Pakistan's enemies are trying to scuttle the project.

For this special security, a division has been raised, he said.

Responding to whether foreign investors should bring their businesses to Pakistan, Ghafoor said that peace in returning to the country and that CPEC is progressing well.

“All this is affording economic investment opportunities in Pakistan. There are no threats anymore and environment is conducive for investment,” he said.