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Saturday Oct 13 2018

Pakistan Army has no role in accountability process: DG ISPR

LONDON: The Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor has said that Pakistan Army has no role in the process of accountability and drive against corruption.

The DG ISPR spoke with reporters at the Pakistani High Commission on Saturday.

“We have our hands full on the eastern and western border; the army is having to maintain the security of the country. Army has its own stringent mechanism of accountability and it’s the most robust and toughest. It happens at various levels and no one is above accountability,” he said.

He emphasised that Army believes only democracy is the way forward and as an institution, Pakistan Army has provided full support to democratic institutions.

“We will work to make sure that democracy continues in Pakistan,” said Major General Ghafoor, who is accompanying Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa on his visit to the United Kingdom. “Whenever the army chief talks to any foreign dignitary, we talk about Pakistan and not about the army,” he added.

The DG ISPR called on all institutions to stand by each other and work together. “Army always stands by institutions, not with individuals.”

'76,000 laid down their lives for peace and stability’

DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor emphasised Pakistan’s success in the war against terrorism. “We are the only success story in the Muslim world in terms of what we have achieved. 76,000 people have laid down their lives for peace and stability in Pakistan,” he said.

The military spokesman stated that due to the war against terrorism, systems in Pakistan had eroded. “We need to correct those systems and in the last five years those systems have started working well.”

Major General Ghafoor spoke of incidents of terrorism diminishing the country and the crime rate decreasing in Karachi. “There used to be 2-3 blasts a day, but it has been peaceful. Karachi has come down in the crime index. Our bureaucracy and others have worked together.”

The DG ISPR stressed that when systems are strong the country will prosper. “Every institution has to work within a policy parameter. Today’s Pakistan is much better than before.”

‘Beauty of democracy is that political differences exist’

When asked about polarisation and political divisions in Pakistan, Major General Ghafoor said there was no country in the world without political differences. “The beauty of democracy is that political differences exist. Pakistan has the same but differences should be ethical and without abuses and attacks. Through the power of vote first, the PML-N governed, then the PTI and in the future, it will be someone else.”

Major General Ghafoor lamented that it was unfortunate that the army had been dragged in some matters. “Pakistan Army is an organised institution. We have to strengthen all institutions including the police and bureaucracy.”

Citing the example of the United Kingdom, the DG ISPR stressed that police was more powerful than the army and the same could happen in Pakistan as well. “The army can fight terrorists but this is the job of the police and our army has been doing the job of the police for many years.”

According to Major General Ghafoor, police and judicial reforms were important and it was the government’s responsibility to bring reforms and legislation.

‘Positive stories about Pakistan not carried’

The military spokesman further spoke on the role of the international media and how positive stories about Pakistan were not carried but negativity was highlighted. 

DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor with reporters in London

“A case in point is reforms in FATA. We have not seen any objective story in the western press about this, but reports keep coming up on alleged human rights violations.” 

The spokesman added that in Pakistan there was freedom of expression, but the media faced pressures related to the economy.

‘PML-N govt approved operation against militancy’

Major General Ghafoor said the PML-N government had listened to each and every demand of the Pakistan Army and provided funds for the fence on the porous border. 

“The PML-N government approved the operation against militancy and fully cooperated. We cannot allow a porous border. The barricade is not meant to be a divide between the two countries.”

‘Elections were the most transparent and free’

The DG ISPR said the 2018 general election was the most transparent and free, with the Pakistan Army ensuring that people voted according to their will on polling day. “There has been a record turnout in various parts of the country. Voters made their own choice and were not told who to vote for or not.” 

The military spokesman stressed that allegations of rigging had been made, but there was no evidence brought forward.

‘Only Raheel Sharif, Musharraf out of country’

Major General Ghafoor, commenting on his “the year of change” tweet, said this was taken out of context. He informed reporters that former Chief of Army Staff General (retd) Raheel Sharif was in Saudi Arabia on a contract approved by the government. He also spoke of former General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, who was out of Pakistan because he came into politics. 

“The fact is that he [Musharraf] is an army general and the army has nothing to do with his politics. We have no linkage with ex-president Musharraf regarding his politics.” 

DG ISPR dispelled impressions that seven former army generals were outside of Pakistan, telling reporters that only Raheel Sharif and Musharraf were outside, while Kayani, Kakar and Karamat lived in the country.

‘Surgical strike is a myth’

Major General Ghafoor categorically stated that the surgical strike is a myth and India was running lies to discredit Pakistan. “We have the power to retaliate within ten minutes if any adventure is carried out. There should be no doubt about that,” he asserted.

He said that the freedom movement of Kashmiris is indigenous and does not have external support. “Independence of Kashmir is in the DNA of Kashmiris, the movement for freedom is completely independent, India knows it well that there is no interference from Pakistan, Kashmiris are fighting for the war of their survival and India knows Kashmiris are right and they will win and the struggle of Kashmiris will be won by Kahsmiris. They are freedom fighters and not terrorists, India has used every kind of power to suppress Kashmiris but failed.”

'No issue with PTM, but concerns about the way it's operating'

The DG ISPR said that Pakistan has no issue with the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) but there are concerns about the way it's operating and the message it is trying to portray to mislead Pakistanis. He said that the PTM leader was a Pakistani who studied at an army school and at no point the army has said anything against him. 

“The issue is wider and beyond any individual. Pakistan Army has made unprecedented sacrifices in FATA and other areas, coming to the area and clearing it of terrorists who had made these areas havens of terrorism against Pakistan. We cannot forget that it’s in these areas that Pakistanis and its armed forces were attacked and football played with the remains of the deceased. Where were all those people then when terror was being unleashed from these areas? There was no hue and cry then but now that we have made these areas safe and secure our enemies are doing their best to sow seeds of discord amongst Pakistanis. We understand that Manzoor Pashteen has no power to organise these protests abroad but we do know who is behind these protests and the sources of funding.”

‘Govts want positive engagement with us’

Commenting on the visit, Major General Ghafoor said there had been great interaction with military and civilian leaders. “We are a relevant country and governments like the UK want positive engagement with us which we have always welcomed." 

He added that Pakistan wanted foreign forces in Afghanistan to succeed.