Troops won’t be deployed outside region: ISPR

Updated November 23, 2015

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Bajwa says IS phenomenon is totally rejected in Pakistan.—ISPR/File
Bajwa says IS phenomenon is totally rejected in Pakistan.—ISPR/File
Bajwa says IS phenomenon is totally rejected in Pakistan.—Reuters/File
Bajwa says IS phenomenon is totally rejected in Pakistan.—Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: Pakistan will not send its troops for any mission outside the region, says Director General of Inter Services Public Relations Lt Gen Asim Bajwa.

“We already have about 182,000 troops deployed along the Afghan border. We are not looking for any involvement outside our region,” Mr Bajwa told a news briefing at the end of the army chief’s visit to Washington this week.

During the UN General Assembly session earlier this year, the United States arranged an international summit on combating the threat of terrorism, particularly that of the militant Islamic State group, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh.

One of the proposals discussed at the summit was to raise a multi-national force to fight this threat.

Also read: Foreign secretary rules out IS presence in Pakistan

“Daesh is a global threat, with its centre in the Middle East. There is need for a global response to it,” Mr Bajwa said. “Luckily, Daesh sympathisers came to Pakistan when people were fed up with extremists. So this phenomenon was totally rejected in Pakistan.”

Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif left for Brazil on Saturday evening after a five-day visit to Washington during which he met US Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter and other senior officials.

Asked at the briefing if the Americans also raised the nuclear issue at these meetings, Lt Gen Bajwa said: “Pakistan’s stance on the nuclear issue is very clear. It is focused on meeting a certain threat perception.”

He said the Pakistani delegation did not talk about the dossiers on India’s involvement in Pakistan’s internal affairs, submitted during the prime minister’s visit last month.

“It is an issue that is tackled by the embassy at appropriate levels and was not raised in these meetings.”

The army chief’s meetings focused on Pak-US relations, military to military ties, regional security and on the situation in Afghanistan, he said.

Mr Bajwa said that the Kashmir issue was also discussed as a dispute that needed to be resolved for bringing peace and stability to the region.

“The meetings provided us with an opportunity to present Pakistan’s perspective clearly and forcefully and we did that. And we felt that it was appreciated,” he said.

Mr Bajwa said that the US and Pakistan both believed that the Afghan reconciliation process could not be delayed any further. “We will have to carry it forward with consistency,” he said.

Mr Bajwa pointed out that reconciliation talks had already started but Kabul’s decision to leak certain information derailed the process.

“There is a realisation in Washington that had this process not been delayed, we would have made a lot of progress by now,” he said.

“Now we want to work together to remove the obstacles that are delaying the progress.”

Asked why had the army chief held his first meeting with the CIA chief, Mr Bajwa said that was of no particular significance but this meeting was important because Pakistani and US agencies regularly exchanged intelligence data.

Talks with the CIA chief focused on counter-terrorism measures and there was convergence of views on how to deal with the terrorists, he said.

Responding to another question, Mr Bajwa said Vice President Biden acknowledged that Operation Zarb-i-Azb had “turned the tide against terrorism”.

The operation had achieved most of its targets in North Waziristan and the armed forces were now focusing on the Khyber agency, he said.

“I do not like giving a time-frame but I believe that we will soon achieve our goals. We are not stopping midway.”

Mr Bajwa said that some terrorists had fled to Afghanistan and the government was now trying to improve its coordination with Kabul to flush them out.

Asked what concrete decisions were taken in the army chief’s meetings, he said: “If your perspective is received well, you do move ahead.”

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2015