ISLAMABAD: The army on Monday said it had taken action against terrorist groups of all shades, including the Haqqani network, and its future counterterrorism actions would continue to be dictated by the national interest.

“As far as the vibes of a coercive policy are concerned, Pakistan is a sovereign state. Any decision that Pakistan takes would be guided by its national interest. We’ll cater to regional and global interests while remaining within the limits of the national interest,” Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said at a media briefing arranged to announce the conclusion of military operation Khyber-IV in the Rajgal Valley. He also provided updates about the counterterrorism operations elsewhere in the country.

The briefing happened a day before United States President Donald Trump announces his long-awaited strategy regarding the 16-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. The policy was finalised at Mr Trump’s meeting with his National Security Council last week, but no details have so far come out. However, it is expected that President Trump would renew US commitment to Afghanistan.

There have been speculations in the media that President Trump would, out of his administration’s concerns about alleged terrorist sanctuaries on Pakistani soil, go for harsh steps against Islamabad. US delegations visiting Pakistan this month have consistently emphasised the need for action against terrorist groups allegedly targeting neighbours Afghanistan and India from Pakistani soil.

Lahore bomb attack was initially aimed at Shahbaz

Recently published State Department Country Reports on Terrorism alleged that Pakistan did not take adequate action against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network and other externally-focused groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. Defence Secretary James Mattis, meanwhile, refused to certify to the US Congress that Pakistan had taken enough action against the Haqqani network, because of which reimbursements under the Coalition Support Fund were cut.

Gen Ghafoor said Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa had in his interactions with the visiting US delegations offered them to “pick up the point” and “time” of their choosing to see for themselves that there was no more terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. And the Americans did that, he said without elaborating if those trips were separate from the delegations that were taken to North Waziristan by the military.

“We have made it clear to them that we have taken action against all terrorist groups, including Haqqani network,” he maintained and regretted that there was “global politics”, “regional politics” and “Indian influence” behind the misperceptions about Pakistan.

“Pakistan has contributed a lot to regional security,” the military spokesman said, adding: “Even if the new policy comes with some coercive measures, Pakistan will do what is in national interest.”

Operation Khyber-IV

The spokesman said the operation in the Rajgal Valley, dubbed Khyber-IV, had successfully concluded with minimum military casualties.

The operation was launched on July 15 to block the entry of the militant Islamic State (IS) group from across the border with Afghanistan. Two soldiers were martyred in the operation that was carried out in one of the toughest terrains in the Khyber region.

“Now we are consolidating our gains,” Gen Ghafoor said.

The spokesman, while replying to a question, dismissed as baseless the much talked-about divide between civilian and military institutions.

He said there could be differences on certain issues, but it could not be described as a civil-military dispute.

When asked about an inquiry report about a Dawn story, he said it was up to the government to declassify it.

Gen Ghafoor said a recent suicide bomb attack targeting police officials outside the Arfa Karim Tower in Lahore had been initially planned by the terrorists against Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

“The target was the CM, Punjab. He had an engagement there but his programme was changed at the eleventh hour, so they got instructions to target police. Several other suicide bombers targeting the CM have also been arrested,” he claimed.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2017


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