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ISPR chief reflects on nation’s fault lines, says Pakistan is at ‘watershed of history’

Updated December 06, 2018

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Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor regrets that Kartarpur initiative was negatively presented in India, but hopes that India will “positively respond to this goodwill gesture”. —DawnNewsTV screengrab
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor regrets that Kartarpur initiative was negatively presented in India, but hopes that India will “positively respond to this goodwill gesture”. —DawnNewsTV screengrab

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Thursday reflected upon the nation’s "fault lines" and mentioned that over the past 70 years Pakistan has suffered due to “weak economy, lack of governance, flaws in judicial and education systems, and religious extremism”.

Addressing a news conference in Rawalpindi, the military’s spokesperson said, “We have fought wars, tackled terrorism, rendered sacrifices — our economy suffered from it — but today we are at a watershed of history from where the situation can be turned towards betterment.”

Ghafoor recalled that the country has passed through tough times, "we lost half of our country, suffered economic crises and faced terrorism, but over the past few years, we have been moving towards betterment".

The ISPR chief also raised concerns over the increasing ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary by the Indian forces, saying 55 civilians have been martyred due to Indian cross-border aggression this year — the highest in history. He said that Indian forces were deliberately targeting civilians across the LoC.

Ghafoor highlighted that Pakistan has taken several positive initiatives for peace with India, the latest one being the groundbreaking of Kartarpur corridor. The ISPR chief, while regretting that the initiative was negatively presented in India, hoped that India (in time) will “positively respond to this goodwill gesture”.

He informed the audience that the corridor will be constructed in six months after which 4,000 Sikh pilgrims will be able to visit the Kartarpur daily. “It will be a one-way corridor from the Indian side to Kartarpur, and the Sikh pilgrims will remain restricted to Kartarpur,” the spokesperson said.

Giving an overview of the domestic security situation, the ISPR chief said law and order situation has greatly improved across the country. “Incidents of terrorism and other crimes like abduction and extortion have greatly decreased in erstwhile Fata, Balochistan, and Karachi,” he said.

Moreover, a total of 2,200 ferraris have laid down their weapons in Balochistan during the past three years. Ghafoor further urged the disgruntled elements in Balochistan to “relinquish their violent path and join the national mainstream”.

Military wants to deal with PTM politely, says Ghafoor

While discussing the matter of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), the military’s spokesperson said that the PTM had made three demands — clearance of landmines, reduction in security check posts and recovery of missing persons.

“In 2016, there were around 469 check posts [in erstwhile Fata] but as of today their number has been reduced to 331,” Ghafoor said, adding that further reduction in the number of check posts was directly related with the security situation across the western border [in Afghanistan]. “The cross-border threat is still there; we are building a fence along the border,” he said.

Talking about the clearance of landmines from the area, the ISPR chief revealed that 43 teams of military engineers were currently working in Fata districts and have cleared landmines from 44 per cent of the war-torn area.

Furthermore, Ghafoor said that 4,000 out of 7,000 pending cases of missing persons have been settled, while "the process is underway in the remaining cases".

When asked why the army has not reacted against the 'strong' criticism levelled by the PTM, the military’s spokesperson said, “We have engaged with them politely because we understand that they are our Pakistani brothers who have suffered a lot from terrorism and then faced a lot of administrative inconvenience during the subsequent military operation.”

“They are our people, they are hurt and have suffered losses, but still they haven’t resorted to violence till now, therefore we have dealt with them politely,” said Ghafoor.

“But now they are heading in a direction where the situation might arise that they cross a ‘line’ […] we request them not to cross that line where the state is compelled to use authority to control them [PTM]”.

The ISPR chief also urged the media to play its "effective role in projecting a soft image of Pakistan as it did to shape public opinion against terrorism".

Responding to a question about the reported heavy military build-up by India, he said Pakistan was a "confident and responsible nuclear-capable state and any misadventure from India will be responded in a befitting manner".