GHULAM KHAN: The army has said that work on a 900-kilometre-long portion of fence along the Pak-Afghan border has been completed.
Briefing journalists and anchorpersons on Sunday at Ghulam Khan, a border village in North Waziristan tribal district, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said work on about 1,200km chunk — the most sensitive portion out of the total 2,600km border with the war-torn country — had commenced last year.
He said the project would cost about Rs70 billion, which included the cost of gadgets and surveillance equipment to keep strict vigil on the illicit movement from across the border.
He said the fence had helped check the movement of terrorists from across the border and the situation would further improve after the completion of the project next year.
The visit of media persons was conducted for the first time in the country’s history as earlier no such activity could have happened as it had been a no-go area for civilians and even security forces.
Giving a break-up, the ISPR chief said that about 1,200km of the total 2,600km border with Afghanistan was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the rest in Balochistan.
ISPR chief says Pakistan has played role in Afghan reconciliation process
In reply to a question about the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, he said Pakistan had been playing a role in it and if the parties concerned struck some mutual settlement it would ultimately be in its interest too. Due to that settlement, he said, the elements having the backing of inimical forces in Afghanistan, such as the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, would have to opt for some reconciliatory path as they would be left with no other choice.
Earlier, 11 Corps Commander Lt Gen Shaheen and his team separately arranged a briefing for the media persons at the Corps Headquarters, Peshawar. The corps commander said that after the end of the war in the area troops were now in the process of consolidation while steps were in hand to resettle about 4,000 families, who had gone to Afghanistan about four decades ago.
He said that 95 per cent work on resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) had already been accomplished. Talking about the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), he claimed that most of their demands had already been met, while the rest, if any, could be sorted out through a dialogue process.
He said that following the operation against militants there was no no-go area in the erstwhile Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), which had become part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Lt Gen Shaheen said the local commanders had been empowered to hold dialogue and meetings with the people of their respective areas and help mitigate their grievances.
The ISPR chief was of the opinion that instead of making a hue and cry abroad, the PTM leaders should sit with the local leadership and seek settlement of their genuine grievances.
The media persons were also taken to Miramshah, the district headquarters of North Waziristan, where they interacted with the local populace. Students, traders and common citizens, while interacting with the media persons, welcomed the role of the Pakistan Army in restoring what they called complete peace in the area. However, some of them complained that they had not been given compensation by the civil administration for the losses they had incurred during the decade-long drive against militancy.
On the occasion, head of the Petroleum Dealers Association Raqib Gull said the local administration had made estimates of the losses caused to petrol pumps in the area. He said that around 69 petrol pumps had been damaged and they demanded a financial compensation of Rs560 million.
Interacting with people, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that steps were being taken to sort out their genuine demands, besides promptly undertaking work on development schemes. About the longstanding demand of the local people, he said mobile phone service in the area would be launched in March this year.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2019