'Instead of accusing, world should assist Pakistan in fight against terrorism'

March 06, 2019

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DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor calls for Kashmir resolution, says it's the "flash point" of regional peace. — DawnNewsTV/File
DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor calls for Kashmir resolution, says it's the "flash point" of regional peace. — DawnNewsTV/File

Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Wednesday urged the international community to assist Pakistan in the country's fight against terrorism instead of levelling allegations alone.

Maj Gen Ghafoor, who was being interviewed by CNN when he made that remark, was asked if Pakistan will make "an increased effort" in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack to root out militant groups that might "destabilise the situation in [Indian-occupied] Kashmir".

"For sure," the DG ISPR responded. "Anybody who operates from Pakistan [against other countries] is ... we feel that it is not in the interest of Pakistan. Instead of blaming Pakistan, the world should assist Pakistan, facilitate Pakistan in getting rid of such organisations."

He also denied that Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) — the group that accepted responsibility for the Feb 14 attack in Indian-occupied Kashmir's Pulwama district — had made any claim about the attack "from within Pakistan".

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"Jaish-e-Muhammad does not [formally] exist in Pakistan," he insisted. "It has been proscribed by the United Nations [as well as] by Pakistan."

Earlier this week, the government had decided to launch a "decisive" crackdown against militant groups. Authorities have already taken over administration of multiple mosques and seminaries that were said to be linked to extremist groups including the JeM and Jamaatud Dawa (JuD).

Yesterday, the officials of the Ministry of Interior announced that 44 members of banned outfits, including Mufti Abdul Raoof and Hamad Azhar (no relation to the minister of state for revenue), had been taken in "preventive detention".

Perhaps preempting criticism on the timing of Pakistan's new crackdown against extremist groups, the DG ISPR said Pakistan was not taking these measures "under anyone's pressure".

When asked about the recent standoff between Islamabad and New Delhi — which had resulted from India's violation of Pakistani airspace last week — Ghafoor said: "The ball is in the Indian court. Should they decide to escalate [tensions] more, the situation will go bad."

He admitted that both countries had come "close to war" following India's act of aggression in dropping bombs on Balakot. The next day, Pakistan had responded by striking "non-military targets" across the border. Two Indian jets, which violated Pakistan's airspace after the air force's strikes, were shot down and an Indian pilot was captured. Pakistan released the Indian pilot two days later as a "gesture of peace".

When asked if the pilot's release had "helped ease tensions" between the nuclear-armed neighbours, the DG ISPR said that it was "up to India whether they take that peace gesture and move forward towards de-escalation or continue with their agenda that they have".

He added that both countries had increased the number of troops posted along the Line of Control (LoC) as the situation there remained tense.

In order to understand why the Pulwama attack took place, the DG ISPR advised India to introspect instead of "looking towards framed allegations".

"The answer to this question [of why the Pulwama attack took place] lies in the United Nations Human Rights Commission's report [on Kashmir]."

The report, which the UN said was the first-of-its-kind for Kashmir, was released last year and highlighted "chronic impunity for violations committed by [Indian] security forces".

"When you suppress a population to the extent that they are being killed, raped, being shot with pellet guns, there is a natural reaction," Maj Gen Ghafoor said.

He said that it was pertinent to "move towards [a] Kashmir resolution" as it was the "flash point" for regional stability.

He also rubbished India's claims of having targeted a JeM establishment in Balakot which resulted in the killing of “a very large number of militants”, saying "not a single brick was harmed and no bodies were found".

"Indian claims are false," he stated and pointed out that Indian officials themselves have admitted that they cannot determine the number of casualties inflicted.