ISLAMABAD: As tensions continue to soar over the Kashmir issue, Pak­istan’s military spokesman on Wed­nesday said that the country would go to any length over the occupied valley.

“If other elements of national power (including diplomacy, intelligence and finance) fail to halt brutal repression in occupied Kashmir, war fighting will become an option by compulsion, if not by choice,” said Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor while addressing a press conference at the General Headquarters.

He said Kashmir was Pakistan’s jugular vein and declared “we will take any step and go to any length for it. Pakistan’s people, government and armed forces are resolute and will remain firm. (We will fight) till last bullet, last soldier and last breath InshaAllah (If God so wills)”. It was for India and rest of the world to make a choice, he added.

Answering a question about a threat of attack on Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the general said despite massive deployment on the western border, the focus was there on the perpetual threat. “When it comes to eastern border, everything is for them,” he said, adding that plans were in place but could not be divulged at the press conference.

Military spokesman says country doesn’t have ‘no-first-use policy’

He said Afghan reconciliation process was progressing well and the United States and Taliban were close to an agreement. He said Pakistan would gradually withdraw its 200,000 troops deployed at the western border.

He said India believed the troops to be freed from western border would pose a threat to it and thus wanted to do something before it, which in its assessment Pakistan would not be in a position to effectively respond to.

“I want to tell India that wars are not fought merely with weapons and economy, but with spirit of patriotism, confidence of the masses and the ability to win. Honour and dignity are invaluable. India must not forget Feb 27,” he said, warning the country that people like Squadron Leader Hassan and Wing Commander Nauman were ready to frustrate such an attempt.

“I want to give this message to Kashmiris that we stand by you and will continue to do so,” he said and lamented that their struggle to achieve their internationally recognised right to self-determination had been labelled by India as terrorism.

He said Pakistan’s geographical situation could not be ignored by regional countries or world powers. He said the armed forces established peace in Pakistan and the country was playing its role for regional peace. “We have avoided escalation,” he said of the recent tension with India over occupied Kashmir.

The ISPR DG said Prime Minister Imran Khan in his first speech after taking office had extended an offer of dialogue to India “in response to which they sent in two warplanes and received a befitting reply”.

He said India had “indirectly continued to attack Pakistan”, mentioning the activities of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav as an example.

“Recently [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi took an immoral step by repealing Article 370 of the Indian constitution [related to special status of the disputed valley of Kashmir]. This is no longer a conflict of ideologies,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said.

He said Pakistan had been fighting a hybrid war for the past 20 years and considering the conflict spectrum, Pakistan’s options of response revolved around economy, diplomacy, finance, intelligence, etc.

“For the first time in 50 years, the UN Security Council held a session on Kashmir. The PM and the foreign minister have talked to several nations’ heads and foreign ministers.

“Modi says he doesn’t want mediation. If you don’t want mediation, then what did you talk to [US President] Trump about?” he said.

“No step by Indian authorities that does not lead to the self-determination of Kashmiris is acceptable to us,” the military spokesman declared.

He made it clear that no behind-the-scene deal on Kashmir had been struck. “How can you think that we can do a deal over Kashmir? We have not agreed to do that in 72 years, why would we do that now?” he said.

In response to a question, Maj Gen Ghafoor said the decision to grant an extension to Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was a prerogative of the prime minister that he exercised.

“The army chief did not want [an extension]. After over 40 years of service, every person wants to return to normal life and rest, but he has personal rapport with many nations’ heads. It was the prime minister’s prerogative and he exercised it and let’s hope it pays off,” he added.

He said using weapons of deterrence was a political choice. “We have no ‘no-first-use’ policy, these are weapons of deterrence,” he added.

In response to a question regarding the Indian defence minister’s suggestion that India might change its no-first-use policy, Maj Gen Ghafoor said: “If they (India) want to change their policy then it is their choice. But there is a second after first.

“Statecraft does not run on emotions, it runs on reality. It is easy to take a popular decision than a wise decision,” he added.

He said the Kashmir issue would be resolved “whether it takes a day or a year”.

The ISPR chief said that India had been claiming that Kashmir was a bilateral issue for the past 70 years. “What has happened? How is that you terrorise and discriminate and then say we will solve it?” he questioned.

“Pakistan has always tried to resolve this peacefully through talks. Now the government has said that we will not extend one-sided offers of negotiations.”

The military spokesman said the struggle for freedom is now in the DNAs of Kashmiris. “[Indian] occupation forces are facing tough opposition from the people. The world will stand with us and the Kashmiris,” he said.

Discussing the fencing on the Pakistan-Iran border, he claimed that cooperation between Pakistani and Iranian forces had improved recently. First the Pak-Afghan border was considered sensitive, which was why fencing was under way there, he said. “Now [militants] had started to infiltrate from the Pak-Iran border and we feel that it has become sensitive,” he said.

“We increased FC (Frontier Corps) forces there and now we are fencing,” he said, adding that 70 per cent of the work on the fence had already been completed.

About rumours regarding the establishment of relations between Pakistan and Israel, Maj Gen Ghafoor said rumors such as these were spread as part of ‘fifth-generation warfare’.

“We are the only country in the world whose passport refuses entry to Israel; we have had this stance for the past 70 years,” he said, adding that any change in this policy would be a “political” decision.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2019



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