Reports suggesting appointment of new ISI chief are baseless speculations: DG ISPR

Published February 22, 2021
DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar addresses a press conference. — DawnNewsTV
DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar addresses a press conference. — DawnNewsTV

Reports about the appointment of a new chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to replace Lt Gen Faiz Hamid are "baseless speculations" and there is no truth to them, the head of the military's media affairs wing said on Monday.

Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar's response came at a press conference in Rawalpindi where he was asked about reports on social media that Lt Gen Hamid was going to be replaced, possibly by former ISPR chief Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor.

"There is no truth to such things. These are baseless speculations," Maj Gen Iftikhar said, requesting that speculation be avoided on such issues.

He clarified that appointments in the Pakistan Army, especially on the senior level, were not so "short-lived" and the tenure of the head of an institution usually lasted two years. "So this is completely baseless speculation," he said.

During the presser, the ISPR chief briefed reporters about achievements in counter-terrorism measures taken by the forces in recent times.

Giving an overview of the dividends earned through Operation Raddul Fasaad, which was launched on February 22 (today) four years ago, the DG ISPR said this operation was not area-specific and its domain extended to the entire country.

"The strategic intent of Raddul Fasaad was, and is, a peaceful, stable and normalised Pakistan where people's confidence in the state is restored and terrorists and extremists are rendered completely ineffective by curtailing their freedom of action," he said.

Highlighting the role of the public in security operations, he added: "While armed forces fight terrorists, terrorism and extremism can only be defeated by the civil law enforcement agencies and society as a whole."

According to a "whole of nation approach, every Pakistani is a sepoy of Raddul Fasaad", the ISPR chief said.

The operation was started at a time when terrorists attempted to take refuge across the length and breadth of Pakistan after their infrastructure in the tribal areas was destroyed and after they suffered heavy losses in various operations, he said.

"Considering this environment, Operation Raddul Fasaad was launched through a two-pronged strategy involving counterterrorism domain and counter violent extremism," he said, adding that the basic cardinals of the counterterrorism plan were that the use of power is the privilege of the state only; stability on the western zone through an effective border management system; and ending terrorists' support base across the country.

Talking about the counter violent extremism part of the strategy, Maj Gen Iftikhar said "it is clear that an ideology can only be countered by a superior ideology." In this context, he added, the efforts involved implementation of the National Action Plan, bringing the tribal areas into the national mainstream, and curbing extremist activities through assisting the government in educational, madressah and police reforms.

He said Pakistan's "grand strategy" in its war against terrorism was based on four concepts: "Clear, hold, build and transfer."

Between 2010 and 2017, various areas were cleared of terrorists after major operations as per the 'clear and hold' phase and the writ of the state was being restored in the tribal areas, the DG ISPR said.

"Raddul Fasaad was the beginning of the build and transfer phase. During this, it was our responsibility to make hard-earned gains irreversible. This would be the real measurement of success against terrorism. After clearing an area [through] kinetic operations, socio-economic uplift and the functioning of civil institutions is the right step towards lasting peace."

He said in the past four years, more than 375,000 intelligence-based operations (IBO) were carried out under Raddul Fasaad in which the CTD, IB, ISI, MI, police, FC and Rangers all played a role. Of these, more than 34,000 IBOs were carried out in Punjab; over 150,000 in Sindh, more than 80,000 in Balochistan and in KP, more than 92,000.

"They include some major and important IBOs as well which helped in curbing urban terrorism and many terrorist networks were broken," Maj Gen Iftikhar said.

Citing some of the major IBOs carried out by security forces, he said the terrorists involved in the attack on a private hotel in Gwadar were killed in Balochistan; a suicide attack on an agricultural university was foiled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; and the attacks on the Pakistan Stock Exchange and the Chinese consulate in Karachi were foiled in Sindh.

"In these four years, more than 5,000 threat alerts were issued and the majority of them were neutralised before they materialised. During Raddul Fasaad, the Khyber-IV operation was also carried out, which was aimed at clearing the Rajgal valley and making the Afghan border safe," he said, adding that last year in August, an operation was carried out in North Waziristan in a "most inhospitable terrain".

Checkposts being reduced

A lot of progress was also made under Raddul Fasaad regarding deweaponisation and explosives control, the DG ISPR said, while adding that more than 72,000 foreign weapons and more than five million rounds of ammunition were seized from across the country.

Detailing the security situation over the last few years, he said about 1,850 incidents of terrorism took place from 2017-2021, while 1,684 cross-border firing incidents took place on the Pak-Afghan border. During this period, 353 terrorists were killed and several were arrested as part of Raddul Fasaad, he told the presser.

"A lot of attention was given to capacity enhancement [of LEAs] from 2017-21; 58 new wings of FC have been established and 15 are yet to be set up. Work on the Pak-Afghan border fencing is 84 per cent complete, while on the Pak-Iran border more than 43pc work has been done. Additionally, 497 border posts and terminals have been built," he said, adding that an integrated transit trade management system was being installed at Torkham and Chaman borders which would be operational in about two years.

In the tribal districts, Maj Gen Iftikhar said, around 72pc of the area has been cleared in demining efforts. "It was a very painstaking and slow process and two of our soldiers have been martyred during it, while 119 have been injured," he added, revealing that more than 48,000 mines had been recovered during the operation so far.

He further said the checkposts built at the start of military operations were being reduced after their conclusion as the situation moved towards normalisation.

"In these four years, security forces have trained more than 37,428 policemen across the country and in the next six months about 4,000 more will be inducted in tribal areas' police force after training. In Balochistan, the Pakistan Army has trained 3,865 Levies personnel and this year more than 3,500 Levies officials' training is underway," the DG ISPR said. He added that nearly 96pc of the people in Temporarily Displaced Persons camps had returned home as a result of a well-rounded strategy.

Countering extremism

Outlining the steps taken to curb extremism and terrorism under NAP, he said 717 cases were referred to military courts which were established to punish terrorists. As many as 344 terrorists were awarded death sentences out of which the sentences of 58 convicts have been carried out, while 106 were sentenced to life in prison and 195 terrorists were awarded imprisonment of different terms. Five suspects were acquitted.

Maj Gen Iftikhar said action had been taken against more than 78 terrorist outfits and active militants, the assets of terrorists were frozen and their activity was limited, and money laundering, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom were controlled through an effective strategy.

Speaking about the positive effects of the counter violent extremism strategy, he said more than 1,200 sub-nationalist extremists had laid down their weapons and committed themselves to peace from 2017 till date.

"Along with restricting hate speech and extremist material, terrorists' narrative and its propagation were made ineffective effectively. With consultation from the Wafaqul Madaris and ulema, more than 1800 religious leaders united for the first time to present an effective narrative against extremism.

"Paigham-i-Pakistan has actually saved youth from going towards terrorism in the name of Islam and has helped curbed sectarianism and to a large extent defeated extremist narrative. [...] In Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan, hostile intelligence agencies' plan to mislead our youth against Pakistan was foiled," he added.

As part of Raddul Fasaad, the DG ISPR said, Pakistan also dismantled conspiracies by hostile intelligence agencies, especially through presenting "irrefutable evidence" of their aid and training to terrorists in front of the world.

It is also a result of the operation that the law and order situation in Karachi has improved greatly, while development projects have been launched in KP as well as Balochistan, apart from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Maj Gen Iftikhar noted.

"The path from terrorism to tourism was very tough and tiring," he said, adding that the areas that were once a target of terrorism had economic activity now.

"We have come a long way but I must say that we have a lot of ground to be covered. We can only cover it by remaining united."

The DG ISPR said Pakistan was adapting to the changing environment and "work is being done on the new challenges that come in the domain of hybrid war and fifth-generation warfare."

He announced that a parade will be held next month on the occasion of Pakistan Day in which the Pakistan Army will participate.

Indian dossier, FATF

Answering a question, Maj Gen Iftikhar said the international community had responded "very positively" to the dossier made public by Islamabad of Indian sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan and that "it has been taken seriously at every forum."

He noted that many international organisations had lately issued statements and documents that proved that the dossier was being taken seriously.

Asked about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary beginning today in which a decision about keeping or removing Pakistan from its 'grey list' will be taken, the DG ISPR said the watchdog worked according to a procedure. He said Pakistan had done a lot of work to meet the FATF recommendations and its progress was acknowledged at every forum.

"Acknowledgement of progress is there on every forum, and will be on this forum as well. There is lobbying as well; every time we go a lobby starts working against us," he added.

On the Afghan peace talks, the ISPR chief said the process was moving forward in a positive direction.

"So far I think everyone is listening to everyone and it's progressing in a positive direction. Yes there are hurdles in between but those hurdles have been overcome before and I am sure they will be overcome in times to come," he emphasised.

He said Pakistan had "no favourites" in the peace process. "Our only interest in the Afghan peace process is peace in Afghanistan because ... peace in Pakistan is absolutely connected to peace in Afghanistan," he added.

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