• Spokesman denies influx of refugees, TTP’s infrastructure presence in Pakistan
• Army aware of threat, fully prepared to thwart any

ISLAMABAD: Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar has said Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan is safe and secure assuring the nation that there is nothing to worry about.

Briefing reporters on the evolving situation in Afghanistan on Friday, the military spokesman said since withdrawal of the US and Nato troops was only a matter of time, Pakistan had already started taking steps to guard the border.

“Situation on our border with Afghanistan is absolutely normal. Movement on both sides is being regulated. We are well aware who is coming to this side and who is going that side,” he added.

Answering a question, the DG ISPR expressed the hope that Pakistan would have a cordial relationship with the future Afghan government. There was reason to be optimistic the way things were, the officer said while talking about the ties with the future Afghan government. “We have to wait for the formation of a government in Afghanistan. Whatever kind of set-up they come up with, we will be more than eager to reach out to them,” he remarked.

If the Afghan administration sought any kind of assistance or training, Pakistan would be more than forthcoming, he said, adding that it would have to be at government level.

No matter how anti-Pakistan the previous Afghan regimes were, Pakistan had been dealing with them as well, he said.

About India’s role in Afghanistan, Maj Gen Iftikhar said whatever investments India had made and the kind of clout they made in Afghanistan was all done with the only objective of harming Pakistan. He explained Pakistan’s political and military leadership had kept on reaching out to the Afghan leadership but every time what they received in return were negative statements. The reason was RAW-NDS nexus, he added.

He said the Indians had poisoned the minds of Afghan military and intelligence agencies. They (Afgh­ans) were only helping RAW to cobble up alliances with the TTP, ISIS and different other terrorist organisations to hurt Pakistan, he added.

Noting that India’s role had been extremely negative, he urged the international community to get India in the dock.

He elaborated that Pakistan had reached out to Afghanistan on multiple occasions to formalise border mechanisms, which was the answer to the instability existing along the Pak-Afghan border. However, the Ashraf Ghani regime did not reciprocate those initiatives, he recalled.

Several high-level visits, including by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, were undertaken and mechanisms were offered for the training of Afghan Special Forces at the military institutions of Pakistan, but only six cadets came to Pakistan whereas the Ghani regime sent thousands of soldiers and officers to India for training, the spokesperson regretted.

On the abrupt meltdown of Afghan army in recent weeks, the DG ISPR said the reasons needed to be analysed. Some of the reasons could be related to training, leadership and will to fight, he added.

He said Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process had been acknowledged across the board. “The proof is in the pudding,” he remarked.

“After two decades, we can say we have fought off the menace of terrorism very well with the whole-of-nation approach. All these operations are the epitome of insurmountable spirit and supreme sacrifice of the whole nation’s efforts,” he said.

After the Afghan people, Pakistanis had been the biggest target of violence in Afghanistan, he added.

Pakistan Army conducted multiple counter-insurgency operations on the western border and a massive capacity enhancement initiative was launched in 2017, he added. “We raised more than 60 wings of FC in Balochistan and KP as the force is manning the border amid a spike in cross-border attacks.

“The border fence was a massive undertaking… but now more than 90 per cent of the border is fenced.”

The DG termed the current situation along the border “fairly normal”, as the army took every possible step to maintain security.

Aware of threat, ready to thwart it

“There are no major incidents along the border, but this doesn’t mean nothing will happen; we are aware of the threat and fully prepared to thwart any,” he added.

Responding to a question about the banned terrorist organisation TTP, the military spokesperson maintained that the group used Afghan soil to launch attacks in Pakistan with the help of “spoilers”.

While welcoming the Taliban leadership’s announ­cement that they would not let anyone use the Afghan soil against other countries, he said, Pakistan believed they would take measures so that the TTP could not operate against Pakistan or any other country.

He made it clear that the militant group had no infrastructure or organisational presence in Pakistan anymore. Maj Gen Iftikhar said the country had been “repeatedly cautioning the world about the negative role played by spoilers” in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2021

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