• In maiden presser, ISPR chief lists successes in anti-terror operations, says efforts on to stop terrorist infiltration from Afghan side
• Gen Chaudhry says army is ‘apolitical’, cannot be ‘pressurised’ by propaganda on social media
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army’s spokesperson on Tuesday distanced the military from the previous government’s initiative of holding dialogue with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), while expressing support for simultaneous elections across the country, in line with a report submitted by the defence ministry to the Supreme Court.
In his maiden press conference, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry categorically stated that “holding dialogue with the banned TTP was the decision of the then-government of Pakistan and they have openly admitted this as well”.
He said that the relationship between the army and the terrorists is only of “kinetic operations”, which would continue until the eradication of terrorism.
Noting that acts of terrorism had increased following the US exit from Afghanistan, Gen Chaudhry said that the outlawed TTP and other banned outfits were now working together to sabotage peace in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Over the past year, at least 293 people were martyred and 521 got injured in 436 terrorist incidents, he said, adding that in KP, 192 people were martyred in 219 terror activities. In Balochistan, 80 people lost lives in 206 incidents, 14 people in five attacks in Punjab, and seven in six terrorism incidents across Sindh.
He said that the army and law enforcement agencies carried out 8,269 intelligence-based operations during the previous year in which 1,378 suspected terrorists were apprehended and 157 were killed. He claimed that the LEAs have cleared all the no-go areas in the country; however, a few terror outfits “are still active”.
Gen Chaudhry said the security forces had arrested the “mastermind” of the Peshawar Police Lines attack, identified as Imtiaz alias Tora Shah from Bajaur. The suicide bomber, he said, was an Afghan national brought to Pakistan from Kunduz by the TTP’s Jamaatul Ahrar faction.
He said the terrorists operating in Pakistan were being trained in various areas of Afghanistan and efforts were being made to restrict their entry into Pakistan.
The DG said that due to the current economic situation, the army had reviewed the operational and non-operational expenditures and decided to cut expenses related to fuel, rations, construction, non-operational procurement, training and non-operational movement. The military has been encouraging online meetings and simulator training and the use of technology to cut down on these expenses.
In response to at least three questions related to the deployment of army personnel for election duties, the spokesperson avoided giving a categorical response.
He, however, stressed that the army had given a comprehensive account in the report submitted to the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
It may be noted that in its report, the defence ministry had requested the Supreme Court to recall its April 4 order, that had fixed May 14 as the election date for Punjab.
The DG ISPR said the federal government is empowered to deploy the armed forces in aid of civil power under Article 245, adding that the report submitted to the Supreme Court was “based on ground realities”.
Responding to a question about GHQ’s agreement with the Punjab government to allot 45,257 acres of land to the army for corporate farming, which has been stayed by the Lahore High Court (LHC), Gen Chaudhry claimed that food security was a challenge and governments in many developing countries were utilising the armed forces’ strength to improve the agriculture sector.
Social media campaigns
The ISPR DG said that the Constitution imposed some “reasonable restrictions” on freedom of expression, adding that the kind of comments being seen on social media against state institutions were “irresponsible, illogical and unconstitutional”.
He added that the army as an institution cannot promptly respond to social media posts and claimed that some people with “vested interests”, and at the behest of hostile intelligence agencies, were involved in a propaganda campaign against the army.
“Army cannot be pressurised because of unwarranted propaganda, there are laws for judges to initiate contempt proceeding against contemnors and the army also resorts to law in such cases,” he said.
In response to another question, he said that veterans were an asset for the armed forces, but cautioned them not to indulge in politics.
He maintained that the army is “apolitical” and that dragging the institution into politics to suppress an ideology, religion or a political party had resulted in chaos in different countries.
Replying to a question pertaining to India, the ISPR DG said Indian aggression and false statements could not change history. The disputed status of Indian-held Kashmir was globally recognised and could not be changed, he said, adding that it was never an integral part of India nor it will remain its part.
He said that COAS Gen Munir’s first visit was to the Line of Control (LoC) where the army chief had said that the armed forces could defend every inch of the country and could take the war to the enemies’ territories.
He said that the situation at the eastern border remained peaceful due to the implementation of the Pakistan-India Director General Military Operations (DGMOs) Ceasefire 2003 and the 2021 dialogue on the issue.
He went on to say that Pakistan always cooperated with United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) and gave full access to the LoC but India did not give such access to any such groups.
Regarding ceasefire violations, the ISPR chief said that India committed 56 small-scale ceasefire violations, including 22 incidents of ceasefire speculative fire, 3 air space violations, 25 tactical air violations, and 3 ceasefire violations.
He added six Indian spy quadcopters were shot down by the Pakistan Army along the LoC.
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2023