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Pak Army wants to resolve all issues faced by Pashtuns: ISPR

30 April, 2019

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Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor on Monday said that the Pakistan Army wants to resolve all issues faced by Pashtuns in the tribal areas, but the manner adopted by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) to voice such grievances will no longer be tolerated.

“We want to do everything for the people [of tribal areas], but those who are playing in the hands of people, their time is up. Their time is up,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said at a wide-ranging press conference at the General Headquarters. He said the army refrained from taking action against the PTM’s controversial slogans because of its consideration of common Pashtuns who were being provoked. “What kind of revenge are you talking about? What kind of revenge do you want to take with the army? No one can fight the state. We are refraining from taking action because we are taking into consideration the people being provoked, otherwise it’s not difficult to deal with you,” he warned.

He said he was the first person to engage with the PTM and that he was asked to engage with them by the army chief who had also ordered not to take harsh steps against them. He said the PTM had demanded the clearance of mines and unexploded bombs, adding that the demand was genuine. He said Pakistan Army set up 48 teams and 45 per cent of these areas now stand cleared, with 101 casualties of Pakistan Army while clearing those mines.

The Pakistan Army spokesperson said that PTM’s second demand was about clearing away army check posts. He questioned where the PTM leadership was when the forces were fighting against the Taliban militants in erstwhile FATA.

Their third issue, he said, was about missing persons as they had made a list of those missing persons. The list has now reduced to 2,500 cases and the missing persons commission is working day and night to resolve those cases. He said basically these demands were not of the PTM, but the demands were of the people who live in the affected area.

The ISPR chief said the PTM website claims that they have collected funds from Pashtuns around the world but they should also disclose the details of money they received from the NDS (Afghan National Directorate of Security) and that how much money did India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) gave them for the first sit-in in Islamabad.

He said that SSP Tahir Dawar was killed in Afghanistan, but in what capacity did PTM leaders talk to the Afghan government, and demanded that the body should only be handed over to the Dawar tribe instead of government of Pakistan.
He also asked PTM leaders to disclose why did NDS give them funds for Arman Loni’s funeral and the sit-in that followed? He asked the PTM to use these funds for the development of the war-torn area. He also questioned that when Arman Loni died, funeral prayers were offered for him by the PTM but when 10 policemen lost their lives trying to protect 800 students giving police entry exams in Balochistan, why they did not go to the funeral for those martyrs.

He said that those who are playing with people, whose issues they have brought forward, but now their time is up. He said the PTM should also give another list of all the strength of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that exists in Afghanistan, so that it could be checked if any of the missing persons were actually sitting there.

The DG ISPR also delivered a message in Pushto to Pushto-speaking people, urging them to not be deceived by the people working against Pakistan’s interests.

The DG ISPR put the following questions as well to the PTM.

April 18, 2018: who was Manzoor Pashteen’s relative who went to the Indian consulate in Kandahar? And how much funds were provided to them?

How much in funds did the Indian consulate in Jalalabad provide to you? How many dollars did Indian diplomats give to you in May 2018?

What do you mean by Lar-o-Bar? Why did Mashal Khan Takkar come to Kabul from Canada?

What is your connection with Baloch separatists? Why does any person who speaks for the Pakistan Army be killed immediately? Why does TTP’s Mufti Noor Wali say PTM and TTP are the same? How do you share the narrative with them?

“In light of the chief of army staff’s directives, the forces will ensure that the masses don’t face issues. Everything will be done under the constitution,” he added.

The ISPR chief said practical steps have been initiated for mainstreaming over 30,000 seminaries in the country. He said a decision was taken in principle in January this year to mainstream the 30,000 plus seminaries and 2.5 million students receiving education there. The plan could not be implemented immediately due to financial constraints, he added. “Then in February, funds were allocated for the purpose and now Pakistan Army is working with Ministry of Education to prepare the syllabus and introduce contemporary subjects for the new curriculum,” he said, adding that the army chief in the past few months has had extensive interactions with the religious scholars from different schools of thought who pointed out that opportunities for the students passing out from the seminaries were very limited.

“In case 30,000 seminaries are closed, millions of children being taught there will be deprived of education. Most of these madaris offer eight years of studies in a Dars-i-Nizami but when these children come out, they are unable to get job opportunities in the market,” he said. “Out of these 30,000 madaris in the country, less than 100 have apparently been found pushing children towards extremism,” he said, adding that funds are required for appointment of teachers in these seminaries.

The ISPR chief said he can say with confidence that there is no active terrorist organisation in the country anymore. Pakistan, he said, has proscribed violent extremist organisations and the state institutions have been working to curb terrorism in the country. “The State was busy in conducting kinetic operations and every law-enforcement agency wasinvolved in that, which is why we were not able to strategise against banned organisations the way we are doing now,” he said.

He said that when the National Action Plan (NAP) was formulated in 2014, all political parties had agreed on point number 3, which calls for bringing these elements into the mainstream. “It will be taken care of now that our kinetic operations are working,” he said, adding that at that time, it was decided that seminaries and hospitals which were non-violent and being run under these organisations will be taken over by the government.

Major General Ghafoor said Pakistan Army, with the support of the nation, will respond to any Indian aggression with full force. Criticising the Indian rhetoric, he said nuclear power is a weapon of deterrence. “However, if aggression is carried out, Pakistan has the right to use any weapon in its defense,” he asserted.

The ISPR DG said instead of reacting to Indian lies after the Pulwama incident, Pakistan acted responsibly and put forward facts, proving Indian claims about the Indian airstrike in Balakot on February 26 and the subsequent developments as totally false.

He said Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft on February 27, while responding to Indian air strike. He said India should keep this aspect in view while planning any aggression against Pakistan.

He said India had claimed that over 300 people had died in their attack in Balakot but later changing the stance said that that they had used a small-scale missile that bore a tiny hole in the ceiling of the building and then exploded inside.

Clarifying the issue of arrest of two pilots, he said that as per initial information two pilots were reported arrested, but then on the ground it was found out that only one person had been captured.

About Indian claim of downing Pakistani F-16 plane, he said India should ask United States about our F-16s’ strength. He said in this age, downing of a plane cannot be concealed from the people. “We have not talked much about it because we want to find the appropriate time to honour our pilots who had skillfully hit down the Indian planes.” He said that the whole world did affirm that two Indian jets were shot down and one helicopter was downed by themselves in Pakistan’s fear.

He asked India to inform the world who was in Brigade Headquarters when Pakistani plane targeted the building, and also share the status of the ammunition depot attacked on February 27.

Major General Ghafoor stressed on the resolution of outstanding issues between Pakistan and India, including Kashmir, and invited New Dehli to dialogue. He said only peace can guarantee development and progress in the region. He said Kashmir issue is linked with the ideology of Pakistan and every Pakistani is perturbed over Indian atrocities in the occupied valley. He said it is the moral responsibility of Pakistan to continue to support Kashmiris’ struggle for achieving their right to self-determination.

Major General Ghafoor said Pakistan will continue to play its role for ensuring peace and development in the region, including the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. He said fencing, being carried out on the border with Afghanistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, has significantly decreased the cross-border firing and incidents of terrorism. He said fencing was being carried out along the border with Iran as well under bilateral cooperation so that terrorists from Afghanistan do not use this border.

Appreciating role of Pakistani media during the war against terror in the past two years and during the three-day conflict with India in February, he said it played a very responsible role in the situation.

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