Major General Asif Ghafoor, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in an interview with Gulf News expressed confidence that the Pakistani Army has eliminated all terrorist havens from its soil.
The spokesperson of the army’s media wing pointed out that the “well-planned and executed military campaign” to rid the country of the menace of terrorism did not come cheap.
“All this has come at a huge price. Besides cost in blood of over 750,000 Pakistanis, there has been a loss of more than $123 billion to the national exchequer,” the interview, published on Sunday, quoted him as saying.
“Pakistan has fought a successful war against terrorism — a war which entered Pakistan through the 2,611-km scantily manned Pak-Afghan border when US-led coalition forces started military operations in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda,” he told the publication, reiterating, “There are no more organised sanctuaries; for elimination of remaining disorganised scanty residual presence of militants, Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, a largely intelligence-based operation, is in progress.”
He added that to combat the threat of disorganised militant groups, as many as 200,000 soldiers had been posted along the border in Fata.
‘Perpetual threat from India’
On being asked if the Pakistan Army is still “India focused”, Ghafoor said that “threat from India is perpetual”.
“India is […] busy in fomenting unrest through terrorism using Afghan soil,” he told Gulf News, mentioning Kulbhushan Jadhav — an Indian spy currently in Pakistan’s custody — as an example. “So we are not having any let-up in safeguarding against Indian threat.”
“While threat remains from India, both in conventional and sub-conventional domain, our biggest challenge is to maintain this stability with the threat still residing inside Afghanistan coupled with economic difficulties.”
“Having said that, Pakistan has a strong and combat-hardened professional standing armed forces ready to thwart and defeat any threat. We are a responsible nuclear power with over 200 millions resilient Pakistanis,” said the military official.
With reference to the Kashmir dispute, he said that Pakistan’s desire for peace should never be mistaken as its weakness. “For normalised Indo-Pak relationship, all issues including the core issue of Kashmir between the two nuclear countries need to be resolved. India needs to behave like a responsible country, stop atrocities on both sides of the Line of Control and also discontinue interference inside Pakistan through state-sponsored terrorism.”
Pak Army in Saudi
Commenting on the contentious deployment of Pakistan military personnel to Saudi Arabia, the ISPR spokesperson said that the contingent was there based on the Pak-Saudi bilateral cooperation that both countries have enjoyed since 1982.
Editorial: The Saudi mystery
He told Gulf News that the Pakistani Army contingent is in no way part of the Islamic Force and neither is it deployed at the borders, adding that the military was in the Kingdom in a training and advisory capacity.
‘No organised terrorists sanctuaries inside Pakistan’
Responding to the interviewer’s question about the US cutting off aid to Pakistan amid allegations that Pakistan had not done enough to tackle terrorist organisations, Ghafoor responded: “Main US concern is alleged inaction against Haqqani Network. Pakistan has operated against terrorists of all hue and colour, including the Haqqani Network.”
“Earlier, till 2014, Pakistan focused on operations against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] and targeted Haqqani Network during Operation Zerb-e-Azb, [from] 2014 onwards. This was due to lack of capacity and not lack of will. There are no organised terrorists sanctuaries inside Pakistan anymore.”
Ghafoor said that Pakistan has repeatedly conveyed this stance to the US authorities and it maintains that it will do its utmost to combat terrorism — but it will not fight inside Afghanistan and neither will it do so within Pakistan.