Thursday February 22, 2024

Ceasefire at Torkham, gate installation starts

By our correspondents
June 16, 2016

DG ISPR says decision jointly taken by army, govt; from where drone attack was launched to be revealed later on; any attack from Afghanistan to be responded to effectively; addresses press conference on completion of two years of Zarb-e-Azb

LANDIKOTAL: Pakistani border authorities started construction work on the border gate at Torkham late on Wednesday after a ceasefire following talks with Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhelwal.

The decision in this regard was taken jointly by the Pakistan Army and the government.Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lt General Asim Saleem Bajwa, while addressing a press briefing on two years of the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azab, said Pakistan was building a check post at Torkham border, 37 metres inside its territory, and nobody could object to it. There was a gate at Torkham in 2004 but it was removed to give way for a road to Jalalabad, he mentioned.

He said the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) knew about the border mechanism. “On our side, there is total clarity about the raising of border posts. The border management mechanism is in the interest of everybody. We are working to improve the system,” he maintained.

He clarified the government and the military were jointly taking all decisions on border management. A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the border management mechanism was ready and would be signed with Afghanistan, he added.

Answering a question on the unprovoked firing by Afghans at Torkham, he said the matter had been taken up at the diplomatic as well as military levels and the solution to the issue could only be sorted out at the dialogue table.

He said the US was running its Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan was in continuous discussion with them but gradually the talks should be bilateral and the third party would be there only to help.

He said Afghanistan and itsthem but gradually the talks should be bilateral and the third party would only be there to help. Afghanistan and its forces were evolving, he said adding border management mechanism was in the interest of Pakistan and Afghanistan and a crucial aspect to bring peace in the region.

He said that the people were crossing over the border to carry out acts of terrorism and Pakistan had many evidence to prove the fact. He said that all the 14 terrorists behind the Badaber Base attack had slipped in to Pakistan from Afghanistan and stayed in a nearby locality prior to launching the attack.

On the firing by Afghan soldiers at under construction Torkham border post, he said, Pakistani troops effectively responded according to the set procedure. A Pakistani major, Ali Jawad, was martyred and 19 others were injured in the incident, he added. He said it was unfortunate when a peaceful crossing point became a place of violence.

He said nobody had desire to prolong that issue and there was engagement on political and diplomatic and army-to-army levels to resolve the issue. “We want to resolve this issue as soon as possible, he said. 

Lt General Asim Bajwa said that the world needed to understand Pakistan’s challenges as it had a long porous border with Afghanistan and it was humanly not possible to totally seal it.

To a question about handing over of Angoor Adda check post to Afghanistan, he said it was a Pakistani post inside Afghanistan territory and it was handed over back to Afghan officials after revelations of the facts.

The post was handed over after consultation with the government and all other stakeholders, he said adding not a single inch of Pakistani territory was given to Afghanistan.

He said he had evidence about network of Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) that it was working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and those persons came through Torkham.

Indian intelligence agency RAW was also running a network of terrorists, he said adding there were hostile intelligence agencies and Pakistani agencies had foiled their many attempts and seriously dented their ability to plan and execute plots.

He said for the first time a serving officer of RAW who was running a network in Pakistan was arrested. No intelligence agency would be allowed to operate and destabilise the country, he stressed.

DG ISPR terming China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a game changer said the Army was committed to protect the most valuable project and ensure its success. Answering a question regarding the level of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, he said the present DG ISI went to Afghanistan before assuming office and Pakistan had always been showing sincerity in improving relations with Afghanistan.

“Our army chief visited Kabul six times and met the Afghan President as part of efforts to help improve bilateral relations,” he added. When asked to comment on the peace process in Afghanistan through talks with Taliban, he said Quadrilateral Group comprising four countries had also been trying to resolve the issues in Afghanistan however efforts for peace were scuttled with the death of Mulla Omar.

He said that more meetings of ISI and NDS would be very important for establishing peace. To a question he said life in Swat had returned to normalcy, tourists were coming and numerous events were being held and economic indicators were improving in the area.

Now the army and the civil administration were rehabilitating the internally displaced persons and all of them would return to their homes by the end of this year. To a question he said drone attack by United States was a sad and unfortunate development and from where it was launched would be told at a latter stage.

Pakistan condemned and showed concern over the drone attack and said that its bilateral relations could be affected and the act would undermine the peace process. US fired the drone unilaterally and it violated the sovereignty of Pakistan.

When his attention was drawn towards Pakistan’s demand from the United States to target Mullah Fazlullah in Afghanistan, he said that the result of the demand would only be visible after targeting of the target by the executor.

He said there had been 3.5 million Afghan refugees living in 53 camps in Pakistan for the last 35 years and most of them were living outside the camps and Pakistan was in talks with international agencies for their dignified early return.

To a question Lt Gen Bajwa said 102 cases of terrorists were decided in the military courts adding 77 persons were awarded death sentences and 12 were executed. Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said that Operation Zarb-e-Azb would continue till the country was rid of terrorism and the armed forces would not allow reversal of its gains.

He said it was a big and long war and it was going on successfully.

“In two years the whole nation got united, a strategic decision was made and we are making headway, we defeated a complex problem of terrorism,” he said. “Pakistanis are a brave and resilient nation and unnecessary blame game and undermining of our sacrifices is unacceptable,” he said

Before the launch of operation, Afghanistan was informed about its every aspect, he said adding North Waziristan was under control of terrorists and it was a no-go area and known the world over for its terrorist network, he said while recounting the facts leading to launch of Zarb-e-Azb.

He said the operation was launched in phases and people were provided opportunity to be shifted to safe areas. The terrorists’ hideouts were destroyed in Shawal and many operations were carried out in Fata and Swat for establishing writ of the government with sacrifices of the troops, he added.

He said Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) and combing operations were carried out in the four provinces to stop terrorists from spreading. Operations were also undertaken against the facilitators with the help and cooperation of the citizens, he added.

During the operation, he said 7,591 IEDs, 35,310 mortar bombs and rockets and 2,481 land mines and suicide jackets were recovered. The troops seized about 253 tons of explosive which according to some calculations was enough for the terrorists to make ammunition and IEDs for 15 years.

During the two years operation 3,500 terrorists were killed and 992 of their hideouts were destroyed. He said 490 army personnel including 16 officers were martyred while 2108 others were wounded. The wounded included those who had either lost their legs or arms or eyes or much more.

“Despite all that they are in a very high spirit and are ready to lay down their lives for the cause of the motherland, he said. Recounting the details about operation in Karachi which he termed essential for ensuring gains of Zarb-e-Azb, he said 1,200 terrorists were killed and nabbed and there was remarkable reduction in incidents of terror and crime in the megapolis.

The DG said during the rehabilitation phase in Fata, schools, mosques and markets were being built and basic infrastructure was being developed adding 700 kilometer long road was being built in Waziristan.

He said on this chunk of newly built road an international level car rally would be organised by the end of the year. “Health sector in the area was neglected and now the army chief has inaugurated a 100-bed hospital besides launching of a number of water supply schemes.

He expressed hope that the situation would improve further adding it was important not to let the terrorists return to the areas. “There is a need to consolidate the gains of Zarb-e-Azab by putting in place proper border management systems.

The DG said new wings of FC and para-military forces were being raised to man the check posts allowing the visitors after proper verification along 2600km porous border with Afghanistan.