Says no agreement to be made with extremists; next phase of operation in Shawal being planned
By our correspondents
July 13, 2015
RAWALPINDI: Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said on Sunday that terrorists will not be allowed to return to the tribal areas and no agreement will be made with them in this regard. In an interview with the NNI, the military spokesman said the army and the local tribesmen had agreed that terrorists would never be allowed to come back once the whole area was cleared of them. “The state position is very clear that there would be no agreement with the Taliban and no question of their return arises,” he said. He hoped the security forces would clear the rugged mountainous Shawal Valley of the terrorists in the second phase of the military offensive. “The security forces have inflicted heavy losses on the terrorists in the paramilitary operation in the Shawal Valley,” he said. To a question about the conclusion of the operation, he said he cannot give a time-frame for the operation, and said that the operation was making substantial progress. “I cannot give a time-frame but we are achieving our objectives. However, the understanding is to complete the operation as soon as possible. The Operation Zarb-e-Azb is continuing under a plan,” he said. The military spokesman said the preliminary phase of the operation in the Shawal Valley has been completed and the next phase is being planned. “As the terrorists amassed in the Shawal Valley after fleeing from other parts of North Waziristan, security forces have faced some resistance but the enemy has suffered a lot,” he said. “There could be some resistance in the next phase of the operation in the valley. Whatever the situation might be, the army is determined to move forward. I am hopeful that all areas would be cleared of the terrorists soon,” Bajwa said. When asked if the army has any plan to win the hearts and minds of the people after defeating the armed groups, he said winning the hearts and minds is not possible within two or three days. “The brave people of tribal areas are our own and we are proud of them and we will go hand-in-hand and I am hopeful that they will stand with the armed forces for development in their areas,” he said. To a question about the repatriation of the IDPs, he said the process has already been started and some people had gone back to their homes, adding that many people would return to their homes in the next phase. “The government and the Pakistan Army have prepared a comprehensive repatriation plan and funds have also been allocated in the budget in this regard,” he said. Bajwa said that initial estimate of the rehabilitation process stands at around Rs89 billion. He said the rehabilitation will start with the provision of funds. He said a survey for the rehabilitation and restoration of infrastructure is underway and the army has already started some rehabilitation work in the area. The military spokesman said the rehabilitation process is not an easy task and the authorities are making sure that the returning IDPs should get all facilities. To a question about the firing incident in Bannu last month in which two IDPs were killed, he said an investigation committee had been formed to ascertain the facts of the said incident. Meanwhile, in an interview with the Gulf News, Bajwa said the issue of polio had been effectively addressed in Pakistan, thanks to the help provided by the UAE.“The UAE has been very helpful by providing funding which is being utilised in the cost of vaccination, payment to workers, media campaign and monitoring of complete process. This support is instrumental in eradicating polio from the country,” he said. The military spokesman said fresh data and updates reveal that there has been a substantive decline in the cases of polio. However, he said, it is a continuous process that remains the top priority of the government and security agencies. He said Pakistan’s armed forces are working closely with the UAE officials to carry out polio campaigns in the most difficult and inaccessible areas in the northern parts and tribal areas once dominated by the Taliban.