RAWALPINDI: The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor on Thursday called upon the media to project a positive image of Pakistan inside and outside the country.
While talking to the media persons after a briefing, he said it was Pakistan’s watershed moment. The times ahead might be very good or bad. He said the media was the fourth pillar of the state and journalists were opinion-makers. They should paint a positive image of the country for at least six months and then see where the country reaches.
Stressing on the importance of the media as the first defence line in the fifth generation warfare, the DG ISPR said: “I have also met owners of the media houses and anchorpersons and requested them to play a role to create a positive image of the country, which is passing through a critical phase for the last 70 years.”
He cited the army chief’s statement to explain his vision, saying, “We are rebuilding this country brick by brick, (let us) improve law and order, and economy. We want that Pakistan where there is rule of law according to the Constitution…”
He rejected an impression that they exerted pressure for removal of any anchorperson. Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor said that it was the nation, and not the army, which gives confidence to a government, saying that armed forces and government have strategic level relations.
“It is the nation, and not the Army, which gives confidence to a government. The new government comes in when a government loses its (nation’s) confidence,” the military spokesman said while responding to a question regarding content of a press talk of Imran Khan in which he said his party’s manifesto enjoys Army’s confidence.
Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor said the armed forces were forces of the country and they did not have relations with any single party, particular government or a province. “We are an institution of the country and, as the security establishment, has given input to every government in the past on the security issues concerning foreign relations,” he said. Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s media talk, he said it was good to feel that all institutions are working jointly for achieving national objectives, adding that a part of PM’s interview should not be taken in isolation.
He said that the Army accepts every government, which is elected by the nation. “We never say at any stage that any government has taken any wrong decision,” he said, asking the media persons to point out when the Army had stated that a government had taken a wrong decision.
Saying that he also watched prime minister’s interview thrice, he said the content of the interview was presented out of context. Responding to a question about a defence pact, reached between India and Russia, the DG ISPR said Pakistan was capable and credible nuclear state. “It is not only capability but confidence of a nuclear state which matters,” he added.
Asked to comment on defence relations with the United States and China, he said, “With recent things going on with the US, we expect defence ties with them will improve. Defence relations with China are a continuous process,” he added.
Giving befitting reply to a statement of the Indian army chief, the spokesman for Pakistan Army said they should not tell Pakistan what kind of state it should be. “We are an Islamic state, which came into being in the name of Islam,” he said, adding that India should tolerate it as it is.
The Indian army chief had said that India would hold talks with Pakistan only when it becomes a secular state. “I ask them whether they themselves are a secular state,” Maj-Gen Ghafoor said adding that the world very well knew what was happening with over 200 million Muslims in India and what happened to the Babari Masjid.
On the other hand, he pointed out, the worship places of non-Muslims were being given protection in Pakistan. He said Pakistan opened Kartarpur corridor to show respect to the Sikh religion, but it was also taken negatively in India.
The DG ISPR said from the point of entry to Pakistan, there would be fencing till the place of worship. There would be one-way entry for the Sikh yatrees alone, and none else from Pakistan could use this corridor. He said the project would be completed in six months time. On daily basis, 4,000 Sikh pilgrims would be able to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, he added.
About situation at the Line of Control (LoC), the DG ISPR said during the year 2017, there were 1,881 ceasefire violations from Indian side, and until now, 2,593 violations have taken place this year.
In 2018, 55 civilians were martyred and 300 injured, which is the largest number of causalities in a single year in held Kashmir’s history, he said adding that casualties in Pakistan showed that India was deliberately targeting civilians. “India should understand what the impact of these violations is on the relations between the two countries,” he said.
He added that the civilians’ casualties showed India was deliberately targeting civilians. “We cannot target civilians like this. Ceasefire violations are a cause of concern and we hope Indian understands its impact on the mutual relations.”
Major General Asif Ghafoor said the Pakistani government had taken several initiatives with India so relations could improve. He said the Indian government did not agree to dialogue.
The DG ISPR, while talking about the accountability process within Pakistan Army, said there was a branch at the GHQ which is tasked with accountability and discipline. “We are a disciplined force and there is a chain of command, rules and regulations,” he said.
Asif Ghafoor said that during the last two years, around 400 officers of Pakistan Army, which were awarded punishment from warnings to dismissal from service, and even imprisonment, saying that one of the officers was sent home for committing corruption of Rs10,000. “Accountability of officers in the Army is harsher than that of jawans,” he added.
To a question about peace efforts in Afghanistan and US president’s letter written to prime minister, the DG ISPR said Pakistan had always emphasised political reconciliation in Afghanistan. “We desire political reconciliation in Afghanistan to succeed,” he said adding that Pakistan was taking every possible step which could make this reconciliation process a success.
He said Pakistan would not fight the war of Afghanistan on its soil again. He said it was also desire of Pakistan that the United States leaves Afghanistan as a friend of the region and not as a failure, which he said was in the interest of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region at large. “We do not have influence on them in Afghanistan, but we will facilitate the reconciliation process in every possible way,” he added.
He said the country was seeing the critical period because of internal fault lines, which were exploited by the enemy and half of the country was also lost. “That’s why I said ‘".. hold fast by the rope of Allah all together and be not disunited".... “But then we stood up and also became a unclear state,” he said.
He said it would not be good for the country if three pillars of the state perform in the right direction, but the media starts jolting things. He also warned Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) against crossing the red line, where force had to be used to establish the state writ.
The military spokesman said the army was using confidence-building measures with the PTM and not handling them with heavy-handedness. “They are hurt and have suffered in the war. We still want to deal with them politely; but they are headed in the direction where the same will happen to them which happens when the state establishes its writ,” he added.
About three demands of the PTM and the steps which had been taken to address them, the military spokesman said the first demand of the PTM was about check-posts, saying that Army had decreased its check-posts in KP and Fata from 469 to 331. “When we feel there is no need for even one check-post, we will remove them.”
He said the second demand of the PTM was to clear landmines, the process of which, the DG ISPR said, was under way. “Our troops have also suffered casualties due to these mines and hidden bombs. One day, all areas will be cleared of mines,” he assured.
Regarding PTM’s third demand, he said there were 7,000 missing persons cases from 2010 to 2011, according to a commission on forced disappearances. Over 4,000 have been settled while 3,000 plus cases are under process with 2,000 cases with the commission.
According to Major General Ghafoor, it could not be proven that those missing were not part of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or any other faction. “We want this process to move further and be resolved.”
About overall security situation in the country, the DG ISPR said the situation had improved considerably saying that as compared to the year 2013, when 90 terror incidents took place, the country witnessed 14 terror acts in 2018.
He also compared security measures in Balochistan with KP and Fata. He said that in Fata, which consisted of three per cent of the country’s total area, over 200,000 troops had been deployed. There were 65,000-70,000 troops deployed in Balochistan, which was 43 per cent of the country’s area and 6 per cent of the population.
He pointed out that now the Balochistan was the main focus where re-adjustment of deployment of troops was being made in order to provide security to mega economic projects there. About the Operation Raddul Fasaad, which was in progress for the last two years, the DG ISPR said that until now, 44 major operations and 42,000 intelligence-based and combing operations had been undertaken.
“Our aim of de-weaponising has not progressed as we hoped. We are working with the government through legislation and licensing process to improve this. Till now nearly 32,000 weapons have been recovered from across the country,” he said.
About the Karachi situation, he said there had been 99% reduction in terror acts, 97% per in target-killings, 96% in extortion and 93% in kidnapping-for-ransom cases, saying that as compared to 2013, when 4,503 such crimes took place, only 41 of these crimes were reported during the year 2018.
“At one time, Karachi was number 6 according to the crime rating in the world, and today Karachi is at 67th place. There are several cities of developed countries which have a higher crime rate than Karachi,” he said.
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