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India should put its own house in order before pointing finger at neighbours: DG ISPR

07 December, 2018

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Pakistan on Thursday advised India to put its own house in order before pointing the finger at the neighbours, adding that Islamabad doesn’t need any lectures from New Delhi on its internal policy matters.

“They do not need to tell us what kind of a country we should be. Are they [India] secular? Look what is happening to the 200 million Muslims there,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters at a press conference in response to a question regarding Indian army chief’s recent statement in which he said that dialogue could not be held until Pakistan became a secular state.

“We are a Muslim state. They [India] do not need to tell us what kind of country we should be. Are they secular? Look what is happening to the 200 million Muslims there,” he said.

Pakistan on Thursday advised India to put its own house in order before pointing the finger at the neighbours, adding that Islamabad doesn’t need any lectures from New Delhi on its internal policy matters.

“They do not need to tell us what kind of a country we should be. Are they [India] secular? Look what is happening to the 200 million Muslims there,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters at a press conference in response to a question regarding Indian army chief’s recent statement in which he said that dialogue could not be held until Pakistan became a secular state.

“We are a Muslim state. They [India] do not need to tell us what kind of country we should be. Are they secular? Look what is happening to the 200 million Muslims there,” he said. “We are building Kartarpur corridor in respect for another religion. We provide security to temples and churches in Pakistan. What happened at the Babri Masjid there? How can they justify Gujarat massacre?” he questioned. “I think India needs to look inwards and tolerate us the way we are.”

The ISPR chief asserted that any misadventure by India will be responded to in a befitting manner. He said Pakistan is not oblivious to the military build-up by India. “We want stability in the region … as war always brings destruction and miseries,” he said.

The military spokesman underscored various peace initiatives taken by Pakistan towards building Indo-Pak peace, opening of Kartarpur corridor being the latest one. He, however, regretted that the initiative was negatively painted in India and hoped that New Delhi will positively respond to this goodwill gesture.

The army also threw its support behind the latest US efforts for a political settlement with the Afghan Taliban to end a 17-year-old war, urging Washington to leave Kabul as a ‘friend of the region’ rather than a ‘failure’. “As much as we can, we will facilitate,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said in reply to a query about what Pakistan could do to help the United States negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban. “What the US is expecting from us, and the Foreign Office is cooperating with, is that somehow they could have these negotiations with them (Taliban),” he said, adding, “We wish that (the) US leaves Afghanistan as friend of the region, not as a failure.”

The ISPR chief, however, made it clear that Pakistan will not compromise on its honour and dignity in order to seek defence assistance from the US. He said due to recent developments and bilateral visits, there will be improvement in Pak-US relations.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said the efforts for political reconciliation must succeed as it was in the interest of the whole region. He said 2.7 million Afghan refugees have been living in Pakistan for 40 years, adding that Islamabad want their repatriation in an honourable manner.

The military spokesman said Pakistan is fencing its 2611-kilometre-long border with Afghanistan to check cross-border attacks, which would be completed by next year. He said the war on terror has been mostly fought in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, adding that at least 200,000 troops were deployed in the tribal districts that make up for only three per cent of the geographic area of the country. He said the troops cannot be called back from the area until there is some surety from Afghanistan.

Giving an overview of the internal security situation, the ISPR DG said law and order has greatly improved across the country, particularly in Karachi where crime and terrorism has decreased significantly. “There will be complete peace in country as result of the ongoing stability operations,” he said.

Talking about Balochistan, he said over 300 insurgents have laid down arms in the province during the last three years. He urged the disgruntled elements in Balochistan to relinquish their violent path and join the national mainstream.

The military spokesman said army undertook 44 major operations across country under Operation Raddul Fasaad. “However, more needs to be done in terms of de-weaponisation,” he said, adding that operations were not enough to end the war. He also stressed the importance of economic development in enforcing peace in the erstwhile FATA.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said after decades of weak economy, lack of governance, flaws in judicial and education systems, and religious extremism, Pakistan is now standing at a turning point in history from where it could be turned towards the right direction. He recollected that Pakistan has passed through tough times. “It lost East Pakistan, suffered economic crises and faced terrorism, but over the past few years, it has been moving towards betterment,” he said. “The country is at a watershed of history from where it could be turned towards the right direction,” he said, as he reflected on the internal and external ‘fault lines’ used by the hostile forces to undermine peace and stability.

“Lessons should be learnt from the past as Pakistan had internal and external fault lines which were exploited by our enemies,” he said, and called upon the media to project a positive image of the country. “The media has a frontline role to play in the fifth generation and hybrid war imposed upon Pakistan,” he said.

The army spokesman also sought to clear the air regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement during a recent television interview in which he had said that the army backed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) election manifesto. “The PM’s statement has been taken out of context,” he said, adding that he has listened to his interview thrice. “The government draws its confidence from the masses, not the army,” he asserted, adding that a new government could be voted into power by the people if the incumbent rulers fail to perform as per public aspirations.

Maj Gen Ghafoor warned the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) not to cross the limits. “State won’t shy away from use of force if lines are crossed,” he asserted.

He said the rights movement had three demands: removal of checkpoints, clearing of landmines and the recovery of missing persons. In compliance with these demands, the armed forces have decreased the number of checkpoints in the area, he claimed. Referring to the second demand, the ISPR chief said landmines are being cleared in the area. He said troops have suffered losses because of the mines, however they will be cleared gradually.

The cases of the missing persons are also being resolved, he said. “There were around 7,000 cases in 2010-11 which the Supreme Court (SC) had been hearing on a daily basis,” he said, claiming that over 4,000 cases have been settled while the remaining 3,000 cases were under process.

When asked why the army did not react to the baseless allegations levelled by the PTM, the military spokesperson said, “We engaged with them politely because we understand that they are our Pakistani brothers who have suffered a lot from terrorism and then faced a lot of administrative inconvenience during the subsequent military operation.” “They are our people, they are hurt and have suffered losses, but still they haven’t resorted to violence till now, therefore we have dealt with them politely,” he said. “But now they are heading in a direction where the situation might arise that they cross a ‘line’ […] we request them not to cross that line where the State is compelled to use authority to control them [PTM],” he warned.

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