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No direct involvement of Pak Army in JIT investigation: ISPR

17 July, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Sunday said it had no ‘direct’ involvement in the ongoing investigation by a Supreme Court-sanctioned joint investigation team (JIT) into business dealings of the ruling Sharif family through offshore concerns.

“JIT was constituted by the Supreme Court. Only two of its six members belong to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI),” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor told a press conference. “There is no direct army involvement in the JIT,” he asserted, adding that the case was sub judice and apex court was the forum to rule on the matter. The members of the JIT have worked with ‘honesty’ and ‘dedication’, he said, in reply to another question.

When asked to comment on reports that the army was allegedly part of a conspiracy to remove the incumbent government, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said, “I don’t think this even merits a response. I have shown you what the army is doing.”

When asked to comment on a social media campaign against state institutions, he said every person has freedom of expression but any patriot Pakistani cannot be part of any negative campaign against the army. “People who believe that army is doing its best for the country are not part of the campaign to discredit the institution on social media … and those who believe otherwise are under the foreign influence,” he maintained.

Kulbhushan Jadhav: To a question about Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial, the ISPR chief said Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa was reviewing the proceedings of the case. “Gen Bajwa will take a final decision on the appeal of Kulbhushan Jadhav at the earliest. The decision of the chief will be based on merit,” he said.

When asked to comment on a recent book by CIA contractor Raymond Davis wherein he stated that former ISI chief Lt Gen (r) Shuja Pasha orchestrated his release from the jail, the military spokesman said the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was not the only institution involved in the Raymond Davis affair.

Operation Khyber-4: Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor announced the launch of Operation Khyber-4 under Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad to wipe out terrorists in the Rajgal Valley of the Khyber Agency.

The ISPR chief said Islamic State was gaining strength inside Afghanistan, which has prompted Pakistan to launch the operation. “This operation was necessary because Daesh is getting stronger there and we have to stop its influence spreading into Pakistan through the Rajgal valley,” he said.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said there are safe havens for multiple terrorist organisations across the Khyber border that are linked to recent attacks in country, including the Parachinar assault. He said that the operation, which would be conducted by a division plus force and also include Pakistan Air Force, would focus on the border areas in Khyber Agency.

"Once this operation is complete, we will first secure the international border on our side and eliminate the hideouts of these terrorist groups," he added.

To a question, the ISPR chief said there is no timeline for the operation as yet. He said Afghan forces have already been informed ahead of the launch of the operation. He said Afghan army will be able to support the operation on their side of the border if they wished so. "But, no other force will ever have boots on the ground in our country. All operations will be conducted by our own security forces," he asserted.

Clarifying the reports about joint border operations with Afghan forces, the ISPR chief said, "True meaning of this [joint operation] is that both forces will conduct coordinated and complementary operations on their respective sides of the border and at the same time."

Maj Gen Ghafoor rejected claims that Daesh had any organised infrastructure inside Pakistan. "Here, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has pledged allegiance to Daesh. But, Daesh as an organisation does not exist here. If splinter groups of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan try to jump on the Daesh bandwagon, we are already taking care of them, like through Operation Khyber-4," he said.

Border fencing: To a question about fencing of Afghan border, the ISPR chief said it will help Pakistan check the movement of suspected terrorists across the border. "We will be able to check cross-border movement of terrorists, and our coordination with Afghanistan in this regard is already underway," he said.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said shared borders with Afghanistan and Iran will be physically and technically monitored, with either forts or a checkpost every 1.5 kilometre.

Alongside the border fencing, Pakistan and Afghanistan will maintain an open-door policy for cooperation and discussion on bilateral issues, particularly in order to remove what he said was a 'trust deficit' on the Afghan side. "If the Afghan army were as capable as the Pakistan Army, then maybe the issue [of terrorism] would be resolved sooner," Ghafoor said. "No one wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan."

The ISPR chief said incidents of terrorism in Pakistan have witnessed a drop over the three years period from 2014 to 2017. He said army has launched 46 major operations in the country and over 9,000 intelligence-based operations (IBOs) under Operation Raddul Fasaad. About 1,760 joint checkposts have been established in coordination with police and other law enforcement agencies, he said.

On sectarian attacks, he said there were 201 sectarian attacks in 2013 which have now fallen to only two this year.

In Sindh, 522 terrorists have 'willingly surrendered', he said, adding that 15 terrorists had been killed in operations in the province. "In the coming days, we are hopeful the Karachi situation will see more improvement."

In Punjab, there have been six major operations and over 7,000 IBOs in which 22 terrorists were killed, he said.

There have been 27 major operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 817 IBOs, he said.

LoC violations: The situation along the Line of Control (LoC) has been 'especially tense', Maj Gen Ghafoor said, quoting 580 ceasefire violations in this year alone.

There were 382 in 2016, 248 in 2015 and 315 in 2014, he said. Current ceasefire violations have resulted in the highest number of civilian casualties than in the past, he said.

"This indicates the Indian aim of diverting attention from political upheaval in Indian Occupied Kashmir," he said.

The ISPR chief lamented that the Indian army has the choice of opening fire on civilian areas whereas the Pakistan Army cannot do that to Kashmiris across LoC. "We only fire towards bunkers where we think the firing is coming from. We try to keep civilian casualties to a minimum," he added.

CPEC security: Terming the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) 'very critical for the progress of Pakistan', the DG ISPR said the armed forces would 'give it complete security and will not let it fail at any cost'.

He said all state institutions are on one page when it comes to the CPEC.

At the end of his press conference, the ISPR chief relayed a message from the army chief: "We are building peace in our country, brick by brick, moving from relative stability towards enduring peace.

“For this, army shall continue to perform its role in and with support of all other state institutions."

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