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Pakistan has eliminated sanctuaries of all terrorist groups: DG ISPR

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RAWALPINDI, JUL 16: Director General ISPR, Major General Asif Ghafoor addressing a press conference, on Sunday.=DNA PHOTO

 

ISLAMABAD, Mar 18 (APP): Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR),

Major General Asif Ghafoor has said that Pakistan has

eliminated sanctuaries of all terrorist groups including the Haqqani Network

from its soil through a well-thought-out military campaign.

“But all this has come with a huge price. Besides cost in blood of over 75,000 Pakistanis, there has been loss of more

than $123 billion to the national exchequer,” he said in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

On the possibility of peace between India and Pakistan, he said he believed that all issues between the two nuclear-armed countries, including the core issue of Kashmir, need to be resolved to normalize the bilateral relationship.

The DG ISPR talked about Pakistan�s success in the war against terrorism, Pakistan-India relations and the

possibility of peace between the two countries. He also discussed Pakistan�s

relations with the UAE and the $54-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor

(CPEC) project, which will link Pakistan�s Gwadar Port with China.

To a question as what measures has been taken to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan, he said the country has fought a successful war against terrorism � a war which entered Pakistan through the

2,611-km scantily manned Pak-Afghan border when US-led coalition forces started

military operations in Afghanistan against AQ [Al Qaida]. Whereas there are no

more organised sanctuaries, for elimination of remaining disorganised scanty

residual presence of militants, Operation Raddul Fasaad, a largely intelligence-based operation is in progress, he said.

Effects of operation have visibly reduced the level of violence throughout Pakistan. This residual presence also takes

advantage of 2.7 millions Afghan refugees inside Pakistan by morphing into peaceful refugees. There is a need to undertake their respectable repatriation to their country, he added.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said presently there are over 200,000 Pakistani troops deployed in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along Pak-Afghan border. �This deployment is to continue

despite successes inside Pakistan as threat continues to reside inside Afghanistan not due to lack of will but lack of capacity of the Afghan forces.�

To safeguard own success, he said Pakistan has started to fence entire 2,611-km length of Pak-Afghan border and construction of new forts and posts along the border to deny free cross-border movement of

terrorists. Besides kinetic operations, Pakistan has undertaken major socio-economic development projects in cleared areas. This is aimed at carrying forward relative stability to enduring peace, he added.

To another question he said Pakistan contingent to Saudi Arabia is part of the ongoing Pak-Saudi bilateral security cooperation since 1982. �It is neither part of Islamic Force nor it shall be deployed

outside KSA borders. The role of Pakistani troops is training and advice. Pakistan

has similar bilateral security arrangements with other GCC and regional

countries,� he said. Replying to a question as what measures

are being taken after the US suspended aid to Pakistan, he said the main US

concern is alleged inaction against Haqqani Network. Pakistan has operated

against terrorists of all hue and colour including the Haqqani Network.

Earlier, till 2014, Pakistan focused on operations against Tehreek-e-Taliban

Pakistan (TTP) and targeted Haqqani Network during Operation Zerb-e-Azb,

(from]) 2014 onwards. This was due to lack of capacity and not lack of will.

There are no organized terrorists sanctuaries inside Pakistan anymore, he added.

He said Pakistan has repeatedly conveyed

the above stance to US authorities. �Present violence inside Afghanistan should

not be linked to Pakistan. Pakistan shall do anything to support achievement of

peace in Afghanistan but can neither fight inside Afghanistan nor will do it

again inside Pakistan,� he added.

To ensure achieving peace in Afghanistan,

he said ungoverned spaces inside Afghanistan would have to be cleared by Afghan

and RSM (Resolute Support Mission) Forces. A better Pak-Afghan border security

arrangement are quintessential towards this end. Pakistan has long been

pursuing this with Afghanistan, he said.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistan

maintains excellent brotherly relationship with the UAE. �(The) UAE has

assisted Pakistan phenomenally for socio-economic development projects during

our counter-terrorism effort in FATA.

�We don�t foresee any deterioration in

our relationship and look forward to continued strong relationship. The UAE

Army contingent is participating in a Pakistan National Day Parade this month,�

he said.

He said various independent international

surveys report that more than 50 per cent of Afghan areas are not under

effective control of Afghan forces. �There is scanty presence of Afghan forces

along Pak-Afghan border. Lack of effectiveness inside Afghanistan cannot be

done away with by throwing blame on Pakistan. If Afghanistan still believes

that there is a support to TTA from Pakistani soil, they must come up with

actionable intelligence.

�No country other than a Pakistan is more

keen to see a peaceful Afghanistan as we are the immediate neighbours. Peace in

Afghanistan is important for peace in Pakistan,� he added.

To a query he said threat from India is

perpetual as it is not only challenging Pakistan conventionally along its

(Pakistan�s) eastern borders, but is busy in fomenting unrest through terrorism

using Afghan soil. And this is not mere rhetoric. Pakistan has arrested a

serving Indian naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav working as RAW, (Research and

Analysis Wing, India�s primary foreign intelligence agency) agent in Pakistan.

So we are not having any let-up in safeguarding against Indian threat, he

remarked.

He said Pakistan has successfully fought

against threat of terrorism and now consolidating it for enduring peace and

stability. �While threat remains from India, both in conventional and

sub-conventional domain, our biggest challenge is to maintain this stability

with threat still residing inside Afghanistan coupled with economic

difficulties,� he maintained.

He said Pakistan has a strong and

combat-hardened professional standing armed forces ready to thwart and defeat

any threat. �We are a responsible nuclear power with over 200 millions

resilient Pakistanis. No threat can deter our national resolve.�

To another question he said Pakistan is a

peaceful country and does not want conflict with anyone. �However, our desire

for peace should never be mistaken as our weakness. For normalised Indo-Pak

relationship, all issues including the core issue of Kashmir between the two

nuclear countries need to be resolved. India needs to behave like a responsible

country, stop atrocities on both sides of the LOC (Line of Control) and also

discontinue interference inside Pakistan through state-sponsored terrorism.�

He said continuity of CPEC is not linked

to elections or any other event. China is our time-tested friend and CPEC is a

nation-to-nation project. �We know enemies of peace and of Pakistan are trying

to scuttle CPEC, but Pakistan shall never let them succeed. Pakistan Army has

the responsibility for security of the project, which is engine of progress not

only for Pakistan but for the region. For this special security, a division has

been raised,� he said.

The DG ISPR said that Pakistan has been successful in war against terrorism adding that peace has gradually returned to the country. We are moving towards enduring stability. CPEC is progressing

well. All this is affording economic investment opportunities in Pakistan. There are no threats anymore and environment is conducive for investment.

�Peace and prosperity is our destination and we expect the world to contribute in promoting peace and economy not only in Pakistan but in the region as well,� he added.

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