ISLAMABAD: As the year 2021 came to a close, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar on Wednesday gave an overview of the year 2021 at a press conference.
The purpose of the presser was to shed light on the measures taken in light of the changes in the national security domain owing to the current regional situation, protection from external threats, and especially take into account the various measures taken as part of Operation Raddul Fasaad.
During the press conference, Gen Iftikhar talked about the security situation along the border with Afghanistan, especially the border fencing. The ISPR chief said that the purpose of erecting the fence along the border was to provide security to people along the border, not create divisions among them.
The army spokesperson added that the fence along the border was a need of the hour to regulate trade, movement and provide security along the border. He added that the fence was not meant to divide people along the border but to make them safe.
According to the ISPR DG, the fencing work along the Pak-Afghan border is almost completed while over 71 per cent of the work on fencing has been completed along the Pak-Iran border.
“The blood of our martyrs is involved in erecting this fence. Peace will prevail and God willing it will last,” he added.
Speaking about border crossings, he said people from border areas can travel via border terminals and designated crossing points, adding that this system will be made effective over time.
Gen Iftikhar said the security situation on the western border remained challenging and added that the Western Border Management, especially the Pakistan-Afghan border, has its own strategic dynamics that are being addressed on relevant forums.
The army spokesperson said an operation was conducted in North Waziristan to ensure the writ of the state along the Pak-Afghan border. As a result of the operation, the fencing of the border in the area also got underway, he said, adding that the terrain – that was inaccessible due to hostile weather – was being used by terrorists to cross the border.
Gen Iftikhar said the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in August had an impact on Pakistan’s security situation. “But we are completely focused and the work started under Western Border Management Regime will be taken to its logical end,” he added.
He said there was full coordination on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border, adding that to prevent spoilers, these area-specific incidents needed to be resolved with patience.
According to the ISPR DG, Pakistan has more than 1,200 border posts along the Pak-Afghan border while there are 377 posts on the other side of the border. “This means that there is a distance of at least 7-8 km between check posts,” he said, adding that the shortage of posts has made it challenging to keep the militants in check.
In 2021, 164 forts were constructed along the Pak-Afghan border and 31 forts were established along the Pak-Iran border, he said, adding that so far a total of 673 forts/border posts have been constructed.
“Pakistan has set up 67 new wings for FC Balochistan and FC KP to strengthen border security while the formation of six more wings is in the process,” he added.
He said measures have been taken to curb smuggling through Torkham, Kharlachi, Ghulam Khan, Angor Ada, Badini and Chaman border terminals.
Speaking about Afghanistan, the current situation in Afghanistan could lead to a serious humanitarian crisis that will have a direct impact on the security and safety of Pakistan and the region.
Speaking about the operation, Gen Iftikhar said the operation was different from other operations as it was not area-specific or military-specific.
At least 60,000 IBOs were conducted under Raddul Fasaad. The measures taken by the security forces busted terrorist networks across the country, he added.
Over 800 security alerts were issued during the year that managed to thwart terrorism incidents by 70 per cent, the ISPR chief added.
The ISPR chief also spoke about the talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He said the dialogue with the banned outfit is suspended and the military operations against them are continuing.
The ceasefire with the militant outfit ended on December 9, he said, adding that the initiative was confidence-building measures taken by Pakistan at the request of the Afghanistan government led by the Afghan Taliban.
The DG said the TTP was brought to the table by the Afghan Taliban as there was a “condition for the interim Afghan government that the TTP should not be operating from the Afghan soil” against Pakistan.
The Afghan Taliban said they would bring them to the table and make them accept what Pakistan wanted, he said, adding, “Obviously, those external conditions were yet to be settled.”
According to the ISPR DG, there were internal differences in the TTP, adding that there were some problems in the negotiations. “Some of the conditions were non-negotiable from our side so there is no ceasefire,” he said, adding that the operations will continue till the eradication of the terror outfit.
During the press conference, the ISPR DG alluded to the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir. The ISPR chief said the ceasefire agreement signed with India “improved” the lives of Kashmiris living along the border.
Gen Iftikhar said the propaganda launched by the Indian media was an attempt to deflect the attention from the atrocities in occupied Kashmir.
The army spokesperson accused India of putting the region’s peace at stake through increased defence spending. “It will have negative effects on peace. On the Line of Control, they have committed false propaganda about infiltration,” Gen Iftikhar added.
He said the Indian forces staged a fake encounter in Neelum Valley recently and killed an innocent Kashmiri and blamed it on Pakistan. He called out the Indian media for its propaganda over the incident, saying the media ran pictures of a terrorist named Shabbir. “He is not only alive but is at his home in Sharda.”
Maj Gen Iftikhar said India has killed countless people, adding that India wanted to “externalize” the freedom struggle of Kashmiris. “But voices are coming from everywhere that the people are being targeted and their struggle is being stamped out,” he added.
“On January 5, 1989, the people of Kashmir were promised the right to self-determination by the UN. That promise remains unfulfilled. On this occasion, we salute their bravery.”
Speaking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the security situation in Balochistan, the ISPR DG said the nefarious attempts by anti-state elements to sabotage the project have failed.
“The security of CPEC and other projects is being ensured by the Pakistani forces at great cost,” he added.
The Krut Hydro Power Project is 93 per cent complete, he said, adding that the project would add 720 MW to the national grid. The project will bring significant benefits to the local population, he added.
The dry shore hydropower project is also in the process of completion, the ISPR chief said, adding that despite all the challenges, the progress of any project has not been hampered.
“In this regard, we will take you there for the progress of various ongoing projects across the country so that you can report them yourself,” he added.
In addition, 199 Developmental Projects costing approximately Rs601 billion have been started in Balochistan under the federal government’s Vision Balochistan, he said.
He added that this included 10 major health projects, 18 education projects, 20 agriculture projects and 42 major transport projects.
“All these projects are being provided foolproof security so that they can be completed on time and the people of Balochistan can benefit from them,” the army spokesperson added.
Speaking about Covid-19, he said the armed forces of Pakistan are fully engaged in the ongoing efforts against Covid-19. He termed vaccination an effective weapon against the pandemic.
“According to the latest reports, the number of cases is increasing again with the advent of the new variant. The NCOC has issued guidelines in this regard,” he added.
In response to a question, the army’s spokesperson dismissed rumours of backdoor talks with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
“If anyone is talking about a deal, kindly ask them who is making the deal and the evidence for the existence of such a deal. There is no such thing,” he stated.
He also dismissed rumours of a rift between the military and the civilian government, saying the military was subservient to the government. “We work in accordance with their directives,” he added.