LONDON: Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) branch of the Pakistan Army, Major General Asim Bajwa addressed the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a leading think tank in London on Thursday.
The DG ISPR, spoke on the role of the Pakistan Army in countering terrorism, rendering great sacrifices. He explained how the army freed areas from Taliban control adding that the strategic objective was to deny them use of Pakistan’s territory to achieve lasting peace.
Bajwa told the think tank in his address, that with the aim of eliminating terrorism and ending militant links in the area to establish the writ of the state and to improve governance in the area, the army began its operation from the North in Bajaur agency and made its way down.
He recalled how Swat was taken over by terrorists and how the army went in to eliminate them after the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) began flogging people meting out their brand of justice. The operation was lauded by the United Nations as the most successful operation.
Bajwa shared, that the government made efforts to negotiate with the terrorists to address the matter through dialogue, but that didn’t help. Then the terrorists attacked one of the country’s major airports in Karachi which was a defining point to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Prior to the launch of operation Zarb-e-Azb, Bajwa added, the Army Chief issued clear instructions that the operation will be against terrorists of all hues and colour without any discrimination. That collateral damage must be avoided even at the cost of delayed progress in the operation and that no human rights violations should take place.
He explained that Operation Zarb-e-Azb is not an end in itself, it is a national effort involving all segments of Pakistani society determined to root out terrorism from Pakistan and it aims at restoring the writ of the government through use of military intervention, destroying safe-havens and terrorist hideouts, eliminating all kinds of terrorists.
Bajwa shared, that Operation Zarb-e-Azb is continuing successfully. As a result over 2000 terrorists have been killed in North Waziristan and elsewhere, he added that the price being paid is also high, over 200 soldiers have laid down their lives and nearly 800 have been injured.
Bajwa added, that the Army has dismantled the terror economy, their funding sources need to be choked he added that their finances must be choked to end the reign of terror.
Situation in North Waziristan
Bajwa explained that the Taliban were using safe havens in North Waziristan to operate, they had communication systems, were manufacturing bombs and explosive material for their nefarious terror objectives.
Due to Pakistan’s porous borders, Bajwa said, the Taliban were able to cross over to Afghanistan due to their existing links. He added, that ISAF and the Afghan security forces were informed well before the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb about the border-crossing and in some cases they met with success while in others they are still struggling.
The DG ISPR explains that the Army went into Khyber Agency to clear the area and to sever links that the terrorists were trying to reestablish, adding that they met with success due to good cooperation with the Afghan and ISAF forces.
Bajwa added, that when forces went in, they discovered that the terrorists were very well equipped and would have been able to cause great damage.
Bajwa told the think tank, that Pakistan has started various social economic development projects within the tribal areas to bring dividends to the locals through trade and economic development, adding that a general trade corridor has been created to expedite trade.
Pakistan is addressing the root causes of the problem and is initiating projects in fields of education, rehabilitating schools, reviewing the curriculum and enabling young girls to attend schools.
Bajwa said, Pakistan is grateful to its friends from across the world, the donors who are helping our efforts, their help is much appreciated, adding that a comprehensive plan is in place to look after the IDP’s and rehabilitate them as soon as possible which includes cooperation with all relevant civilian agencies.
On the issue of Pakistan’s porous border, Bajwa explained, that it was difficult to seal the Eastern border with Afghanistan and the border with Iran, adding that was a big challenge. He added that Pakistan has a 3000 km Eastern border with India and others. He shared that Pakistan’s neighbours keep hurling
He said border violations from India are distracting Pakistan from the task we have on the western side, we have shown lots of restraint. Pakistan has been offering peace while India has shown arrogance. They cancelled secretary level talks, accused Pakistan wrongly adding that there is a method to their madness. They are trying to distract our attention, while we want peace and we have offered it many times.
He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has gone to great lengths. He met Narendra Modi and our foreign office went out of the way, we offered DG level talks. It helped to some extent, but what do you do when there is military violation and then they blame Pakistan instead – that doesn’t help, he added.
Bajwa said, things are right there for everyone to see adding that Pakistan expects everyone to play their role to bring peace. India needs to understand, that Pakistan is not oblivious to what is happening in India. There is the festering wound of the unresolved issue of Kashmir, it is one of the major issues n the way of peace between India and Pakistan.
On the issue of Balochistan, the DG ISPR explained that it is a national problem and that Pakistan has been raising the issue of external interference at every level.
He said, the porous nature of the border hinders full control of the state adding that Baloch militants have links and bases inside Afghanistan where Ferrari camps are present. He explained that militancy of this nature cannot sustain without external influence for long without financing from abroad and that much of it was taking place as a result of foreign help but said he did not want to name any country.
On the issue of military courts, Bajwa said, that the entire justice system has not come under military domain, explaining that military courts are a stop gap arrangement due to the existing capacity issue of Pakistan’s judicial system. He clarified that military courts will only deal with terrorists.
The decision to reform madrasa’s has been taken against those seminaries that abet and facilitate terrorists or those who sympathize with terrorists. He added, that warrants against Maulana Aziz (the Lal Masjid cleric) have been issued and that it was only a matter of execution now. He said, the government has taken its decision against terrorism adding that everything does not happen overnight. The government is serious about dealing with anyone who sympathizes with or promotes terrorism in any form, he added.