Fully prepared to give ‘surprise’ to India: army

* ISPR chief says Pakistan discussing border fencing with Iran as well * Husain Haqqani should come to Pakistan and indicate where terrorist safe havens are * Lt Gen (r) Durrani's pension and allowances stopped, name put on ECL

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor Friday said Pakistan’s armed forces were not preparing for war but will give a ‘surprise’ to India in response to any aggression.

“Pakistan will not wish to go into war, but if India initiates any aggression, it must keep in mind that Pakistan’s armed forces shall never be surprised by you. But let me assure you: we shall surprise you,” he told a news conference at the ISPR headquarters. “And we should also because you initiate, we shall also dominate the escalation ladder. We shall have superior force ratio at decisive point. Never think that due to our commitments elsewhere we will have any capacity lack. We have singleness of conception, from the prime minister down to a citizen, from three chiefs down to a soldier. All political parties all segments of life, 207 million Pakistanis, we have singleness of conception,” he warned. “We can respond to full spectrum threat. And I hope you get us and don’t mess with Pakistan,” he asserted, adding that the threats and reports of a war were coming from the Indian side and that Pakistan was just using its right to self-defence.

Giving details of the Pulwama incident, the ISPR chief said on February 14, a Kashmiri youngster targeted Indian security forces convoy, following which New Delhi started leveling allegations against Pakistan without any thought or evidence. Contrary to this, he said, Pakistan took time to respond as it wanted to investigate the allegations before giving any response. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan has offered India to share actionable evidence if it has any.

The ISPR DG said Indian security forces have a multi-layered defence system along the Line of Control (LoC) and any infiltration in the occupied valley is not possible. He said the incident took place miles away from the LoC in which local vehicle and security forces’ explosives were used. The attack was carried out by a youngster from Held Kashmir who had been mistreated by the Indian security forces in the past, he added.

The ISPR DG said people in India had already predicted occurrence of such an incident as the Indian government was preparing for the upcoming general election for which it wanted something to blame Pakistan for. “People in Indian media and social media had predicted an attack like this prior to the elections,” he said.

He said when the Pulwama incident took place, many important events were taking place including Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan, Afghan reconciliation process, European Union discussion on human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir, Kulbhushan Jadhav case hearing in the International Court of Justice, Financial Action Task Force hearing, Pakistan Super League matches and Kartarpur corridor development. “How could Pakistan benefit from Pulwama attack in light of these events?” he questioned.

He said the matter of the fact is that situation is getting out of control of the Indian security forces despite heavy military deployment in the valley where locals are demanding their right to self-determination.

Major General Ghafoor said Pakistan Army will not disappoint the nation, defend every inch of the motherland and fight till the last bullet. “The nation will stand by Pakistan’s armed forces against any aggression. There will be no political party, but there will be one entity and that is Pakistan,” he said.

He said Pakistan wants peace in the region and it has played a key role in the fight against terrorism. He said democracies do not opt for war and hoped that both the countries can move forward on the path of development and peace. “If you want peace and development, do not send Kulbhushan to our country, do not destroy regional peace and do not waste the chance of development,” he said, while addressing India. He said in the 21st century, the region is facing a lot of challenges including lack of education health and employment. “The people have the right to live in peace,” he said, while asking India to avoid enmity with the humanity.

The ISPR chief said Pakistan started operation Radd-ul-Fasaad two years back to purge the country of terrorists. “Today, two years of Radd-ul-Fasaad have completed.

This operation is difficult as compared to other operations carried out by Pakistan Army against the terrorists,” he said. This operation, he said, was launched against unseen terrorists and their facilitators and abettors. He said intelligence-based operations (IBOs) have helped in arresting the terrorists and their facilitators, besides recovering weapons, explosives and ammunition.

The ISPR DG said the fencing of Pak-Afghan border has started yielding required results, adding that the process of erecting the fence along the border was continuing. The cross-border terrorist incidents have decreased, he added.

Apprising about an inquiry against Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani, he said, “Gen Asad Durrani has been found guilty of violating the military code of conduct. He is a senior officer but did not follow the procedure while writing the book.” He said the former general’s retiring benefits including pension and allowances have been stopped and his name has been placed on the exit control list (ECL).

He said two military officers have been arrested on charges of espionage and the army chief has ordered their court martial, adding that after completing the investigation, details will be shared with the media. “These are two separate cases,” he said, to a question.

To a question, he said Pakistan was a responsible nuclear state and the prime minister in the National Security Committee meeting has authorized the armed forces to respond to any physical aggression from the eastern border.

Replying to another question, the ISPR DG said Afghanistan peace process is very critical for eliminating terrorism from the region. “If the aggression is imposed on us, the first priority to defend is our motherland,” he said, adding that Pakistan Army is a thorough professional force and fully prepared against any aggression.

To another question, he said a recent incident in Iran cannot be compared with India as both are of different natures. “We have history of over 70 years with India, while Iran is a Muslim brotherly country and border along Iran is also unmanned,” he added.

He said fencing and deployment along Afghanistan border is not against its people and the Afghan army, but to stop terrorists entering Pakistan. He said Iranian border is not manned as Pakistan has no threat from the brotherly country.

He said Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have very good coordination to stop cross-border terrorism activities. Pakistan has also very good coordination with Iran and chief of army staff has also visited Iran in the recent past, he added. “We are discussing with Iran to fence the border so that it cannot be used by any third party against Pakistan or Iran,” he said, adding that Pakistan has very cordial relations with Iran and these will be further improved in the coming days.

Questioned about former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani’s statement alleging Pakistan having safe havens for terrorists, the DG ISPR replied, “Please request him to come to Pakistan, go with me and indicate to me [those safe havens].”

Asked about the impact on Jadhav’s mercy plea pending with the army chief in case of verdict coming against Pakistan, Maj Gen Ghafoor said, “The case is sub-judice and I do not want to comment on that. We went to the ICJ, we could have avoided it, but that is also an evidence of being a responsible state that you fulfill international obligations.” “Let the decision come and then we will talk about this,” he added.

Praising the role of Pakistani media, he said they have been playing an exceptionally responsible role as compared with the Indian media. In war and peace, media is the first line of defense and the Pakistani media is playing the same role, especially at the moment, he added.

Published in Daily Times, February 23rd  2019.