–Maj Gen Iftikhar pays tribute to Kashmiris’ struggle, says Pakistan largest stakeholder of Afghan peace
–Says COAS visit to Saudi Arabia part of military-to-military exchanges between the two countries
RAWALPINDI: Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar on Thursday said that Pakistan Army is fully configured, prepared and determined to defend honour and territorial integrity of motherland.
Addressing a press conference, Major General Iftikhar said, “We are fully aware of hegemonic and expansionist designs of the enemy that are posing a threat to regional peace.”
While wishing the nation a very happy 73rd Independence Day, he paid tribute to the struggles of national heroes, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Dr Allama Iqbal, for achieving an independent state for the Muslims of the sub-continent.
Major General Iftikhar also paid tribute to the struggle of Kashmiri people who have been fighting for their right to self-determination for the last 73 years. He said that innocent Kashmiris are being killed on the name of fake counter terrorism.
He said that India’s illegal acts in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) are aimed at changing the demography of the occupied territory and against all international norms. He added that the local political leadership of IOK is under arrest.
The ISPR DG said that Pakistan has fully highlighted the severity of Kashmir issue at every forum and now it is being discussed all over the world.
He said that a recent United Nations (UN) report has pointed out the existence of a terrorist outfit in India through which it plans its terrorist activities in neighboring countries. The He also said that resolution of Kashmir issue is the key for regional peace and even the secretary general of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has also stressed for it.
The ISPR DG said that it is very unfortunate that violations of the Line of Control (LoC) by India continue in which unarmed, innocent civilians are being targeted.
Major General Iftikhar that Pakistan is playing its conciliatory role in Afghan peace process with sincerity. Terming the peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan, he said, “We are the largest stakeholder of peace in Afghanistan.”
He expressed hope that peace will be restored in Afghanistan soon through the reconciliation process. He said that once peace is restored in Afghanistan, the repatriation process will start in a dignified manner.
The ISPR DG said under the border management policy, concrete steps are being taken along Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders to control the terrorism and smuggling of illegal goods.
He said that fencing has been completed along the 1,700 km Pak-Afghan border while the remaining area will be covered in a very short time.
Major General Iftikhar said that Pakistan has fraternal ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The military spokesperson, in response to a question regarding the visit of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa to Riyadh, said that it is a pre-planned visit and part of military-to-military exchanges between the two countries.
“These relations are historic and very important. These have always been excellent and will remain so. There should be no doubt of this,” he said.
“Nobody should doubt the centrality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world. Our hearts beat with the people of Saudi Arabia. So, there is no need to raise any questions on our relations with one another,” he added.
“There is no need to read too much into it,” he further said.
The military’s spokesperson also dismissed the notion that Pakistan is realigning its interests in the region and looking to “join a new bloc”.
He denied that the country was seeking to “perhaps join the Russian bloc, and leaving United States-friendly ties behind, in view of pressures from India”, as put by a journalist during a post-briefing question and answer session.
“Let me assure you we are absolutely fine with all our neighbours in the region and our relationship with all the countries we have been engaged with is absolutely fine. There is no specific re-alignment as such but yes, the world has become much more interconnected, much more interdependent and much more diverse and that’s what this is all about,” he explained.
The ISPR chief also rejected the idea that a “deal” on Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav would be struck. “Let me assure you we are only abiding by the international rules and regulations on the subject. There is no doubt that Kulbhushan Jadhav is a terrorist who has shed blood of innocent Pakistanis,” he said.
A journalist asked the spokesperson to respond to India acquiring more Rafale fighter jets. To which, he said, “If India acquires more jets than it just shows their insecurities. We don’t care if they get 500 or five more jets. We are absolutely ready to take on our enemies even though we are not spending on defence as much as them.” He remarked that wars are not won with weapons but with nation’s unity.
He said that India has increased its defence budget and is spending more on acquiring weapons.
Responding to a question about a recently-leaked audiotape of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Ehsanullah Ehsan in which he claimed he was kept by the Pakistan Army at a safe house in Peshawar and ran from there using a cab-hailing service.
“The comments made in the tape are absolutely baseless,” Major General Iftikhar said. The interior ministry has also said that he escaped while we were using him for an operation.”
“He was in our custody and the information he gave helped us dismantle the terrorist organisations he was working for,” said the spokesperson. “I leave it to the better judgement of everyone to decide why he made such claims.”