ISLAMABAD: The Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, said on Monday that activists of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) were being exploited by inimical forces and advised them some introspection.
Addressing a wide-ranging press briefing, he said that those who want to destabilize Pakistan have been supporting the PTM for their vested interests.
“We have a lot of evidence that they (PTM leaders) are letting themselves be exploited,” he said, adding that the movement leaders Manzoor Pashteen, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar were involved in raising anti-army and anti-state slogans.
The DG ISPR asked: “How did this campaign start on social media, and how were 5,000 social media accounts set up in a single day in Afghanistan?” This is the first time the army has openly spoken against activists of the PTM since it started in January this year.
“How did articles start appearing in newspapers and how did some foreign media start telecasting their protests live on Facebook and Twitter?” Maj. Gen. Ghafoor asked.
He said the PTM leaders were invited into the ISPR office and senior military officials urged them to address all their genuine concerns, which included the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi, missing persons, unexploded landmines in their area, and the presence of security checkpoints in the tribal region.
“I don’t know what urged the PTM to continue their protest even after getting assurances that all their genuine grievances would be addressed,” he said, adding that now propaganda is being used against the armed forces for using force against them.
“When you spread such propaganda, you force the state to use force against you. We do not want that,” he said.
The military spokesperson said it was time to remain united and consolidate the gains of military operations in the tribal areas that have helped eliminate terrorists.
“We know we are fighting for Pakistan and we know we shouldn’t lose focus at this critical time,” he said, adding that all allegations leveled against the armed forces in the past ultimately proved wrong.
“One should not relegate the interest of Pakistan for self-interest,” he said. “People’s love for the armed forces has increased in the past 10 years despite all the propaganda.
“Political leadership is engaging them (PTM leaders) and we hope the issue will be resolved,” he added.
The director general of the armed forces publicity wing also expressed concern about the use of social media by some anti-army and anti-state trolls.
“The social media is not a threat as of now, but this needs to be checked,” he said. “We have the capability to monitor social media and see who is doing that.”
During the briefing, he also showed a graph displaying a sharp increase in troll accounts spreading propaganda against the army between January and May 2018.
Speaking about the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, he said the decision had helped improve law and order in the area.
“This is a historic decision and the entire national leadership played its role in it,” he added.
He said that both Pakistan and Afghanistan were indispensable for each other and it was heartening that relations between both the countries had improved through negotiations between the top leadership.
“We want the United States to leave Afghanistan with a notion of success rather than leaving it in turmoil,” he said, while admitting that Pakistan’s relations with the US are under stress and “diplomatic efforts are on to improve them.”
About accusations of harboring the Haqqani network on the Pakistan side, he said the operation Zarb-e-Azb had helped flush out all the militants, including the Haqqani network. “Some residual strength may still remain but no organized terrorists structure existed,” he added.
He said neither could the Taliban capture Kabul through force nor could the the US forces eliminate all the Taliban through the operations alone. “There has to be a mid-way and Pakistan is ready to play its role for peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
On Pakistan-India relations, he said that both are nuclear states and there is no chance of war. “When dialogue and diplomacy fail, the war starts,” he said. “We believe in peaceful co-existence and don’t want war with India.”
However, he regretted the ceasefire violations by Indian troops at the Line of Control which had left 52 dead and 254 injured in 1,881 incidents in 2017 alone.
“Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be construed as a weakness,” he warned.
Speaking about the controversial book written by Pakistan’s former spy chief, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Asad Durrani, he said that an inquiry was ongoing and its outcome would be shared with the media.
He said the events mentioned in the book took place after the retirement of Durrani from the service and he did not obtain a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the army to write the book.
Commenting on the general elections scheduled to be held on July 25, he said that it was the responsibility of the election commission to hold elections and the armed forces should not be dragged into politics.
“We are happy that an elected government has completed its term,” he said.