ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army reiterated its concern over the presence of militant “safe havens” in Afghanistan on Friday and threatened “effective response” as its top commander General Asim Munir visited soldiers in southwestern Balochistan province who got injured after a group of armed men targeted their base earlier this week.
Nine soldiers lost their lives after a group of militants stormed the military facility in the province’s Zhob district on Wednesday. According to official information released after the attack, three militants were also killed in the encounter in Balochistan which borders Afghanistan and Iran.
While most attacks on security forces in the southwest of the country have been carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in the recent past, the responsibility for the Zhob attack was claimed by a new armed faction called Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), which announced itself in February this year.
The TTP, whose leadership is said to be based in Afghanistan, also unilaterally broke a fragile ceasefire with the government last November before launching several attacks in different parts of the country. Pakistan also raised concern over the presence of militant network in Afghanistan in the past and urged the administration in Kabul to address the situation.
“The Armed Forces of Pakistan have serious concerns on the safe havens and liberty of action available to TTP in Afghanistan,” the army’s media wing, ISPR, said in a statement issued after the army chief’s visit to Balochistan. “It is expected that interim Afghan Government would not allow the use of its soil to perpetrate terror against any country, in the real sense and in line with commitments made in Doha Agreement.”
“The involvement of Afghan nationals in acts of terrorism in Pakistan is another important concern that needs to be addressed,” it continued. “Such attacks are intolerable and would elicit effective response from the Security Forces of Pakistan.”
The ISPR said operations against militants would continue unabated and the armed forces would not rest until extremist violence was rooted out from the country.
Meanwhile, the chief of army staff (COAS) also paid rich tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in the attack while visiting the injured soldiers at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Quetta. He also lauded the services of his troops to the nation and appreciated their resolve.
In the past, attacks on security forces and other targets in Balochistan were largely carried out by the Baloch Liberation Army and other separatist groups seeking complete independence for the arid mountainous province that is Pakistan’s largest by territory but smallest by population and most backward in terms of almost all social and development indicators.
Balochistan is also home to a number of China-backed economic projects carried out under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), against which some militants have also launched attacks.
Later, the ISPR announced in a separate statement that the army chief left for Iran on a two-day official visit.
“The COAS will meet Iranian military and civilian leadership during his visit to Iran,” it said, adding the army chief would discuss bilateral matters related to defense and security cooperation with officials in the neighboring country.