Terrorist groups don’t have a base in Pakistan to fall back on, according to the chief military spokesperson, who also said that sporadic attacks by frustrated terrorists could not dent the military’s resolve to eliminate the malady once and for all.
“We have seen how the rate of terrorist incidents declined during the past one and a half years, and how it brought dividends to the entire nation,” Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, the director general of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview.
The recent uptick in terrorist violence in the country came after a long hiatus, triggering a media guessing game about the effectiveness of the new national strategy against terrorism and extremism.
Lt Gen Bajwa, however, said the military has the upper hand in the fight against terrorism since the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in mid-June, 2014. “We have dislodged them [terrorists] from their sanctuaries, from their bases, from where they carried out things without any hindrance. Their sanctuaries have been destroyed.”
He cautioned that terrorists would continue to find loopholes in the system. “Whenever we get these terrorists, we have seen they may use facilitators in society.”
Asked about an impression in the Western world that Pakistan pursues a nexus with terrorism despite the fact the country has rendered unmatchable sacrifices in the war against terrorism, the military spokesperson said it would be regrettable if someone levelled such wild allegations.
“This [such allegations] is absolutely unjustified and absolutely unfair. About some [terrorist] organisations still present here, I would say a strategic direction has been taken to eliminate terrorism without any discrimination,” he added.
He added that the people of Pakistan have sacrificed the most in the war against terrorism. “There is an acknowledgement here. There is also an acknowledgement when we go abroad and meet people,” he said. “Everyone who comes to Pakistan acknowledges our successes,” he added. “The world needs to study our model and learn a lot.”
Lt Gen Bajwa said the Pakistani nation and security forces would fight terrorism in the country but the world should realise that terrorism is a global threat and it needs a global response.
“All that we need now is the support of the entire world in our endevours. And we are absolutely convinced we are heading in the right direction. We want a terror- and extremism-free Pakistan and for that we need the world’s help,” he said.
The military spokesperson said those who had a role in the creation of the monster of terrorism should help Pakistan eliminate it. “This monster was created by everyone together. We are fighting it and we expect the whole world to stand by us and help us in eliminating this monster.”
He was asked did the Western nations and previous Pakistani governments shared the blame for creating the ‘jihadi’ groups who later turned on Pakistan and the West.
Since the establishment of military courts, scores of have been convicted and hanged, triggering criticism from some rights groups and Western nations. “People just want terrorism to end in Pakistan. Now this death penalty, we have seen that it has brought dividends because it is only hardcore terrorists who are being presented before the military courts,” he said.
“Pakistan respects civil liberties as we are living in a healthy society and an evolving society, and there is the state which is taking care of all these things,” he added. “All the cases have been referred through a mechanism from the provincial governments and the federal government to the military courts. They have been tried through a fair and due process of law and they have been given sentences.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2016.