ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa promised to immediately ‘avenge’ each drop of Pakistani blood following the grisly bombing at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday, saying the country would no longer show restraint to anyone.
In a statement issued after the attack, Gen Qamar appealed to the nation to remain calm. “Your security forces shall not allow hostile powers to succeed. We stand for our nation,” he was quoted as saying by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general.
“Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be revenged and revenged [avenged] immediately. No more restraint for anyone,” Gen Qamar vowed in what appears to be a calculated statement aimed at both India and Afghanistan.
In a separate statement, the air force chief also hinted at a more proactive approach, saying “terrorists will not be spared.”
Earlier, during a visit to Mohmand and Bajaur agencies, the army chief warned ‘hostile agencies’ against playing with regional peace and stability. Pakistan, according to him, reserves the right to respond despite its current policy of restraint.
The statements came amid the latest wave of terrorist attacks in the country. The sudden spike in violence starting with the deadly terrorist attack in Lahore has caused concerns among the country’s civil and military authorities about the role of foreign hands. The Lahore blast that left 13 people dead including senior police officials was claimed by Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The army chief, who met troops and interacted with tribal elders in the Mohmand and Bajaur agencies, also alluded to the fact that ongoing spike in terrorism in Pakistan was linked to the ‘safe havens’ of terrorists in Afghanistan. A day earlier, Islamabad summoned a senior Afghan diplomat and shared with him evidence of the use of Afghan soil by militant groups to carry out attacks inside Pakistan.
Gen Qamar said terrorists were trying to regroup in safe havens in Afghanistan and were attempting to spread doubt and despondency in the Pakistani society. “We all collectively shall fail their desperate manoeuvres,” the army chief was quoted as saying by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
“Efforts to ensure that our soil is not used against any other country shall continue and expect from others to reciprocate in same manner,” he added.
Later, ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor in a tweet on behalf of the army chief appealed to the nation to stay calm.
The incumbent army chief is known to be more open to reaching out to Pakistan’s neighbours with an approach seemingly more in tune with that of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government. But back-to-back terrorist attacks over the last few days have prompted him to issue a strong statement.
According to ISPR, Gen Qamar lauded law enforcement agencies (LEAs) at Mohmand, especially the Levies force for thwarting Wednesday’s suicide attack and minimising the loss of lives. He also appreciated troops for effectively responding to cross border attacks from Afghanistan on a Pakistani post last week. “Cooperation between our brave citizens, army, LEAs and intelligence agencies is the cornerstone of our success against terrorism,” the army chief said.
He also met the kin of those who embraced martyrdom in the terrorist attack on Ghallanai and offered respects and condolences. He assured local tribes that Pakistan Army will continue its efforts to improve infrastructure in the tribal areas including roads, health, education and community development projects. “Army fully supports initiatives for mainstreaming of Fata being undertaken in accordance with the wishes of the people” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking at his weekly news briefing, the Foreign Office spokesperson said the involvement of India’s premier spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in creating instability in Pakistan was well known. “We have already taken up the issue of Indian involvement in terrorism and terror-financing in Pakistan with the UN secretary general,” Nafees Zakaria added.
He said Pakistan was one of the biggest victims of terrorism, more so, of the terrorist activities perpetrated by Indian state agencies. “They not only perpetrate such activities but also finance such terror activities. We have already taken up this issue and we will constantly take it up with the international community.”
The spokesman said Pakistan had taken up the issue of Afghan soil being used by Jamaatul Ahrar for terrorist attacks. He said some arrests had been made in connection with the ongoing investigations into the Lahore bombing.
Referring to the recent six-party talks in Moscow on the Afghanistan situation, Zakaria informed reporters that all participants decided to expand the discussions by including other Central Asian states. He said the aim of the meeting in Moscow was to discuss approaches on how to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. “The discussions focused assessing the situation in Afghanistan and approaches towards attaining peace in Afghanistan, and taking affective steps to address those concerns,” he said.
He maintained that there was common concern of the regional countries on the growing footprint of terrorist organisations like Da’ish in Afghanistan, and was directly related to the peace efforts to stabilise Afghanistan, as well as maintaining regional peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2017