ISLAMABAD: The army has signalled taking legal action against the leadership of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), stating that “those who are playing in others’ hands, their time is up”.
Speaking at a news conference in Rawalpindi on Monday, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor accused the PTM of getting funds from Afghanistan’s secret agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
“Those who playing in others hands, their time is up,” said Ghafoor, adding that possible action against the PTM would not harm anyone.
“The instructions of the army chief will be strictly followed. Every step will be taken according to the law,” the chief military spokesperson explained.
Answering a volley of questions on the PTM issue, Ghafoor did not elaborate on the action to be taken against its leadership.
However, he made it clear that no one wanted any unrest at a time when the country had achieved relative peace after years of anti-terror campaign.
This was the first time the military spoke about dealing with the PTM. Previously, while the army did express reservations over the PTM’s protests and their activities, it never expressed inclination towards taking any action.
Unlike earlier news briefing, this time the ISPR director general spoke more openly about the alleged role being played by NDS and RAW in the ongoing protest movement of the PTM.
He challenged the PTM leadership to disclose that from where they were getting the funds for their so-called movement.
“On the PTM website, they have got a number that states the amount of funds they have collected from Pashtuns around the world. But they have much more funds than actually shown. We have the details,” the ISPR director general said.
He then asked specific questions of the PTM leadership, “Tell us how much money did you get from NDS on March 22, 2018 for a protest, how much funds RAW has provided you for the Islamabad sit-in, on April 8, 2018, who was the relative of Manzoor Pashteen that went to the Indian consulate in Kandahar and had meeting there, on May 8, how much funds the Indian consulate in Jalalabad has provided you for the protest at Torkham?
“What connection Haji Amir Khan Safi in Kabul and Naseer Zadran in Dubai have with you, how they support you?”
He said he was the first one to engage with the PTM on the instructions of army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
According to the ISPR director general, the army chief had instructed him to adopt a reconciliatory approach towards the PTM even if they made any harsh comment.
Initially, the PTM had put forward three demands — de-mining of tribal districts, reduction of check posts and recovery of missing persons, Ghafoor said, adding that security forces immediately acted on those demands and the PTM leadership had follow-up meetings with local military commanders.
The army had formed 48 teams to clear landmines and other unexploded ordnances. So far 45% of the area had been cleared of such landmines, he said.
As many as 101 security personnel were martyred during the clearing operation, the ISPR spokesperson added.
He said the PTM had enjoyed the liberty they wanted to. He questioned that how much time the PTM leadership actually spent in tribal districts. “The problems are genuine, but those problems are being faced by the locals,” he added.
He also pointed out that people were asking questions that when action was taken against the Tehreek-e-Labbaik, then why not the PTM.
The army spokesperson spoke in Pashto to directly convey a message to the Pashtun.
He said some elements were trying to mislead the people to provoke them against Pakistan and its institutions. He assured the people that the armed forces were working tirelessly to solve their problems.
The armed forces would not rest until their issues were resolved, he said, hoping they would not pay heed to “rhetoric and instead will stop these anti-state forces”.
The chief military spokesperson also warned India not to test the nation’s resolve — two months after a terrorist attack in occupied Kashmir brought the two nuclear-armed neighbours to the brink of war.
“India must not test Pakistan’s resolve. It is not 1971 anymore,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said.
Referring to the Indian narrative, the ISPR chief said India has been lying for the past two months while Pakistan, on the other hand, was exhibiting responsibility despite their lies.
Maj Gen Ghafoor reiterated that none of Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) F-16 fighter jets were missing, the fact which was also proven right by a report in an American news publication.
“In your [Indian] rhetoric, you keep using nuclear power as a threat. Nuclear weapons are not a threat; they are a weapon of deterrence that should not be mentioned lightly.”
The military spokesperson also said that the armed forces have to provide security to improve the business environment.
“For that we need to resolve all our disputes, and Kashmir tops the list. Now India should decide whether it wants a repeat of February 27 or whether it wants to work to eliminate poverty.”
Seminary reforms and proscribed organisations
The spokesperson stated in categorical terms that the government would not allow any proscribed organisation to operate from its soil.
He said the decision was taken much before the recent military standoff with India, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issues and even before the start of negotiations with the IMF.
Turning towards the issue of madrassa reforms, he said for many years seminaries were working under the Ministry of Industries, which did not make any sense.
Now, the government has decided to place them under the Ministry of Education, he added.
Giving a background of seminaries in Pakistan, he said at the time of Partition, Pakistan had only 247 madrassas. That number went up close to 3,000 in 1980, which had now swelled to 30,000.
However, he said out of the 30,000, only 100 or so seminaries were involved in promoting militancy.
“In February, money was allotted to bring the seminaries into the mainstream. To control welfare activities of proscribed organisations, the government has made a system to mainstream their social activities.”
The military spokesperson added that to bring madrassas into the mainstream, they will have to start teaching other subjects so that students have skills other than religious studies.
“All madrassas will be brought under the Ministry of Education so that contemporary subjects can be taught. We will formulate a syllabus which will not have hate speech and the students will be taught to respect different sects.
“The students will also receive a degree which will be associated with the education board.
“The mainstreaming has three phases. The first is to prepare a bill which will be ready in around a month. The second phase requires training of teachers, and the third will be the implementation of the bill,” he added.