Pak-Afghan border fencing here to stay: DG ISPR

Major Gen Iftikhar says move not aimed at dividing people but to protect them


Kamran Yousaf January 05, 2022
Inter Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar addresses a press conference in Rawalpindi on January 5, 2022. PHOTO: ISPR

ISLAMABAD:

The army on Wednesday made it clear that fencing along the Pakistan-Afghan border would be completed as planned as the “blood of Pakistani martyrs” was involved in the crucial initiative.

“The purpose of the fencing is not to divide the people but to protect them. This is the fence for peace .., work on it will continue and the fencing will be here to stay,” Major Gen Babar Iftikhar, the chief military spokesperson, said at a news conference at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general’s remarks came against the backdrop of recent incidents of Taliban soldiers trying to remove portions of the fencing along the Pak-Afghan border.
The Afghan defence ministry spokesperson and a few other Taliban officials had said the fencing was “illegal” as it only “divided” the people on both sides of the border.

However, in a first policy statement, the DG ISPR made it clear that work on the fencing would continue.
He added that 94% of the fencing along the Pak-Afghan border had already been completed.mHe stressed that contrary to the claims by officials across the border, the fencing was meant to regulate the movement of people, facilitate trade and ensure security.mHowever, it was evident from the statement that Pakistan was trying to downplay the incidents along the border.

Major Gen Iftikhar insisted that the issue must not be blown out of proportion, terming the incidents as “localised problems”.m"We have very good relations with the current Afghan government. We understand each other and keep talking about different issues that keep surfacing. There is no problem. [The] fencing is under way and will continue," he said.

Official sources said Pakistan was maintaining extreme caution in dealing with the incidents of disruption to the fencing, as any misstep could be exploited by the “spoilers” within and outside Afghanistan.mThe issue was taken up at the highest level with the Afghan Taliban leadership, which had expressed its readiness to resolve it through diplomatic channels.

After these behind-the-scene efforts, the Afghan foreign ministry spokesperson on Tuesday issued a statement on the recent incidents along the Pak-Afghan border.m“Recently a few incidents have taken place along the Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan that have given rise to the need for authorities of the two sides to address the problem,” Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Afghan foreign ministry spokesperson, said.

“IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan), believing in addressing the problems through understanding, talks and good neighbourliness, will address this issue through diplomatic channels.”mHowever, the DG ISPR made it clear that Pakistan considered the Durand Line as the international border between the two countries.m“It is an internationally recognised border,” he added.

The army spokesperson said an operation was conducted in North Waziristan to ensure the writ of the state along the Pak-Afghan border. “As a result of the operation, the fencing in the area also started,” he said, adding that the terrain – that was inaccessible because of hostile weather – was being used by terrorists to cross the border.

Major Gen Iftikhar said the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in August had an impact on Pakistan’s security situation. “But we are completely focused and the work started under Western Border Management Regime will be taken to its logical end.”mHe maintained that there was full coordination on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border, adding that to prevent spoilers, these area-specific incidents needed to be resolved with patience.

According to the ISPR DG, Pakistan has more than 1,200 check posts along the Pak-Afghan border. There are 377 posts on the other side of the border. “This means that there is a distance of at least 7-8 km between check posts,” he said, adding that the shortage of posts had made it challenging to keep the militants in check.m“In 2021, 164 forts were constructed along the Pak-Afghan border and 31 forts were set up along the Pak-Iran border,” he said.

“So far a total of 673 forts or border check posts have been constructed,” he added.m“Pakistan has set up 67 new wings for the FC Balochistan and FC Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to strengthen border security while the formation of six more wings is in process.”mHe said measures had been taken to curb smuggling through Torkham, Kharlachi, Ghulam Khan, Angor Ada, Badini and Chaman border terminals.
Speaking about Afghanistan, the DG ISPR said the current situation in the war-torn country could lead to a serious humanitarian crisis that would have a direct impact on the security and safety of Pakistan and the region.

The DG ISPR confirmed that a month-long ceasefire with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was over and the country’s security forces were conducting operations against “violent non-state actors”.mHe said Pakistan had initiated the ceasefire and talks with the banned TTP on the request of the Afghan Taliban government.mHowever, the talks were now suspended as some of the demands of the outlawed TTP were non-negotiable for the Pakistani state.

Major Gen Iftikhar also made it clear that the TTP was not a “monolithic” entity and the group had internal differences.m“We are now taking them [TTP] head on. We are conducting operations against them on a daily basis and our fight will continue till we get rid of this menace,” the DG ISPR said in a clear indication that the peace process might not resume any time soon.

Replying to a question, the spokesperson rubbished claims of a possible deal with three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif, who was currently in London.m“I will only say this is baseless. If anyone is talking about a deal, please ask them who is doing the deal. Where is the evidence of such a deal? There is no such thing," he added.mTo another question, he said there were no issues when it came to the civil-military relationship.

He went on to add that the armed forces were subservient to the government and worked according to its directives.mThe DG ISPR then advised the media to keep the “establishment” out of politics and instead focus on health, education and other such issues. The military spokesperson also said the economy drove everything, but insisted that despite those challenges, the armed forces had the resources and capacity to deal with internal and external challenges.

During the news conference, the ISPR DG referred to the human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).mThe ISPR chief said the ceasefire agreement signed with India had “improved” the lives of Kashmiris living along the border.mGen Iftikhar said the propaganda launched by the Indian media was an attempt to deflect attention from the atrocities in IIOJK.

The army spokesperson accused India of putting the region’s peace at stake through increased defence spending. It will have negative effects on peace. On the Line of Control [LoC], they have spread false propaganda about infiltration," Gen Iftikhar added. He said the Indian forces had recently staged a fake encounter in Neelum Valley and killed an innocent Kashmiri, blaming it on Pakistan.

He called out the Indian media for its propaganda over the incident, saying the media ran pictures of a terrorist named Shabbir. “He is not only alive but is at his home in Sharda.” Maj Gen Iftikhar said India had killed countless people, adding that New Delhi wanted to “externalise” the freedom struggle of Kashmiris. “But voices are coming from everywhere that the people are being targeted and their struggle is being stamped out,” he added.

"On January 5, 1989, the people of Kashmir were promised the right to self-determination by the UN. That promise remains unfulfilled. On this occasion, we salute their bravery." Speaking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the security situation in Balochistan, the ISPR DG said the nefarious attempts by anti-state elements to sabotage the project had failed.

“The security of CPEC and other projects is being ensured by the Pakistani forces at a great cost,” he added. The Krut Hydro Power Project is 93% complete, he said, adding that the scheme would add 720MW to the national grid. “The project will bring significant benefits to the local population.” The dry shore hydropower project was also in the process of completion, the ISPR chief said, adding that despite all the challenges, the progress of any project had not been hampered.

“We will take you [media] there for the progress of various ongoing projects across the country so that you can report them yourself,” he added. In addition, 199 development projects, costing around Rs601 billion, have been started in Balochistan, the ISPR chief said. These projects have been kicked off under the federal government's “Vision Balochistan”.

He added that they included 10 major health projects, 18 education projects, 20 agriculture projects and 42 major transport projects. “All these projects are being provided foolproof security so that they can be completed on time and the people of Balochistan can benefit from them.”

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