Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor in an interview with a private TV channel on Tuesday called for Afghanistan to abandon its ‘anti-Pakistan lens’ and devise policies with Pakistan through an ‘Afghan lens’.
Ghafoor’s statements come as Pakistan steps up a crackdown against militancy through Operation Raddul Fasaad after a recent surge in terror attacks across the country, with top officials talking tough on Afghanistan.
Following the attacks, the Foreign Office lodged a protest with Kabul over the use of Afghan soil for launching terror attacks in Pakistan. The government also shut down border crossings with Afghanistan and troops pounded ‘terrorist targets’ near the border.
As the crackdown intensifies, politicians and rights organisations have raised concerns about the apparent racial profiling of Pakhtuns in Pakistan by authorities, which the government denies is the case.
Speaking to 92HD, DG ISPR Asif Ghafoor stressed the importance of political engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, saying, “Even if one claims such things [terror attacks] are being planned in Afghanistan, it doesn’t mean that all of Afghanistan wants to engage in such activities. They themselves are suffering through this issue [terrorism] and have made huge sacrifices themselves.”
“One can’t delink terrorism from foreign countries,” Ghafoor said. “Afghanistan has been a battleground for various powers.”
“First and foremost, Afghanistan has to think about what is best for itself, and for them it is best that they view their security situation and ties with Pakistan through an ‘Afghan lens’, not an ‘anti-Pakistan lens’,” he said.
“Until Afghanistan sees its relationship with Pakistan through the lens of its own interest, these things will continue happening,” the DG ISPR contended.
The army’s spokesman said military-level engagement between both countries is ongoing, as suggested by Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa. “That engagement will proceed positively,” Ghafoor said. “The Pak-Afghan border mechanism needs improvement and we are hopeful it will improve in the coming days.”
However, he said, border closure is not an indefinite measure. “There are some things Afghanistan should be doing before the border reopens that can be decided through shared discussions,” he said. “So that when the border reopens, no one from our side should be able to go there and no one from their side should be able to come here for terrorism.”
‘No resurgence in terror’
Ghafoor denied that recent attacks represented a ‘resurgence’ in terror in Pakistan. “Resurgence is a strong word to use,” he stated.
Operation Raddul Fasaad seeks to consolidate gains made during previous military operations, he said. “When we cleared these [northern] areas, the remaining terrorists fled to the vacuum near the Pak-Afghan border created by an absence of troops.”
“They went there, regrouped and realigned, and they successfully hired facilitators and sympathisers in different pockets along the mainland in Pakistan. But it doesn’t mean there is a resurgence of terrorism. They have the capabilities and have done such things. Their leadership claims they did so while physically sitting in Afghanistan. They have the full support of enemy powers, whether [Indian spy agency] Research and Analysis Wing or others ─ it can’t happen without their support,” he asserted.
The military, through Operation Raddul Fasaad, seeks to fracture this connectivity between terrorists and their facilitators, Ghafoor explained.
‘Crackdown not targeting specific populations’
When questioned about the veracity of claims that Pakhtuns in Punjab are being targeted in the crackdown, Ghafoor denied that any party, province or sect has been specifically targeted.
On Monday, an HRCP press release had claimed that administrative officials in some Punjab districts had issued formal or informal orders “asking the population to keep an eye on suspicious individuals who look like Pashtuns or are from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and to report any suspicious activity by them.”
The statements prompted Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to issue a statement earlier today, saying that Pakhtuns have the complete right to reside in Punjab, and the allegations being raised in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh of their victimisation were only attempts to “spread hatred”.
“We are all Pakistanis,” Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said. “Provinces come later. Terrorism has no religion, country, province or sect… The operation targets are determined after receiving proof of involvement in terrorism and it is not for any specific province. All arrests made have been across the board,” the DG ISPR claimed.
When asked if any foreign powers were involved in this ‘conspiracy’, Ghafoor replied, “For sure, there must be.”
“Whoever wants to see Pakistan unstable will observe faultlines and they will exploit them.”