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ISLAMABAD: Director General, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar Friday said the situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan international border is normal and under control, and the armed forces are ready to handle if something happens.

The spokesperson for the Pakistan’s armed forces, in a news conference aimed at updating the nation about the measures in place to deal with any threat to the country’s security out of the chaotic situation in Afghanistan, stated Pakistan had already taken the measures needed to ensure security and stability on its side of the border.

“Despite whatsoever has happened on the other side of the border, the situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan international border is normal and pretty much under control. There is no problem over there and there was no major incident. But it does not mean that nothing can happen…something can happen, but we are prepared and it is not that we will be unaware of that,” he added.

He said that the armed forces have taken every possible step to maintain security at the border and every movement is under control, adding that there has been no untoward incident that has happened so far.

“It’s definitely going to have a positive impact on the other side [Afghanistan],” he added.

Since 15th August, he added that several times the notified border crossings with Afghanistan were kept closed and reopened because of the fluctuating situation on the other side. On two occasions, several soldiers of the Afghan Army entered Pakistan, seeking a safe passage who were accepted and looked after prior to giving them a safe passage back to their country under the military norms.

Pakistan Army prepared, will not be caught unaware: DG ISPR

As it was anticipated the way situations were unfolding in Afghanistan, he added that Pakistan moved the regular forces and deployed on the important notified border crossings because of the possibility of instability to ensure that the border control is well managed. He pointed out that the 17 crossing points are notified and all the illegal points were closed.

He said that movement from across the border is allowed only to those who are in possession of valid documents, adding that only five crossing points are currently open for trade, while 73 have been closed for security reasons.

About a possible refugee crisis, he said that at the moment, there are no refugees at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Currently, he added that the biggest facility of evacuation of the foreigners is in Pakistan and so far more than 5,500 foreigners have been evacuated from Afghanistan. As of now, 130 flights, mostly military and commercial, from Afghanistan have landed in Pakistan, he added.

He pointed out that other than Afghanistan and its people, the biggest victims of the Afghan conflict were the people of Pakistan, adding that the country had faced the maximum brunt of whatever was unfolding in Afghanistan whether it was the Soviet invasion followed by Afghan jihad, the civil war and the war on terror during the last two decades, Pakistan has continuously remained the victim.

He pointed out that 86,000 plus lives have been lost, $152 billion economic losses and still counting.

Shedding light on how Pakistan’s security forces dealt with the challenges during the last two decades, he said that Pakistan continuously invested on improving the security situation along the international border with Afghanistan.

“While we were involved in this war on terror during the last two decades, we had three major escalations on the Easter border [with India] – 2001-02, 2008, and 2019. We were deployed on the Eastern border and on the Western border as well because there was a major conflict going on in Afghanistan,” the DG ISPR pointed out, adding that as there were terrorist incidents in the country and the army was also deployed in the cities for internal security.

At the peak of this period, there were more than 90 terror incidents happening in a year and on the others side, the Indian ceasefire violations were also on the peak, he said, adding that since 2014, there were 12,312 ceasefire violations on the Eastern border.

During this period, he said that the armed forces conducted 1,237 major and minor operations and cleared more than 46,000 sq km area along the Western border from terrorists and their infrastructure was destroyed.

He pointed out that during the period, Pakistan lost politicians, soldiers, generals, artists, students, journalists, and other people from every segment of the society.

“With the support of our great nation and law enforcement agencies, our armed forces were able to turn the tide,” he added.

Until 2012, he said that there was no coordinated mechanism on Pakistan-Afghanistan border and to address the issue, Pakistan had been reaching out to the Afghan side to formalise a border control mechanism to deal with the instability along the border.

Pakistan also suggested an intelligence-sharing mechanism; however, the initiatives were not responded well by the Afghan side, he added.

Pakistan evacuates over 7,000 people from Afghanistan: report

“We offered a mechanism for intelligence-sharing and training of Afghan soldiers and officers in Pakistan Army institutions…We offered it several times but only six cadets came. However, hundreds and thousands of Afghan Army soldiers went for training to India and several Indian Army training teams were placed in Afghanistan to train their forces,” he said, adding that the reason for making the offers was because Pakistan believes peace in Afghanistan is directly linked to peace in Pakistan.

He also revealed that Pakistan had also offered the Afghan Army to train and equip a complete brigade-size force, adding that this was offered as recent as the last visit by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

He also stated that Pakistan armed forces are also deployed on the projects of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and ensuring the security of these projects.

To a question as to what steps Pakistan would be taking if Afghan Taliban could not control the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he said that Pakistan had always maintained that TTP has sanctuaries in Afghanistan with the help of spoilers.

However, he added that the Taliban leadership have conveyed that they will not let the Afghan soil be used against any other country.

“Pakistan believes that they [Taliban] will take measures so that the TTP may not be able to operate against Pakistan or any other country,” he said, adding that the TTP has no organised infrastructure in Pakistan and that is why they are taking refuge in Afghanistan.

The DG ISPR added that India’s role in Afghanistan has been extremely negative, adding that whatever investment India had made in Afghanistan and the kind of clout they developed, it was all done with one intention, to harm Pakistan.

He added that India had poisoned the minds of the Afghan leadership, military, and intelligence because of which negative statements regarding Pakistan were made by Afghan leadership every time.

He pointed out that Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) was helping India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) cobble together alliances with Daesh, TTP, and terrorist organisations to destabilise Pakistan.

“India’s role is extremely negative and I think the international community needs to bring India into the dock,” he added.

He pointed out that investigation into the terror incidents of Dasu, Lahore, Quetta, and Gwadar revealed that all these were planned and executed from Afghanistan with the help of the NDS and the RAW.

He said that Pakistan had been repeatedly cautioning the world about the negative role played by spoilers in Afghanistan, who were continuing to do so, adding that while Pakistan’s armed forces were conducting operations on its Western border, there were massive ceasefire violations on its Eastern border.

He further pointed out that there was a massive capacity enhancement initiative in 2017, adding that COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa put forward a vision of securing the Western borders comprehensively, following which more than 60 new wings for Frontier Corps in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were raised.

Besides, he added that Pakistan took other measures to secure its border, including upgrading technology and surveillance, constructing hundreds of border forts and fencing the border, 90 percent of which had been completed.

Currently, he added that Pakistan army is working on Pakistan-Iran border and more than 50 percent has been fenced so far.

To another query about Pakistan’s assessment of the Afghan situation to normalise, he said: “We are hoping for the best. We have taken measures and Pakistan will reach out when government to government contact is established.”

About any expected civil war in Afghanistan, he said that there was always a fear of a civil war taking place in Afghanistan, adding that the situation is volatile and “nothing can be said about it as of now.”

Afghan soldiers amicably returned to Afghanistan: ISPR

However, he added that currently there is no civil war in Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan desires a cordial relationship at the government level, adding there was reason to be optimistic.

He said that there are no military-to-military contacts with other countries with regard to situation in Afghanistan, these are government to government contacts.

Responding another query, he said that the reports of India using wild animals to attack and conduct surveillance along the Line of Control (LoC) were concerning, adding that Pakistan hopes that the world community holds New Delhi responsible for stooping so low.

“We are aware of those surveillance means and taking our measures to counter that,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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