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‘Don’t test our resolve,’ DG ISPR tells India at press conference

Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor is addressing a press conference at the General Headquarters.

He is speaking about the recent tensions with India and the security situation in the country.

At the start of the presser, Maj Gen Ghafoor said India had accused Pakistan of being behind the Pulwama attack in occupied Kashmir, but that Pakistan had denied the same.

“We told them we were not involved. India then violated our airspace, we then gave the ultimatum that we will respond when we see fit, just like the PM said.

“Two months have passed since and India has told countless lies on the matter. We have not responded to the lies, not because we can’t, but because we don’t want to retaliate.

“International media came to Pakistan, we told them that they should go to the place and see for themselves what had happened.

“India had said that 300 people had died in their attack [in Balakot]. Then they said that they had used a small-scale missile that bore a tiny hole in the ceiling of the building and then exploded inside. We again offered to show your own [Indian] media the site.”

“We downed two Indian planes in the process, the whole world saw their debris and you [India] still claimed that one of the two planes was ours and one of our own pilots died, as we had initially said that two Indian pilots had been captured, and then said that there was only one. You [India] said that we have changed our statement because one pilot was our own.

“We got initial information through the proper channel, then on the ground, I personally found out that only one person had been captured and I sent out the correction myself. How is it that you are ready to accept one of our statement, not the other?”

“We have not retaliated because we want peace […] we asked you [India] to ask America about our F-16s’ strength. In this day and age, hiding the downing of a plane is impossible. In this time, even if a motorcycle crashes the world finds out.

“We have not talked much about it because we want to find the appropriate time to honour our pilots whose skills had been used to down the Indian planes.

“India says that Pakistan’s attitude needs to change. We say that you have not been able to change our attitude, but maybe you need to look inwards and look at the way you have approached the relationship between the two countries.

“In your [Indian] rhetoric, you keep using nuclear power as a threat. Nuclear powers are not a threat, they are a weapon of deterrence that should not be mentioned lightly.”

“Do not test our resolve,” he said while addressing India, stressing that the Pakistan Army will fully defend its 207 million people if and when required.

Action against proscribed organisations

The chief of the military’s media wing appreciated the role played by the Pakistani media during the war against terror in the past two years, and during the three-day conflict with India in February. “The media played the best possible role in the situation and I would like to thank you for it,” he told the journalists present.

“Pakistan has a regional importance. We are neighbours with Afghanistan, which has been plagued with war for the last 40 years, first with the Soviet occupation and then with the US army after 9/11.

“Cooperation with Afghanistan has been going throughout this time. This can be seen through the fact that at least 81,000 Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives in these operations to date.

“I can now say with confidence that there is no terrorist organisation in Pakistan anymore. We have proscribed violent extremist organisations and we have been working to curb terrorism in Pakistan.

“The state was busy conducting kinetic operations and every law enforcement agency was busy in that, which is why we were not able to strategise against these [banned] organisations the way we are doing today.

“In 2014, when the National Action Plan was formulated, all political parties had agreed on point number 3, which said that this aspect of bringing these elements into the mainstream will be taken care of now that our kinetic operations are working.

“Earlier, when the army chief spoke on occasion of Youm-i-Shuhada, he said that the monopoly of violence should rest with the state alone.

“On January 1, a strategy was made on how to bring these people or organisations into the mainstream but no funds were allocated towards this. In February, when the scheme was announced, a fund was also allocated towards it by the government for the first time.

“It was then decided that madressahs and hospitals, which are non-violent and being run under these organisations will be brought under the government’s banner.”

‘Mainstreaming’ madressahs

Talking about Pakistan’s education system, Maj Gen Ghafoor regretted that 25 million children in Pakistan are currently out of schools.

“These children then go to madressahs, 30,000 of which exist in Pakistan at the moment. Out of these, less than 100 were found to be the kind that were pushing children towards extremism.

“So out of 30,000 only 100 are faulty and if these were shut, what will happen to the millions of children who go to these madressahs.

“Today, madressahs offer eight years of studies in a Dars-i-Nizami. Then two more years to give them the title of Mufti. But when these children come out of these madressahs, what job opportunities await them?

“Some of these madressahs do offer some contemporary education and thus very few of these children qualify for some basic level jobs, like procuring a commission in the army.

“But 32.5m children do not have these opportunities. That is why we are trying to mainstream madressahs so that children studying there have the opportunity to become doctors and engineers just like the children studying in mainstream schools.

“This means that teachers will have to be employed in these madressahs. [And] this means funding, which was lacking in the past, but now that we are at the end of the war against terror, we will be able to reroute the funds towards this process and initially Rs2 billion will be required to run this programme and then Rs1 billion will be required each year for the programme’s upkeep. We will provide these funds so that these madressahs are mainstreamed and all of our children have equal opportunities.”

This is a developing story that is being updated as the situation evolves. Initial reports in the media can sometimes be inaccurate. We will strive to ensure timeliness and accuracy by relying on credible sources such as concerned, qualified authorities and our staff reporters.

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