Democracy has no threat from Pakistan Army: DG ISPR

RAWALPINDI: Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor Saturday said in unequivocal terms that democracy had no threat from the Pakistan Army as the country needed stability to move forward.

Addressing a news conference here at ISPR office, he said the government and the established democratic system needed to continue. “I have to say this because there are a lot of rumours about martial law and (the installation of a) technocratic government,” he added.

He said democracy could only face threat if its requirements were not met and people’s aspirations fulfilled. There was civilian supremacy in the country and the chiefs of Pakistan’s armed forces were being appointed by the civilian government. “If there’s a Rangers operation in Sindh, it is sanctioned by the government. Similarly, Punjab Rangers’ operations are also sanctioned by the government. All such decisions are taken by the elected government,” he said adding that all the decisions at the national level were the prerogative of prime minister.

He said,”Security cannot be de-linked from economy.” If Pakistan’s economy would be self-sustained then the national security decision-making would be independent from foreign pressures, he added.

To a query regarding his recent statement about the country’s economy, Maj Gen Ghafoor said he had never stated that the economy had collapsed or destroyed. “We all have done a lot of work for the economy. I had said that we have to sit together and everyone needs to cooperate,” he added.

He said three former finance ministers and ex-State Bank governor expressed their views at seminar organized by ISPR in collaboration with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently in Karachi while the Army Chief delivered the keynote address. In his (DGISPR’s) recent talk with a TV channel, he also expressed his views about that seminar.

“The Pakistan Army is a state institution and it is very important to sit together and talk about things. If we need to improve the economy, we will have to bring certain changes and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor needs to be supported,” he added.

He said that at the seminar, the Army Chief told the traders that everyone should play a role for the economic improvement. “He told them to pay their taxes,” Maj Genral Asif Ghafoor said, adding that last year, the taxes recovered as a result of notices were only 39 per cent and that was too meager. “I said (in the TV talk) that the tax base needs to be increased and I stand by it,” he said.

“When I say something here, I speak on behalf of the Pakistan Army. I don’t speak in my personal capacity, as I am the spokesperson of the Pakistan Army,” he added.

He said the security situation in Karachi had improved and that was in the interest of all, including the traders. “Holding of seminars is a positive step and that needs to be looked at positively.”

The DGISPR also deliberated upon the new US policy on South Asia and Pakistan’s military and civilian response to that. “In our meetings with them our line was that we have done a lot over the past few years and found great results. There are no more

no-go areas in this country,” he said.

Regarding recovery of a Canadian family from the terrorists, he said the operation for their rescue was undertaken on American intelligence sharing with Pakistan. “On that day at 4.10 pm, we were informed by an American diplomat that the family is being transferred to Pakistan. On the information we received, we sent our troops, used surveillance technology and detected the vehicles (being used to carry the hostages).

“We cordoned them and fired on their vehicles. Our first priority was that the captives should remain safe. We wanted to separate the terrorists and captives so that the captives may remain safe,” he added.

He said there were a driver and three armed men. There was also an Afghan refugee camp nearby. “That is whey we have been saying time and again that the Afghan refugees need to be sent back. It is difficult for us to distinguish who is a

terrorist and who is a refugee,” he maintained.

Maj General Asif Ghafoor said in the recent engagements with the US officials, the Pakistan Army had told them trust was needed to move forward. Initiatives had been taken and the US had responded. “You have seen the results and also Trump’s statement (commending Pakistan following the recovery of the hostages),” he added.

He pointed out that the Afghan war could not have been won without Pakistan. “We have told them that we need to cooperate in ways that are mutually beneficial. Engagement builds trust. You can have apprehensions, which can be debated about. Security

cooperation is ongoing and will continue,” he added.

To question on the possibility of a joint operation with American troops on Pakistani soil, he dismissed any such possibility. “In military terminology, a joint operation means forces of both the countries conduct an operation. There is no question of it

taking place on Pakistani land,” he added.

He said the nature and character of war had changed because the direct strategy had been replaced by an indirect one and the social media had a huge role in that.

He said there might be difference of opinion. “Difference of opinion exists everywhere in the world. But I tell you that when it comes to Pakistan, to the security and survival of Pakistan, we all are one. Every Pakistani and every institution is one and the external forces should know this.”