Briefing the media on counter-terrorism efforts, the military spokesperson stated that Islamic State, also known as Daesh, tried to make inroads into Pakistan in two groups.
He also remarked about the role of ISIS in attacks carried out against various media houses over the last couple of years in various parts of the country.
According to ISPR reports revealed in this press briefing, the total apprehensions in the case of ISIS were 309 and which also included 25 foreigners and 157 from the freelancer groups aiding ISIS in Pakistan.
Asim Bajwa also mentioned the so-called ISIS chief in Pakistan named Hafiz Umar, who was involved in attacks against law-enforcement agencies in Karachi and Hyderabad also assaults on media houses in various other cities. According to Bajwa, the planned attacks on media houses were fear-mongering exercises being carried out by the apprehended militants swearing allegiance to ISIS.
The head of the military’s media wing remarked that Operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists in the North Waziristan tribal region targeted terrorists indiscriminately.
“The salient operational guidelines for Operation Zarb-e-Azb were that it would be an indiscriminate operation against all extremist outfits. It was decided that collateral damage would be avoided and human rights would be taken into consideration,” Bajwa said.
“In 2014, the security environment when Operation Zarb-e-Azb started was such that the country faced various instances of terrorism,” he said. “There were 311 IED blasts, 74 attacks, and 26 suicide blasts in 2014.”
Bajwa said before the launch of Zarb-e-Azb, in which more than 3500 terrorists have been killed, North Waziristan was the epicentre of terrorism.
“People could not imagine going to North Waziristan as it had become the epicentre of terrorism, however, the Pak Army managed to clear out the area completely after which forces moved to Khyber Agency where the terrorists had taken shelter,” he said.
Pak Army killed 900 terrorists during the Khyber operation and destroyed the network of terrorists that was threatening areas in the immediate surroundings, such as Peshawar, Bajwa said.
“We recovered weapons, ammunition, IEDs, explosives, communications equipment, hate literature and discovered tunnels,” he said.
Bajwa said: “There was enough explosive material there to carry out five IED blasts every day for 21 years. They could have caused 134,000 casualties with the amount of material we recovered.”
The army spokesperson said that efforts are being made to repatriate all the Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs) by the end of this year while 66 per cent people have already been repatriated since Zarb-e-Azb was launched. However, he also emphasized that the repatriation is not the only solution and all the efforts would be made to normalize situations for the locals and bring them back to their original state. Asim Bajwa also remarked that some of the rehabilitation projects which included schools, hospitals, market complexes, mosques and economic corridors that were progressing by leaps and bounds in the war affected areas.
He said the operation in Shawal valley went well and soldiers cleared every house, every school and every mosque in the area.
“Shawal is like Switzerland now,” Bajwa claimed. “The residents are slowly returning, but they want the army to stay there and provide stability and revive the economy. Pine nuts are grown in great quantities there. Terrorists were selling the nuts to fund themselves, but now the locals will benefit.”
He further remarked that mosques and educational institutes are being constructed in the areas.
THE PRICE PAID
Lt Gen Asim Bajwa also told reporters that Pakistan suffered loss of $100.69 billion in war on terror.
He said 537 soldiers have embraced martyrdom and 2272 sustained injuries in operation Zarb-e-Azb since June 15, 2014.
“Those who point fingers at Pakistan, consider the sacrifices the nation as well as the Army has made,” he said.
There are 18 major crossing points between Pakistan and Afghanistan along the 2,600-kilometre-long shared border, Bajwa said.
He said 18 gates will be installed at Pak-Afghan border to aid border management. People will be allowed to cross the border through these checkpoints only.
Moreover, he said, “There are chances of terrorists from across the border entering Afghan refugees camps. Respectful repatriation of Afghan refugees will solve this issue.”
PROGRESS IN KARACHI OPERATION
Briefing on targeted operation in Karachi, DG ISPR said that terror incidents decreased by 74% since launch of the operation in September 2013.
Incidents of target killings decreased by 94%, extortion by 95% and kidnapping incidents reduced by 89% in Karachi.
He further told that 168 combing operations have been conducted across the country so far.
ANTI-PAKISTAN SLOGANS UNACCEPTABLE
Responding to a question regarding London-based Muttahida Qaumi Momvement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain’s recent provocative remarks, Lt General Asim Bajwa stated that anti-Pakistan slogans are not acceptable to any Pakistani citizen.
While refusing to make any further comments on the topic, Bajwa said the government has already taken action in this matter.
He said that actions have been taken against those inciting violence and more action will be taken in the near future.
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The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily