Bajwa flays NATO on blame game

By Zeeshan Ghayur
Sunday - February 18, 2018
RAWALPINDI: Chief of army staff (COAS) general Qamar Javed Bajwa, addressing Munich security conference (MSC), on Saturday reminded, “We defeated Al-Qaeda, tehreek-e-taliban Pakistan (TTP) and jamaat-ur-ahraar (JA), while their safe havens still exist in Afghanistan at a mere fraction of resources, deployed on the other side of the border” lashing “Now instead of blame game, it is time for north Atlantic treaty organisation (NATO) and allies to conduct an audit in introspection to find out the causes of this stalemate.”

COAS informed, “For your information, of the last 130 terrorist attacks in our border areas last year, 123 were conceived, planned and executed from Afghanistan” adding “We understand their predicament therefore we do not blame them.”

Bajwa reiterated, “But instability in Afghanistan is also hurting us badly; and it is happening despite the presence of the most powerful alliance (NATO) in Kabul” lashing “Unfortunately, Afghanistan success of 2003 was lost when resources were pulled out prematurely for war in Iraq.”

He educated, “Today after spending more than $1.4 trillion, the situation can best be described as a stalemate.”

Bajwa said, “But to my reckoning the cause of stalemate is not Haqqani network or tehreek-e-taliban Afghanistan (TTA), as they had been almost defeated 13 years ago” educating “It was the pursuit of a wrong strategy which led to their ‘resurrection’.”

He said, “The popular assertion of TTA not being defeated in totality due to part of their leadership presence in Pakistan is not correct or whole truth.”

COAS said, “Despite the seeming frustration, very few countries have achieved as much that we have in our war against terror with over 1,100 Al-Qaeda operatives killed and other 600 handed over to the United States (US), Pakistan is instrumental in disruption and decimation of Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bajwa said, “Pakistan army has raged a relentless and bloody fight against terrorism and violent extremism at a monumental human and material cost” adding “Over 35,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives, over 48,000 are critically wounded or disabled, financial cost exceeds $250 billion - only a ‘fraction’ of which has been shared by our global partners.”

COAS mentioned, “Today I can say with pride and conviction that there are no organised camp on our side of the border, however presence of terrorists of various hues and colours cannot be ruled out, we still have their active and sleeper cells who are hiding in mountains, border towns and 54 refugees’ camps besides some major town and cities.”

Bajwa reminded, “Times have surely changed since the noon of march 10th, 1982, when US president Ronald Regan dedicated the march 22nd launch of Columbia space shuttle to the valiant Afghan mujahideens or jihadis and termed their struggle against the Soviet occupation forces as the representation of man’s highest aspiration for freedom.”

He added, “Even the separation of our eastern part of our country and the political upheavals thereafter did not change the society as deeply as the event of 1979, the year the Soviet union invaded Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution happened the next door.”

Bajwa said, “It was only then that we started learning that we were not only Muslims but Sunnis and Shias. It was also the time when we were drawn to fighting the Soviet invasion and also challenging communist ideology with another ideology.”

He reminded, “With the able intellectual assistance of the free world, our syllabus was designed in one of the Western universities for madrassahs, wherein jihad was fed to young minds in a concentrated dose without context or explanation.”

Bajwa recapped, “An exception was created using a self defence clause to justify declaration of jihad by non-State actors” adding “Young men were recruited from all over the world, radicalised and then left and disowned, after they had delivered us the success” asserting “While it is a history for you, it is still very much a live issue back home.”

He said, “As fairly large number of people are radicalised, armed and empowered politically and ideologically, they cannot be wished away just because we do not like them anymore.”

Bajwa held, “Please note that we are harvesting what we sowed 40 years back, so it will be a while before this scourge is eliminated in totality” asserting “But first let’s stop calling it jihadism as it is nothing else but terrorism.”

He revealed, “In our war against terror, military operations were not the only ones conducted, we realised very early that the complex problem of violent extremism could not be handled through military operations only.”

Bajwa disclosed, “First and foremost we generated the public opinion to defeat the terrorist narrative, we also formulated the national action plan (NAP) aimed at fighting terrorism and gradually rooting out extremism.”

He added, “We launched operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (RuF) in 2017 with the aim of firstly targeted, kinetic and enhanced law enforcement operations to destroy the residual presence of terrorists across the country” informing “Second prong of our campaign comprises of supporting the NAP that involves better prosecution, policing, education reforms along with curbing terrorism and hate speech.”

Bajwa stated, “Equally important is our information prong aimed at discrediting the terrorist ideology including the misuse of terms like jihad and caliphate.”

He informed, “Most recently 1,854 eminent Pakistani religious scholors, representing all schools of thought within Islam, teamed up to issue a resounding fatwa (declaration) against violence, extremism and terrorism in the name of religion, called the message of Pakistan to ban suicide bombing and jihad other than the ones sanctioned by the State.”

Bajwa said, “Our success has been made possible by the collective desire of our nation however, we are far from done” adding “It is my sincere belief that Pakistan’s lasting domestic peace hinges on peace and stability in Afghanistan” asserting “Therefore, despite our limited resources we are trying our best to export peace to our neighbours in the West.”

He educated, “Please remember that times and efforts are curtailed by capacity and not by will.”

Bajwa mentioned, “Pakistan and Afghanistan are sovereign countries, both countries have right to peace and progress however, this will only be possible if our respective soils are not used against each other” adding “In this regard two aspects are important, firstly we still have 2.7 million Afghan refugees in our country whose concentration is routinely used by TTA and Haqqani network to recruit, morph and melt” asserting “It is time for these refugees to be repatriated with dignity. It is the only way to ensure that no one is misusing our hospitality and soil for mischief in Afghanistan.”

He said, “This is possible at a fraction of the cost of war in Afghanistan which is currently at around $46 billion per year” informing “Secondly, our border with Afghanistan is highly porous, we have unilaterally taken many steps to ensure proper management of this border.”

Bajwa mentioned, “We have raised tens of new border specific units, built hundreds of new border surveillance posts and have now started the process of fencing 2,300 kilometres (km) of border, we are putting scanners and biometrics at border terminals to ensure that while common Afghans are facilitated, miscreants and terrorists are prevented and arrested.”

He concluded, “Furthermore, we are fully committed to the international consensus that political reconciliation is the only solution to Afghan issue.”