Pakistan Army spokesperson Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar on Thursday dismissed the notion that Pakistan was realigning its interests in the region and looking to “join a new bloc”.
“Let me assure you we are absolutely fine with all our neighbours in the region and our relationship with all our countries we have been engaged with is absolutely fine.
“There is no specific re-alignment as such but yes, the world has become much more inter-connected, much more inter-dependent and much more diverse and that’s what this is all about,” he explained, in a post-briefing question and answer session in Rawalpindi
He said there are no re-alignments or blocs being joined. “No such thing. Rest assured.”
Relations with Saudi Arabia
In a wide-ranging briefing to the media, the ISPR chief also spoke of Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia, an area that has come under much public scrutiny after foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s recent push for Organisation of Islamic Council (OIC) to convene a session on Kashmir.
When asked to comment on the status of relations with Saudi Arabia and the upcoming visit to the kingdom by Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the ISPR chief said Pakistan is proud of its relations with the “brotherly country”.
“These relations are historic, very important, have always been excellent and will remain so. There should be no doubt of this,” he said.
Maj Gen Iftikhar added: “Nobody should doubt the centrality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world. Our hearts beat with the people of Saudi Arabia. So there is no need to raise any questions on our relations with one another.”
He said Gen Bajwa’s trip is a planned tour related to military-to-miltary engagements. “There is no need to read too much into it.”
The ISPR chief also briefed the nation on the ongoing atrocities by Indian troops in occupied Kashmir and on the Line of Control.
“Freedom is one of God’s greatest blessings. For this freedom we have, I pay tribute to the people who participated in the Pakistan movement, and its leaders, particularly Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam’s vision,” said the Inter-Services Public Relations chief.
“If you wish to know the price for this freedom, ask those mothers in occupied Kashmir who bury their sons’ bodies wrapped in Pakistan’s national flag,” Maj Gen Iftikhar said.
He said that in occupied Kashmir, “the worst siege in human history has been going on for a year”. “India, with its state-sponsored terrorism, is conducting a genocide in occupied Kashmir and violating human rights in the worst possible manner.”
“India, under a well thought out plan, is changing the demography there and seeking to expel Muslims from the region,” he continued.
Maj Gen Iftikhar said there is no form of oppression that the Kashmiris are not subjected to.
“The sanctity of women and children is being violated. The youth are being martyred in the name of counter-terrorism and buried at unknown locations. The use of pellet guns against the innocent Kashmiris has become commonplace. The Kashmiri leadership in the occupied territory has been imprisoned for a year,” the ISPR chief said, highlighting the dire situation in the occupied region.
“I salute the perseverance of the brave Kashmiri people who for 73 years have been a symbol of resistance against such oppression.”
He said that the government of Pakistan has raised its voice to highlight the seriousness of the situation at every local and international forum.
“Voices decrying such injustice are now echoing in parliaments the world over,” said the ISPR chief.
He said despite the worst siege in history, Genocide Watch, human rights organisations and international media have exposed India’s oppression and state-sponsored terrorism.
Maj Gen Iftikhar said that the secretary-general of the United Nations has stressed on the granting of human rights in occupied Kashmir and in the recent visit to Pakistan, the UNGA president-elect said that a peaceful resolution to the dispute is vital for peace in the region.
He said that for the Security Council to take up the issue thrice in the past year is proof of the fact that the issue is of utmost importance to the international community.
The ISPR chief expressed confidence that the people of Kashmir will secure their right to self-determination soon.
Cross-LoC ceasefire violations
Maj Gen Iftikhar said that despite an appeal by the UN secretary-general for a ceasefire violation at the Line of Control (LoC) due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, India’s “cowardly” tactics continued, due to which 1,927 cross-border incidents of violence occurred.
“They deliberately targeted innocent Kashmiris living along the border,” he said, adding that 16 people were martyred and 58 injured.
Of those martyred, five were children, seven were women and four men. Among the injured were 41 children and 50 women.
“Heavy weapons were used each time. Pakistan Army responded effectively to each of these attacks but being a professional army we only target military targets and posts from where these violations occur.”
Maj Gen Iftikhar said that on July 22, international media were given permission to visit Azad Jammu and Kashmir. “The delegation was given complete access to the Azad Jammu and Kashmir population. They witnessed firsthand the ceasefire violations and also spoke to the victims of these.”
“On the contrary, on the occupied Kashmir side, international media and the UN observer group have no access to the Line of Control. But we have nothing to hide which is why we have always provided access to international media which is free to go wherever they wish in Azad Kashmir.”
He said that the government has decided to protect people and their homes against such violations and in this regard will see to the construction of shelters within the residences. “About a 1,000 have already been built and more are being made.”
‘India using terrorist groups to destabilise region’
Maj Gen Iftikhar said that India is pushing the region to instability with its hegemonic practices. “The fire of racism, ethnic divide, and communal hatred which it set, has now enveloped the entire country.”
“India’s attempts to externalise its failures has brought it to a point whereby this lava can sweep over the entire region’s security,” the ISPR chief said.
He said that a recent report by the UN had identified the presence of terrorist groups in India. “India is using these terrorist groups against neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan, and especially to create instability in the region.”
“Whether it is an unsuccessful attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange or the facilitation of terrorists through money laundering, all such activities can be traced back to India,” the ISPR chief said.
Maj Gen Iftikhar said India’s rush to spend on its defences points towards its expansionist designs. “India sits at the top in the list of countries purchasing arms and ammunition,” he added.
“Pakistan is fully aware of India’s intentions and capabilities. Wars are not won solely on the basis of weapons. The people’s trust and their resolve are the real assets of an army,” he said.
He said that the Pakistan Army, keeping in view its resources, is at the ready and has the full resolve to timely respond to the enemy.