Situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan border was ‘normal & under control’. DG ISPR

Situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan border was ‘normal & under control’ while Pak’s side was ‘secure’: DG ISPR Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar

Says we believe peace in Afghanistan is directly linked to peace in Pakistan


Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar on Friday emphasised that the situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was “normal and under control” while Pakistan’s side was “secure”.

At the outset of his press conference in Rawalpindi, Major General Babar Iftikhar said he would talk about the evolving situation in Afghanistan and the implied national security problems that Pakistan could face, along with the measures the armed forces had taken and would continue to take to “ward off any spillover of insecurity and instability into Pakistan”. Sabah News reported.

Prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, the military situation in the war-torn country “unfolded rapidly”, he said, adding that Pakistan had already started taking the measures it needed to guard the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and to ensure security.

Pakistan had apprehensions that the situation would unfold in the way that it did and there could be a “spillover”, which is why it took the steps it did, he elaborated.

He recalled that Pakistan had started “beefing up” its security since 2014, including Operation Zarb-i-Azb and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad.

“The political and military leadership in Pakistan had foresight that something like this (Taliban takeover in Afghanistan) could happen. So, despite whatever has happened on that side (Afghanistan), the situation on the Pak-Afghan border is normal and under control.”

“This does not mean nothing can happen but we are prepared and won’t be caught unaware,” he added.

Giving the timeline of events as they unfolded in the neighbouring country, DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar said prior to August 15 — when the Taliban entered Kabul — several soldiers belonging to the Afghan National Army entered Pakistan on more than two occasions, seeking safe passage because they feared their posts might come under attack by the Taliban. “They were accepted and given safe passage back under military norms,” he added.

Pakistan’s armed forces “anticipated the way the situation was going to unfold and the chance of instability” spilling over and moved troops to important border crossings to ensure control, he said.

“Seventeen out of 78 border crossings were notified [for enhanced deployment] and all illegal crossings were closed. After August 15, the terminals and border crossings have been kept open. Convoys are also continuously moving on both sides.”

The DG ISPR said the second-biggest site for evacuation of foreigners from Afghanistan, besides the ones in the neighbouring country, was in Pakistan. So far, 113 flights — both military and commercial — have landed in Pakistan from Afghanistan, he added.

“The situation at the Pak-Afghan border is normal and there is no untoward incident,” he said.

Talking about the impact of the decades-long war in the neighbouring country, Major General Babar Iftikhar noted the “biggest victims” of the conflict, besides Afghans, had been Pakistanis. “We have faced a massive brunt since the Soviets invaded [Afghanistan] followed by the civil war. [More than] 86,000 lives have been lost [along with] $152 billion in economic losses and counting.

“While we were involved in this war on terror during the last two decades, we have had three major escalations on the eastern border. At the peak of this period, there were more than 90 terrorist incidents taking place in a year in Pakistan.” Furthermore, 12,312 ceasefire violations had occurred on Pakistan’s eastern border since 2014, he added.

Giving details of military operations during this period, the DG ISPR said the armed forces conducted 1,237 major and minor operations and cleared more than 46,000 sq km area along the western border against terrorists and their infrastructure.

“With the support of our great nation and LEAs (law enforcement agencies), our armed forces were able to turn the tide.” He shared that Pakistan had been reaching out to the Afghan government to formalise a border control mechanism to deal with the “instability” along the Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan also suggested an intelligence-sharing mechanism, however, the initiatives were “not responded well to”, he said.

Pakistan had also reached out at the military level, he shared. “There were several high-level visits by Pakistan’s military leadership, [including] four visits by the chief of army staff. We offered [to build] a mechanism for intelligence-sharing and training of Afghan soldiers and officers in Pakistan Army institutions.

“We offered it (training) several times but only six cadets came. However, hundreds and thousands of Afghan Army soldiers went for training to India and several Indian Army training teams were placed in Afghanistan to train forces,” he said.

The reason for making the offers was because “we believe peace in Afghanistan is directly linked to peace in Pakistan,” he further said. He pointed out that Pakistan had been “repeatedly cautioning the world about the negative role played by spoilers” in Afghanistan who were continuing to do so.

While Pakistan’s armed forced were conducting operations on its western border, there were “massive” ceasefire violations (CFVs) on its eastern border, he said. “There was a massive capacity enhancement initiative in 2017; Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa [put forward a] vision of securing the western borders comprehensively. We raised more than 60 new wings for Frontier Corps in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

Along with this, Pakistan took other measures to secure its border, including upgrading technology and surveillance, constructing hundreds of border forts and fencing the border, 90 per cent of which had been done, he added. “After two decades, we can say we have fought off the menace of terrorism very well with the whole-of-nation approach. All these operations are the epitome of insurmountable spirit and supreme sacrifice of the whole nation’s efforts.”

When asked what steps Pakistan would take if the Afghan Taliban could not control Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the DG ISPR said Pakistan had “always maintained that TTP has sanctuaries in Afghanistan with the help of spoilers”. He noted, however, that the Taliban had said they would not let Afghan soil be used against any other country and “we have to take them at their word.” The DG ISPR said the Taliban leadership has conveyed that they will not let the Afghan soil used against any other country. He said Pakistan believes that they will take measures so that the TTP may not able to operate against Pakistan or any other country. He said the TTP has no organized infrastructure in Pakistan and that is why they are taking refuge in Afghanistan.

When asked when Pakistan expected the situation to normalise, Major General Babar Iftikhar said: “We are hoping for the best. We have taken measures and Pakistan will reach out when government-to-government contact is established.”

Responding to another question, he said there was no military-to-military contact with other countries for now. However, reports of India using wild animals to attack and conduct surveillance along the Line of Control (LoC) were “concerning”, he said. “I hope the world holds them responsible for stooping so low. We are aware of those surveillance means and taking our measures to counter that.”