ISLAMABAD - Noting that India’s military spending is the highest in the world, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) directorate, Major General Babar Iftikhar on Thursday said has that the country remains ‘absolutely ready’ for any aggression. Replying to a question on Indian defence spending and purchase of Rafale fighters from France, during a press conference in Rawalpindi, the DG said, “5 or 500, it doesn’t make any difference. We are fine. We are absolutely ready as we have no doubt on our capacity. Bring Rafale, bring S-400, we have our own preparedness and we have our own answers”. The way the journey of the five Rafale fighters from France to India was covered only showed the level of their insecurities, he said and added New Delhi was one of the top defence spenders in the world and also engaged in arms race. He held that on the other side, Pakistan Army’s defence budget had reduced over the last 10 years.

Addressing the press conference on the eve of Independence Day, DG ISPR congratulated the nation for 73 years of independence, saying independence was a big blessing. “Ask about the importance of freedom from the mother of an occupied Kashmir resident who buries her son in Pakistani flag,” he said. He paid tributes to the vision and struggle of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Quaid-i-Azam and the other freedom leaders.

The spokesman spoke on the overall situation in the country, the issue of Kashmir, Line of Control (LOC), Indian ceasefire violations along the LOC and situation at Pak-Afghan border at length. Commenting on the situation in Indian-Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K), he said that it had been a year that worst kind of siege, genocide and human rights violations were continuing in Indian-Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. “India under a well-devised plan has been trying to change demography of the occupied valley by dislodging the Muslims living there. There is no atrocity left which has been applied on the Kashmiri people. People of the occupied valley have been subjected to all kinds of torture. Self-esteem of Kashmiri women is being destroyed by the Indian forces. Kashmiri youth are being killed extra-judicially under the guise of cordon and search operations. Youth are being martyred and being buried at unknown places,” he lamented. He noted that targeting of Kashmiri people with pellet guns by the Indian forces had become a norm while the Kashmiri leadership was being kept in detention for the last one year.

DG ISPR said that Pakistan had raised Kashmir dispute at all international forums to unmask Indian atrocities against the Kashmiri people. He said international media had also exposed Indian atrocities against Kashmiri people. He told media that President-elect of UNGA Volkan Bozkir during his recent to Pakistan had linked Kashmir dispute with peace and stability of South Asia region. He hoped that struggle by Kashmiri people would meet success. He observed that despite UN secretary-general’s appeal during the Corona pandemic, India intensified ceasefire violations along the LOC though, he said, Pakistan Army always gave befitting response to the Indian violations. He, however, said that being a professional army, Pakistani forces only targeted military posts of India.

DG ISPR, Major General Babar Iftikhar said that till now, India had committed 1,927 ceasefire violations and had deliberately targeted peaceful people living along the LoC in Azad Kashmir. “Sixteen innocent people have been martyred while 158 have been injured. The martyrs include 5 children, 7 women and four men while injured include 41 children and 50 women,” he said.

He said there was no restriction from the Pakistani government for media tour to Azad Kashmir. On July 22, international media was allowed access to the people of AJK but on the other hand, neither international media nor the UN group was allowed to go to the LOC in occupied Kashmir. “We have nothing to hide,” he added.

He said that the fire of racism and communal hatred that India started had spread to the whole country. “A recent UN report has noted presence of terrorist groups in India. The groups are being used against Pakistan and to spread instability in the region. All the clues after the unsuccessful attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange or money laundering to facilitate terrorists lead to India,” he said.

He said increase in India’s defence budget and arms race is a reflection of its expansionist designs and that it was involved in an arms race. “India is at the top of the list of countries buying arms. Pakistan is completely aware of India’s intentions and capabilities. Wars are not fought only through weapons. The people’s trust and the nation’s resolve are the true assets of the army,” he said. He vowed that Pakistan armed forces were well prepared and organized to reply to enemy in every domain.

Speaking about the Afghan peace talks, Major General Iftikhar said Pakistan played its part for peace in Afghanistan and hoped that efforts for the reconciliation process there would be successful soon. “Peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan. So if there is anyone who wants peace in Afghanistan after Afghans, it is Pakistan. And the way the peace process is going forward, it is also time for a gradual, time-bound and adequately resourced refugee return programme for dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees within the earliest possible time-frame facilitated duly by all stakeholders,” he added.

Commenting on operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, he said whole of the nation and the security forces jointly fought war against terrorism and the world acknowledged it. He said that the war against terrorism was a hard-earned success. Sharing statistics on progress of operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, DG ISPR that 46,000 sq km area was retrieved from the terrorists. More than 18,000 terrorists were killed and 400 tonnes of explosive material was seized. Under the operation, more than 194,958 intelligence-based operations were carried out and more than 70,000 weapons and five million ammunition that were in use of the militants were recovered, he added.

The DG ISPR said measures were being taken at the Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders as part of border management, which included border terminals, scanner biometric system, border posts, forts and fencing. He hoped that people on both sides of the border would benefit from it and terrorism could be stopped. He said the capacity of Frontier Corps, KP and Balochistan was being enhanced for effective border management. He said out of 2,611km long Pak-Afghan border, fencing on more than 1,700km had been completed. In KP, 730km and in Balochistan, 980km had been fenced. During the fencing work, Maj General Babar Iftikhar revealed, more than 70 improvised explosive devices were defused. He said that work was also continuing on Pak-Iran border fencing and this would be completed by end 2021. Furthermore, he said, over 1,000 border posts and forts were also being built and 400 such posts had already been completed. He said due to improvement in fencing and border management, IED explosions, illegal movement and smuggling had reduced. He said of these targets the most important was to dispel the narrative of the terrorists.

As far as Balochistan is concerned, DG ISPR said, enemy forces had been trying to disrupt the law and order situation there; however, he said that Pakistani institutions were busy day and night to foil these attempts. “Balochistan’s development is Pakistan’s development and a prosperous Balochistan is the guarantee of a stable Pakistan,” he said. He told the media that from Balochistan, more than 25,000 soldiers and 1,200 officers were serving in the army while 200 cadets were receiving education from the military academy.

Speaking about coronavirus situation, the DG ISPR said Pakistanis battled the virus as a nation and country’s efforts to contain the disease had been recognised even by the international leaders. “The people by following measures showed responsibility but the threat is not over yet. This virus is surging in some countries. Face masks and social distancing are effective steps against the virus and we should follow them,” he advised. Commenting on locust threat, DG ISPR said that the threat could lead to severe food crisis in the country. He said Pak army was assisting civil administration in eradication of polio in the country as well.

DG ISPR said hostile intelligence agencies through hybrid warfare wanted to shift the institutions’ attention away from basic issues. “We will not let enemy forces create a chasm between the army and the nation. We are living in such an age of information where information is an effective tool and the hostile intelligence agencies are using it to spread confusion,” he said.

Speaking on the fake news, Major General Babar Iftikhar said that on Pakistan’s social media landscape the social fabric and the national and military leaderships were being targeted through fake news. He said efforts were made to create an uncertain situation. “And through this, they are trying to influence decision-making process,” he said adding that such elements rely on misinformation, disinformation and half-truths to mislead the people through different platforms under a well thought-out campaign. “The way the Pakistani media has foiled the propaganda of the Indian media and the way our youth has countered hostile intelligence agencies on digital platforms shows that when it comes to Pakistan, we are all sepoys of Pakistan. Pakistan is of all of us,” he said.

To a question on Pak-Saudi Arabia relations in the context of recent developments and reported tensions between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the DG said, “Nobody can doubt the centrality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Islamic world and the ties between the two countries are and will remain historic,” he made it clear. He said as the hearts of the Pakistani people beat with the Saudi people, so there is no need to raise questions on the relations. He said the upcoming visit of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to Saudi Arabia was already planned and it is related to the two countries’ military-to-military relations. “There is no need to read too much into it. Everything is fine,” he said.

To another question about the content in audio tape of Ihsanullah Ihsan, the DG termed the alleged tape as absolutely baseless. He said his detention was quite beneficial for the authorities in terms of intelligence gathering. “We were using him (Ihsan) during an operation and he escaped,” he said and added those responsible for his escape were being prosecuted. Major General Iftikhar termed the claims made in the alleged audio as ‘absolutely baseless’. On another question regarding Kulbhushan Jadhav, DG ISPR said that he was a terrorist and that all Pakistan was doing in the case was under obligation of the international court.