Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Monday announced the successful completion of Operation Khyber-4 which was launched on July 15.

“We have achieved our ground objectives in Rajgal and Shawal valleys,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said in a televised press conference.

Two soldiers of the Pakistan Army were martyred and 15 injured during the operation, which was meant to clear out terrorist hideouts from the target areas.

The army’s spokesman aired a brief documentary of the operation before detailing the progress of Operation Raddul Fasaad across the country.

Developments in Operation RUF since Feb, 2017:

  • Over 3,300 IBOs
  • Over 124,000 operations in Pakistan

Developments in provinces:

  • Punjab: 1,721 IBOs
  • Balochistan: Major operation carried out by intelligence agencies on Aug 12 foiled Aug 14 terror bid
  • Sindh: 1,467 operations this year, only 1 terror incident in Karachi this year vs 57 in 2013, 34 incidents of target killing in Karachi this year vs 965 in 2013
  • KP, Fata: Border management improved by Pakistan unilaterally, eight cross-border attacks foiled on night before Aug 14

The DG ISPR briefed the press on development programmes being undertaken in areas that were cleared during counter-insurgency operations, including infrastructural development, youth employment and deradicalisation programmes.

‘No civil-mil divide’

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, while responding to a question, dismissed the notion that there is a divide between civilian and military institutions.

“There is friction sometimes, but there are no problems between the civilian [government] and the military. It is all part of statesmanship,” he said.

“These problems will not disappear overnight, you need to see how much we have improved compared to the last 17 years. We want to ─ and are moving towards a Pakistan ─ where there is peace, stability, rule of law and all institutions work.”

‘No real sectarian conflict’

The DG ISPR denied that there is a sectarian divide in Pakistan.

He recalled the 2013 Raja Bazaar incident in Rawalpindi, when at least eight people were killed and over 80 others injured during an Ashura procession when unknown men snatched guns from policemen and opened fire on them. A mosque was also set on fire, and a number of shops were gutted.

“The attack on the Sunni mosque was claimed by a Shia organisation,” he said. “The people who did this… carried out the attack posing as members of another [Shia] sect to fan the sectarian divide,” he said.

He played a video for his audience, telling them: “decide for yourself whether there is a sectarian divide in Pakistan or not”.

The video showed a confession from two suspected terrorists, one named Shahzaib and the other Ajmal, both allegedly involved in the 2013 Raja Bazaar attack.

Shahzaib, a ‘terrorist commander’, narrated in his confession that he hailed from Bajaur Agency. In 2013, he and a group of seven others were told to wear black clothes on Ashura, and incite chaos in Raja Bazaar and aggravate the sectarian divide between Shias and Sunnis.

“We set fire at Fuwara chowk during a Shia procession, after that we left.”

Ajmal confessed to his involvement in the same operation, referring to Shahzaib as his ‘commander’, claiming that the team was in contact with a commander in Kunar, Afghanistan.

The details of his confession appeared to match those in Shahzaib’s story.

Ghafoor claimed the group shared similarities with the network supporting Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, which he said had ties to the Afghan National Directorate of Security and India’s Research and Analysis Wing.

“Further investigation is ongoing,” he said, adding that since a Shia-Sunni conflict did not exist to the extent that “these people” wanted it, “first they created this faultline and now they are exploiting it.”

‘Shahbaz Sharif was target in Arfa Tower attack’

The DG ISPR said a suicide bomb attack which appeared to target police officials outside Arfa Karim Tower in Lahore was, in fact, a bid to target Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

“We had prior intelligence and a threat warning and it was being worked on,” he said. “The target was the CM Punjab, he had an engagement there but his programme was changed at the eleventh hour, so they got instructions to target police.”

“More suicide bombers targeting the CM have been arrested,” he claimed.

‘Don’t need flag to spy on India’

On Aug 14, the DG ISPR said, “flags were raised in parts of Pakistan that people said our country’s flag would never fly in.”

He added that the army had raised South Asia’s tallest flag near Wagah. “Although Indians are saying it is fitted with a spying instrument, this is not the case at all,” he said.

“We don’t need to raise tall flags to acquire that level of intelligence,” he quipped. “Our intelligence agencies are more than capable of acquiring that information.”