Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Sunday announced the launch of Operation Khyber-4 under Radd-ul-Fasaad (RuF) to “wipe out terrorists” in the Rajgal Valley area of Khyber Agency.
“An operation to wipe out terrorists has been launched in Rajgal valley in Khyber Agency,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said.
Khyber 4 seeks to target terrorist hideouts in what the DG ISPR called “the most critical area in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata)”.
There is no timeline for the operation as yet, Ghafoor said in response to a question.
The army had informed Afghan forces ahead of the launch of the Khyber-4 operation in Rajgal, he said, which the Afghan army would be able to support on their side of the border if they wished.
“No other force will have boots on the ground in our country. All operations are conducted by Pakistani security forces,” he asserted.
The army’s spokesman observed that reports of a joint border operation with Afghan forces had surfaced during a visit made by a top-level United States Congressional delegation.
Clarifying the reports, Ghafoor said, “The true meaning of this [joint operation] is when both forces conduct operations at the same time. There is a coordinated and complementary operation on their respective sides of the border.”
Information would be shared with Kabul if the Afghan leadership wished to conduct supporting operations and coordination in this regard is ongoing, he elaborated.
‘No direct army involvement in JIT’
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, in response to queries about speculation regarding the army’s involvement in the Supreme Court-sanctioned joint investigation team (JIT) probing the Sharif family’s wealth in the Panamagate case, said there is “no direct army involvement”.
“Every person has freedom of opinion,” the DG ISPR said. People who believe that the army is doing its best for the country are not part of a campaign to discredit the institution on social media, he said, adding that those who believe otherwise “are under foreign influence”.
“The JIT was made by the Supreme Court. Two of its members belong to the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence. It is a subjudice case, and it will go to court.”
“There is no direct army involvement in the JIT,” he asserted, adding that the “Pakistan Army will continue playing its role for the security of Pakistan with other institutions.”
“Political talk is in the political domain.”
Fencing of Afghan border
“Under Operation RuF, we will strengthen our border. We will be able to check cross-border movement of terrorists, and our coordination with Afghanistan in this regard is ongoing,” he said, as is the fencing of the border which is in its first phase.
“The shared border with Afghanistan and Iran are being fenced,” Ghafoor said.
It will be physically and technically monitored, with either forts or a checkpost every 1.5 kilometres, he said. Alongside the border fencing, Pakistan and Afghanistan will maintain an open-door policy for cooperation and discussion on bilateral issues, particularly in order to remove what he said was “a trust deficit” on the Afghan side.
“If the Afghan army were as capable as the Pakistan Army, then maybe the issue [of terrorism] would be resolved sooner,” Ghafoor said.
“No one wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan,” the DG ISPR said, adding, “We need to bring peace in our country first.”
Daesh presence in Pakistan
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor rejected claims that Daesh ─ or the militant Islamic State (IS) group ─ has any organised infrastructure in Pakistan.
“We will not allow them to establish themselves. In Afghanistan, yes, it is getting stronger, but we don’t believe it is the same as the Daesh in the Middle East,” he elaborated.
“In Pakistan, the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has shown an alliance with Daesh … Daesh as an organisation does not exist, but if splinter groups of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other terror groups try to jump on the Daesh bandwagon, we are already taking care of them through other means, like in the Khyber-4 operation,” he said.