RAWALPINDI: Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Monday that practical steps had been initiated for mainstreaming over 30,000 seminaries in the country.
Addressing a press conference, Maj Gen Ghafoor said a decision was taken in principle during January 2019, to mainstream the 30,000 plus seminaries and 2.5 million students receiving education there. The plan could not be implemented immediately due to financial constraints, he added.
Then in February, he said funds were allocated for the purpose and now Pakistan Army was working with Ministry of Education to prepare the syllabus and introduce contemporary subjects for the new curriculum. He said the Army Chief in the past few months has had extensive interactions with the religious scholars from different schools of thought who pointed out that opportunities for the students, passing out from the seminaries, were very limited.
He said in case 30,000 seminaries were closed, millions of children, being taught there, would be deprived of education.
He said most of these Madrassas offer eight years of studies in a Dars-i-Nizami but when these children come out, they were unable to get job opportunities in the market.
He said that out 30,000 Madrassas in the country, less than 100 were apparently found, pushing children towards extremism.
He said that funds were required for appointment of teachers in these Madrassas and added there had been lack of funds in the past.
He said now that Pakistan had reached the at the end of the war against terror, it will be able to re-route the funds towards this process. Initially Rs 2 billion will be required to run this programme and then Rs1 billion will be required each year for the programme’s upkeep, he added.
He said he could say with confidence that there was no active terrorist organization in the country anymore. Pakistan, he said, has proscribed violent extremist organizations and the state institutions had been working to curb terrorism in the country.
“The State was busy in conducting kinetic operations and every law-enforcement agency was busy in that, which is why we were not able to strategize against banned organisations, the way we are doing now”, he said. He said that when the National Action Plan was formulated in 2014, all political parties had agreed on point number 3, which called for bringing these elements into the mainstream. “It will be taken care of now that our kinetic operations are working”, he added.
Asif Ghafoor said that in January this year, a strategy was made to bring these people or organisations into the mainstream but no funds had been allocated for this purpose. In February, when the scheme was announced, a fund was also allocated by the government for the first time, he added.
At that time, it was decided that seminaries and hospitals, which were non-violent and being run under these organisations would be taken over by the government, he said. Major General Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan Army, with the support of the nation, will respond to any Indian aggression with full force. Criticizing Indian leaders rhetoric, he said nuclear power was a weapon of deterrence; however, if aggression was carried out, Pakistan had the right to use any weapon in its defense. The DG ISPR said, instead of reacting to Indian lies after Pulwama incident, Pakistan acted responsibly and put forward facts, proving false Indian claims about the Indian airstrike in Balakot on February 26 and the subsequent developments. He said Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft on February 27, while responding to Indian air strike. He said India should keep this aspect in view while planning any aggression against Pakistan.
About Indian claim of air strikes on Balakot, he said that international media team had arrive in Pakistan, and they asked to go to the place and see for themselves what had happened at Balakot. He said that India had claimed that over 300 people had died in their attack in Balakot but later changing the stance, said that that they had used a small-scale missile that bore a tiny hole in the ceiling of the building and then exploded inside. He said that Pakistan even again offered Indian media to visit the site to see the reported damage itself. Clarifying the issue of arrest of two pilots, he said that as per initial information two pilots were reported arrested, then on the ground, it was found out that only one person had been captured and he sent out the correction in this regard.
About Indian claim of downing Pakistani F-16 plane, he said that India should ask United States about our F-16s’ strength. He said in this age, downing of a plane could not be concealed from people. “We have not talked much about it because we want to find the appropriate time to honour our pilots who had skillfully hit down the Indian planes.”
He said that the whole world did affirm that two Indian jets were shot down and one helicopter was downed by themselves in Pakistan’s fear. He asked India to inform the world who was in Brigade Headquarter when Pakistani plane targeted the building and share the status of the ammunition depot attacked on February 27. Major General Asif Ghafoor stressed on resolution of outstanding issues between Pakistan and India, including Kashmir and invited New Dehli to dialogue. He said only peace can guarantee development and progress in the region. He said Kashmir issue was linked with the ideology of Pakistan and every Pakistani was perturbed over Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir. The DG ISPR said it was the moral responsibility of Pakistan to continue to support Kashmiris’ struggle for achieving their birth right to self-determination.
Appreciating role of Pakistani media during the war against terror in the past two years, and during the three-day conflict with India in February, he said that it played a very responsible role in the situation.
Major General Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan will continue to play its role for ensuring peace and development in the region, including the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. He said fencing, being carried out on the border with Afghanistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, has significantly decreased the cross border firing and incidents of terrorism. He said fencing was being carried out along the border with Iran as well under bilateral cooperation so that terrorists from Afghanistan did not use this border. He said that the young generation of Pakistan did not know that the country used to be a very peaceful place in 1960s and 70s with robust economy, strong currency and good social indicators. He said Pakistan was an ideological state and every Pakistani had affiliation with Kashmir issue, and three wars have already been fought over the issue.
He said that geopolitical changes in region did promote ‘Jihad’. After 9/11, he said that attention was diverted to geo-economics and world powers wanted the states to formulate policies in that direction.
The DG ISPR chief, turning to the grievances put forth by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), said when action against the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan was taken, people said that why no action was taken against PTM. He said he was the first person to engage with PTM and he was asked to engage with them by the Army Chief who had given one order not to use harsh steps with them.
He said that the PTM had demanded clearance of mines and unexploded bombs and this demand was genuine. He said Pakistan Army has created 48 teams and 45 per cent of these areas were cleared with 101 casualties of Pakistan Army while clearing them of those mines. He said that PTM’s second demand was about clearing away check posts.
Their third issue, he said was about missing persons as they created a list of those missing persons. The list has shortened to 2,500 cases now and the missing persons commission is working day and night to resolve those cases.
He said basically these demands were not of PTM’s, rather the demands were of the people that lived in the affected area. He said PTM website, claimed that they have collected from Pashtuns around the world but they should also disclose the details of money they received from the NDS (Afghan National Directorate of Security) and how much money did India’s Research and Analysis Wing give them for the first sit-in in Islamabad. He said that SSP Tahir Dawar was killed in Afghanistan, but in what capacity did PTM leaders talk to the Afghan government, and demand that the body should only be given to the Dawar tribe instead of Government of Pakistan.
He also asked PTM leaders to disclose why did NDS give you funds for Arman Loni’s funeral and the sit-in that followed? He asked the PTM to use these funds for the development of the war-torn area. He also questioned that when Arman Loni died, funeral prayers were offered for him by PTM but when 10 policemen lost their lives trying to protect 800 students giving police entry exams in Balochistan, why they did not go to the funeral for those10 martyrs. He said that those who were playing with people, whose issues they had brought forward, but now their time was up.
He said that PTM should also give another list of all the strength of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that exists in Afghanistan, so that it could be checked if any of the missing persons were actually sitting there.
The DG ISPR also delivered a message in Pushto to Pushto-speaking people, urging them to not be deceived by the people, functioning against Pakistan’s interests.