Pakistan is not haven for terrorists: Pak Army Chief General Bajwa

pakistan-army-chiefISLAMABAD: In a rare follow-up appeal for neighbourly restraint, Pakistan’s military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa telephoned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday and urged him to desist from engaging in any ‘blame game’ because that would only strengthen the hand of “elements inimical to peace in the region”.

At the same time, General Qamar made it clear that there were no remaining sanctuaries for terrorists or militant groups in Pakistan.

“Elements inimical to peace in the region are strengthened by the blame game. [There are] no safe havens [of terrorists] in Pakistan,” said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Major General Asif Ghafoor in a tweet quoting General Qamar as telling Ghani.

This was the second telephonic call by Gen Qamar to the Afghan president in the last two weeks. The latest phone call came in the backdrop of a series of attacks in Afghanistan that left over 50 people dead, including some diplomats from the United Arab Emirates.

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The latest attacks, claimed by the Afghan Taliban, triggered a fresh war of words between Islamabad and Kabul. Soon after the attacks, the Ghani administration pointed the finger at Pakistan for allowing terrorists to maintain safe havens in the tribal region, a charge strongly rebutted by Islamabad.

“Pakistan has come a long way in its fight against terrorism of all hue and colour and has eliminated all safe havens in the process,” the army chief said, adding that elements inimical to peace in the region were only strengthened by the blame game.

According to the ISPR, Gen Qamar emphasised that both nations should focus instead on capitalising on the gains of the Zarb-e-Azb operation that Pakistan started in mid-2014 to purge its tribal areas of local militants and their foreign cohorts.

General Qamar also expressed sympathy with families of the victims and highlighted the tragic series of events that had befallen the people of the two brotherly countries over the last many years.

He reiterated Pakistan’s cooperation with the Afghan government and people to eliminate the scourge of terrorism which was affecting peace and stability of the whole region.

“[There is need for a] robust border management mechanism and intelligence cooperation to put a stop to the movement of terrorists across the border,” he said.

The gesture was well received in Kabul. President Ghani thanked Gen Qamar for his sentiments and reiterated that both nations must work together for peace and stability in the region.

The telephone call by the army chief is seen as the latest push by Pakistan to mend ties with its estranged neighbour. Gen Qamar not only telephoned Ghani but also issued a separate statement strongly condemning the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.

Ghani has already invited General Qamar to visit Kabul. It is not clear, though, whether the army chief would travel to the Afghan capital in the near future given the current situation.

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