Pakistan’s military on Thursday admitted that its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has links to “militants”, saying this does not mean it supports terrorist organisations, while also asserting that Milli Muslim League — the political wing of banned Jamaat-ud Dawa — is free to contest elections.
Milli Muslim League, which draws support from Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s JUD, was denied permission months ago from contesting bypolls by the Election Commission, which has so far refused to recognize it as apolitical party .
Answering a question about US claims of links between the ISI and militants, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, director general Inter-Services Public Relations, said, “There’s a difference between support and having links. Name any intelligence agency which does not have links. Links can be positive, and the US defence secretary James Mattis did not say there was support. The narrative that I talked about is relevant here as well. We should not be a part of it. We have our own narrative.”
Mattis had said on Tuesday that the US would try “one more time” to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan before President Donald Trump would turn to options to address Islamabad’s alleged support for militant groups.
His comments likely caused concern in Islamabad, especially in light of General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee, that he believed ISI directorate, had ties to militant groups. “It’s clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups,” General Dunford said.
Addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi, Ghafoor said Pakistan’s eastern border is unsafe because of India’s “inappropriate reactions”. He said 222 Pakistani civilians were killed along the line of control this year in ceasefire violations, more than any other year before.
“But India has also paid a price with our response and we will continue to respond if it does not act with restraint,” Ghafoor said, describing the threats from India as perpetual. “We are a peaceful country and we do not want war with them, but we will defend ourselves and have the capability to do so…
War is not the solution, so we are talking to them at all levels to stop this,” he said. Ghafoor said Pakistan was facing a strategic threat on the western border as well, forcing the country to keep the Army on the border. “Our western border also meets Iran.
Our deployment is not against Iran or Afghanistan but against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other such non-state actors,” he said. When asked why a press release was not issued after Wednesday’s special corps commanders conference at Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ), he said, “Silence is also an expression.”
SOURCE : ET