The director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, on Monday announced that Ehsanullah Ehsan, former spokesperson of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and a senior leader of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, had turned himself in to Pakistan’s security agencies.
“The people, the state and the institutions of Pakistan have made considerable progress in the betterment of the country’s security situation. We have progressed to the point that the people who’ve been planning attacks on Pakistan’s soil from across the border have started to see that the situation has changed,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said at a press conference on the progress made under Operation Raddul Fasaad.
“The state is re-establishing its writ,” Ghafoor said. “No element can challenge the state if the state has the will to weed out dangerous elements.”
“There can be no bigger achievement for Pakistan than the fact that our biggest enemies are now realising the error of their ways and are turning themselves in,” he said.
“I want to take this opportunity to announce that Ehsanullah Ehsan, the former spokesperson of the TTP and a leader of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, has turned himself into our security agencies,” he added.
In 2014, after a split in the TTP, Ehsan had become a spokesperson for the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — what was then a newly-formed splinter group of the TTP.
Ehsan had said at the time that 70 to 80 percent of the TTP commanders and fighters had also joined the splinter group.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar was behind the horrific attack on Lahore’s Mall Road earlier this year, which sent shock waves through the country.
Thirteen were killed and over 100 injured in the attack, which targetted senior police officials.
Confession video of IS-trained medical student
During the media briefing, Maj Gen Ghafoor also showed the recorded confessional statement of Naureen Leghari, a medical student from Hyderabad who allegedly fled home to join the militant Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
Leghari was arrested on Friday after her husband, whom she had married after leaving her home and joining the militants, was killed in an encounter in Punjab Housing Society.
“The girl went missing from Hyderabad. Later, a message appeared on Facebook in which she said that she had joined the military group,” the director general said before he showed the video.
In the video, Leghari denied that she had been kidnapped, saying she made the decision to travel to Lahore on her own.
“I am a second-year student at the Liaquat Medical University,” Leghari said in the video.
“I went to Lahore on my own, no one kidnapped me,” she said.
“Our main plan was to carry out terrorist activities,” she said. “These included suicide attacks and kidnapping intelligence officials,” she claimed.
“A young man named Fauji was involved in these activities.”
“On April 1, our organisation gave us four suicide jackets, some hand grenades and bullets. These were to be used in a suicide attack on a church in Lahore. I was supposed to be the suicide bomber,” she said.
Sources earlier told Dawn that Leghari had allegedly visited Syria to join IS after leaving her home in February. She had also received training in Syria for using weapons.
She returned to Lahore three weeks ago and was being tracked by security personnel. Law enforcement agencies are investigating her as well.
‘Keep an eye on your children’
After playing Leghari’s confession, Maj Gen Ghafoor said Pakistan’s youth bulge — a term for the large percentage of Pakistan’s population that comprises young men and women — was becoming a target for terrorist outfits.
“The youth bulge is our strength,” Ghafoor said. “When the terrorists target our youth, you can imagine the impact it will have on Pakistan.”
“Naureen made the claim that she is going to Syria to join ISIS via Facebook while still residing in Lahore, showing us how technology is misused. It is our responsibility as a nation to make sure that our children are not misguided and lured into such activities,” Ghafoor said.
“The youth is the nation’s collective responsibility; families and friends need to make sure that the youth is not led astray online,” he said.
“Threats like the TTP are physical in nature and can be dealt with with force; but the threat present online needs to be dealt with by families,” he added.
Updates on Operation Raddul Fasaad were a major focus of the Army’s Monday briefing.
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said the Frontier Corps, Balochistan had conducted an intelligence-based operation on April 15, during which prepared explosives were recovered.
In Fata on April 16, two major operations were conducted during which a large cache of weapons was recovered from the Kurram and Orakzai agencies.
“In Sindh, operations are underway. Operations being conducted in Karachi are slightly different. Year after year, target killings and crime rate in Karachi have been decreasing,” he said.
“Another aspect of Raddul Fasaad was to bring stability to the western border,” Ghafoor said. “A small area in Fata – Rajgaal, Khyber Agency and Shawal is yet to be cleared. An operation will be carried out when the weather improves, he added.
The Army’s spokesman also said that the Army, along with the FC, has started to build checkposts and new forts along the border.
“338 check posts and forts will be built along the Pak-Afghan border by 2019. 42 have already been made, whereas work is on-going on another 63,” he said.
“We are fencing the Pak-Afghan border in KP, and we will also fence the border in Balochistan,” he said.
“Border management with Afghanistan is the most important issue,” Ghafoor later said.
“Pakistan is a sovereign state: we are putting the fence up within the limits of Pakistan and we are free to do so. And even though some elements are criticising the move, serious stakeholders in Afghanistan understand that the border is going to help Afghanistan as much as it is going to help us,” he added.
The spokesman also detailed the social measures being undertaken to eliminate extremism from the country. He spoke of measures taken to make education and the armed forces more inclusive for people from Balochistan, Fata and Gilgit Baltistan.
“There has been an increase in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control,” Ghafoor noted in his press conference.
“The reason behind this is that India is attempting to divert attention away from the political uprising in India-held Kashmir,” he said.
“In 2014, 315 ceasfire violations were reported; 248 in 2015; 380 in 2016; and in 2017, as of April, there have alreaedy been 222 ceasefire violations,” he said.
“Pakistan Army has taken a supportive role in the ongoing census,” Ghafoor said.
“With every civilian enumerator, we have attached a representative of Pak Army,” he said.
“I want to thank the country here for the love they have given to the Army representatives when they come to their homes,” he said.
The Army’s spokesman said Phase 1 of the census was over and that the second phase would commence from April 25 and continue for a month,
“Phase 1 was completed In Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan; however there are 14 blocks in Orakzai agency that were not completed on time due to the return of internally-displaced persons,” he said. “Likewise, in Jammu and Kashmir, there are 15 blocks that are yet to be completed.”
Ghafoor also paid tribute to the officers who lost their lives when a census team was attacked in Lahore, but added that “these incidents will not halt the population census”.
On the right track
“There used to be a loud ‘do more’ rhetoric in the past, but with each passing day, we see that the sentiment is dying down,” Ghafoor said.
“This needs to be acknowledged. The elements of the international community that matter acknowledge Pakistan’s contribution. What other country in the world has fought terrorism the way we have? The international community acknowledges our efforts,” he added.