Appearing in a wide-ranging interview on Global Village Space published on Thursday, he termed misinformation campaigns against Pakistan on social media as a “major challenge”, but said the country was countering these through transparency and putting out credible information.
“Unfortunately, it’s a major onslaught, it’s a major part of the fifth-generation warfare. Pakistan is being subjected to […] hybrid applications in a massive way and we are aware of that,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general said.
When prompted to cite a specific incident of such an attempt, he mentioned the recent explosion in a Karachi building which was framed as a “civil war” in India as an example of irresponsible reporting. “In doing so, the Indian media has lost its credibility to quite an extent and the whole world is recognising that,” he said.
He said in his understanding, fifth-generation warfare was the Indian state using all elements of its national power to systemically focus on and attempt to destabilise certain domains in Pakistan. He listed these domains as Pakistan’s economy, information system, army and international image, for which he cited the example of Indian lobbying in the Financial Action Task Force meetings to discredit Pakistan.
When asked about how such attempts were countered, Maj Gen Iftikhar stated: “Best way to handle this is transparency, […] not leaving information voids and […] passing on credible information.”
He also brought up Pakistan’s practical action in the international arena to bring attention to Indian designs by submitting a dossier on Indian state-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan to the United Nations Secretary General. According to Maj Gen Iftikhar, the dossier and its proofs had been taken seriously at the international level and objectively analysed which had vindicated Pakistan’s stance.
The ISPR chief also highlighted that Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s military diplomacy and forays to reach out to the armies of the region and beyond had yielded considerable advantages for Pakistan. Note was made of success in this regard with China, Russia and the Gulf states.
“The outreach whether for training or other exchanges or defence equipment has been very positive,” Maj Gen Iftikhar said.
The increase in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in the DG ISPR’s view was also a concerted strategy as part of fifth-generation warfare. He said exchanges of fire had continued since 2014 but “these two years, 2019 and 2020, have seen the maximum number of ceasefire violations and I believe [the] maximum number of casualties.”
He linked this increase in violations with the revocation of Article 370, through which Indian-occupied Kashmir’s special status was withdrawn and which received substantial negative press and international condemnation. He said Pakistan consistently supported this issue at the international fora.
He said the ceasefire violations in his view were attempts to paint Pakistan as supporting terrorism and infiltration in IOK. India wants to simultaneously discredit the indigenous struggle for freedom in IOK and malign Pakistan’s international image through such measures, he added.
However, Maj Gen Iftikhar said Pakistan had rebuffed such attempts and “we’ve been taking media [and] diplomats to the Line of Control and they’ve seen for themselves there is no way any kind of infiltration can take place.”
Border fencing efforts
The ISPR chief also addressed Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to fence its western borders. He said they had been overall very successful and “83 per cent of the Afghan border” and on the Iranian side “30pc has been fenced and will be complete by December 2021”.
He said Pakistan was already seeing the dividends of these efforts with a reduction in smuggling and illegal cross border activity. A decrease in terrorist activity has also been witnessed, he said, adding: “I won’t go into the percentage […] but the number of incidents and casualties has decreased massively.”
He further mentioned that a new border management division had been raised which will be centrally administrating and managing all entry points in Pakistan, from land, sea and air.
“Border management is key to securing Pakistan,” he said while talking about the importance of this endeavour.
Reviewing the overall handling of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in Pakistan and the army’s role in it, Maj Gen Iftikhar praised the ability and services of both civil and military institutions.
He highlighted how the army had rendered many services during the ongoing efforts like public awareness media campaigns and troop deployment across the country to implement lockdowns. He ended the interview by underlining and praising the role of media outlets in educating the public.
Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar in an interview with Global Village Space. — GVS screengrab