War with India an “option by compulsion” if diplomacy fails — Pakistan army spokesman

In this file photo, Pakistan’s army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor speaks with media representatives during a press conference in Rawalpindi on April 17, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 04 September 2019

War with India an “option by compulsion” if diplomacy fails — Pakistan army spokesman

  • The situation in Kashmir poses a threat to regional stability and security, Ghafoor warns
  • Says no compromise on Kashmir made during PM Khan’s meeting with US President Trump

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Wednesday if diplomatic efforts to resolve a recent conflict with India over the disputed Kashmir region did not succeed, the war would become an “option by compulsion if not by choice.”
Arch-rivals Indian and Pakistan have fought two wars over the Kashmir region that both rule in full and govern in part. Their forces regularly trade fire across a 740-km old cease-fire line, known as the Line of Control, the de-facto border.
Recently, tensions flared between the nations when India on August 5 revoked the constitutional autonomy of the part of the Himalayan region of Kashmir that it administers and moved to quell objections by shutting down communications and clamping down on local leaders. Pakistan has reacted with fury to India’s decision, cutting trade and transport ties and expelling India’s ambassador.
Addressing a press conference at the army’s headquarters, military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said: “If diplomatic efforts don’t succeed war becomes an option by compulsion if not by choice.”
However, he also said there was no room for war between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India, reiterating that India’s move to revoke the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir and impose a curfew and communication blackout there had put peace and stability of the entire region at risk.
“Our strategic [nuclear] capability is for deterrence, and there is no room for war between nuclear powers,” Ghafoor said, warning that the situation in Kashmir posed a threat to regional stability and security and the Pakistan army would stand by Kashmiris and “go to any length” to help them achieve their right of self-determination.
“The fascist and extremist mindset in India is a threat to regional stability and progress,” he said, adding that Pakistan had effectively responded to all Indian challenges of escalation and provocation in the past twenty years.
“Kashmir is a jugular vein of Pakistan and we want its peaceful solution as per the resolutions of the United Nations and the aspirations of the people of Kashmir,” the army spokesman said.
Responding to recent media reports quoting Prime Minister Imran Khan as saying Pakistan would not use nuclear weapons against India first, the spokesman clarified: “We don’t have any such policy of ‘no first use’ [of nuclear weapons],” adding that the Pakistani armed forces were resolved to respond to any threat by India in a “befitting manner.”
The spokesman said the Pakistan government was making diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict with India because “we don’t want to put regional and global peace at risk. But if all these avenues fail, war fighting will become an option by compulsion if not by choice.”
“We are ready to fight till the last bullet, last soldier and last breath [for Kashmir’s freedom], and it is now up to India and rest of the world to make a choice,” Ghafoor added.
In response to a question about a recent meeting between PM Khan and US President Donald Trump, Ghafoor said: “No compromise has been made on Kashmir [during the meeting]. You should have trust and confidence in your leadership.”
“President Trump is a very straightforward leader who calls a spade a spade,” he said, adding that Pakistan was playing a constructive role in ongoing peace talks in Afghanistan where an 18-year-long civil war continues between security forces and Taliban militants.

 


Pakistani doctor urges people to volunteer for COVID-19 vaccine trial

Updated 30 September 2020

Pakistani doctor urges people to volunteer for COVID-19 vaccine trial

  • Volunteers must be over 18, not have tested positive for COVID-19
  • The trial's end point, is flexible, but one goal is to show the vaccine is 50% more effective than a placebo, says doctor Ejaz Khan

ISLAMABAD: The physician heading a Phase III clinical trial in Pakistan for a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine candidate has urged people to volunteer for the trial, overcoming the resistance in the country to immunisation programmes.
Pakistan launched the trial last week for Ad5-nCoV, a vaccine candidate co-developed by CanSino Biologics and a Chinese military-backed research unit.
It is the first-ever large scale trial in Pakistan, which has grappled with disinformation around other long-established vaccines, and attacks on health workers administering them.
Efforts to eradicate polio, for instance, have for years been undermined by opposition from some Islamists, who say immunisation is a foreign ploy to sterilize Muslim children or a cover for Western spies.
“There are lots of challenges whenever you introduce something new and a vaccine is part of it. Vaccine hesitancy, unfortunately, with a country like Pakistan is also pretty much high,” Ejaz A. Khan, who is heading the trial at Islamabad's Shifa International Hospital, told Reuters on Tuesday.
"People should come and volunteer, people should not be hesitant. They can take part and become part of the team which is fighting COVID-19."
Khan, who has taken part in immunisation drives for three decades in Pakistan, said even existing vaccines had side effects, and hoped Ad5-nCoV would not fall prey to this discussion.
Shifa International, the first of five trial sites in Pakistan, has repurposed a building previously used for COVID-19 testing for the trial, which it hopes will have 2,000 participants.
Volunteers arrive by appointment, and are recruited through NGOs, hospitals, and corporations.
Volunteers must be over 18, not have tested positive for COVID-19, not have immune deficiencies, and not be pregnant for the duration of the trial. A one-time 2,000 Pakistani rupees ($12) compensation for travel and food expenses is provided, Khan said.
The trial's end point, Khan said, is flexible, but one goal is to show the vaccine is 50% more effective than a placebo.
Once proven, Khan said it was expected Pakistan would be provided with several million doses on a priority basis by CanSinoBio.
Pakistan’s National Institute of Health, which is overseeing the trial, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Pakistan reported 541 new cases on Tuesday - taking the total to 312,263 with 6,479 deaths.