ISLAMABAD: Declaring that the army has no role in the governance of Balochistan and disapproving the allegations in the Mehrangate case, Army chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani has stressed the need to avoid fighting with history but to keep an eye on the future while staying in the present.
He was talking to a group of senior journalists at the Prime Minister’s House on Wednesday evening where he came to attend a dinner for outgoing Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman.
The army chief said such allegations and the undermining of national institutions had always proved detrimental to the country. “National institutions are not created overnight and are built with a fair amount of difficulty. No one should become a party in weakening institutions,” he said. “I took a conscious decision four-and-a-half years ago not to take part in politics and since then the army has stayed away from politics and I stand by my decision and will stick to it. I assure you the army is not involved in politics and it must be appreciated for this,” he added.
The COAS said that nowhere in the world are intelligence outfits maligned and discussed inthe manner in which some people do here in Pakistan and especially when there is no evidence of the army’s involvement in the politics of anyone. “Such allegations should not be done because it de-motivates the soldiers who are sacrificing their lives every day. They are defending the country on the highest altitude and places like Parachinar where the temperature is 20 degrees below freezing point. I am visiting my troops to boost their morale but the baseless criticism proves counterproductive and is harming my efforts. Let the army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) work within their mandate and domain. No uncalled-for interference should be done in their work,” he said.
General Kayani said that he deliberately withdrew the army personnel from civilian organisations where they were rendering useful services. “It was a difficult decision but we adhered to our commitment,” he said.
To a question about accusations that Imran Khan was supported by the ISI, General Kayani expressed his surprise and said that the ISI had no link whatsoever with the public meetings of Imran Khan. Khan must come forward to allay the impression emphatically, the army chief said.
Responding to queries about the situation in Balochistan, General Kayani said that no new cantonment was being built in Balochistan. The building constructed for the cantonment in the Sui area has been abandoned and it has been handed over to the medical college. Likewise, no army operation is under way in Balochistan. Ten thousand Jawans were recruited in the Army from Balochistan in the last one year and they are doing an excellent job. The pace of recruitment has been accelerated in the manner that the quota in the Army for Balochistan would be filled by the end of the year in accordance with the census already conducted in the province. The army was building two cantonments in Balochistan but the idea had been dropped. “You cannot show me one single brick in the province being laid for a new cantonment,” General Kayani said.
He said the Frontier Constabulary (FC) had been called to Balochistan on the request of the province in black and white, under the relevant clauses of the Constitution, by the provincial government. The FC takes orders from the provincial government. The army has no role in the governance of Balochistan. The entire amount of money is being spent by the government through the representatives of the people, the general said.
“The army has offered its good offices where mining was stalled due to the local feuds and it assured a patch-up between the tribes. Such efforts helped in starting development activities in various parts of the province,” the COAS said, counting the long list of welfare services rendered by the army in the province, including health, education and other facilities.
To a question regarding missing persons, General Kayani revealed that the report put up in the apex court showed the total number of missing persons was 47 while in India the number is 350 and in Sri Lanka it had reached 11,000. Pakistan is 79th in the UN report pertaining to missing persons. Refraining from commenting on the cases of missing persons, he said that the matter is with the court and he would not like to offer his comments despite the fact that he had plenty of things to say.
General Kayani revealed that no US general has visited Pakistan since the Salala incident as he had made it clear to the US authorities that US general could come after a decision by parliament about the new terms of engagement and cooperation with the United States. He expressed the hope that parliament would take a decision sometime soon and the US Centcom chief General Mattis could visit Pakistan towards the end of this month.
To a question, the COAS said that US Secretary Defence Panetta, who is currently in Kabul, would not come to Pakistan during this trip. All visits would be possible after parliament’s decision. Declining comment on the resumption of Nato supplies, he said that parliament would take a decision on this. When asked about the recommendations to be put up before parliament, General Kayani smiled and said he had no inkling of the recommendations.
To another query, General Kayani said that the army has no Railways land in its possession. If an assessment is made, it would be revealed that it is the Railways that has army land in its possession. Replying to a question about the NLC inquiry, he said that it was under way and the NLC was being run by a civilian organisation, the NLB, that is headed by the prime minister.