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February 3, 2016



Terrorists are externally funded, internally facilitated: COAS

Says foreign adversaries eager to exploit any opportunity
to destabilise Pakistan; terrorists will be eliminated

QUETTA: The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, on Tuesday said foreign adversaries have been more than eager to exploit any opportunity to destabilise Pakistan by harbouring, training and funding dissidents and militants.

He said this while addressing a national seminar on peace and prosperity in Balochistan. Chief Minister Balochistan Nawabzada Sanaullah Zehri, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Commander Southern Command, members of parliament, representatives of academia and the media were also present.

The COAS said, “It is heartening to note that successive governments in the Centre and province have sought to pursue a policy of reconciliation and engagement in Balochistan. The measures taken in this regard may not be sufficient for some, but they are steps taken in the right direction.”

General Raheel said terrorists are externally supported and internally facilitated. They are defiant and cunning. He said the law enforcement agencies have conducted over 2,400 intelligence-based operations in Balochistan since Aug 2014 and 204 lives have been sacrificed.

He said the Operation Zarb-e-Azb enjoys the support of the people of Pakistan from all walks of life. “Our men are out to eliminate terrorist and militant hideouts and sever their linkages across the country.”

He said as per the aspirations of the people of Pakistan, this operation will be taken to its logical end.He said the Pakistan Army takes pride in being a truly national army. “It can isolate and neutralise warring factions. It reaches out to those in distress and alleviates their hardships, but the real foundations of peace and prosperity can only be laid through active participation of the people of Pakistan,” he said. “Politics of violence, hatred and terror has tarnished the image of Quetta and Balochistan for decades. We need to continue our endeavours with full resolve and dedication to bring back stability to the province and return the charm of Quetta that it was once admired for. I hold this as a personal passion and Inshallah, together we will achieve this goal,” he said.

General Raheel said, “On a personal note, Balochistan is very close to my heart. I was born in Quetta at 10 Lytton Road. As a young lieutenant, my first posting was in Khuzdar. I have spent almost nine years in Balochistan and served as Chief of Staff Southern Command.”

He said over time, diverse and divergent interests have led Balochistan to most complex problems. “Its roots range from personal vested interests to international geo-strategic designs, manifested in plethora of socio-economic, ethnographic and sectarian divides,” he said.

General Raheel said lack of developed infrastructure, extreme poverty, poor educational and health facilities and rampant unemployment lend credibility to the complaints of the aggrieved section of society. “These issues are further complicated by the foreign interference in the largest province of Pakistan and across a porous border spanning hundreds of kilometres,” he said.

The COAS said, “Balochistan, in fact, has become a hotbed of proxy wars for regional and global grand strategy by many powers. This is a battle that we all are fighting, and we shall continue to fight, till peace prevails across the width and breadth of the province. Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, Police, Coast Guards, Levies and above all, the people of Balochistan have defended the integrity of Pakistan with unflinching resolve for which they deserve special appreciation.”

He appreciated the efforts of all political parties in creating harmony as per the aspirations of the people of Balochistan. He said a great challenge for the civil armed forces of Balochistan is the security of the long and porous border. “Efforts are underway for capacity building of the security forces for this purpose. Besides this, the role of army is to provide an enabling environment in the province where these problems can find their solution at the table of social justice, trust and fraternity,” he said.

The army chief said the use of force brings nothing but destruction, distress and suffering, often to those who had no part in it. He said involvement of the people and state institutions, therefore, is the correct way forward for the prosperity of Balochistan.

“Peace through an integrated approach has been our primary focus, where federal and provincial governments, state institutions, entire security apparatus and people of Balochistan are working towards creating an environment of harmony, progress and prosperity,” he said.

General Raheel said youth are the future of Balochistan. “It is, therefore, imperative that their potential be raised to the optimal level so that they come equal to the onerous responsibilities awaiting them. To this end, it is important to make the youth of this great province partners in peace and prosperity. Our efforts aim at bridging the gap between the state and youth including small discontented segments, lured by vague slogans and elusive dreams,” he said.

Besides security responsibilities, he said the Pakistan Army is serving the people of Balochistan in a multitude of ways. “Today, the military-run institutions in the province are providing educational facilities to around 25,000 children of the province. In addition, Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps are running a huge network of medical facilities across Balochistan,” he said.

“We played our national role in the rehabilitation of Awaran after the devastating earthquake of 2013 that claimed the lives of our 800 people and caused enormous damage to property. More than ever before, today the youth of Balochistan are getting a good opportunity to obtain commission in the officers cadre of Pakistan Army. The Sui Educational City, including a Military College, has started to send forth a stream of young professionals including military leaders,” he said.

The army chief said over 18,000 youth from all parts of Balochistan have joined the armed forces and Frontier Corps in recent times. He said soon a campus of NUST will also start functioning at Quetta. “This will provide a historical opportunity to the youth of Balochistan to equip themselves with the scientific and technological knowledge and contribute to the progress of Balochistan and Pakistan,” he said.

General Raheel said the resilience of the people, its geo-strategic location and enormous wealth of natural resources such as Reko Diq are the true assets of Balochistan, which must be fully optimised for prosperity of the province. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and development of the Gwadar Port will transform the province altogether, and for this, the local population must be its greatest beneficiary. “Once the people find their stakes in this progress, the need for check posts and barricades will disappear,” he said.

He said the Pakistan Army, once instrumental in the completion of Makran Coastal Highway, is today playing a pivotal role in the timely completion of CPEC projects in Balochistan. “The unprecedented contributions in communications infrastructure will usher Balochistan into an era of prosperity. Since 2014, around 632-kilometre roads have already been constructed. By the end of this year, a total of 870-kilometre roads will be completed by the FWO,” he said.