In what is being seen as a possible reaction to rising criticism over the army’s role in national affairs, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that economic rather than military aid was essential for Pakistan and recommended to the government that US funds meant for military assistance be diverted towards economic aid.
At the same time, military commanders lamented the criticism that was being heaped on them and hinted at putting an end to it.
In an unusually detailed statement issued after a corps commanders’ meeting headed by Kayani here on Thursday, the top brass tried to respond to critics by speaking out on issues including the North Waziristan operation, relations with the US, defence spending and democracy. While the military rarely makes public statements on such matters, increasingly clamorous public criticism following the Abbottabad incident appears to have compelled military commanders to take this route to soothe public anger.
The military commanders also accused unspecified ‘quarters’ of deliberately maligning the country’s armed forces.
The statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said military commanders were given a comprehensive briefing on internal security, terrorism, role of the media, society and military-level relationship with US.
While reviewing the internal security situation, the participants voiced their concern on the blowback of the Abbottabad incident “which has resulted in the upsurge in terrorism and consequent loss of innocent lives.”
The military acknowledged that law enforcement agencies needed to be more focused and proactive and said the army will extend all possible support.
The military, however, expressed its resentment over being subjected to criticism, especially in the public sphere.
The commanders “noted with regret that despite briefing the joint session of parliament and deferring the ultimate findings to the commission appointed by the government, some quarters, because of their perceptual biases, were trying to deliberately run down the armed forces and army in particular.”
“This is an effort to drive a wedge between the army, different organs of the state and more seriously, the people of Pakistan,” the statement added.
Gen Kayani sought public support for the military “to confront present challenges.”
“It is critical to stand united as a nation. Any effort to create divisions between important institutions of the country is not in our national interest,” Kayani added.
In a thinly veiled threat, the participants agreed to put an end to ‘this unfortunate trend.’
Relationship with the US
The military has reassessed its relations with US in view of the joint parliamentary resolution passed last month, the statement said.
“The army has drastically cut down the strength of US troops stationed in Pakistan,” it added. The statement said that the army never accepted any training assistance from US except for training on newly inducted weapons and some training assistance for the Frontier Corps.
“Even that has ceased now,” the statement said.
Gen Kayani also spoke on the US assistance utilised by the army since Islamabad joined hands with Washington to fight terrorism after 9/11.
He said under the Coalition Support Fund, only $8.6 billion, against an expected total sum of $13 billion, has been provided by the US to the government of Pakistan.
The army has received only $1.4 billion of that over the last ten years, he said, adding that the navy and the air force have also received a relatively smaller amount.
The remaining $6 billion, the army chief said, have been utilised by the government for budgetary support.
The meeting was also informed about the extent of intelligence cooperation with US and the participants “decided to share intelligence strictly on the basis of reciprocity and complete transparency.”
“It has been clearly put across to US intelligence officials that no intelligence agency can be allowed to carry out independent operation on our soil,” the statement said.
The military also strongly opposed US drone attacks saying predators strikes were not acceptable under any circumstances.
Gen Kayani also ruled out the possibility of any move to launch a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan at this stage.
“The army was following a well thought out campaign plan and is under no pressure to carry out operations at a particular time. Future operations, as and when undertaken, will be with political consensus,” he said.
But in order to address America’s concerns, Kayani called on tribesmen of North Waziristan to drive out all foreigners from their soil.
“It was wrong, in principle, to allow others to use our land for fighting their battles. This must not be allowed,” he said.
According to the statement, the army leadership also “reaffirmed its resolve to continue supporting the democratic system without preference to any particular political party.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2011.