Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa said on Wednesday the military had started “its catharsis” and would remain apolitical in the future, emphasising that political parties should also reflect on their behaviour so that there was an “elected” government in the country instead of “selected” or “imported” one.
Addressing the Defence and Martyrs Day ceremony at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, the army chief, who is set to retire next week, said that there was a lot of criticism of the military mainly because of the intervention of the army in politics for 70 years.
In his last public speech as the army chief, Gen Bajwa paid rich tributes of the martyrs of the armed forces. In the address he also dilated on the ongoing political situation in the country, as well as the past events such as the Fall of Dhaka in 1971.
“I have been thinking for many years that the Indian army commits the grave human rights violations in the world, but their people are less critical of them. On the contrary, our army, which is busy day and night in the service of the nation, is criticised from time to time,” he said.
“The main reason for this is the involvement of the army in politics for the last 70 years, which is unconstitutional. So in February, the army decided after a lot of deliberation that it will not interfere in any political issue,” he added.
“I can assure you that we are strictly committed to the pledge and will continue to be so,” he said. “However, instead of welcoming this constitutional process, some circles criticised it by using inappropriate and indecent words,” he continued.
“They should be fully careful on this count.”
“Some people opted for a fake and false narrative, firstly for creating a chaos, and now they were retracting from that dubious position. The civil-military leadership was given inappropriate titles,” he noted, stressing that the army leadership had many options and resources to respond to this inappropriate onslaught but it showed restraint in the larger interest of the country and abstained from any negative statements,” he added.
“There is a limit to this patience and I would rather forgive this inappropriate and aggressive stance against me and the army and move forward as Pakistan is supreme for all of us. Political parties and people may come and go but the country will remain forever,” the army chief said.
The army, he said, had initiated its catharsis and hoped that the political parties would also review their conduct as well. “It is also a fact that mistakes have been made by every institution, political party and civil society. We should learn from these mistakes and proceed ahead.”
He stressed that it was time for all stakeholders to put aside personal egos and learn from the past mistakes and move forward to make Pakistan a better place.
He added that the country faced serious economic issues and needed political stability, as no one party could take the country out of the current fiscal crisis.
After the 2018 general elections, he said, some parties named the winning party as ‘selected one’ and after losing the vote of confidence motion in 2022, one party named the other party as ‘imported one’. “We need to reject this behaviour, victory and defeat are part of politics,” he said, calling for accepting both victory and defeat.
Gen Bajwa remarked that the main task of the army was to protect the geographical boundaries of the country, yet it always went an extra mile for the service of the nation, adding that the “army had always fulfilled its mandate to serve the nation and would continue to do so in the future.
“I assure you that … the army will never neglect its primary task and the fight against terrorism. There are sacrifices that can never be forgotten because the nations that forget their martyrs are the nations that vanish,” he told the gathering.
Commenting on the Dhaka debacle in 1971, the army chief said he intended to discuss the topic that people usually avoid, which related to the performance of army in the former East Pakistan in 1971. “I want to rectify some facts here… the East Pakistan crisis was not a military but a political failure,” he said.
“The number of fighting soldiers was not 92,000, rather only 34,000, the rest were from various government departments,” he explained. “Those 34,000 people had been confronting 250,000 Indian Army soldiers, and 200,000 trained Mukti Bahini but still they fought valiantly despite all odds,” he added.
“They offered unprecedented sacrifices, which was acknowledged by former Indian army chief Field Marshal Manekshaw himself. The sacrifices of these brave Ghazis (war veterans) and martyrs were not duly acknowledged by the nation till date, which is a huge injustice.”
“I am grateful to the families of the martyrs for coming to the ceremony; today is the day of renewal of the pledge. Let us all vow to unite for Pakistan, work for the betterment of the country, and should not hesitate from any sacrifice for the motherland.”
He added that how it was possible that the army would stay inactive, in case of any external conspiracy. The army chief said: “It is impossible; rather a great sin. Those who think of a rift between the army and the people will never succeed.”
At the start of his speech, the COAS said that Pakistan’s Martyrs’ Day was being held late because of the floods. He added that the families of the martyrs were the pride of nation and the army would never leave their families alone.
During the ceremony, a documentary titled ‘Azam-e-Falah-o-Behood’ [the determination of welfare] was screened. A special report on services in natural disasters, especially the recent floods, was also released on the Defence and Martyrs Day titled ‘Abbeti’.
The martyrs of helicopter crash of Pakistan Army in Balochistan, including Lt-Gen Sarfraz Ali, Maj-Gen Amjad Hanif and Brig Muhammad Khalid, during the flight to help the flood victims, were also paid rich tributes for their supreme sacrifices.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)
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