Declaring that India would have to pay a colossal price for any ‘misadventure’ against Pakistan, Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif made it clear on Sunday that the longstanding Kashmir dispute could no longer be put on the back burner.
Addressing an event held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi to mark the golden jubilee anniversary of the 1965 Pakistan-India war, the army chief emphasised that Kashmir was an unfinished agenda of the subcontinent’s partition.
photo: pakistan navy
“The innocent people of Indian-occupied Kashmir are being subjected to injustices and atrocities for the past seven decades,” said Gen Raheel, adding that it should be clearly understood that enduring peace in the region would be impossible without a just resolution of the Kashmir issue. “The issue can no longer be put on the back burner. The time has come for resolving it in line with the aspirations of the Kashmiris and in accordance with the UN resolutions.”
His statement came against the backdrop of the recent cancellation of the national security advisers’ meeting between Pakistan and India due to differences over the agenda of the talks. Pakistan wanted to discuss the Kashmir issue while India insisted that the NSA-level talks were meant only for issues related to terrorism. Gen Raheel’s statement, however, indicates that Pakistan is not going to budge from its position on Kashmir.
In what appeared to be a clear reference to the ongoing tension along the Line of Control and the working boundary, the army chief said: “If the enemy ever resorts to any misadventure, it will have to pay an unbearable cost regardless of its size and scale.”
Paying tributes to the martyrs and veterans of the 1965 war, Gen Raheel said the country’s valiant armed forces and the nation stood together to successfully defend and inflict a ‘humiliating defeat on the aggressor’. “It has been 50 years since September 6, 1965. Over this period, Pakistan has seen many ups and downs. I can say with a lot of conviction that today our country is much stronger, and the Pakistani nation is more resolute than ever before. Pakistan is capable of dealing with all kinds of internal and external threats, be it conventional or sub-conventional, cold start or hot start. We are ready!”
War on terror
The army chief also highlighted the internal security challenges, Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the targeted operations in Karachi and Balochistan. “Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched at a time when the forces of disorder were challenging the state of Pakistan. The country’s law and order situation was abysmal and deteriorating.”
Describing the Army Public School Peshawar attack as ‘an inhuman and barbaric act of horrendous proportions’, Gen Raheel said the sacrifices of the slain children and the immense fortitude of their parents reinvigorated the national resolve against terrorism. “I can assure you that most of the terrorists involved in that incident have already been brought to justice.”
He said that to make the success comprehensive and enduring, all organs of the state would have to earnestly play their part to achieve the objectives of the National Action Plan in the shortest possible time.
He also said that through concerted civil-military efforts, a great deal of success had been achieved in establishing peace in Karachi and Balochistan.
He commended the Pakistani media for, according to the army chief, unmasking the real terrorists and, thus, playing a critical role in creating national consensus.
In the backdrop of the current hiccup in the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the army chief said: “I must highlight that the aggravating security situation in Afghanistan is a point of serious concern. We have strong historical and blood ties with Afghanistan and no power on earth can disrupt this relationship.”
He said Pakistan made concerted and sincere efforts for bringing peace in Afghanistan but certain inimical forces were bent upon undermining the efforts. “Allah willing their nefarious designs will never succeed.”
In an apparent reference to the recent criticism by Afghanistan and the US that Pakistan was not doing enough against certain militant groups, Gen Raheel said: “We hope that the international community acknowledges our extreme sacrifices and assists us in this endeavour without prejudice.”
The army chief said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was of importance not just for Pakistan but for the entire region. “Its completion is a national obligation, and the armed forces of Pakistan will play their part in bringing this project to fruition.”
Defence Day celebrations
Defence Day was commemorated with traditional zeal and fervour across the country, with a number of ceremonies and functions organised to pay homage to the martyrs and survivors of the 1965 war.
In Karachi the day started with the change of guard ceremony at Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum. Around 75 cadets of the Pakistan Air Force Academy Risalpur assumed their new responsibilities. Air Vice Marshal Asim Zaheer was the chief guest of the occasion.
In the evening the Pakistan Navy held an event at Sea View, where Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad was the chief guest. The troops conducted paradrop and counterterrorism exercises. An impressive search-and-rescue drill, as well as a flypast, was carried out. The programme closed with a stunning display of fireworks. Special parade and flag hoisting ceremonies were also held at PNS Karsaz and Malir Cantonment.
Moreover, an aircraft exhibition was held at the PAF Base Masroor. The chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, said on the occasion: “We are a resilient nation, which has always proved its worth in difficult times, whether in natural calamities or an imposed armed conflict, as in 1965. Though we are a peace-loving nation, we know how to thwart the heinous attempts that disrupt our peaceful way of life.”
Meanwhile, in Lahore the Pakistan Army organised a ceremony at the Fortress Stadium that kicked off with a march past by army and Rangers troops. A ceremony was also organised at the Wagah border, where hundreds of participants cheered at the flag-hoisting ceremony, and a change of guard ceremony was held at the Mazar-e-Iqbal.
Defence Day was also observed across Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The main function was held in Neelum Army Stadium, where Rawalpindi Corps Commander Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said the troops’ sacrifices were the real source of inspiration for the army to defend the motherland. “We also salute the Kashmiri martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for a noble cause.”
Moreover, a minute of silence was observed at ceremonies in various parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while at an event in the Ayub Stadium Quetta, PAF pilots performed aerobatics as an exhibition of aircraft, tanks and different defence equipment was also held.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2015.