- Senior civilian and military officials assert leaderships are on same page over NWA operation
- Rashid dispels impression of civil-military discord, assures army being subservient to constitution
- ISPR DG says army working hard to eliminate terrorists after restricting them to NWA, avoid collateral damage and establish write of the state
- General Bajwa says drones ‘complicate’ army’s operation in NWA
The civilian and military leaderships of the country Thursday said that they were on the same page vis-à-vis anti-terrorist operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) by Pakistan Army, asserting that no one should have doubts over the subject.
As senior government and military officials huddled at the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) office, the editors and publishers of the print industry were made aware of aspects of NWA operation.
During a joint briefing which was also attended by ISPR Director General Major General Asim Bajwa, State and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch and federal secretaries of information and SAFRON ministries, Information Minister Senator Pervez Rashid made it clear that there were no differences between the army and civilian leadership and rumours in this regard were unfounded.
“The army and the civilian leadership are on the same page over the national agenda and there is no truth in the fabricated stories of civil-military discord. Let me make it clear that no institution is dictating the other institution,” he said.
The senator said that the national security institutions presented their views in shape of different options whenever consulted by the civilian leadership while it was the government which took the decision. “Let me assure you that the army is subservient to the constitution,” he maintained.
SUPPORT YOUR ARMY:
ISPR DG Maj Gen Bajwa was of the view that the media should cooperate with the government in this critical phase as the country was facing a war against terrorists.
“A message should go to the nation that the army and civilian leadership are on the same page. Rather, let’s put it this way: the message should be that not only the government, the entire nation stands by its armed forces in this fight against the insurgents,” he said.
CAPTURE, REHABILITATE, HANDOVER:
Briefing the media on the army’s strategy during the operation, Gen Bajwa said that the army had a mission to restore the writ of the state in NWA. He said that it would be made sure that the NWA was the last bastion for the militants.
“We will clear the NWA of terrorists and hold the area. Then we will construct it and later handover to the civilian leadership,” he said, adding that the experiences of Swat operation were useful in this regard.
AVOIDING COLLATERAL DAMAGE:
Asked about the collateral damage during the airstrikes against the militants, Gen Bajwa said that the army was working hard to avoid any sort of collateral damage or human rights violations during the operation.
The ISPR DG said that the collateral damage was unavoidable if the terrorists use humans as shields and where it is impossible for the forces to differentiate between the civilians and the terrorists. However, he added that all measures were being employed to avoid collateral damage.
RESTRICTING TALIBAN TO NWA:
Gen Bajwa said that a well-thought-out plan was being followed to make sure that the terrorists fleeing NWA could not get refuge in any of the other areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
“In past, we witnessed that whenever an operation was launched, terrorists fled the area and took refuge in neighbouring agencies. But now, we are working on a concerted plan and a better coordination has been made with the Afghan National Force as well as with the ISAF forces to make sure that militants do not slip into Afghanistan,” he said, adding that neighbouring agencies and areas like Tirah were also being monitored to make sure that the fleeing terrorists do not find a place to hide.
“We will make sure that the on-the-run terrorists do not get regrouped after fleeing the NWA.”
DRONES DO NOT HELP OUR CAUSE:
Asked about drone strikes, the ISPR DG said that drone attacks did not help the cause and there was no complicity with the US or ISAF in this regard.
“Rather drones are making our job more complicated. Drone strikes only target five to six terrorists at a time. But our strikes by fighter jets are much more effective, specific and targeted. Moreover, there are lesser chances of collateral damage in our strikes due to greater human intelligence and surveillance,” he asserted.
Gen Bajwa, however, admitted that the Pakistan Army was coordinating with the ISAF and Afghan National Army during the operation as without this coordination, the air strikes might not be much successful.
The ISPR DG said that the army and its intelligence agencies were also working to block and counter any blow-back operation by the insurgents like the Karachi Airport attack. He said that the intelligence apparatus was vigilant and a proper forward security plan was in place to counter any blow-back operation by the Taliban.
BALOCH HIGHLIGHTS IDPS’ WOES:
Furthermore, addressing the briefing, SAFRON Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch said that 68,700 people had migrated from the NWA during the past few days but most of them had preferred to live with their relatives as living in tent villages established by the government was “against their traditions and culture”.
Baloch said that out of the families which migrated on Wednesday, only one family had got itself registered with the government’s established tent village. He said it reflected that the tribal people did not like to live in the tent villages.
The SAFRON minister said that the government was providing each migrating family Rs 7,000 while Rs 5,000 were being given as starter. He said that they were also being provided smart cards to avoid any manipulation in funds by the bureaucracy.
The minister said that most of the migrants had their own vehicles and there was no truth in some projected stories that the people were being charged high prices by the transporters. He added that there might be some isolated incidents of overcharging by a transporter but mostly the people were migrating on their personal vehicles.