April 05 , 2017

Pakistan Army stands by democracy: COAS

Says no more no-go areas in Pakistan; army will continue playing role for peace in region; Pakistan’s diplomatic options have increased; relations with S Arabia not at Iran’s cost; backs meaningful dialogue with India; appreciates role of overseas Pakistanis

LONDON: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said the Pakistan Army stands by democracy. He said attempts by the enemies to isolate Pakistan diplomatically have fallen flat in their face, and Pakistan’s diplomatic options have rather expanded.

The army chief, who is in the UK on a three-day official visit, was addressing a reception in his honour at the Pakistan High Commission here. General Bajwa stressed that Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia are not at the cost of Iran, adding that the relations with Tehran are improving.

More than 200 guests, including civil and military leadership of the UK, attended the reception. Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), and Major General Sahir Shamshad, Director General Military Operations (DGMO), accompanied the army chief.

Members of the Pakistani community who welcomed General Bajwa at the event included parliamentarians, business leaders, professionals and political parties’ representatives. The army chief also interacted with the guests.

On the occasion, Pakistan’s High Commissioner Syed Ibne Abbas invited the COAS to address the audience. The army chief appraised the gathering of the current situation in Pakistan and achievements of security forces against terrorism and militancy.

Hailing the role of overseas Pakistanis towards progress in their homeland, he assured the Diaspora that the Pakistan Army would perform its due role towards security of the country. He said the overseas Pakistanis are ambassadors of the country “whose success gives happiness to the nation”.

The army chief thanked the “British government and the British public for their unflinching support” for Pakistan in areas of defence and economy. He said Britain’s relations with Pakistan are “right up there” and the support Pakistan has been getting from the UK is “excellent”.

He told the audience how just seven years ago, questions were being raised about the “viability” of the country, when terrorists controlled parts of Fata. He said Pakistan’s armed forces made great efforts and ensured that each and every inch of the country is secured and brought under the federal control. “Today, there are no no-go areas in Pakistan and one can ride from one corner of Pakistan to another without any trouble,” he said.

General Bajwa said normalcy has been brought back to Karachi and Balochistan, and economy of the country is flourishing. He added that foreign investors are visiting Pakistan to look at the enormous opportunities Pakistan is offering. However, he reminded the audience that these achievements have been made at a huge human and economic cost, as Pakistan “has sacrificed more than 70,000 people, including around 5,000 armed forces personnel” and suffered losses of tens of billions of rupees. As a result of these sacrifices, he said, “Pakistan is in safe hands today”.

The COAS said the Army will continue to play its role for durable peace in the region. He said the Pakistan Army took decisive actions against terrorists and lots of them fled the country, making bases elsewhere. Still, he added, the helpers and facilitators and their sleeper cells remain a threat and the Army would ensure that all those miscreants are tackled with an iron hand.

The army chief informed the audience that Pakistan is dealing with various facets of extremism through the National Action Plan (NAP), adding that institutions are working together to bring reforms in madrassas and other areas to deal with the root causes of extremism.

He said it is in Pakistan’s interest to have peace and stability in Afghanistan. “Pakistan is sincere in its efforts and has requested the UK to act as a bridge to restore our good relations with Afghanistan,” he said. In this regard, he mentioned a recently signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the border management with Afghanistan with help from the British government.

Talking about relations with India, General Bajwa said Pakistan is interested in durable peace and has extended hand of friendship for a “meaningful dialogue”. He stressed the need for regional forces joining hands to fight poverty and terrorism which are common threats.

He said Pakistan’s enemies tried to get Pakistan isolated “but the fact is Pakistan is more engaged diplomatically today than ever before”. “Nine heads of state recently attended conference in Pakistan, our relations with Middle East are at an all-time high, relations with Iran and Russia are improving, Turkey is a great friend and Pakistan enjoys exemplary relations with China. We are not isolated. In fact our options are increasing day by day,” he said.

The army chief said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a game-changer for the whole region and offers huge economic and investment opportunities. He said foreign countries are welcome to join the project. He shared with the audience that he follows British politics, is a fan of British democracy and “also a fan of cricket and soccer in England”.

Meanwhile, the army chief addressed the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) -- a UK think-tank. On the occasion, he shared his thoughts on geo-political environment, security challenges and the role of Pakistan and Pakistan Army towards peace and stability.

General Bajwa also highlighted the prospects of CPEC towards economic development of the region. He said Pakistan is positively engaged to bring about peace and stability in the region, including Afghanistan. The forum appreciated candid expression of General Bajwa and acknowledged Pakistan Army’s contributions towards peace and stability.



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