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US attack in N. Waziristan unlikely

Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. – File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has ruled out the possibility of an immediate unilateral US military offensive in North Waziristan, saying the Americans will have to think 10 times before going for this.

The comments came at a rare briefing held on Tuesday for members of the standing committees on defence of the two houses of parliament at the General Headquarters.

A participant of the meeting told Dawn that the army chief had been asked to comment on the possibility of a US strike in Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan, like it had attacked Laos and Cambodia before leaving Vietnam.

Gen Kayani did not say what would be Pakistan’s response in such an eventuality, but reminded that it was a nuclear power and must not be compared with Iraq and Afghanistan.

The briefing was mainly given by the Director General of Military Operations, Maj-Gen Ashfaq Nadeem, but the army chief also shared his views with the lawmakers, mainly about fears of US military build-up close to North Waziristan and the possibility of a unilateral attack in the region, and the army’s concern over the weak legal framework hindering trial and prosecution of terrorists.

It was probably for the first time that two parliamentary bodies jointly attended a comprehensive briefing on national security at the GHQ. The briefing was originally scheduled for Oct 13 and an invitation was also extended to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, headed by Mian Raza Rabbani, to attend the meeting. But the committee had decided to boycott the briefing and wanted it to be held at the Parliament House.

Almost all other members of the standing committees on defence attended the GHQ meeting. However, Professor Khurshid Ahmad, who is a member of both the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and the Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence, boycotted the briefing.

Another participant said Gen Kayani had rejected the US allegations that Pakistan was using the Haqqani network for waging a proxy war in Afghanistan and said his country was a part of solution, and not the problem.

He said he had told the Americans that Pakistan would go for a military action in North Waziristan keeping in view the situation and capabilities, and would not do it under any pressure. “If somebody convinces me that military action in North Waziristan will resolve all problems, I am ready to go for it tomorrow,” he said.

He said the problem was within Afghanistan and made it clear that some principles governed relations between states and nobody would be allowed to cross the red line. Gen Kayani rejected a perception that Pakistan wanted to control Afghanistan and said it was evident from history that nobody ever succeeded in doing so.

“When the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union failed to do so how can it be expected of Pakistan? We do not have a magic wand to succeed in doing what others failed,” he added.

The army chief said Pakistan wanted peace and stability in Afghanistan so that it did not face any challenge from its eastern and western borders.

He said Pakistan had handed over its position in black and white to US President Barack Obama and desired to get their position in writing as well. He said Pakistan would never allow its territory to be used for attacks against any other country.

Gen Kayani said the US had been told that Pakistan did not need military aid, adding that he had received a call from Washington asking if he meant it. “My reply was we mean what we say”. He said only 20 per cent of the $1.5 billion aid under the Kerry-Lugar bill had so far been received.

About the allegations of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) having ‘unsavoury characters’, he said the intelligence information came from links and all international intelligence agencies, including Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and MI6, had such contacts. He stressed that these contacts must be positively used.

Gen Kayani said it had been conveyed to the US that Pakistan had a long-term interest in the region and would not like to lose its long-term interest for short-term gains.

He underlined the need for revisiting the legal framework to prosecute those involved in terrorist activities. “The present law does not allow us to detain suspects for more than three months. This was not a sufficient time and terrorists gain out of it.”

The army chief said the weak law on terrorism and counter-insurgency was a problem because presently there was no deterrence. He said the law of evidence was outdated and not in conformity with the present scenario. He said a bill seeking to amend the Anti-Terrorist Act of 1997 had been pending before a Senate committee for almost a year.

Maj-Gen Ashfaq Nadeem informed the legislators that Taliban activity in Afghanistan had increased by 40 per cent, despite 10 years of military presence of 49 countries. He said there were safe havens of Taliban in Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan.

“Taliban operate from there (Afghanistan) to launch attacks inside Pakistan.”

Maj-Gen Nadeem said India’s cold start doctrine had added to the threats confronting Pakistan. He said seven out of nine Indian commands and three strike corps were along the border with Pakistan. Eighty-one per cent of forward and main operating bases were positioned against Pakistan.

“We cannot base our strategies on any good intentions, no matter how noble they may be, as intentions can change overnight.

Our strategy has to be based on India’s capability,” he added.

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