ISLAMABAD, Oct 12: Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was hailed by all quarters as a pro-democracy general during his six years as the Chief of Army Staff, on Saturday advised his yet to be named successor to continue supporting the democratic process.

“It is important that the military leadership in future also continues to play its unreserved role for strengthening of democratic system in the country,” Gen Kayani said at the passing out parade of military cadets at the country’s premier army training institute — the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.

His message coincided with the anniversary of the 1999 military coup in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was overthrown halfway through his second term. Some analysts believe that this being possibly his last major public appearance before he retires next month, he may have chosen the occasion to publicly convey the messages that may have been in his mind.

Apart from his call for continuing support for democracy, the general shared the army’s views on the government’s proposed dialogue with the militants. Gen Kayani reiterated the military’s support for the government’s plans to hold dialogue with militants, but at the same time challenged the commonly held notion that a military operation against terrorists was no solution.

“Force can be used as a last resort. If such an eventuality arises, the army is capable of effectively using it (force). There is no confusion in army about its role in any of the two situations,” he said.

About continuity in the democratic process, the army chief said it was a reflection of efforts to put the country back on track after mistakes of the past.

“Today we can say that decisions regarding the destiny of the people of this country are being taken by their (political) leadership. This success is an appropriate and strong reply to those who had turned their rumour-mongering about the future of this great country into a business.”

Alluding to interruptions in democracy because of military coups, Gen Kayani said the country had left behind the “painful history” of protracted experiments. The elections in 2008 and 2013, he maintained, had “laid the foundation” for a democratic and prosperous Pakistan and it was for the “current and incoming” leaders to ensure that the “building is properly constructed”.

The general, who at the start of his speech said that he was sharing the gist of his experience, prescribed building of “mutual trust between state institutions” and, more specifically, inspiring confidence in civil-military contacts as a recipe for continuing the democracy project.

“This (trust-building between the army and the civilian leadership) has begun and it should be continued,” he added.

DIALOGUE WITH MILITANTS: Much like his previous statements on the proposed dialogue, he began by saying that civilian leaders had chosen the dialogue path and it was up to them to decide about its parameters, but at the same time advised the government that “the dialogue should unite the nation and not divide it”, and that “it is important to find a solution while remaining within the confines of the constitution”.

Rejecting the argument that military operations had failed to address the problem of militancy, Gen Kayani said it was “far from reality” and reminded its proponents that re-establishing writ of the government over 37,000 square kilometres was no small achievement.

He recalled the time when gun-toting gangs of militants were barely 100kms from the federal capital and killing of people had turned the Sabz Chowk of Mingora (Swat) into a “Khooni (bloody) Chowk”.

Successful operations in Swat, South Waziristan, Orakzai, Mohmand, Bajaur, Dir and Teerah for freeing these areas from the shackles of terrorists, he added, needed no one’s acknowledgement.

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