QUETTA: Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif has said he understands that the use of force brings nothing but destruction, distress and suffering, often to those who have no part in it, adding that involvement of the people and state institutions, therefore, is the correct way forward for the prosperity of Balochistan.

He said that politics of violence, hatred and terror had tarnished the image of Quetta and Balochistan for decades, adding that “we need to continue our endeavours with full resolve and dedication to bring back stability to the province and return the charm of Quetta”.

Addressing the second and last day of National Seminar on Prospects of Peace and Prosperity in Balochistan, the Chief of the Army Staff said: “The issues in Balochistan, including Quetta, are further complicated by foreign interference in the largest province of Pakistan and across a porous border spanning hundreds of kilometres.”

He further said that “our foreign adversaries have been more than eager to exploit any opportunity to destabilise Pakistan by harbouring, training and funding dissidents and militants”.

The Army Chief said that Balochistan, in fact, had become a hotbed of proxy wars for regional and global grand strategy by many powers.

“This is a battle that we all are fighting, and we shall continue to fight, till peace prevails across the length and breadth of the province,” he said, adding that Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, Police, Coast Guards, Levies, and above all people of Balochistan had defended the integrity of the country with unflinching resolve for which they deserved special appreciation.

Over time diverse and divergent interests had led Balochistan to most complex problems whose roots ranged from personal vested interests to international geo-strategic designs, manifested in plethora of socio-economic, ethnographic and sectarian divides, the army chief observed.

“Lack of developed infrastructure, extreme poverty, poor educational and health facilities and rampant unemployment lend credibility to complaints of the aggrieved sections of society.”

Gen Sharif said that terrorists were externally supported and internally facilitated, adding that they were defiant and cunning.

“Law enforcement agencies have conducted over 2400 intelligence-based operations in Balochistan since Aug 2014, sacrificing 204 lives,” he said.

He said that Operation Zarb-i-Azb enjoyed the support of people from all walks of life, adding that “our men are out to eliminate terrorist and militant hideouts and sever their linkages across the country”.

As per aspirations of the people, he added, this operation would be taken to its logical end.

Gen Raheel Sharif said that a great challenge for civil armed forces of Balochistan was the security of a long and porous border. “Efforts are under way for capacity building of security forces for this purpose.”

Besides this, the army’s role was to provide an enabling environment in the province where these problems could find their solution, he stated.

The Army Chief said that besides security responsibilities, Pakistan Army was serving the people of Balochistan in a number of ways.

“Today, the military-run institutions in the province are providing educational facilities to around 25,000 children. In addition to that, Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps are running a huge network of medical facilities across Balochistan.”

He said that the future of Balochistan lay in its youth.

“It is, therefore, imperative that their potential be raised to the optimal level so that they are equal to onerous responsibilities awaiting them,” Gen Sharif said Talking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and development of Gwadar Port, Gen Sharif expressed the hope that CPEC and the Gwadar Port would transform the province altogether.

“Once the people find their stakes in this progress, the need for checkposts and barricades will disappear,” the Army Chief said.

The Army Chief said: “On this occasion, it is my pleasure to announce that soon, a campus of NUST (National University of Science and Technology) will also start functioning in Quetta. This will provide a historic opportunity for the youth of Balochistan to equip them with the scientific and technological knowledge and contribute to the progress of Balochistan and Pakistan.”

Gen Sharif went on to share some facets of his life with the audience.

He said: “On a personal note, Balochistan is very close to my heart. I was born in Quetta at 10 Litton Road. As a young lieutenant, my first posting was in Khuzdar.

“I have spent almost nine years in Balochistan and also headed the Southern Command.”

The COAS said he appreciated efforts of all political parties in creating harmony between different sections of society in the province.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2016



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