ISLAMABAD, March 6: Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani announced on Thursday his institution’s complete support for the elected government and the democratic process. However, he called for avoiding schism between various pillars of the state and dispelled a perception that the army was distancing itself from the president.

He said the army would stay out of the political process and expressed the hope that it would not like to be dragged into any unnecessary controversy. He said the army stood behind the democratic process and was committed to playing its constitutional role in support of the elected government.

This was the most significant statement made by Gen Kayani since taking over the command of the army about the country’s political situation and army’s relationship with the future government and the head of the state, who is also ex-officio Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

An ISPR statement was based on the army chief’s speech at a Corps Commanders’ conference and, therefore, was the view of the army’s top command and not of an individual.

The remarks about support to the democratic process are considered important having been made at a time when the first session of the new National Assembly is likely to be convened next week.

The army chief was optimistic that there would be a harmonious relationship among various pillars of the state, as provided in the Constitution, in order to maximise the national effort.

Alluding to a perception about ‘the army distancing itself from the president’, he stressed the importance of the constitutional relationship between the army and the National Command Structure. Highlighting the need for understanding, he pointed out that any kind of schism, at any level, under the circumstances would not be in the larger interest of the nation.

The Chief of Army Staff once again reaffirmed the army’s commitment to solidarity and integrity of Pakistan which he said was possible only with the full support of the people of Pakistan.

He apprised the participants about the tangible progress made on various issues relating to the ‘Year of the Soldier’ with respect to accommodation, education, rations and uniform.

The commanders dwelt at length on various issues relating to operational preparedness, training and administrative matters of the army.

The conference began with the offering of Fateha for Lt-Gen Mushtaq Ahmed Baig and other officers and men who have fallen victim to the recent spate of terrorist activities.

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