GWADAR / SUI, April 18: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani announced on Monday transition of security responsibilities of the restive town of Sui in Dera Bugti district to Balochistan’s Frontier Corps over the next two months. He said the army battalion posted in Sui would return to the Quetta cantonment and once the troops got out of the town there would be no more army presence in the province outside cantonments.
He announced that no new cantonment would be established in Balochistan against the wishes of its people and the idea of building four other cantonments had also been dropped.
The army chief uncharacteristically spoke extempore on a number of occasions on the need for civilian law-enforcement agencies to put their act together, in an indication that the military was increasingly becoming distraught over their performance. His message was loud and clear that internal security was not military’s job alone and others stakeholders needed to play their part.
Gen Kayani’s announcement appeared to be aimed at pacifying insurgents in the province. Baloch nationalists have been demanding for several years greater autonomy for their province, Baloch control over the resources of the province and end to military operations. They have also accused security forces and agencies of rights abuses. However, Gen Kayani did not touch any of these issues.
Speaking at a ceremony held to mark the launching of classes in the newly-established military college in Sui, he said: “We have converted the Sui cantonment to a military college and dropped the idea of establishing four new military cantonments in Balochistan because people don’t want these. New cantonments will be built only when the people of the province wish for.”
Gen Kayani said the decision was aimed at making the people believe that being a national institution, the army respected their opinion.
Gen Kayani rejected a perception that the army was deployed in different parts of Balochistan and claimed that there was no presence of army in any part of the province, except for Sui (cantonment) and from there too troops would leave after the cantonment building was handed over to the college authorities in the next six months.
He said that a separate wing of the Frontier Corps would replace the army units in Sui to protect installations.
Gen Kayani made an impassioned plea to the civilian leadership and law-enforcement agencies to pull together with the military in its internal security job for a safe and secure Pakistan.
Dissatisfaction with LEAs’ poor handling of security situation had been brewing for quite some time within the army which has lost about 2,500 troops in counter-insurgency operations mostly in tribal areas. But it was probably the first time that the top commander publicly aired such sentiments. Over the past few months there was a growing talk among military’s top brass about LEAs’ eroding capacity and their politicisation.
The army chief stressed the need for popular support for military’s actions throughout the country, terming it “real strength for the army” -- a clear sign that he was referring to public backing for anti-militancy operations in tribal areas where the army is battling Taliban insurgency.
An ISPR statement said Gen Kayani had “emphasised the vital requirement of unified national support to the armed forces, without which no force can fulfil the mission of defending a state/nation”.
He said the Frontier Corps had nothing to do with army because it was directly controlled by the interior ministry and worked in aid of the civil administration like police and levies.
The army chief said the people of Balochistan should look upon the Frontier Corps as their own force, and not as outsiders, because it had been deployed for their own security. He asked the FC inspector general to work for gaining the confidence of people.
About the role of army in the development process, he said that being a national institution it was a partner of both federal and provincial governments and was playing an important role for the prosperity of the people of Balochistan.
The army chief also used his public appearance to warn against economic meltdown. He used the example of disintegration of USSR because of economic collapse to drive home the point that a country could not remain stable with a floundering economy no matter how strong its army was.
Gen Kayani said it was crucial that steps were taken for putting the economic house in order.
Addressing the launching ceremony of Gwadar Institute of Technology, Gen Kayani said that 4,000 Baloch youths had joined the army after completing their training and another 5,000 would be recruited this year for which laws and standards relating to recruitment would be relaxed.
He said that no military operation was being carried out in any area of the province.
He said that about 4,500 Baloch youths had completed their vocational courses at institutes being run under the supervision of the army, adding that another 3,600 youths would join such classes this year.
He said the army would establish an Army Medical College, an Institute of Mineralogy and a Cardiac Treatment Centre in Quetta to equip the Baloch youths with higher education in relevant fields.
Gen Kayani expressed the hope that the Balochistan government would extend its cooperation to the army to improve natural mines and mineral resources of Dukki and Musakhail areas.