Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.—AP (File Photo)

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s military chief has said that the army would support any political steps allowed under the Constitution to resolve the problems of insurgency-hit Balochistan province.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani said this Wednesday in a policy statement on Balochistan made before his departure to Moscow on a four-day official visit.

The army chief said that support would be extended to a political solution to the Balochistan problem, provided that the solution was in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan. Kayani said any steps taken in violation of the Constitution would be unacceptable.

“[The] army fully supports any political process, as long as it is within the Constitution of Pakistan”, said the statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military's media wing.

Kayani’s comments follow in the shadows of former Balochistan chief minister and Balochistan National Party president Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s recent statements made in the Supreme Court during a visit to the country after a self-imposed exile of three years in London.

The Supreme Court has been hearing a case on the law and order situation in the restive province.

“Why should not we divorce peacefully rather than seeking for a bloody divorce if the rulers have decided to keep on giving us mutilated dead bodies,” Sardar Mengal had said before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, is plagued by a growing separatist insurgency and a worsening law and order situation, in addition to targeted killings, kidnappings for ransom and enforced disappearances. Mengal had termed the issue of enforced disappearances, or ‘missing persons’, as the main reason of the oil and gas rich province’s unrest.

Mengal also presented a six-point charter, calling for an immediate end to all covert and overt military operations in Balochistan, the procurement and fair trial of all ‘missing persons’ before a court of law, and an end to all “proxy death squads” allegedly operating under the supervision of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI).

Visit to Russia

During his visit to Russia, the army chief will have several high-level engagements with the Russian political leadership in addition to dialogue with his counterpart on expanding relations between the two militaries.

Kayani’s visit follows the cancellation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Islamabad, scheduled for Oct 2-3, and coincides with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov’s two-day visit to Islamabad (Oct 3-4) on the invitation of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Lavrov is scheduled to call on President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, besides holding bilateral consultations.

Gen Kayani’s visit was in the planning for months, but has received  additional focus because of the cancellation of Putin’s visit to Pakistan, which would have been a landmark trip because he would have been the first Russian president to visit Pakistan.

A senior defence official has described the army chief’s visit as a major breakthrough in Pak-Russia defence ties. A diplomat at the Foreign Office, meanwhile, said that engagement with Russia was meant to “safeguard national interests as well as deepen consultations”.