The Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said on Wednesday that Pakistan Army, being a national army, derives its strength from the people of Pakistan and is answerable to the people and their representatives in the Parliament.
In his keynote address at a seminar on 'De-radicalisation' here, he said, "Accordingly, Pakistan Army considers people's support vital for its operations against terrorists, and believes that only the people of Pakistan can determine the national interests and army's role in their achievement". Kayani said that Pakistan's commitment to war against al Qaeda and its affiliates "is total and unwavering" as it firmly believes in taking stern action against all terrorist groups.
The Pakistan Army is determined to lead the fight on terror in partnership with other law enforcement agencies and in line with the Constitution, he added. General Kayani reiterated that there is no military solution to terrorism since military strategy can only provide an enabling environment. The menace has to be tackled in the domain of national security, which warrants a comprehensive response entailing synergy by all elements of national power, he added.
He said that following the success of military operations, reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure was immediately launched to restore life. This rehabilitation effort, in addition to a host of other activities, included an effective de-radicalisation programme.
He said that de-radicalisation, as a process, is gaining eminence in many parts of the world. He said,"There is general consensus in societies that national security interests are better served by de-indoctrinating and re-integrating the radicals back into the society. By radicalism, I refer to a socio-psychological process of incremental commitment to radical trends - may it be political, psychological or religious. Radicalism is, therefore, a risk factor that can transform into violence and push societies into anarchy".
He said the de-radicalisation effort was a result of the demand placed on the Army by the post-operation environment. "Driven by the detention of thousands of miscreants after the operation, our de-radicalisation programme was built around four pillars, including de-radicalisation of juveniles, de-radicalisation of selected reconcilable detainees, de-radicalisation of families of selected detainees and de-radicalisation of certain villages in general, from which the bulk of militants had originated," he added.
He said that this programme was initiated with the help of Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and certain NGOs, in specially created facilities. "Our effort to transform the members of public who embraced radical trends, has met considerable success. We are getting back to you with validation and a sense that this is doable," he added.
General Kayani said it would be prudent for all elements of national power and the nation to take a holistic view of national security, within the purview of 'state as well as human security' in modern times, no single organ of the state was configured to mount a wholesome response to the challenges confronting national security.
He said that all instruments of state and society have a role to play. De-radicalisation is an important contributor towards achieving human security. Such efforts are to be expressed through attempts to change behaviours, primarily by 'rehabilitating or de-indoctrination', he added. He said that the effort, therefore, has a larger context and merits time resources and commitment.
To sustain these undertakings, the state and the society, have to provide enabling ideological, political and socio-economic safeguards integrated into a well thought-out, encompassing national policy with the ultimate goal of achieving counter-radicalisation of the society at large in the long term, he added. He said that Army is following a well thought out campaign plan, which is succeeding and providing space to other organs of State, which must expeditiously build on military success to achieve during peace and stability.
"While we have taken the first step here in Swat by initiating de-radicalisation programme, it needs support and initiative of the society, intellectuals and policy makers to take the lead and put into effect a counter-radicalisation construct, not only to sustain the de-radicalisation effort, but also to ensure a free and progressive future for Pakistan," he added.
Commenting briefly on the situation in Swat, as it existed in 2009, he said that Swat was virtually lost to terrorists; writ of the government had ceased to exist, while police and other government functionaries had almost stopped functioning. Public stood terrorised and powerless against the militants. Images of armed militants moving freely raised concerns regarding the Army's capabilities and resolve to fight militants, he added.
In order to re-establish the writ of the government, eliminate miscreants and restore general public's confidence, he said, the largest Pakistani counter-insurgency operation was launched by the Army, involving approximately three divisions ie 30,000 troops supported by artillery, combat aviation and air force. He said the largest ever helicopter borne operation on altitude of 7000 feet was conducted in Peochar, an inaccessible mountainous area, not far from where "we are sitting today".
Within three months, Swat stood restored; 2.4 million displaced persons were managed, and helped safely return to their homes, he said, adding that 75 percent of the IDPs were looked after by extended families. He said that it was difficult to find a parallel in history, considering the magnitude and scale of operation in a short time of three months.
He said that Pakistan Army suffered 985 casualties (including 228 officers and men killed and 757 wounded) with high officers to troops casualty ratio 1: 8 in known history. Additionally, there were 595 casualties of other LEAs, and 981 civilians lost their lives, he added.
"When we were still in the recovery process, Swat was hit by the worst floods in its history. It further compounded the problem," he said. General Kayani also paid tribute to the resilience and sacrifices of valiant people of Swat, Pakistan Army Shuhada and their families. "The debt owed to them can only be repaid by achieving and ensuring lasting peace in Swat as well as in Pakistan. De-radicalisation is, therefore, a step towards that end," he added.