Chief of Army Staff warns of ‘strict’ response to ‘internal elements’ spreading chaos through disinformation and propaganda
There is no more room for any kind of extremism or violence in Pakistan, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa warned on Monday.
“No individual or group will be allowed to blackmail the state on the basis of area, ethnicity, ideology or religion,” he said during an event commemorating Defense Day at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, adding that no individual or group aside from the armed forces and law-enforcement agencies would be allowed to display weapons or use them.
Urging the nation to unite to make Pakistan a “progressive, peaceful and a modern Islamic and welfare state,” he said the country’s strength and longevity lay with a democratic setup. “To make it more stable, we will have to follow the principles of following the Constitution, justice, tolerance and equality,” he said, adding that “negative attitudes like criticism for the sake of criticism, hatred and intolerance” should be discouraged.
“If Pakistan has to progress, we will have to bury our ego and self-interest … According to [former] U.S. president John F. Kennedy, ‘Do not ask what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for the country’,” he said. In light of the requirements of the 21st century, Gen. Bajwa said the state should strive for people’s progress and happiness, regional cooperation and acquiring modern technology instead of the negative traditional geopolitical thought against each other.” He said education, health, infrastructure development, population control and climate change should be national priorities.
The Pakistan Army chief also reiterated his concerns with the changing nature of warfare, stressing that modern technology and ways of communication had replaced large-scale conflict to weaken a nation’s unity and ideological boundaries, spread chaos in different sectors, and demoralize people. “Our enemies are also using non-traditional means including propaganda and disinformation to achieve their nefarious objectives,” he said, and warned that authorities also had to deal “strictly with some internal elements spreading chaos.”
Referring to hybrid, or fifth-generation, warfare, he said: “It is a moment of reflection for all of us that some people are being used by anti-state elements.” He warned that this was intended to “make Pakistan’s roots hollow and damage the country’s unity.” However, he added, such negative objectives would not be allowed to succeed.
In such a “difficult and complex” situation, he said, the relationship of mutual trust, love and fraternity between Pakistan’s armed forces and the nation needed to be strengthened.
The Army chief also discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan, saying it provided a chance to establish peace and stability. However, he added, it could also lead to further difficulties and threats. “We are desirous of the protection and progress of our Afghan neighbors and expect that the big powers of the region and the world, including the U.N., will play a positive role for establishing peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
Expressing solidarity with the war-weary people of Afghanistan, Bajwa said Pakistan wanted to see the Afghan leadership “settle everything through dialogue” and ensure peace and happiness for their people. “We also expect a stable and inclusive government to be formed in Afghanistan, human rights including women rights respected, [and] Afghan land not to be used against [any country],” he added.
Referring to the border with India, he said that “many critical moments” had come in recent years, “but Pakistan while showing patience and tolerance proved to be a responsible and peaceful state.” However, he reiterated, Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be mistaken for weakness. “We have the capability to give a befitting answer to any aggression,” he added.
“I want to make it clear that Kashmir has a central importance to relations between Pakistan and India,” he said, adding that Islamabad rejected Delhi’s unilateral and illegal steps of Aug. 5, 2019. He also paid tribute to “the spirit of Hurriyat of Kashmiris, the sacrifices of martyrs and especially Syed Ali Geelani’s long and great struggle.”
The Army chief concluded his speech by paying tribute to officers and martyrs of the armed forces, intelligence agencies, law-enforcement agencies, and their families. “No power can defeat this nation whose mothers raise their sons to sacrifice their lives for the honor of their country,” he said.
Ready for all threats
Earlier, the Chief of Army Staff commenced his speech by stressing that Pakistan’s armed forces were ready for any external or internal threats, including traditional and non-traditional wars. “If any enemy wants to fight us, it will find us ready at every moment and on every front,” he said.
“We have fought every enemy courageously and defeated all external and internal plots and above all, by achieving self-sustainability in defense capabilities, made the country’s defense impenetrable,” he claimed. “We have no doubt that the relationship between Pakistan Army and the nation is the strong shield that has always defeated the enemy’s plots and black-handed tactics against Pakistan and this unity has always made us persevere.”
Whether during conflict in 1965 and 1971; the Kargil fight; or the war against terrorism, Pakistan’s armed forces have proven that “we know how to defend our country in any condition and are ready to pay any price,” he said.
Stressing the importance of public support for military operations, Gen. Bajwa said that without the people’s cooperation, any Army would prove to be a wall of sand “like we saw in our neighboring country,” a reference to the collapse of the Afghan National Army last month. “This is why the Army’s success is dependent to a large extent on the people’s support,” he added.