QUETTA / ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani paid a rare visit to the insurgency-hit Dera Bugti district in Balochistan on Friday where he dismissed allegations of the army conducting an operation in the province.
It was in 2007 when General Kayani last visited Dera Bugti, the hometown of Nawab Akbar Bugti, who was killed in a military operation in 2006. The army chief’s trip came amid efforts by the new Baluchistan government to restore law and order in the province. Baloch nationalists have often accused the army of committing excesses in the province.
However, General Kayani used his address at the Sui Military College on Defence Day to brush aside such charges. He categorically stated that not even a single soldier was involved in any operation in Balochistan.
According to the Radio Pakistan, General Kayani said the Frontier Corps and the police were dealing with law and order situation.
He highlighted the positive role the army had been playing in the socio-economic development of the province. Over 20‚000 Baloch students were enrolled in the army and Frontier Corps-run education institutions, including cadet schools‚ medical colleges‚ mining institutes and others, he said.
During the past three years‚ Baloch representation in the army has been raised from 1.7% to 3.5%. The army chief reiterated Baloch integration by citing that over 12‚000 soldiers from Balochistan had been recruited in the Pakistan Army. Currently, 760 Baloch officers are serving in the army, he added.
General Kayani promised that the Balochistan police will be supplied with the latest weapons and the Pakistan Army will continue its support to the police and other law-enforcement agencies.
Calling for peace, General Kayani urged Baloch tribes to set aside their internal differences and work for the sake of the province’s development. “If Baloch tribes establish peace among themselves‚ the resources of Balochistan can be utilised in the best public interest,” Kayani argued.
He also wished for Baloch people to hold important positions in these institutions‚ instead of working as labourers.
He pledged Pakistan Army’s full support in the construction of the Gwadar-Ratodero highway – a major development project that will connect Turbat to Hoshab – and the Balochistan canal. Approximately 4,000 children benefited from the army-sponsored Chamalang Project in northeast Balochistan, he mentioned.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch also spoke at the Sui Military College. Although Balochistan was passing through a critical juncture, it was the government’s resolve to steer the province out of the crisis, he said.
“I appeal to all warring tribes and disgruntled Baloch who left Dera Bugti to set aside their differences and play their role in the province’s development.”
Stressing the need for imparting quality education, Dr Malik said that the only way to resolve major issues in the province was to provide the youth with pens instead of weapons.
He also announced a grant of Rs10 million each for the Sui Military College and other educational institutes in Dera Bugti and Sui.