(PKONWEB) — Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Thursday that “engineered protests” would not be allowed to reverse the gains of counterterrorism operations and cautioned the nation against forgetting sacrifices of “real heroes”.
Gen Bajwa was speaking to notables in Peshawar and at an investiture ceremony at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
At the ceremony, the army chief regretted that no sooner had peace returned to Fata than a “movement was started”.
He warned against forgetting the sacrifices of “real heroes”, who laid down their lives for the country, saying nations that forget their heroes were wiped off. He also pointed to the “limited ability” of “our nation” to “remember history”.
“The people in the country and outside, who are against Pakistan’s integrity must know that the Army with the public backing would not allow anything to happen to the country,” the army chief added.
Gen Bajwa did not name the social movement for the rights of Pakhtun people, the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), but it was abundantly clear from his remarks, which included references to PTM’s demands for clearance of mines and removal of check-posts, that he was referring to their protests.
Apparently, the army chief was forced into giving his position on the protests after leaders of some mainstream political parties, including Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan, expressed their support for the PTM protests that are being seen as a movement for the rights of Pakhtuns. The PTI chief had also said that he would raise the PTM concerns with Gen Bajwa.
The PTM was initially launched in protest against the extra-judicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi and for getting justice for the slain young man. A 10-day-long protest held in Islamabad to press for the arrest of suspended SSP Rao Anwar, who is allegedly involved in Mehsud’s killing, earned the PTM sympathies from all sections of society, encouraging leaders of the movement to expand their agenda to include other grievances of Pakhtuns.
The military was initially receptive to PTM’s demand of seeking justice for Naqeebullah, but later became critical of the motives of its leadership, especially after the movement got support from Kabul and some other world capitals. These concerns got reinforced when PTM leaders talked about seeking “international guarantees” for redressal of their grievances and taking their issues “to the United Nations” and appealing “to the global society”.
Notwithstanding genuine problems of peaceful citizens, Gen Bajwa maintained that military’s concern was that “no anti state agenda in the garb of engineered protests, etc. aimed at reversing the gains achieved at heavy cost in blood and national exchequer succeeds”.
“It has only been a short period of time that peace has returned to Fata, and some people have already started a movement. There are some people, both on the inside and outside, who are bent upon hurting the integrity of Pakistan,” the COAS said. He said terrorists have been thrown out from the country. “We want to tell these people: No matter what you do, you can bring no harm to this country as long as the people of this nation stand behind its armed forces,” he said.
The army chief said he is often asked how Pakistan has managed to wipe out the terrorists from its territory while the latter are wreaking havoc across the world. “I tell them that till the time the Pakistani nation will keep producing mothers, daughters and wives who make sacrifices for this country, we will remain successful in our war against terrorism,” he said. “I salute these mothers, daughters, wives, and parents of the martyrs,” General Bajwa said.
He expressed his faith that Pakistan is invincible until the time the nation is standing with it.