Islamabad: Amidst growing speculation about a fresh anti-militancy campaign in the country’s lawless tribal belt, Pakistan’s powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani today warned of a civil war if the war on terrorism is not fought.
“The fight against extremism and terrorism is our own war and we are right in fighting it. Let there be no doubt about it, otherwise we’ll be divided and taken towards civil war. Our minds should be clear on this,” Kayani said in his speech at an event held at the Pakistan Military Academy to mark the Independence Day.
Kayani’s remarks came against the backdrop of US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s comments that the Pakistan Army chief had informed American military officials that a new operation against the Taliban would be launched in the tribal belt in the “near future”.
The powerful army chief reiterated his force’s pledge to act against militancy and extremism but acknowledged that anti-militancy campaigns were not easy.
“We realise that the hardest task for any army is to fight against its own people. But this happens as a last resort. Our real objective is to ensure peace returns to these areas so that people can lead normal lives,” Kayani said.
“No state can afford a parallel system or a militant force,” he said during the Azadi Parade at the academy located a short distance from the compound in Abbottabad where US commandoes killed Osama bin Laden during a raid in May last year.
Kayani made it clear that the fight against terrorists and extremists had to be fought by the entire nation and not just by the army.
The army chief, who has been critical of the performance of civilian law enforcement agencies in the past, said the sacrifices in the war on terrorism would bear fruit only when the civil administration begins functioning independently without military aid in areas cleared of militants.