Pakistan army chief stirs a hornet's nest

The army has contributed immensely towards national security and nation building and will continue to deliver on its mission, he said while addressing SSG officers and soldiers.

April 08, 2014 09:17 pm | Updated May 26, 2016 10:01 am IST - ISLAMABAD:

Much is being made of a statement by chief of army staff General Raheel Sharif when he visited the headquarters of Pakistan's Special Service Group (SSG) at Ghazi Base, Tarbela, on Monday.

"While our country is faced with multiple internal and external challenges, Pakistan Army upholds the sanctity of all institutions and will resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride," the chief of army staff said while responding to the concerns of soldiers on undue criticism of the Institution in recent days, according to a statement from the Inter Services Public Relations(ISPR).

General Sharif also paid tributes to the sacrifices of the SSG soldiers and officers and acknowledged their tremendous success while fighting terrorists. He said Pakistan Army takes pride in its brave and battle hardened Special Services Group which is ranked among the top elite forces of the world.

Given the specialized nature of their employment in the most sensitive, complex and challenging environment, he praised them for their outstanding professional skills, ISPR said.

Addressing SSG officers and soldiers, General Sharif said the Pakistan Army never has and never will shy away from rendering any sacrifice in ensuring a formidable defence and security of the motherland. The Army has contributed immensely towards national security and nation building and will continue to deliver on its mission, he added.

The need to underscore the importance of the army especially on a visit to the SSG, to which former President Pervez Musharraf belonged, was not lost on anyone.

The government, which has been trying to assert its civilian authority though the prosecution of Musharraf for high treason, has been referring to the court of law which will deliver justice. There is frequent speculation about the government and the army having differences over Musharraf's fate and the prosecution itself.

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, in response to some members' allegations in the National Assembly on a different subject, took a strident note which many who were present felt was a riposte to the army chief's statement. He said all institutions protect themselves and when members vilify their own institutions, how will the others have any respect. He said everyone should be united and stand as one.

Lt General Talat Masood, chief coordinator of Pugwash told The Hindu that the chief of army staff wanted to clarify certain things and the army was overstressed as it was operating everywhere. He said the visit to the SSG was also to raise its morale and it was important as an army chief for him to do that.

However, his statements were overread by the civilian government and the media which created such an impression that today even the government had to clarify in a way.

He said the fact remains that there is a section of people who don't believe in the rule of law and for them narrow institutional interests are more important. However, Pakistan was a state in transition and there is an element of sensitivity because of the burden of history and the military coups. Both institutions tend to overreact, he said and added that the issue should hopefully die down.

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