ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s military chief on Friday visited the corps headquarters of a paramilitary force in Peshawar, as the army and paramilitary troops are pre-positioned for ground reinforcements, a day after the aerial strikes in north-western belt reportedly killed over 50 miscreants.“Let there be no doubt that Pakistan armed forces are battle-hardened and fully capable to counter any internal or external threat posed to the integrity and sovereignty of our beloved country,” an army statement quoted Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif as saying, following his visit to the Frontier Corps (FC) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa headquarters in the provincial capital. The military chief, the statement said, appreciated the troops’ spirit and high morale, saying the “entire nation acknowledged sacrifices rendered by them as part of national effort to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from Pakistan,” and assured them that these sacrifices will not go waste.Informed military insiders said the regular army troops and those from the FC Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been pre-positioned in North Waziristan and Khyber Agencies for the provision of ground cover and reinforcements after the aerial assaults had ‘secured’ the targets. “Ground reinforcements are required once any given terrain is secured by means of waging aerial assaults. The combating, combing and clearing, all the three ‘Cs’ are done through ground reinforcements,” said a counter-terrorism official presently performing duties in KP. No surgical strikes, he said, were conducted on Friday. The Pakistan Army surveillance choppers carried out reconnaissance flights over Mir Ali and Bara but the aerial sorties were not conducted, the official stated. “Today was calm. The aerial strikes have been put on halt till further orders,” he said, adding that surveillance mission was conducted in the pre-dawn hours of Friday. Apart from that, the military statement on Gen Raheel Sharif’s Peshawar visit quoted him as “recounting security forces’ successes in various operations against terrorists.” He lauded the efforts and determination of all troops and LEAs (Law Enforcement Agencies) who cleared affected areas, with the help of local population and support of the entire nation, the media release added. “We are fully prepared to confront any challenge in future as well,” the COAS reaffirmed. On Thursday, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Pakistan Army had carried out a series of powerful surgical strikes in Mir Ali and Bara subdivisions of NWA and Khyber Agency. The PAF F-16 jets from Northern Air Command (NAC) and Cobra fighter choppers from Army Aviation Corps (AAC) purportedly executed the aerial mission, which, the PAF sources stated, was directly supervised by Air Officer Commanding NAC Air Vice Marshal Arshad Mehmood Malik and General Officer Commanding (GOC) Aviation Major General Anjum Inayat. The number of terrorist casualties in the NWA (by Thursday evening) was believed to be between 36-40 whereas that of Khyber Agency was eight to 10. Not less than five top TTP commanders including Jihadyar Mehsud, Sailab Wazir, Abdul Razzaq Wazir, Sattar Khan and Mahmood Khurasani were taken out in six major strikes in NWA and three strikes in Khyber Agency fatally targeted Gulab Afridi and Muntazir Khan alias Ameer Hamza, security sources claimed.Meanwhile, the Army Chief also visited the headquarters of a key strategic establishment and again termed Pakistan’s nuclear programme as central to the country’s defence.“Pakistan’s nuclear programme occupies a central place in the defence of the country,” a brief military statement attributed to Gen Raheel said on Friday following his visit to the Army Strategic Force Command (ASFC), a military’s major operational corps involved in overseeing the nuclear sector. The army’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) had attributed the same statement with the army chief when he had visited the headquarters of Strategic Plans Division (SPD) on January 10. The Friday’s visit was Raheel’s second to a strategic body in around a month and a half. The recently appointed Commander ASFC Lieutenant General Obaidullah Khan Khattak is said to have given his maiden briefing to the incumbent army chief. Khattak was appointed as Commander ASFC last December to replace Lt-Gen Tariq Nadeem Gillani, the incumbent Chief of Logistics Staff (CLS).This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 22-Feb-2014 here.