ISLAMABAD  - The army commanders have pledged to follow the policy of ceasefire during peace talks with the militants in line with the government’s decision, while reiterating to retaliate in response to any direct attack on the security personnel from Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The reported decision was taken during the first day of the 169th Corps Commanders Conference held at the General Headquarters (GHQ) with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif in chair, only a day after he had returned from Saudi Arabia after competing his maiden official visit in the incumbent capacity.

This was the third commanders moot Sharif had chaired ever since assuming charge as army chief in November last year. The two-day event is to conclude today (Tuesday) after granting promotions to the brigadier-ranked officers. Between19 to 29 brigadiers are expected to get promotions today.

The first day of meeting, according to an intelligence source, saw discussions on the military strategy during peace talks with the TTP, General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial issue, Sindh Rangers-led targeted operation in Karachi and the reported Pak-Saudi military drills whose modalities were discussed during Gen Raheel’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

The intelligence official, presently involved with counter-terrorism operations, stated that the security forces had already called off targeted operations in different parts of Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) in compliance with the government’s initiative of peace talks with the militants. “A ceasefire is put in place and it would not be violated from our side. But if other side takes liberty, things would be different. Every form of direct aggression is to attract repercussions.”

He referred to the recent killing of Malik Haji Muhammad, a pro-government tribal elder and peace militia leader in Orakzai Agency, to state that such kind of events were causing friction between the terrorists and the security forces even if the forces were not attacked and the ceasefire remained intact.

The TTP had claimed responsibility of killing Haji Muhammad on the ‘treason’ charges, the official informed. “Such incidents adversely affect the army’s support base in the local communities in FATA if the policy of inaction on our part is followed. In a scenario like that, the militant violence takes the situation to a point when things need to be taken care of. There are so many allied groups of TTP and even if one of them resorts to violence, there shall be consequences.”

The insider said, Karachi Corps Commander Lieutenant General Sajjad Ghani briefed the army chief on Sindh Rangers-led targeted operation against the miscreants in Karachi. The arrests of the members of the militant wings of different political parties would be taking place in the ongoing phase of the targeted crackdown that could trigger political opposition, the intelligence official informed.

Moreover, the official mentioned of the military brass as having a unanimous view that the security establishment was not to “hamper or influence the due process of law” with regard to Musharraf treason trial. The development, the source believed, had negated the possibility of Musharraf’s ‘early exit’ from Pakistan ahead of an all important hearing in a Special Court against him on the coming Tuesday.

Speculations were afoot suggesting the ground being paved for the former dictator’s escape from Pakistan to skip treason trial initiated against him for violating Pakistan’s constitution and Gen Raheel’s Saudi Arabia visit was being seen against the backdrop of this episode. However, the source claims that COAS visit had much to do with mapping out generalities of a joint Pak-Saudi military exercise that may take place this year.

The specifications for the Army Promotion Board’s meeting for brigadier-to-major general ranked officers promotions were finalised in the 168th Corps Commanders Conference held on January 2, 2014. The related details of this meeting were exclusively published in The Nation’s story “Military takes stock of NWA operation,” on January 3.