COAS Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani in a message before the impending operation in Waziristan, asked for unity across the country in the fight against terrorism. Reiterating the message, the COAS was clear in his plea, “It is imperative that the entire nation is united in this context because the army can only be successful with the co-operation of the people.” Brushing away the commonly held impression that the war on terror was not one that found wide support across Pakistan, he said, “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.” He was explicit in his warning, that unless the whole country rallied behind the need to fight extremism, Pakistan would suffer. The COAS in a pointed reference to criticism that the army was in fact fuelling dissent by considering an operation in Waziristan, explained, “We realise that the most difficult task for any army is to fight against its own people. But this happens as a last resort. Our real objective is to restore peace in these areas so that people can lead normal lives…No state can afford a parallel system or a militant force.”

While General Kayani’s explanation and effort to galvanise popular opinion behind an operation it now considers necessary in Waziristan, was a step in the right direction, in that finally the army was clear and unequivocal about it’s message that the war against extremism was Pakistan’s, and not imposed on it by force – he glossed over the fact that the very people the army is launching an operation against, are the same people that our allies, the Americans are holding negotiations with, across the Durand Line. Whether the matter must be settled at the point of a gun, is left to be decided by the armed forces under the leadership of the executive, in the interest of least bloodshed and violence, one would plead that a concentrated, pointed effort to negotiate should also be considered. There must be absolutely no leniency for those who do not accept the writ of the Pakistani state – however, the door for negotiation and dialogue must never be closed. The Chief’s criticism of the “critical economic situation, corruption and aggravating situation of the civic amenities” is also not entirely due to the admittedly terrible governance that Pakistan suffers from. These conditions can also be attributed to the involvement of Pakistan in the Afghan war, under the then Army Chief and dictator President Musharraf.

It was most heartening and encouraging to hear the COAS speaking of the crucial issue of the rights of Pakistani minorities and promising the nation of the pledge of our founding fathers, that Pakistan was meant to be an absolutely safe haven for all minorities within it, to freely practice their religion in, that their land and property and lives were to be in no question of danger; while Pakistan would find no conflict in that goal with its destination as a democratic, Islamic, welfare state.