COAS to call the shots in military action
Thursday, June 26, 2008PM chairs high-level meeting; decides to stop hostile movement across border
By Asim Yasin
ISLAMABAD: In a major development on Wednesday, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani gave his approval to a multi-pronged strategy to fight the menace of terrorism and extremism with the main thrust to counter this challenge by engaging the people through their elected representatives, tribal elders and local influential people. However, the meeting decided that the Army chief will have the authority to determine the quantum, composition and positioning of the military effort. While the chief of the Army staff would supervise the application of the military, the Frontier Corps and the law enforcement agencies, the instruments of the governor and the chief minister in their respective jurisdictions for law and order, will fall under the command of the COAS for operations. It also decided that focus will be to initiate swift operations based on actionable intelligence to eliminate terrorists and to stop hostile movement across the border for operations against the coalition forces in Afghanistan. The PM nominated the governor NWFP as the chief coordinator for liaison with the federal government, the provincial government, important political leaders and the local military commanders.The prime minister chaired a high-level meeting here at the PM House in which top military and civilian officials briefed him on the progress on the war on terror and the law and order situation in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata). The meeting was attended by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the DG ISI, NWFP Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani, NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Najmuddin Khan, Adviser to PM on National Security Mehmood Ali Durrani and Adviser to PM on Interior Rehman Malik.The meeting focused on improving the law and order situation and establishing the writ of the government. The strategy of the Army operation, talks and other options for tackling across the border actions were also deliberated upon. The meeting decided that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used against other countries, especially Afghanistan, and under no circumstances would foreign troops be allowed to operate inside Pakistan.The meeting decided that the governor, in consultation with the federal and provincial governments, would be responsible for planning, execution and coordination of a well-thought-out and comprehensive development plan for Fata. All agreements with the tribes in Fata will be backed by a robust enforcement mechanism. It was decided that in case of non-compliance and violation of the agreement, the government would reserve the right to use force.The meeting decided that the NWFP governor will also undertake all reconciliatory efforts, making sure that political agreements made with the tribes were based on mutual respect and trust drawing strength from the Riwaj (customs), expulsion of foreign fighters will be the responsibility of tribes and they will be held accountable for the presence as well as actions of all foreign fighters. The tribes will also be responsible for stopping cross-border movement for militancy from their areas. However, this will require intimate coordination between the political and the military/security prongs of the effort. It was decided that the tribes would not fight or target the Army, the Frontier Crops and other law enforcement agencies in their areas. They will be made to understand that the use of force by the military will be justified if the tribes acted contrary to their obligations.The chief of the Army staff will supervise the application of the military effort. Although, the Frontier Corps and the law enforcement agencies will be the instruments of the governor and the chief minister in their respective jurisdictions for law and order, yet they will fall under the command of the COAS for military operations. It was agreed that the Army chief will have the authority to determine the quantum, composition and positioning of the military effort. It was agreed that the principle of use of minimum force and avoidance of collateral damage would be kept in focus. The focus will be to initiate swift operations based on actionable intelligence to eliminate terrorists and to stop hostile movement across the border for operations against the coalition forces in Afghanistan, decide on the level of liaison, contact and cooperation with ISAF in Afghanistan and keep the government appropriately informed and keep the prime minister, the NWFP governor, defence minister and adviser interior informed about the operations.It was also agreed that in addition to the political instrument, large-scale development, economic empowerment and selective use of military force would be the other prongs of the strategy. It was decided that the broad objective of this strategy would be to bring about peace, reconciliation and normalcy in the country and to marginalise the hardcore terrorists, militants and criminal elements so that Pakistan’s national interest reigned supreme.The meeting decided to ensure that the local tribal customs, traditions and Rivaj were respected by all representatives of the government, including the military and the law enforcement agencies, and to ensure that all foreign fighters were expelled from Pakistan’s territory.