Outgoing Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s support to democracy and his professional achievements, both on internal and external fronts, with progressive strategic vision, would bode well for the institution as well as Pakistan.
General Kayani, who was grappled with serious security challenges coming from eastern and western borders and homegrown militancy during his two tenures (each comprising three years) as most powerful chief of army staff, would be retiring in next 48 hours and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would appoint a new army chief.
General Kayani’s six years as commander of most powerful institution of Pakistan would be seen as successful; particularly his full support to democracy would be remembered as a “best thing” happened to Pakistan’s fledging democracy.
Kayani commanded two full-scale military operations as well as a series of targeted operations and crackdowns aimed at surgical cleansing in the militant-infested northwestern belt.
On external front, there was India’s Cold Start doctrine and Proactive Strategy, seeking to change the way India may mobilise its forces and fight the future war in order to achieve its politico-military objectives. This is likely to change the traditional model of war-waging from ‘mobilisation and then going to war’ to ‘going to war/ attacking and then mobilising’.
Accordingly, under General Kayani, a process of refining the existing concepts and developing new approaches to war fighting has been vigorously pursued through a series of war games at corps, command and army levels since 2009, namely Azm-e-Nau series.
Commissioned in Baloch Regiment, General Kayani assumed responsibilities as the 14th COAS on November 18, 2007, at a time when image of the Army was tarnished and Pakistan was rocked by political instability and terrorism.
General Kayani redefined the parameters of the military’s involvement in Pakistani politics as well as the strategy and policy on security.
Support to democracy
General Kayani extended full support to democracy and always favoured the political process in the Country. He is possibly the best thing happened to Pakistan’s democracy.
He gave unprecedented support to strengthen the democracy. He always showed respect for rule of law and helped flourish democracy, improved civil-military ties, showed restraint in the most tempting environment to interfere in government matters, and restored the tarnished image of the armed forces.
Popular leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, few days before the 2008 elections, created uncertainty and chaos in the country. And it was General Kayani who helped the nation conduct general elections and supported the people’s verdict on 18 February 2008. Later, during the 2013 general elections, he fully supported the electoral and democratic process.
General Kayani distanced the Army from civil sector/ politics through a directive and instructed army officers to focus on professional responsibilities and obligations.
In a country, where the Army is often accused of being a ‘state within a state,’ General Kayani led the force at one of its most tumultuous times. In hindsight, it is to his credit that the military made no attempt to ouster the Pakistan’s civilian government, despite prevalent perceptions otherwise.
As COAS he developed a strong relation with the political government(s) and always gave input on country’s security matters. Military officials had been briefing the government/ nation on military issues whenever required.
There were occasions during his tenure when rumours of military takeover were heard in dark corners and even discussed on social and mainstream media. However, he displayed his love for democracy and played his role in the restoration of judges in 2009, while bridging the gap between the government, judiciary and opposition during the crisis.
General Kayani maintains that Pakistan is a peace-loving country and our quest for peace should not be taken as a weakness. He, as army commander, has always given a mature and appropriate response to the Pak-India matrix. The Indians always claimed Pakistan for initiating ‘unprovoked’ firing but could never prove it on the ground.
Role in nation-building
General Kayani’s role in nation building had been remarkable with long lasting effects. With a vision, he conceived various mega projects with strategic outlook bearing direct effect for the welfare of common man through development works in Balochistan and Fata/ Malakand Division.
Development works in Balochistan
General Kayani proposed a political solution of the Balochistan unrest as he does not believe in the use of force in resolving the ‘Balochistan Issue’. In May 2013, he assured the participants of a meeting on Balochistan, that “no army personnel was involved in any kind of operation in Balochistan.” Indeed, a cautious approach deems essential to handle the ongoing provincial situation. The COAS took special interest in Balochistan development programme, in all sectors — education, health, mining, provision of jobs in the Army, creating job opportunities for locals through development projects undertaken in Balochistan, infrastructural development and other socio-economic development.
The Pakistan Army organised an education programme namely the Chamalang Beneficiaries Education Programme. Under this educational project, 4,183 Baloch students are being sponsored for free education. The hostel facility through this programme has been established in Quetta Cantonment that has housed over 100 students of Marri and Luni tribes of the Loralai and Kohlu Districts. The students are provided with free boarding, lodging and medical facilities along with monthly stipends.
The Gwadar Institute of Technology is a joint venture of the Balochistan government and Pak Army for imparting technical education to Baloch youth. General Kayani inaugurated the project in April 2011. The major areas of the expertise under this project are: food preservation and processing and industrial electronics.
In another joint venture with the Balochistan government, Pak Army has established Army Institute of Mineralogy in May 2011. The project aims at imparting basic knowledge and mining skills among the Baloch youth for exploiting the local resources and providing job opportunities. Gradually, the level of education is being enhanced to graduation in the mining.
In August 2011, General Kayani inaugurated Quetta Institute of Medical Sciences. This non-profit institute with capacity of 200 students each year aims at imparting quality medical education facilities to the youth of Balochistan. This was a substantial enhancement as in the only such facility in Balochitan 100 doctors are being produced each year.
For the promotion of vocational training in fisheries and nautical sciences, Headquarters Southern Command of Pak Army established Balochistan Institute of Marine Sciences. This project of technical education aims at opening the avenues for job opportunities for the youth of the province.
Since 2007, over 1,000 youth of the province have been given technical training through Balochistan Institute of Technical Education by the Pak Army. Free boarding, lodging and messing are being provided beside scholarship. Students are being provided free of cost tool kits/ sewing machines on completion of their courses.
In connection with the induction in Pak Army, over 12,000 Baloch recruits have been enrolled and trained as combat soldiers in various branches of the Army in last three to five years. A sizeable number of educated Baloch youth are being inducted in Pakistan Military Academy to become officers in the Pak Army.
Under construction Sui Cantonment was converted into Sui Education City with a state of the art public school and a military college.
In Dera Bugti area, the Pak Army and the Frontier Constabulary have launched many developmental projects that include provision of job opportunities to over 1,500 individuals, financial assistance to over 1,500 families, renovation and establishment of 31 health centres. Besides, 458 animal units were provided to needy families and free of cost education to over 150 local students. The Sui town has been provided with free natural gas.
In the health sector, free medical camps days are being established for three to five years in remote areas where free medical examination and medicines are distributed on regular basis. Free medical treatment is also being provided to approximately 500 to 1,000 patients of Mekhter and Chamalang every month.
In General Kayani’s tenure, the Pakistan Army through its presence has done an outstanding job in rehabilitation in Fata and Swat Division and organised a number of activities and facilities to improve the quality of life of people there.
The army having opened the No-Go areas of Fata has undertaken and is continued with multifaceted developments works. The development projects by the Pak Army in Fata and Swat cover a wide canvas of works, including construction of over 400 kilometre roads, dams, canals and hydroelectric works. Provision of basic facilities, including education, remains the main focus.
Development works in South Waziristan Agency
After a successful operation to eliminate terrorists, the Pakistan Army has launched scores of development projects under the directives of COAS Kayani in the militancy-affected South Waziristan Agency for the socio-economic uplift of tribal people in various sectors, including education, health, communication and water and power. As per directives of General Kayani, special focus is being given on people’s welfare related projects, including irrigation, communication, education, construction of girls schools and colleges and health schemes, in line with wishes and aspiration of tribal people.
The Pakistan Army, under the guidance of General Kayani, in consultation with Fata Secretariat, identified three sectors namely communication, water and power as quick impact projects in South Waziristan Agency. Road construction, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads are a major contribution in changing the outlook of the area. The Central Trade Corridor (CTC) comprising a 714 kilometre-long road network linking Pakistan’s Indus Highway and Afghanistan’s Ring Road has been completed over two years. It comprises roads such as Tank-Jandola-Sorarogha–Makeen Road, Tank-Gomal-Wana Road, Wana-Makeen Road and Torwam–Shakai Road.
Development of Fata has been part of the counter-insurgency strategy of the Pakistan Army which comprises four main stages: Clear, Hold, Build and Transfer. Short- and long- term steps have been continued concurrently.
Gomal Zam Dam is a project of vital national interest and will open a new chapter of prosperity for Pakistan. Respect for the local community and environment are among the top concerns on the Gomal Zam Dam Multipurpose Project (Dam Component), flood mitigation perennial water for irrigation, improved environment of the area, improvement of living standards and regional development are some of its most important purposes. The project is the largest employer in the area, as out of the more than 300 people on the job, two-third are locals. The project is located at Khajuri Kuch (South Waziristan) approximately 135 kilometres from Dera Ismial Khan.
Gomal Zam Dam is a multipurpose project having 133 meters high roller compacted concrete wall, creating a reservoir of 1.14 million acre feet, spillway capacity of 153,000 cusecs, a small power house having installed capacity of 17.4 megawatts, and flood protection. It also contributes to the socio-economic uplift of the area. This will benefit the population by providing electricity to South Waziristan and FR Tank and irrigate all barren but irrigable land of FR Tank, FR DIK and Waziristan.
His progressive vision
General Kayani has been credited as visionary commander. He took far-reaching measure in improving the Pak Army as an institution. He dedicated 2008 as ‘Year of the Soldier’. The objective of his plan was to improve the standard and quality of life of a soldier in tangible terms.
* Residential accommodation
Infrastructure development, up-gradation and maintenance have been a major undertaking.
Approximately 10,000 residential units of officers/ JCOs/ soldiers have been added all over the country since 2007/08, while 1,174 units are under construction.
All development works flow from a master plan. Concept of colony based multi-storey apartments with modern community based amenities has been embraced.
* Non-residential accommodation
During the last six years, a total of 241 single men barracks, 46 JCOs clubs, 127 cook houses/ dining halls and 54 office blocks have been added all over the country.
* New construction and up-gradation of military hospitals
Two new integrated base hospitals at Rawalpindi are being built while all major forward hospitals are being upgraded.
Two new hospitals (CMH/ MH Rawalpindi) have 2,500 beds capacity each (the 2nd largest hospital undertaking in Asia).
Up-gradation of CMH Peshawar, Quetta, Jhelum, Skardu, Gilgit and Bannu are in different stages of completion.
Modern operation theatres at CMH Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, Malir, Hyderabad and Multan have been completed and made functional.
Planning for CMH Sargodha, Okara, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Nowshera, Abbottabad and Mangla is in hand.
* Establishment/ up-gradation of military colleges
To provide quality academic and military training environment, two new military colleges at Sui and Murree have been built.
Military College Jhelum is being upgraded.
* Due to exigencies of service, lack of opportunities in the field of education for the wards of military personnel’s has been one of the major concerns among ranks in the army. General Kayani directed to take steps to institutionalise this aspect. Free hostel facilities (boarding and lodging) is now being provided at cantonments for the wards of those soldiers who are serving in remote areas.
* To impart civil, professional and technical education, Human Resource Development Centres (HRDCs) were introduced during General Kayani’s tenure. These centres are imparting training on modern lines.
* General Kayani’s steps towards modernising the army were to equip the force with computer technology. Almost all the major field formations have been interlinked through computerisation through Office Automation System (OAS).
General Kayani was grappled with serious security challenges coming from Eastern and Western borders and home-grown militancy. He has commanded two full-scale military operations as well as a series of targeted operations and crackdowns aimed at surgical cleansing in the militancy-infested north-western belt. Known for their noted successes, the operations Rah-e-Raast and Rah-e-Nijaat were launched in 2009 to purge Swat, Malakand Division and South Waziristan Agency. Malakand Division, including Swat, was cleared of the terrorists. Several targeted operations were conducted in Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur and Orakzai agencies during General Kayani’s tenure.
Pakistan army under General Kayani’s command opened de-radicalisation centres in tribal areas as part of de-radicalisation programme. This initiative helped the people earn a respectable livelihood and not to return to the ranks of militants/ Taliban. This is a long-term investment for a better future of Pakistan. The purpose of this programme is to eradicate terrorism and extremism from these areas and educate captured militants in the light of Quran and Sunnah.
General Kayani declared year 2009 as ‘Year of Training,’ with the aim of reinvigorating training culture in the army. It was desired that the focus of training during the year should remain at unit level while at the formation level the force should continue as a full-spectrum force for conventional tasks and Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW).
General Kayani declared 2010 as ‘Year of Firing’ for the army with a view to improve marksmanship qualities of the army.
Against India’s Cold Start doctrine and Proactive Strategy, Azm-e-Nau exercises were conducted, and following objectives were achieved:
- Conduct of series of war games and field exercises with the objective of validating, consolidating and implementing Pak army’s fighting concept(s).
- Refinement of different combat support and service support concepts to include logistics, interdiction, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, etc.
- Increased integration between the three services.
- Intrinsic training of formations as per the assigned roles, despite army’s extensive commitment on the western borders.
- Developing logistic infrastructure to support operations and relocation of forces.
- Efficient and responsive system of mobilisation of reservists.
- Incorporation of available resources in civil sector for movement and deployment of forces.
A non-stop, deliberate and methodical rescue operation, supported by all available resources was carried out in Gayari to take out bodies of shuhada from deep under the snow. Gayari operation speaks camaraderie of General Kayani.