Defining moment for the army

Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s announcement soon after taking over the command that the army would carry out its professional duties as visualized by the constitutional and would not involve itself in any political activity has drawn public acclaims from all parts of the country including Gilgit-Baltistan.As a first step, the new COAS has ordered complete withdrawal of army officers and personnel posted in civilian organizations by June 2008. This bold decision at a time when eyebrows were being raised about the army’s undue involvement in civilian affairs will not only help the armed forces concentrate on their professional responsibilities of defending the national borders but will also improve their image in the eyes of the public.Unfortunately since independence of Pakistan, the army has been dragged into politics in one way or the other. For most of the time during the last over 60 years, it ruled the country and while returning to the barracks could not keep itself completely out of the political scene. As a result, a time came when this noble institution was virtually turned into a `public limited company’ with stakes in ventures ranging from import/export to fertilizer manufacturing. When people saw its army more involved in commercial and political activities than defending the borders, they started to see the army as a rival entity with its own vested interests rather than being a part of the nation. Whenever, army’s involvement in such activities was questioned, the rationale was given that the undertakings were aimed at security of the country as well as welfare of the retired military personnel and families of the disabled personnel. However, better late than never, it is hoped that the COAS’s decision will go a long way in further enhancing the professional capability of the army and creating a soft corner amomg those who had started looking at the institution skeptically.In the army’s chief’s initiative, there is another silver lining as far as the poepel of Gilgit-Baltistan are concerned. There are reports that the high command of the army was considering a proposal to privatise the Public Works Organisation (FWO) and the Special Communication Organisation (SCO). The FWO has been carrying outworks on major projects of roads, bridges and dams in all parts of the country while the activities of the SCO are confined to Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan alone. These two areas are constitutionally not parts of Pakistan and their status is yet to be defined. Gilgit-Baltistan, in particular, has remained the most backward region of the country with high level of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. If the two military –led organisations are given in the private sector, it will bring a socio-economic revolution in the area by helping alleviate poverty and unemployment. Hundreds of local youth will get jobs in these organizations which will enhance the living standards of the local people. This will also greatly help in ending a sense of deprivation among the local people and creating a positive change in the thinking of the masses about the army.


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