ISLAMABAD: Days after government-sponsored peace talks with terrorists broke down over killing of 23 FC soldiers by Mohmand faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif brushed aside any speculations about capability of the armed forces to root out terrorism in the country, and maintained his force was ready to counter any internal or external threat.
“Let there be no doubt that Pakistan’s armed forces are battle hardened and fully capable to counter any internal or external threat posed to the integrity and sovereignty of our beloved country,” the army chief told soldiers during a visit to the FC Headquarters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday.
Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan triggered a heated debate in the country earlier this month when he cast doubt on the capability of the armed forces of Pakistan to weed out terrorism in the country. The chief of ruling party in KP said in an interview that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told him during a meeting that according to former army chief Ashfaq Kayani, chances of success were only 40 percent if government opted for a military operation in the troubled areas.
The PML-N government disowned Imran Khan’s statement and even General (r) Kayani rejected the claim as ‘totally false’. “It is wrong to assume that operation in North Waziristan will end terrorism. However, terrorism activities will decrease by 40 percent in aftermath of the operation,” Kayani clarified as actually having said at the meeting.
General Raheel recounted successes of the security forces in various operations against Taliban wherein several affected areas were cleared of the terrorists. “With the help of local population and support of the entire nation, security forces cleared vast areas,” the army chief said, and added that efforts and determination of all troops and law enforcement agencies were commendable.
Appreciating spirit and high morale of the armed forces, army chief said that the entire nation acknowledges sacrifices rendered by them. He assured the troops that these sacrifices will not go waste. “As part of national effort to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from Pakistan, armed forces have done a commendable job and entire nation acknowledges their sacrifices,” he said.
“We are fully prepared to confront any challenge in future as well,” the army chief reaffirmed.
The chief of the army staff also visited the headquarters of Army Strategic Force Command on Friday where he was given a detailed briefing on the operational and security matters.
The army chief said that Pakistan’s nuclear programme occupied a central place in the defence of the country.
The army chief’s statement came a day after government said it has authorised armed forces to give a ‘befitting reply’ in their defence to the terrorists – though it stopped short of formally announcing a full-fledged operation against Taliban following peace talks launched by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on January 29 floundered over killing of the FC soldiers.
Pakistani fighter jets also bombed suspected terrorist hideouts in the troubled areas on the Afghan border on Thursday, killing at least 40 people – in a possible indication that government was finally giving in to pressure from military as well as general public for a full-fledged action against Taliban.
A security official said at least 16 Uzbek terrorists were also among those killed in the Thursday’s strikes in Waziristan and Khyber areas.
The air attacks came just hours after the army said more than 100 soldiers had been killed by Taliban in the last five months. A total of 93 people have been killed since the reconciliation effort were launched at the end of January, including the kidnapped soldiers, according to the data collected by independent sources.
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