ISLAMABAD - Nearly after two months, Pakistan’s military command has officially met to take into account a bulk of security issues involving the military’s role on both external and internal counts with the Karachi issue being on top of the commanders’ meeting agenda.
In a reflection of the army’s perspective on the Karachi issue, the generals brass is said to have put the weight behind its paramilitary force, the Sindh Rangers, to be assigned the central role in setting the things straight in security-wise ever-challenging cosmopolitan city.
Reportedly, the army leadership has nodded for sending Pakistani troops to Syria on a peacekeeping mission, if so required. A proposed meeting between the Pak-India director generals (military operations) (DG MOs) was also discussed during Wednesday’s event.
The 163rd Corps Commanders’ Conference was held 52 days after the 162nd commanders’ meeting on July 8. Considering the conduct of the top commanders’ moot on monthly basis, the unusual gap in the generals’ official meeting from the day they last formally met does not entail an extraordinary reason, according to informed military insiders.
“This is a routine matter. The commanders meet as per the army chief’s discretion, who usually considers the convenience of his men. The corps commanders were engaged in supervising the operational exercises last month, so there had been a delay in conducting the corps commanders’ conference. But even if formal meetings are not held, informal meetings and consultations among the military commanders go all along,” an intelligence source said. A brief military statement said the conference was part of routine monthly meetings.
The forum dwelt at length on various professional matters, it said, adding the meeting also undertook a comprehensive review of prevalent internal and external security situation of the country.
Conspicuously, coinciding with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif-headed special cabinet session on Karachi, the commanders’ meeting, with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in the chair, discussed a course of action to maintain law and order in Karachi by means of the provision of the required intelligence and supervisory support to Sindh Rangers and the law-enforcement apparatus without engaging the regular army troops in on-field assignments.
According to the insider, the Pakistan Army did not receive any instruction from the federal government for engaging the army troops in Karachi nor was this option discussed at the generals’ meeting. “The Pakistan Army acts in aid of civil power in any given area on the directions of the federal government. In the case of Karachi, no such instructions have been received,” the official said.
The Rangers Intelligence and its Field Intelligence Units (FIUs), Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence would work in coordination to share the information on target-identification with the Karachi police and its intelligence arms like Special Branch and Crime Investigation Agency, he mentioned.
“We would be providing an augmenting support through target identification. The execution part would rest with Sindh Rangers and Karachi police,” he said.
As per standing operating procedures (SOPs), the Karachi Corps would have supervisory role over Sindh Rangers whose director general would act under the operational command of the Karachi corps commander for targeted crackdowns, the official said.
Sindh Rangers DG Maj-Gen Rizwan Akhtar, newly appointed MI DG Maj-Gen Sarfraz Sattar and MO DG Maj-Gen Amir Riaz as well as General Officer Commanding (GOC) Karachi Maj-Gen Naeem Ashraf were invited to the Corps Commanders’ Conference to give related briefings, the source revealed.
Another important issue, purportedly discussed at the moot, dealt with the United Nations’ request to Pakistan Army for the provision of troops to set up peacekeeping missions in Syria and Egypt. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his last month’s visit to Pakistan and subsequent meetings with the president, the PM and the army chief, had reportedly requested for the troops provision. In an apparently linked move, the UN SG recently appointed Pakistan Army’s Lt-Gen Maqsood Ahmed as military adviser to the UN SG (on peacekeeping operations).
In reciprocation of this goodwill gesture, the military commanders have nodded for sending army troops to Syria for peacekeeping purposes in case of a possible United States-led attack on Syria.
Moreover, the security situation in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh was reviewed with certain operational and administrative adjustments made accordingly.
The army commanders, the intelligence official said, have shown willingness for a meeting between Pakistan’s DG MO Maj-Gen Amir Riaz with his Indian counterpart Lt-Gen Vinod Bhatia.
“We are ready to cooperate on our part provided that there is reciprocation from the other side as well,” he said.
The review of the recent transfers and postings within the military's top ranks was also part of the 163rd Corps Commanders Conference, the source stated.