Amid allegations that not enough was being done to tackle growing extremism in the country, the armed forces announced on Tuesday that they would take on this menace (extremism) as well in addition to their continuing operations against terrorism.
Top armed forces commanders expressed their commitment at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) — the principal coordination forum of the three services (Army, PAF and Navy), which was chaired by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mahmood. Others who attended the meeting included Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, Naval Chief Admiral Zakaullah, PAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman and senior officers of the services.
“All military leaders resolved to continue operations to eliminate terrorism and help government fight extremism,” a statement issued by the ISPR said.
It was not clear what plan did the military have for dealing with extremism in the country at a time when it was occupied with battling terrorism. At the same time, the statement contained an innuendo that other stakeholders, who had been assigned to deal with extremism, have failed to deliver.
Instead of once again criticising the government bluntly, the armed forces said they were taking on this role to assist the government.
Countering extremism, an analyst said, would be a more difficult task for the army as compared to fighting terrorism. “This (countering extremism) is not army’s job,” the analyst added.
Amir Rana, director Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an independent Islamabad-based think tank that works on security issues, said that a functional counter-extremism framework was needed because of lack of focus.
Mr Rana, who was a member of the expert group that assisted in drafting the National Action Plan last year, said countering extremism was a very complicated job and it was difficult to understand what role armed forces were envisioning for themselves.
He believed that the military’s kinetic operations needed to be supplemented by an effort to counter-extremism for making their results sustainable.
The corps commanders’ meeting that took place in November had also warned of issues that could undermine the effects of counter-terrorism operations.
“The forum reaffirmed the resolve of Armed Forces to respond to entire spectrum of threat in the most befitting manner as per comprehensive security strategy,” the statement added.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee also discussed the emerging regional geo-strategic environment.
In this context the commanders in particular discussed the threat posed by Daesh (the Arabic acronym of the militant Islamic state) to Pakistan.
“The forum discussed new terror threats emerging from Middle East,” a source said in an implied reference to IS. Officially Pakistan’s position is that Daesh poses no serious threat to Pakistan.
Karachi’s counter-terrorism department had few days back said that its personnel were after a group of women working for raising funds for IS and promoting its message.
“The participants (of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee meeting) expressed satisfaction over the standard of preparedness of Armed Forces to take on internal and external challenges,” ISPR said.