By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

Special Services Group

Ranked seventh in the world by means of active troops, the Armed Forces of Pakistan are a unified military force, primarily comprises of; Pak Army, Pak Navy and Pakistan Air Force. Paramilitary forces, Coast Guard and Strategic forces are supplementary bodies to the basic structure of the armed forces. Over the years, Pakistan Army has been the largest force contributor for peacekeeping operations under United Nations Organization and has contributed towards global peace, security, and crises management.  The personals of the armed forces are recruited on volunteer basis from the general masses in a proportionate percentage from all provinces and federally administered units down to the district level through a competition-based merit system. As an organization, the armed forces are highly organized, and extremely respected. Indeed, “Ever since their establishment in 1947, the role of armed forces has been worth appreciation for the promotion of the feelings of nationalism and providing a bastion of selfless service.”

“Pakistan Army and the people are together.” These were the acerbic remarks of the Reuters report on the role of Pak Army during the ongoing rescue and relief work in the flood affected areas. Irrespective of the veiled meanings of the Reuter’s report, Armed Forces of Pakistan are convinced that there cannot be a success without the help of the people of Pakistan either in the war against the declared enemy, against the secretive terrorists or in the course of meeting the challenges of the natural disasters like the floods or earthquakes.  Therefore, Armed Forces took these remarks as a compliment. They are proud to be from the people of Pakistan, and they excel for the people of Pakistan.

Indeed, the wholehearted people’s support enabled the armed forces to fight back the aggressions of an enemy having ten times more strength. Through the determined public support, insurgencies and internal disturbances in various parts of the country were effectively subdued in the past. In its prolonged war against the terrorism arising from the Western borders, again the people’s support gave the Military operations a success.  In a record time, the areas like Swat, Malakand, South Waziristan, Orakzai and other areas under the terrorist’s control were cleared off while establishing the writ of the Government there.

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Indeed, it was the desire and the will to serve the people that enabled armed forces to manage world’s biggest catastrophe, the earthquake -2005 in a recorded time and in the most efficient manner. The disaster has claimed over 73000/- losses to human lives in northern Pakistan. The relief, rescue, and rehabilitation activities carried out by armed forces during the earthquake are now taken as a role model in the world’s advance armies. Similarly, the handling of over 2.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) during military operations in FATA and surrounding areas of Khayber Pakhtunkha (KP) was a gigantic task, handled most efficiently by Pak Army.

With the same resilience, the armed forces of Pakistan started the rescue and relief operations in various parts of the country during the ongoing devastating floods, which hit over eighty districts of Pakistan, from extreme north to extreme south. Out of all the organizations/ institutions available with Federal Government or provincial governments, Pakistan Army was the first to start the rescue and relief operation in the affected areas and rescued thousands of the people from the mouth of the tidal waves.  Indeed, prior to the onset of the flood season, Armed Forces of Pakistan ensured their preparation to deal with any eventuality arising from the sudden floods, as part of their routine duties.

Apart from the rescue of the people, armed forces have provided numerous relief goods, tent services, medical services and other allied services to the flood affected people. In spite that half of Pak Army is committed in combating the terrorism in FATA and along the Western border, Chief of Army Staff has dedicated over 72,000 troops for the rescue and relief activities throughout in the affected areas. Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Air Force have also unequivocally contributed in the rescue and hpw relief operation. Pakistan Navy has extensively carried out relief and rescue operation in the lower Sind and coastal areas. Apart from ground services, Pakistan Air Force has also used its cargo plans like C-130 for delivering the relief goods.

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The devastating floods of the history of Pakistan have killed over 1700 people and inundated 5436601 acres of land in over eighty districts of the country. So far, Army alone has distributed over 9000 tons relief goods including 4000 tons ration from its own authorization. All ranks of the armed forces have donated their one-day’s pay in Prime Minister’s relief fund. Over 70 helicopters and 1000 boats were employed during these activities. Pakistan Army has established 217 relief camps, which provide cooked food and other services to over 1.32 million people. Approximately 800,000 stranded people were rescued by the troops of Pak Army so far. After collection of relief items from various parts of the country, Pak Army dispatched 445 Trucks, 2 Trains and 8 C-130 aircrafts full of relief goods in the flood hit areas. Over 180 doctors along with 310 paramedics have treated 215114 patients from the platform of 7 Field Hospital and 22 Mobil Medical Teams that have been working day and night in the flood affected areas throughout the country.

Armed forces of Pakistan has embarked on and still committed to undertake the rescue and relief operation as part of their duties. As an organised body, they managed it in an efficient manner and got appreciation and recognition of the affected people, Prime Minister, international donors, NGOs, and media. Throughout the relief and rescue operation, the senior Military command has been personally supervising the operation and there have been no chances of flaws in their dedicated support to the needy people. This splendid job and other contributions of the armed forces like managing the IDPs, handling the earthquake-2005, and clearing the areas swamped from the terrorists has made them as the best trained and all rounder forces of the world.

Protection of the ideological and geographical frontiers of Pakistan is the principal task of the Armed Forces. However, while being from within the masses, safety and security of the people is yet another vital duty of the Armed Forces, once it act in aid of civil power, as per Part XII, Chapter 2 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Armed Forces feel that whatever they have done for the common good of the people of Pakistan or to secure the national assets is their duty and they feel proud of proficient handling of that. Otherwise, in various flood affected areas there have been complete coordination between civil administration, provincial governments, NGOs, and international donors with the Armed Forces of Pakistan. However, the armed forces being an organized body under a unified command contributed a lot in a very short span of time during the flood relief operation. Moreover, Armed Forces helped the needy people across the board without any discrimination, political pressure, or favouritism. This act of the forces made them popular among the people, international and local donors and even at the Government circle. It was because of that while collecting the donations, people trusted the Armed Forces more than any other setup.

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Unfortunately, the level of trust bestowed by the people on to the Armed Forces in response to their across the board services is being misconstrued by certain circles as relegation of the Government’s authority. It was projected much by forces, which work against the national integration and harmony.  Actually, they could have remembered that, armed forces are very much part of the Government and work on its directive while dealing with all traditional and non-traditional security threats and crises situation like the recent flood. For a better future, let us discard the conspiracy theories hatched; locally, globally, or by pseudo scholars like Aysha Sidiqqa and work together as a nation to rehabilitate the flood-affected people before the onset of winter. We should not feel shy and rapacious in appreciating the persistent and splendid role of our brave armed forces for the national cause. This would further boost their spirit of national service.