In every nation’s history, there are moments that call on its leader to face the truth and tell the truth to his fellow countrymen and women. This is such a moment. It is a moment of peril, but also a moment of great opportunity.
You have heard a lot from me in recent months about the peril. I am terribly concerned about the existential threats to our country. But you have not heard enough from me about the opportunity that we have today to devise a strategic, long-term approach to reduce these threats.
We have an opportunity – one that may not reoccur for generations to come – to reach the kind of regional security that we have been seeking since our parents and grandparents established this astonishing country sixty-two years ago.
Sure, there are many potential obstacles on the way to realizing that vision. In my recent public addresses, as the army chief, I have been focusing on the obstacles. I am still well aware of them.
Today, however, I would like to focus on the reasons for hope, on my reasons for making some bold choices. I have decided to pursue a path that may bring us security through peace with the entire world, full normalization with Afghanistan, a final settlement with our Indian neighbor over all issues including Kashmir, and full legitimacy in the international community, and within the country unconditional reconciliation with all minorities including the Balochs and the Pakhtuns.
If we succeed, we will be in a position to find a reasonable resolution, with full regional and international support, to the militancy threat. We will be in a much better position to tackle our domestic challenges. We will strengthen our democracy, our economy, our world standing, and our national moral integrity. We will be finally in a position to bolster the dream of our founding fathers: a just, secure, stable, prosperous democratic Pakistani state.
We have an opportunity to achieve all that because we have a partner. I am talking about the partner we have in the White House, the leader of the United States, our greatest ally.
When I was in Washington recently, and in subsequent communications I had with President Obama, I realized that unlike his predecessors, he is truly determined to bring comprehensive peace to our scarred, cynical region. He is resolute, and if there is anyone who can lead a successful effort to get it done, it is Barack Obama.
President Obama has inspired not only the American public. He has captured the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, including Arabs and Muslims. He is already empowering moderates and reformists in the Middle East, as we see in Iran and Lebanon.
Today, I am here to announce that the armed forces , under my leadership, chooses to contribute whatever it can to this promising transformation. Pakistan chooses to work with the U.S. president, to form a partnership with him and with moderates in the region to seek stability, security and peace for our people. Pakistan chooses not to be on the side of the projectionists, militants and extremists. It chooses to say yes; to harness its immense optimism and creativity to the noble task of eliminating the militant infrastructure.
It’s an ambitious goal, yes. It is risky, of course. It involves sacrifices and internal strife. But I believe that no Pakistani leader can afford to turn down such an opportunity.
I am declaring today that I have already pledged my full backing to elected Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gillani that the army is willing to resume negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions, with the leaders of India.
I have also formed a special task force to purge government agencies of all those elements who are supporting and abetting militants’ activities in Afghanistan and India for strategic influence. For now on we will not use proxies as foreign policy tool.
My brothers and sisters!
Of course – I invite all Balochs for talks who are willing to accept the integrity of Pakistan and address their grievances. And just as I demand that our Balochs interlocutors come to the negotiating table having turned their backs on violence, so am I coming to the table in good faith. I have instructed the army to stop all operations in Balochistan – as long as negotiations are ongoing. It is something we can do, and should do, to show our interlocutors that we are serious. We will also promptly remove all the outposts in Balochistan .
I also assure Pakhtun leaders that the army will not block the elected government from meeting their long standing political , cultural and linguistic demands. And I also assure that a positive discrimination policy will be adopted by the army to to bring the share of smaller ethnic groups in the armed forces in proportion to their respective populations determined by internationally observed and monitored new census based on ethnic choice.
I also warn a political group in Karachi who has military wing and who is involved in stocking ethnic violence that if they did not stop their illegal activities, they will be tried and punished.
My fellow Pakistanis , I am determined to do whatever I can to make this effort a success. It is my duty as a responsible Pakistani military leader. I urge you to demonstrate a sense of national maturity and responsibility and help me and the civilian leadership to steer our country toward a better, secure future.