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Monday, 26 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 26 Dec 2011

Differences grow sharper in Pak Zardari, Gilani advise army to stay ‘within limits’
Afzal khan  Islamabad December 25 On a dramatic Sunday, the simmering tension between the government and the all-powerful army acquired a sharper edge with President Asif Ali Zardari calling upon the people to ensure that change does not take place through “force and intimidation”. Prime Minister Gilani did his bit by asserting that the army should remain within ‘Constitutional limits’ and the Information Minister resigned during a televised cabinet meeting before she was persuaded to withdraw it.  In a message on the 135th birth anniversary of Pakistan’s founder, M.A. Jinnah, Zardari reminded people that the Quaid-i-Azam had put his faith in the ballot and not on the bullet.  The tone and tenor of the text was striking, given that triteness distinguishes messages on such occasions. The symbolism behind use of words like “change through force” and reference to ‘ballot’ and ‘bullet’ was unmistakable in view of the uncertain political situation and mounting tension between the government and the military.  Amidst growing strains between the government and the army, the army chief General Kayani was conspicuous by his absence at a dinner hosted last evening by President Zardari for a visiting Chinese diplomat. While General Kayani was said to have communicated his unavailability, the Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen Waheed Arshad, who was to represent the army chief, also failed to attend the dinner, allegedly because of a road block on the highway between Rawalpindi and Islamabad.  Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday had accused the army of running ‘a state within the state’ and talked of a conspiracy to oust the elected government. Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in a rejoinder had dismissed the notion that army is plotting to topple the government.  Although the Army chief’s remarks were intended to squash speculation about any impending military takeover, the ‘Memogate’ scandal remains a sore point with the government challenging the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to investigate the controversy over the government allegedly seeking help from the US to foil a coup by the army, on the ground that a Parliamentary panel is already looking into it.  The army and the ISI chief had asked the Supreme Court to order an investigation. But the government has said President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani played no role in drafting or delivering the memo to the then US chief of the joint staff Admiral Mike Mullen.  Prime Minister Gilani added to the speculation on Sunday when, at the end of a cabinet meeting in Karachi, he declared that the Parliament, the judiciary and the army should work “ within their constitutional limits”. “ We respect all three and we want the three institutions to work within the limits set by the Constitution,” he said. The civilian government, he pointed out, had completed 45 months in months and hoped that it would complete its full, five-year term.  The dramatic Sunday also witnessed Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan offering to resign during the televised cabinet meeting. She broke down and said she could not continue if her Cabinet colleagues were not satisfied with her performance. She was, however, persuaded to withdraw her resignation with Gilani tearing up her resignation and assuring her that her concerns and reservations would be addressed.  Awan was criticised after she had lashed out at the judiciary following ‘Memogate’. She had also announced in November Pakistan granting the MFN status on India, only to be contradicted by the government.
Artillery unit affiliated with Rajput Regiment battalion
Chandigarh, December 25 To foster greater harmony and understanding of each other’s combat potential, traditions and culture, the Ram Division’s artillery unit was affiliated with a battalion of the Rajput Regiment, one of the Army’s oldest infantry outfits.  An affiliation ceremony was organised at Meerut Cantonment to formalise the ties between the two regiments. Chief of the Army Staff, Gen VK Singh, who is also the Colonel of the Rajput Regiment, Chief of Staff, Western Command, Lt Gen Baljeet Singh and a host of other senior officers from both regiments attended the event.  In his address, the Army Chief highlighted the sacrifices made by the Rajputs in guarding the frontiers of the nation. He said the event will strengthen the existing bonds of the Artillery Regiment with the Rajput Regiment. The Chief handed over the Affiliation Parchment to the respective commanding officers of both units. — TNS
PAC slams Army for denying CAG access to URCs' accounts
A parliamentary committee is understood to have slammed the Army for "denying access" to auditors to look into the accounts of the Unit Run Canteens (URCs) even ignoring defence ministry's directions in this regard. There are 3,600 URCs in the country which are the retail sellers of consumer goods provided to them by the Canteen Stores Department (CSD).  The Comptroller and Auditor General has been seeking to audit accounts of the URCs on grounds that the CSD transfers money from the consolidated fund of India in form of qualitative discounts.  This has been opposed by the armed forces claiming that URCs are run by non-public fund.  "The Committee is dismayed to note that Audit was denied access to records of the URCs by the Army Headquarters in spite of repeated requests on ground that URCs are regimental units and are being run from non-public fund.  "What is more intriguing is the fact that such denial was made despite directions of the defence ministry to make records of the URCs available for audit," the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is understood to have said in its report, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament soon.  On the argument of armed forces that audit of URCs will have an impact on morale of troops, the PAC said, "We fail to understand that how auditing of URCs would be so intrusive as to have an adverse impact on the morale of troops."  The committee is believed to have noted the finances of the CSD were brought under ambit of audit from April 1, 1977 but "surprisingly and for no cogent reasons, the URCs continued to be treated as private regimental institutions outside parliamentary control".  The PAC said, to depict the entire organisation operation of the CSD, "it is imperative that the URCs follow uniform accounting principles and their operational results are disclosed in proforma accounts of the CSD".  "The Committee is of the considered view that an assessment of the overall functioning of URCs by the CAG is of paramount importance and therefore must be subject to statutory audit," it is understood to have noted.
Army initiates plan to transform jawans into hi-tech soldiers
NEW DELHI: The Army's futuristic programme to transform its infantry soldiers into high-tech , self-contained killing machines is finally gathering some steam, after a long delay, under the F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) project.  Having issued global tenders for new assault rifles , " close-quarter battle" (CQB) carbines and lightweight ballistic helmets with internal communication gear, the defence ministry is preparing similar RFPs (request for proposals) for light-machine guns, modular bullet-proof jackets, holographic reflex weapon sights, soldier-wearable computers, communication and surveillance equipment . Just the first phase of F-INSAS itself will cost upwards of Rs 25,000 crore, with the 1.13 million strong Indian Army having 359 infantry battalions, each with 800-1 ,000 soldiers. The entire programme, which will be implemented in phases, is spread over the 12, 13and 14fiveyear plans (2012 to 2027), say sources.  Somewhat similar to US Army's "land warrior" and "objective force warrior" programmes , F-INSAS is aimed at converting foot-soldiers into fully-networked , all-terrain weapon platforms by enhancing their "lethality, survivability , mobility, sustainability and situational awareness" . F-INSAS is divided into five sub-systems - modular weapons; body armour and individual equipment; weapon sights and hand-held target acquisition devices; communication equipment to make soldiers capable of transmitting and receiving complex voice, data and video systems; and portable computers in the shape of "wrist displays'' for soldiers and "planning boards'' for commanders.  The weapon systems, include CQB carbines, assault rifles and light machine guns equipped with third-generation night-vision devices, laser designators , detachable under-barrel grenade launchers and the like. The army is now examining the bids to acquire around 44,000 CQB carbines off-the-shelf for over Rs 4,500 crore. This will be followed by the indigenous manufacture of a large number of similar modular carbines by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) under transfer of technology.  Then, the global tender for direct acquisition of 66,000 advanced assault rifles was floated last month, which will also be followed by licensed manufacture to equip the armed forces as well as the central paramilitary forces. This mega project for new assault rifles, with interchangeable 5.56mm and 7.62mm barrels and holographic reflex sights to replace the 5.56mm INSAS rifles currently being used, could alone run over Rs 20,000 crore.  "Soldiers will use the 7.62 x 39mm barrels for counter-insurgency operations . But if deployed for conventional warfare, then they will use the 5.56 x 45mm barrels,'' said a source. The Army, incidentally , is also shopping for tripod-mounted 12.7mm heavy machine guns, which can fire armour-piercing rounds at a rapid clip.

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