Islamabad: The Pakistani military fully backs the government`s move to hold peace talks with banned militant groups but these parleys must be held within constitutional parameters, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said on Friday.
There is an opinion that the government was forced to go in for talks with militants because of the failure of military operations but this is far from the truth, he said.
Kayani, set to retire next month after leading the army for six years, further stressed the need for strengthening democracy while addressing a passing-out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad.
The 61-year-old army chief described terrorism as a "big challenge" that goes against both Pakistan`s ideology and Islamic teachings.
"To deal with it, the national leadership chose the option of giving talks a chance. The Pakistan Army supports this move," he said.
"The people and the political leadership have to decide the limits for these talks...It is very important that this process leads to unity among the people and not divisions. It is necessary to find a solution to this problem within the Constitution of Pakistan."
The use of force is the last option and the army is fully prepared to exercise this option if necessary, Kayani said.
He pointed out that the army has made sacrifices in the war against terrorism and achieved key successes against militants. In this regard, he cited the 2009 operation to flush out militants from the northwestern Swat Valley when they moved to within 100 km of Islamabad.
Pakistan, he said, is passing through a critical and difficult phase and the military leadership must play its role for strengthening the democratic system. "Nations that accept and face challenges emerge stronger," he said.
He noted the successful holding of elections this year and said a democratic government had completed its tenure for the first time in Pakistan. However, the country could have achieved much more if mistakes not not been made in the past, he said.
Pakistan had moved away from the ideals of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, he said. The country`s growth had also been retarded by the lack of institutional harmony, unequal economic opportunities, intolerance and a weak system of governance, he said.
Kayani said one should accept that no individual or institution alone has the solution to these problems and neither can they be overcome in a few months or years.