’s Essay, Research Paper
Having suspended the constitution and instituted military rule, the Pakistan Army continues to play a major role in its country’s development.
Brian Cloughley examines its training, leadership and equipment and evaluates its fitness for role.
ON 12/13 October 1999 the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was placed in abeyance when the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), General Pervez Musharraf, dismissed the government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif and assumed the title of ‘chief executive’ of the nation. Although the president remained in office — giving some legitimacy to the administration that is widely regarded as prepared to hand over to civilian governance once the economy and the political fabric of the country have been reconstituted — the army is firmly in control.
However, the role and tasks of the Pakistan Army are currently in flux as a result of recent events, and because Pakistan and India now possess a rudimentary but developing nuclear weapons capability. When the Sharif government was in power, the army — and in theory the entire defence force — was tasked to oversee (or actually run) a number of enterprises, including the Water and Power Development Agency. The structure of life in Pakistan had become so ridden with corruption that the armed forces were considered the only sound institutions in the country.
The long term effects of undertaking non-military duties cannot be assessed, but in previous periods of military rule the cost was significant because high-grade officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) were involved in civilian-related tasks to the detriment of planning, training, administration and operational readiness.
Regional threats and relations
The military threat to Pakistan is regarded as being presented solely by India, with whom relations vary from poor to actively hostile. Pakistan’s defence posture and doctrine are almost entirely concerned with its eastern border, as is apparent from the location of the majority of its forces. The strength of the Indian Army is 980,000; Pakistan’s is 520,000.
There are no formal defence ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but Beijing is an active supporter of Pakistan, co-operating in the provision and development of weapons. There is a regular mutually beneficial and cordial exchange of technical expertise. However, this could be affected should Islamic extremists based in Pakistan and Afghanistan become involved in support of dissidents in the Chinese province of Xinjiang where there is growing Muslim militancy. The PRC has stopped short of giving unconditional support to Islamabad concerning the Kashmir dispute, but has itself unresolved border disagreements with India. In the event of war with Pakistan, India would have to take into account the possibility of Chinese pressure along their 4,000km border, and would need to maintain forces in some strength in the north, both forward and in reserve, in addition to lightly-armed paramilitary border troops.
Neither Iran nor Afghanistan pose a military threat, but the borders with both countries are porous. Policing is conducted mainly by the Frontier Corps but many tribes straddle the Afghan border, making control of smuggling impossible. Guerrillas of various nationalities from camps in Afghanistan cross Pakistan with ease to move to Indian-administered Kashmir where they now form the main opposition in an insurrection that began in 1989. Pakistan has ambivalent relations with the government of Afghanistan, a deeply doctrinaire theistic autocracy, but is one of the few nations to have recognised its authority — although it should be noted that this took place under a civilian government.
Role of the army
The national defence goal is to deter what is perceived by Pakistan as Indian aggressive intent. The army’s role, and that of the other services, is to protect the nation by maintaining territorial integrity, while ensuring internal stability and advancing the country’s external interests.
Emphasis remains on territorial integrity, but there are shades of difference within it, in addition to varying degrees of emphasis on internal stability and external interests as regional circumstances change. In mid-1999 the army conducted offensive operations against Indian troops in northern Kashmir and moved units along the international border, as did India. Concurrently, the government continued to use the army in attempts to rescue public services from collapse by improving efficiency and revenue. Involvement with civilian enterprises continued after the army take-over, and has grown through the appointment of more military officers to senior management posts.
Tension with India was high as a result of the fighting in Kashmir and grew following the December terrorist hijacking of an Indian airliner, a marked increase in activity by Pakistan-backed militants in Indian-administered Kashmir involving ‘hard target’ attacks on security forces’ headquarters and patrols, and further exchanges of heavy weapons’ fire across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing the disputed territory.
There has been no formal alteration to the army’s role, but its tasks now appear to include:
+ maintenance of a high level of confrontation with Indian forces along the LoC in Kashmir;
+ deterrence of Indian conventional operations along the international border;
+ preparedness to undertake limited but powerful strikes (probably two) into India in order to seize and hold territory (the concept of ‘the Riposte’);
+ limited preparation for a nuclear engagement; and
+ contribution to the civil administration of the nation.
Strategy and nuclear considerations
In the late 1980s consideration was given to pre-emption, whereby there would be a political decision in Islamabad to attack before a declaration of war, denying India an initial advantage. This strategy still exists, but it is unlikely to be adopted if only because it would attract international condemnation. The problem for Pakistan is that the dichotomy between operations in Kashmir and ‘general hostilities’ along the international border has become blurred. This is largely because of its own aggressive actions in the north of the LoC in mid-1999 that almost led to wider conflict. A further major eruption of fighting along the LoC may not be confinable to Kashmir but could spread to the border, probably with very serious consequences.
There is a danger that conventional war in the sub-continent could become nuclear, either in error or because of unstoppable nationalistic fervour. Neither country has sufficiently advanced intelligence systems to be able to estimate each other’s preparedness for conflict or likely reaction should full-scale war break out, and there is a likelihood of grave errors in assessments. Furthermore, there is no enunciated nuclear doctrine, nor are there decision-making and communications systems adequate for either strategic or tactical command and control in the nuclear environment. Nuclear targeting information could not be passed in time to be of use in a rapidly changing situation, which would increase the probability of own-troop strikes by tactical missiles. There is not even the most basic civil defence system (construction of which would be prohibitively expensive), and in both countries a looming nuclear war would create widespread panic, causing flight of countless millions of people.
Pakistan created a study cell, which in February recommended the formation of a National Command Authority to “be responsible for policy formulation and . . . exercise employment and development control over all strategic nuclear forces and strategic organisations”. This body includes an “Employment Control Committee [chaired by the head of government], a Development Control Committee and a Strategic Plans Division, which will act as its secretariat”. There is as yet no indication of the precise functions of these elements.
Recognition that possession of nuclear weapons does not itself imply fully fledged nuclear war-fighting capability has been slow to dawn, but it is apparent that India and Pakistan have tacitly accepted the circumstantial limitations inherent in their nuclear programmes. It appears that the chance of a nuclear exchange is moderate, at least for the moment, in spite of exceptional tension between the nations. The threat of conventional war remains high, and Pakistan’s strategy for this rests in its doctrine of ‘the Riposte’.
Pakistan has no strategic depth. One practical solution to this limitation is to concentrate on the eastern border with the intention of penetrating into India on, probably, two widely separated axes to swiftly take and hold comparatively small areas of territory. The advance would probably be limited to 80100km on single divisional fronts, with commanders refraining from flank exploitation, at least initially. This would tally with Western assessments of the ability of the logistics system to cope with movement forward from easily accessed border dumps. The political rationale for the Riposte is to seize territory irrespective of what Indian thrust(s) may have been made, to have bargaining counters when a cease-fire is declared or enforced by international intervention, which would probably be in two or three weeks.
Since 1990 the force structure, organisation, training, deployment and tactics of the Pakistan Army have been developed and refined in accordance with the doctrine of the Riposte. There has been considerable success in improving war-fighting capability. There is a significant numerical paper disparity between Pakistan’s forces and those of India, much in India’s favour. However, the realities on the ground, especially in armour capabilities, forward air defence, troop morale and leadership, and basic equipment (such as radios, small arms and ancillary materiel) indicate severe defects in the Indian defence spectrum, to the extent there is near-parity between the armies. This also applies to the air forces. The quoted combat aircraft strength of over 700 in the Indian Air Force (IAF) is some half that number in effective strength. Lack of competent pilots is the most serious deficiency. There are, however, problems in higher command and control in the Pakistan Army.
Command, tasks and grouping
The army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, 24km from the capital, Islamabad, houses a confusing mix of old-fashioned command and control. GHQ commands nine corps (21 divisions and the equivalent of another eight in independent brigades) without any intermediate HQ.
The army acknowledges the requirement for an ‘HQ army group north’ to command 1, 30 and 4 Corps, and a similar southern HQ to command 2, 31 and 5 Corps. However, their creation is impossible in light of present financial conditions.
1 and 2 Corps are the ’strike’ formations: 30, 4, 31 and 5 are essentially defensive, as their infantry and artillery mobility is mainly wheeled. Independent armoured, mechanised and infantry brigades are well-placed and well-enough equipped to exploit gains made by strike formations, and to mount diversions and counter-attacks.
The western corps, 11 in North West Frontier Province and 12 in Balochistan, are direct command reinforcement elements, but would find movement east difficult after IAF interdiction of railways, combined with refugee-blocked roads. 10 Corps is responsible for operations in Kashmir, depth manoeuvre and counter-attack in Punjab.
In practice there is considerable devolution to corps commanders whose directives give much latitude, with the exception of strike penetration and exploitation, which are as dependent on political factors as they are on logistics and success in battle.
Command arrangements at lower levels are conventional and, from observation of several exercises, appear adequate and even expert. Regrouping of formations and subordinate elements cannot be practised often by any army but there is an apparent flexibility to a degree often preached but rarely permitted, especially in the pressurised atmosphere of assessed training, when personal efficiency reports loom large.
There is an army reserve of about 500,000 whose members have a triennial attendance obligation to the age of 45. Refresher training is as adequate as might be expected from a three week period, but reserve service seems popular. The 180,000-strong National Guard would be useful in guarding vulnerable points. It consists of the Mujahid Force of 60,000, organised in battalions, some with light air defence capability; the Janbaz Force of 100,000, whose members are intended to serve close to their homes; and the National Cadet Corps in universities and colleges. These elements have some value in providing poorly-trained but enthusiastic reinforcements for rear area units.
Paramilitary or civil armed forces are numerous and vary in efficiency. In peacetime most are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior, but commanders and most other officers are seconded from the army.
Training is the overall responsibility of the Inspector General, Training and Education in GHQ. Unlike many armies in which complex training methods are embraced at great expense, the Pakistan Army has maintained tried and tested methods. It relies largely on the efficient regimental system whereby each infantry regiment has its own training centre, as have Corps such as armour or signals.
Initial training of officers (all male) of all arms and services is conducted mainly at the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul, Abbotabad. Standards are adequate, although emphasis has to be placed on instruction in the English language. The army is short of officers. This is largely due to competition from more lucrative careers and because the social structure of the country is changing. The ‘old army families’ who supplied their sons as officers and soldiers can no longer be relied upon as a guaranteed source of recruits. The shortage is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, although the recent military takeover improved enlistments. Also, modern techniques of recruiting, with improvements in barrack living conditions, initiated by the previous COAS, General Karamat, and continued by the present chief, have had positive results.
Regimental and Corps training is of a high standard but there is much learning by rote, which tends to reduce initiative. Instruction at army schools (such as the School of Infantry and Tactics) is impressive and courses are conducted efficiently. This applies to the Command and Staff College, with one caveat: too much time is spent on researching previous years’ questions and answers rather than attempting to break ground with original thought and novel proposals. Directing staff are high quality and the syllabus is sound. However, the culture of ‘chappa’ — an anxiety to conform, resulting in emphasis on obtaining ‘correct’ solutions from former students — produces uninspiring discussion and careful, but imitative papers. Despite this, the product is generally good.
Advanced technical training and graduate/post graduate studies are carried out under the aegis of the National University of Sciences and Technology, which involves the Colleges of Medicine, Signals, Military Engineering, and Electrical and Mechanical Engineer ing. These are linked with civilian, naval and air force institutions, and with Michigan State (USA) and Cranfield (UK) universities.
Individual and collective training in units is conducted in an annual cycle, usually dictated by the timing of higher-level exercises. Sub-unit and unit exercises are generally held in summer, with brigade and divisional manoeuvres after the harvest and in winter.
There has been emphasis on computer-based war-gaming, with consequent improvement in staff-work, especially in logistics. In the 1965 and 1971 wars few formations were far from base facilities and supply dumps, and it is only comparatively recently that battlefield recovery and practise in forward supply have been allotted the importance they demand. Much training focuses on obstacle-crossing, as there are extensive natural and man-made water barriers on both sides of the border, especially in Punjab. In the 1980s a river-crossing was often judged to have been successful when the force lodged on the far bank had only first-line ammunition and arrangements for its sustenance were at best sketchy. Following the 1989 exercise ‘Zarb-e-Momin’ (’Believer’s blow’) it was made clear to commanders that logistics mattered, that resupply was not to be treated as ‘out of exercise’ or ‘notional,’ and that all exercises were to have a credible logistics plan.
Analysis of ‘Zarb-e-Momin’ resulted in considerable restructuring, including the creation of the Air Defence Command and the Artillery Division. It was assessed that command, control and communication (C3I) had serious defects, especially in the passage of tactical information from higher HQ to unit level, but improvement in this aspect has been slower than desired, mainly because of financial constraints. Extensive use is made of satellite communications, and there have been notable advances in the development and production of secure systems, although these do not appear to be available other than in strike formations and independent forces. Subsequent exercises have tested the development matrix generated by ‘Zarb-e-Momin’, but budget limitations have precluded conduct of trials on the scale necessary to test, prove, and modify doctrine and procedures to the extent planned by GHQ.