Transition Time In Pakistan

’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.

’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.

Cessation of overseas training arrangements by developed countries as a result of their disapproval of Pakistan’s nuclear tests has not seriously affected professional knowledge or standards, but officers are now denied exposure to the wider horizons offered by such nations. Western influence has been reduced to the point of creating significant resentment, especially at junior level. Increased anti-Western feelings have been manipulated by a small number of zealots within and outside the armed forces in an attempt to attract adherents to more rigid forms of Islam than is desired by senior officers, and the West.

Equipment and mobility

US military co-operation and supply of equipment stopped in October 1990 after US President George Bush refused to sign an annual declaration that Pakistan was not involved in a nuclear programme. (The USA was aware that Pakistan had such a programme for many years but after Russia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the Cold War, Pakistan was less useful to the US as an ally. Sanctions followed.) After some relaxation, strictures were reimposed in totality following Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May 1998. Results have been:

+ the movement of Pakistan further towards China and North Korea as suppliers and, in the case of the PRC, co-producer, of weapons systems;

+ the clandestine acquisition of equipment and spare parts worldwide;

+ an increased domestic production of spare parts and ammunition; and

+ heightened anti-Americanism in all services, but mainly and markedly amongst junior army officers. This is spilling-over into general anti-Western sentiment.

Fortunately for the army, Pakistan declined to purchase the US Abrams main battle tank (MBT) when it was offered in 1988. (It was following a demonstration of the Abrams that Pakistan’s ruler, General Zia ul Haq, left the firing range at Bahawalpur in a Pakistan Air Force C-130 that crashed in mysterious circumstances, killing him, the US ambassador, the US defence sales representative and 20 senior officers.) Had the Abrams been obtained, a large part of the Armoured Corps, including the strike corps, would now be facing grave difficulties.

Reliance was placed on obtaining Chinese tanks, including the Norinco Type 85 (125mm smoothbore), of which over 400 are in service. Pakistan improved the current inventory by undertaking a major rebuild/ upgrade programme at Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT, near Rawalpindi, improved and extended the tanks with significant PRC assistance). There has also been gradual development, with China, of a new tank, the MBT 2000 or ‘Khalid’; and the acquisition, beginning in 1997, of 320 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine at a cost of US$650m. The last of these were delivered at the end of 1999.

The introduction of newer and rebuilt tanks has taken pressure off the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME), which was having difficulty maintaining older equipment for front-line use. Type 85s and T-80s form the major part of strike forces, with the work-horse Type 59 (105mm, upgraded), Type 69 (Centaur FCS), and M-48A5s in other units. Technology from the UK, Sweden and Belgium has resulted in improvement in advanced tank (and artillery) ammunition, which is produced in increasing quantities by Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) for domestic use and growing exports.

The Khalid MBT (120mm) four-phase programme appears successful, if slow. Its measured pace results from a combination of policy, and non-availability of systems and sub-systems from Western nations. The power pack (UK Challenger) and transmission (French Leclerc) were deemed satisfactory, but the outcome of negotiations on long-term development is unknown as there is pressure within the British government to cease defence co-operation with Pakistan. The programme contrasts favourably with the India’s Arjun MBT project.

It appears that for the moment Pakistan could have a qualitative and even a quantitative edge over Indian armour, as Russian T-90 MBTs performed badly in trials last year in India, and acquisition is yet to be confirmed. Refurbishment of India’s 1,500 T-72s is well behind schedule, and there are critical maintenance and upgrading problems. The Arjun MBT has been ordered only in token number (124, with delivery to start in 2001). These problems, set against Pakistan’s novel armour tactics, improved air-to-ground co-operation, flexible command structure at corps and below, and a more structured approach to procurement and production, might point to a military balance less in India’s favour than bald inventories would seem to show.

Pakistan has a deficiency in mobility. There are too few armoured personnel carriers and self-propelled guns, both medium (155mm) and air defence (AD), to properly equip all formations. There are only 900 M113s available (most produced at HIT under licence). Both their production and armoured infantry fighting vehicle development have been affected by sanctions. The 155mm self-propelled (SP) artillery, essential for support in the fast-moving battles likely during the advance of the strike formations and in countering similar Indian thrust(s) into Pakistan, is limited to a dozen regiments-worth of US M-109s. In spite of US embargoes, spares are bought on the world market, with some manufactured at POF. As the barrels are well within their first quarter of life, there is no pressing need for replacement. The problem is in enlarging the holding, as the USA is an unreliable supplier. There is no compatibility between the M-109 and the likely alternative, the Norinco 122mm SP gun.

Air defence

Until the early 1990s the army paid insufficient attention to co-operation with the air force. Joint exercises were few, and were more demonstrations than tests. During obstacle crossings, soldiers from divisional air defence regiments were used as guides, making far bank AD almost negligible as there were no procedures for marrying-up troops with equipments after lodgement. They would also be so tired as to make them ineffective at the very time of major air threat.

Tactical liaison with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was poor or non-existent and the risk of mistaken engagement of own troops was unacceptably high. Procedures for ‘weapons tight’ were not practised.

Creation of Air Defence Command, consisting of 3 anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) Groups (8 brigades), and emphasis on joint co-operation and training has gone far to rectify the unsatisfactory position. However, much remains to be done. Unfortunately for the army and the PAF, budget restrictions have cut the number of exercises that are necessary to practise and refine procedures to the required degree, although computer and dry training is conducted. Most equipments are towed guns, but study of AAA tactics worldwide has resulted in doctrine based on local airspace saturation. Hand-held/vehicle-mounted surface-to-air missiles, including Stinger, RBS-70 (180 launchers) and Chinese HN-5, are deployed mainly in strike units, and the cheaply produced Anza infra-red homing missile, a SA-7 ‘Grail’ surface-to-air missile copy, is in wide service.

Nuclear units

Since the formation of the first ‘Composite Missile Regiment’ at Kharian, near Lahore, in 1989, there has been exercise and development of tactical missile doctrine. However, procedures are as yet by no means effective. The army as a whole is unaware of nuclear doctrine.

A recent test of the indigenous Hatf 1A missile (February) and information concerning warhead miniaturisation seems to indicate that this 100km battlefield weapon may be at the stage where the motor assembly could be married to a nuclear warhead. There is a new launcher, and it is assessed that the missile is now deployable in unit strength, probably in four batteries each of two launchers. Other missile units have been formed, and training has taken place since 1994 for employment of the Chinese M-11 surface-to-surface missile (SSM), designed for nuclear warhead carriage. It may have this capability in Pakistan service. The Ghauri missile, supplied by North Korea, is intended for nuclear use, but it is unlikely that Pakistan has produced such a warhead yet. Pakistan’s short-range nuclear SSM capability is more advanced than that of India.

Fitness for role

The Pakistan Army has many problems, including denial of spares for US equipments, shortage of junior officers, an old-fashioned higher command system, less mobility than desirable, increasing distrust of the West by junior officers, and, currently, the siphoning-off of high-grade officers and junior ranks to civilian tasks. However, it has high morale, excellent leadership, good tactics, adequate equipment and the will to win. It is hoped it will never have to prove its effectiveness. +


There are two main paramilitary groups and five essentially civilian organisations with police-style functions.

The Frontier Corps (FC) is about 65,000 strong and is divided in two elements: FC Balochistan (south) and FC North West Frontier Province (NWFP) (north), each commanded by an army two-star, titled Inspector General.

The two forces have different emphasis: FC Balochistan concentrates more on anti-smuggling; FC NWFP on peacemaking and peacekeeping in the border and tribal areas. The FC has 11 ‘corps’ in the south and 12 in the north, with names such as the Maiwand Rifles and Ghazaband Scouts in Balochistan, and Khyber Rifles and Kurram Militia in NWFP. Each corps is commanded by a Colonel/Lieutenant Colonel, and is divided into wings commanded by majors. HQ and some other officers are also on secondment from the army for 23 years. Morale in these units is high. The soldiers know their regions and are well trained. However, they are lightly armed and tend to be robust in the internal security role out of their areas, as occurred when units were so employed in Sindh in 1992.

The Pakistan Rangers (25,00030,000) are commanded by a two star Director General and are in three commands: Mehran Force (also two star), based in Karachi, is an internal security force working under HQ 5 Corps, although theoretically answerable to the Interior Ministry; and two groups are stationed along the border with India. Tasks of the latter include protection of the border area and its inhabitants, collection of low-level intelligence concerning Indian military movements, co-operation with civil police concerning smuggling and dacoity (rural gangsterism), and guarding the sole international road crossing-point, near Lahore.

The Airport Security Force is a guard organisation responsible for security of facilities and equipment, and is commanded by a brigadier. Its training is adequate for guard, search and escort duties, but it would not be capable of defending installations against coup de main or paratroop attack.

The Frontier Constabulary of 5,000 is independent but associated with the FC NWFP and subordinate to that province government, as it works in the ’settled’ rather than the ‘tribal’ areas (in the latter, only tribal law applies).

The Balochistan Constabulary (about 2,500) performs much the same task in its province, but answers to the Interior Ministry.

The Coast Guard (about 2,000 in three battalions) performs anti-smuggling tasks. It is commanded by a brigadier and its officers are seconded from the army for about 12 months.

Levies and Khassadars are relics of colonial days, whose role is to provide some measure of policing in the tribal areas of NWFP. Their questionable effectiveness lies in belonging to local tribes and providing a measure of ‘umpiring’ between them.

The Northern Light Infantry, successor to the Gilgit and Karakoram Scouts, of 13 battalions (about 12,000 men), with its HQ in Bunji, south of Gilgit (see map), is commanded by the Force Commander Northern Areas (FCNA) and has not been subordinate to the Interior Ministry for many years other than in name. Its soldiers are locally recruited and accustomed to mountain conditions in which they perform outstandingly, but are not easily trained in advanced technology.

As most of these forces are officered by the army there is sometimes disagreement between their commanders and the Office of the Military Secretary in GHQ, Rawalpindi, which is responsible for officer management and postings. The paramilitary forces complain that they cannot perform their tasks without above-average officers, and MS Branch states that there are not enough of these to go round.

The Rangers and the Frontier Corps are most efficient in their designated fields and would be effective as guerrillas should there be general war.


Azad Kashmir Regiment Attock

Baloch Regiment Abbotabad

Frontier Force Regiment Abbotabad

Punjab Regiment Mardan

Sindh Regiment Petaro

School of Infantry and Tactics Quetta

Armoured Corps Nowshera

Corps of Artillery

(Artillery centre at Attock) Nowshera

Corps of Engineers Risalpur

Army Aviation Corps Rawalpindi

Corps of Signals

(College, Rawalpindi) Kohat

Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Rawalpindi

Army Service Corps Nowshera

School of Logistics Murree

School of Army Education Murree

Command & Staff College Quetta

School of Mountain Warfare

(also Skardu) Abbotabad

Special Services Group Cherat & Attock

Parachute School Peshawar

Corps of Military Police Dera Ismail Khan