Pakistan is not merely a country for its soldiers. It is our determination to look the enemy in the eye with such valour that he dares not set an evil glance on our borders. PHOTO: REUTERS
Since 1984, the Pakistan Army has been fighting a war on the highest battlefield of the world, the Siachen Glacier. Although there have been periods of temporary ceasefire, they have always been followed by severe aggression from both sides.
During one such hostile period in 1987, a high altitude post of the Pakistan Army at the Siachen Glacier was commanded by my uncle who was then a captain. He had been there for five months and had no hope of being relieved in the near future because of the escalated tensions and harsh weather. One day he was sitting with his troops in the igloo listening to a radio program that aired from Islamabad.
One soldier was peeling potatoes for dinner, another was reading a letter from home, possibly for the hundredth time and two were lying in their sleeping bags trying to rest since sleep was usually the last thing on their minds. They had numbed themselves to the memories of their homes and families.
In the program on the radio, listeners would call in and ask for their requests to be played along with a small message. My uncle told me that after a few such calls, the radio host began to read a letter which was probably sent by a soldier’s wife or relative. The letter read that the sender wanted to dedicate a song to a young soldier who had gone to war at Siachen and was sitting somewhere far away from home, unable to call back. The letter said that he/she wanted this song to be dedicated to this soldier whom all his friends and family missed dearly.
The host, without missing a beat added,
“We will play this song for your friend and for all our brothers-in-arms who are away from their families, in unknown location and perhaps, in very difficult conditions only so that we all can be safe, enjoying the warmth of our homes and our families. For that, we are all very grateful to them.”
And with that Amanat Ali’s voice came on air with the song, Aye Watan Pyare Watan.
My uncle recounted that although the reception was weak, the voice quality was poor and with each passing moment, the temperature continued to fall; but the fire that song lit in the hearts and souls of those men blazed and blazed, harder with each passing verse, as they sat cramped in that single, little igloo in a snow-covered wasteland.
No one said a word. The soldier peeling potatoes kept peeling one after the other, the one reading the letter finished it and crept into his sleeping bag, the other one got up and began to get ready as his shift was about to begin, and my uncle kept smoking and listening to the song.
The only thing that changed, were the thoughts of these men.
As the rhythm of the song became steady, so did their heart beats. Their minds cleared and everyone’s thoughts, love, spirits and ambitions became focused on one point, one singular aim, one unified goal. These men had a great responsibility on their shoulders – the responsibility of guarding the land which had given them an identity, a sense of belonging and a respectable life.
They were guarding their country, their homeland.
This incident has left a deep impact on me since the first time I heard it. Even today when I sit in my bunker at night and recall my uncle’s story, I always end up misty-eyed. My love for my country is hereditary and reverberates in my chest with the beating of my heart.
National and patriotic songs had a great influence on the Pakistani nation. My grandfather, a war veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars, told us that once during his night-guard round of the defences, a new recruit of his company was talking to his friend. He said,
“Noor Jehan de ganey sun ke fauj te bharti te hogya, par jadon lardna pa gya te ki howe ga?”
(Noor Jehan’s songs made me join the army but what will I do if I actually have to fight).
There have been many instances in our history that have made me believe that a common man is not very different from a Pakistani soldier. After all, he shares the same worries, the same fears, the same love and the same patriotism for his country.
As the news of the Indian assault on Lahore reached the city, the people of Lahore actually marched to the border to fight for their country, shoulder-to-shoulder with their army. It did not matter that they did not wear a uniform because the passion of a patriot is not measured by his attire. My grandfather once told me that an old man who had volunteered to come and fight at the Wagah border and had said,
“Pehley meri chaati te goli wajey gi, jey mai mar gya, pher merey weeran tak pohchand gi.”
(First the bullet will hit my chest, and if I die, then it will reach the soldiers.)
And I can never forget the story that my grandfather told me about a young girl standing and waving to the army convoy going to the Wagah border, with her doll in her hand. My grandfather was part of that convoy. There were people all around busy buying halwa puri – the conventional breakfast of Lahore –but once they spotted the convoy, they started running along the vehicles handing over whatever they had to the soldiers as a token of love.
The little girl ran up to my grandfather’s jeep and offered her only possession – her doll. Arm stretched, the girl called out to the young officer,
“Sir ji, guddi le lo, sir jee, guddi le lo.”
(Sir, please take the doll.)
This patriotism, this sense of owning soldiers as your own sons, is a wonderful feeling and I can proudly say that I am lucky and honoured to be a soldier and protector of this nation and this country. I truly believe the words,
“Mere mehboob watan, tujh pe agar jan ho nisar mein ye yamjhoon ga, thikaane laga sarmaya-e-tan.”
(Oh my beloved homeland, if I die for you today, I believe that my purpose in life will be achieved.)
For a soldier, this piece of land means much more than I can ever explain in words. For us soldiers, this land is sacred. Its soil is as dear to us as our mother’s embrace. Its winds, whether they blow hot or cold, remind us of our mother’s caresses. Everything about it – its fragrances, its diversity, its terrain – reminds us of our homes and our mothers.
Pakistan is not merely a country for its soldiers. It is our determination to look the enemy in the eye and stand our ground; it is our will to fight until we give our life. It is our courage to face an enemy stronger than us, and that too, with such valour that he dares not set an evil glance on our borders.
This is a country where mothers, wives and sisters happily send off their sons, husbands and brothers to fight for their homeland and pray that they embrace death before dishonour.
This is a country where a mother’s eyes swell with tears of gratitude to the Almighty that her son has died a martyr’s death when her son’s body comes home wrapped in the crescent.
This is a country where a soldier’s death does not lower the spirit of the nation. Instead, it breathes new life into it.
We, the sons of the soil, fight for it until our last breath because this country, this land, this soil is our heritage, our spirit and our pride.
The Pakistan Armed Forces (Urdu: پاک مُسَلّح افواج, Musallah Afwaj-e-Pakistan) are the military forces of Pakistan. They are the sixth largest in the world in terms of active military personnel and the largest among Muslim countries. The armed forces comprise three main service branches – Army, Navy, and Air Force – together with a number of paramilitary forces and the Strategic Plans Division Force.Chain of command of the military is organized under the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) alongside chiefs of staff of the army, navy, and air force. All of the branches work together during operations and joint missions under the Joint Staff Headquarters (JS HQ).
Since the 1963 Sino-Pakistan Agreement, the military has had close military relations with China, working jointly to develop the JF-17, the K-8, and other weapons systems. As of 2013,[update] China was the second-largest foreign supplier of military equipment to Pakistan. Both nations also cooperate on development of nuclear and space technology programs. Their armies have a schedule for organizing joint military exercises. The military also maintains close relations with the United States, which gave Pakistan major non-NATO ally status in 2004. Pakistan gets the bulk of its military equipment from local domestic suppliers, China, and the United States.
The armed forces were formed in 1947 when Pakistan became independent from the British Empire. Since then, the armed forces have played a decisive role in the modern history of Pakistan, fighting major wars with India in 1947, 1965 and 1971, and on several occasions seizing control of the civilian government to restore order in the country. The need for border management led to the creation of paramilitary forces to deal with civil unrest in the North-West and security of border areas in Punjab and Sindh by paramilitary troops. In 2017, per IISS, the military had approximately 653,800 active personnel in the armed forces, including 12,000-15,000 personnel in the Strategic Plans Division Forces and 282,000 active personnel in the paramilitary forces. The armed forces have a large pool of volunteers so conscription has never been needed, though the Pakistani constitution and supplementary legislation allow for conscription in a state of war.
The Pakistan Armed Forces are the best-organized institution in Pakistan, and are highly respected in civil society. Since the founding of Pakistan, the military has played a key role in holding the state together, promoting a feeling of nationhood and providing a bastion of selfless service. In addition, the Pakistan Armed Forces are the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping efforts, with more than 10,000 personnel deployed overseas in 2007. Other foreign deployments have consisted of Pakistani military personnel serving as military advisers in African and Arab countries. The Pakistani military has maintained combat divisions and brigade-strength presences in some of the Arab countries during the Arab–Israeli Wars, aided the Coalition forces in the first Gulf War, and took part in the Somali and Bosnian conflicts.
Main article: Military history of Pakistan
The Pakistan military has its roots in the British Indian Army, in which many British Indian Muslims served during World War II, prior to the Partition of India. Upon Partition, military formations with a Muslim majority were transferred to Pakistan, while on an individual basis Indian Muslims could choose to transfer their allegiance to the new Pakistani military. Those who did so included Ayub Khan (British Indian Army), Haji Mohammad Siddiq Choudri (Royal Indian Navy), and Asghar Khan (Royal Indian Air Force). Many of the senior officers who would form the Pakistan Armed Forces had fought with the British forces in World War II, thus providing the newly created country with the professionalism, experience, and leadership it would need in its wars against India. In a formula arranged by the British, military resources were to have been divided between India and Pakistan in a ratio of 64% going to India and 36% for Pakistan; however, Pakistan initially demanded 50% of the equipment.
The Pakistani military retained British military traditions and doctrine until 1956, when the United States dispatched a special Military Assistance Advisory Group to Pakistan; from this point, American military tradition and doctrine was generally adopted by Pakistan's military. In March 1956, the Pakistani military order of precedence of three services changed from "Navy-Army-Air Force" to "Army-Navy-Air Force". In the 1990s, the additional reforms of the military eventually changed the order of precedence to Army-Navy-Air Force-Marines; though the Marines remained part of the Navy, not a separate service branch.
Between 1947 and 1971, Pakistan has fought three direct conventional wars against India, with the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 witnessing the secession of East Pakistan as independent Bangladesh. In the latter war, the Pakistan Armed Forces were the main perpetrators of the Bangladesh genocide, in which, most independent researchers estimate, around 300,000 to 500,000 people were killed and 200,000 to 400,000 were raped, while the Bangladesh government claims the number of deaths was as high as 3,000,000. Rising tensions with Afghanistan in the 1960s and an indirect proxy war fought against the Soviet Union in the 1970s led to a sharp rise in the development of the Pakistan Armed Forces. In 1999, an extended period of intense border-skirmishing with India, the so-called Kargil War, resulted in a redeployment of forces. As of 2014,[update] the military has been conducting counterinsurgency operations along the border areas of Afghanistan, while continuing to participate in several United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Since 1957, the armed forces have taken control from the civilian government in various military coups – ostensibly to restore order in the country, citing corruption and gross inefficiency on the part of the civilian leadership. While many Pakistanis have supported these seizures of power, others have claimed that political instability, lawlessness, and corruption are direct consequences of military rule.
Main articles: War in North-West Pakistan order of battle, Pakistan's role in the War on Terror, and 2009 refugee crisis in Pakistan
It is estimated that approximately 60–70% of Pakistan's military personnel are deployed along the Indo-Pakistan border. In the aftermath of the United States invasion of Afghanistan, more than 150,000 personnel were shifted towards the Tribal Areas adjacent to Afghanistan. Since 2004, Pakistan's military forces have been engaged in military efforts against al-Qaeda extremists.
In comparison with multinational and US forces, Pakistan's military has suffered the highest number of casualties in the war on terror, both in confrontations with al-Qaeda and during border skirmishes with the United States. After the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the subsequent standoff with India, several combat divisions were redeployed to Eastern and Southern Pakistan.
In addition to its military deployments, the armed forces also assist the government in responding to natural disasters such as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the nationwide floods of 2010.
Main article: Pakistan Armed Forces deployments
A large number of Pakistan Armed Forces personnel are deployed overseas as part of the United Nations' peacekeeping missions. In 2010, an estimated 12,000 personnel were serving abroad, making Pakistan a large contributor of troops to the UN.
Organization and command structure
Leadership of the Pakistan Armed Forces is provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), which controls the military from the Joint Staff Headquarters (JS HQ), adjacent to the Air HQ, Navy HQ, and Army General HQ (GHQ) in the vicinity of the Rawalpindi Military District, Punjab. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee is composed of the Chairman Joint Chiefs, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Commandant Marines, and the Commander of the Special Plans Division.
At the JS HQ, it forms with the office of the Engineer-in-Chief, Navy Hydrographer, Surgeon-General of each inter-service, director of JS HQ, and Director-Generals (DGs) of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Inter-Services Selection Board (ISSB), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the Strategic Plans Division Force (SPD Force).[clarification needed]
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC)
Following military failures in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War, federal studies on civil–military relations were held by a commission led by Hamoodur Rahman, Chief Justice of Pakistan. Recommendations of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission helped establish the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee to coordinate all military work and oversee joint missions and their execution during operations.
The chairmanship of the JCSC rotates among the three main service branches, with appointment by the prime minister confirmed by the president. The chairman outranks all other four-star officers; however, he does not have operational command authority over the armed forces. In his capacity as chief military adviser, he assists the prime minister and the minister of defence in exercising their command functions.
Technically, the JCSC is the highest military body; and its chairman serves as the principle staff officer (PSO) to the civilian prime minister, Cabinet, National Security Council (its adviser), and president. The JCSC deals with joint military planning, joint training, integrated joint logistics, and provides strategic directions for the armed forces; it periodically reviews the role, size, and condition of the three main service branches; and it advises the civilian government on strategic communications, industrial mobilizations plans, and formulating defence plans. In many ways, the JCSC provides an important link to understand, maintain balance, and resolve conflicts between military and political circles. In times of peace, the JCSC's principle functions are to conduct planning of civil–military input; in times of war, the chairman acts as principle military adviser to the prime minister in the supervision and conduct of joint warfare.
As of 2010,[update] estimations by national and international bodies were that approximately 617,000 people were on active duty in the three main service branches, with an additional 420,000 serving in paramilitary forces and 513,000 in reserve. It is an all-volunteer military, but conscription can be enacted at the request of the president with the approval of the parliament of Pakistan. The military is the seventh largest in the world and has troops deployed around the globe in military assistance and peacekeeping operations.
Pakistan is the only predominantly Muslim country in which women serve as high-ranking officers and in combat roles, and a sizable unit of female army and air force personnel has been actively involved in military operations against Taliban forces.
Members of the Pakistani military hold a rank, either that of officer or enlisted, and can be promoted.
The following table summarizes current Pakistani military staffing:
From 1947 to early the 2000s, Pakistan's military uniforms closely resembled those of their counterparts in the British armed services. The Army uniform consisted of plain yellowish khaki, which was the standard issue as both the combat uniform (ACU) and the service uniform (ASU). The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) uniform was primarily based on the Royal Air Force uniform, with bluish-grey as its reporting colour markings. The Navy uniform was likewise based on the Royal Navy uniform, with predominant colours of navy blue and white.[self-published source]
In 2003, the service uniforms for each major service branch were revised and orders were made to issue new uniforms roughly based on the American military. With Marines reestablished in 2004, the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) uniforms are now worn by each service in respect to their colours; the flag of Pakistan patch worn on the shoulder became compulsory.
In the military, the service dress, however, remains yellowish khaki for the Army; plain white service dress for the Navy (including the Marines). The Air Force abandoned its rank and uniform structure in 2006, and introduced its own uniform insignia which closely resembled that of the Turkish Army.
The Army's standard UCP is based on a pixelated version of the region's arid desert patterns. The army's UCP varies depending on the type of missions and deployment it is being used for. The Navy's UCP is based on a design that incorporates sparse black and medium grey shapes on a light grey background. The Marines have a woodland pattern featuring light brown, olive green and dark blue shapes on a tan or light olive background. Slight colour variations have been noted. Other than a greenish flight suit and a standard service dress, the Air Forces's Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) camouflage features a variation of the six-colour desert pattern. In each service's UCP, the name of the service branch, rank, and gallantry badges are worn on the chest; insignia are worn on the shoulders with the compulsory flag-of-Pakistan patch.
Uniforms and Camouflage codes of the Pakistan Armed Forces, 1947–present
Source: ISPR works, Commons
Rank and insignia structure
See also: Army ranks and insignia of Pakistan, Air Force ranks and insignia of Pakistan, Naval ranks and insignia of Pakistan, and British heritage of Pakistan
As Pakistan became independent, the British military ranks and insignia were immediately commissioned by the armed forces as part of a legacy of British colonialism. Within a few months of its founding in 1947, the military had inherited all professional qualifications of the British military in India.
In respect to the British Indian military, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) authorized the three junior commissioned officer (JCO) pay grades between the enlisted ranks and commissioned officers. The JCO grades are equivalent to the civil bureaucracy's pay scales for those who rise by promotion from among enlisted recruits. The JCO grades in the Pakistani military are a continuation of the former Viceroy of India's commissioned pay grades during the British colonial period. Promotion to the JCO, however, remains a lucrative and powerful incentive for the enlisted military personnel; thus, if JCO ranks are ever phased out, it will probably be a slow process.
- Nishan-i-Haider (English: Sign of the Lion) is the highest military decoration of Pakistan. It is awarded "to those who have performed acts of greatest heroism or most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger and have shown bravery of the highest order or devotion to the country, in the presence of the enemy on land, at sea or in the air." As of 2013,[update] this award has been given to ten Pakistani servicemen who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
- Hilal-i-Jurat (English: Crescent of Courage) is the second-highest military decoration of Pakistan, and the highest to be given to a living Pakistani (the Nishan-i-Haider has only been awarded posthumously.) The award is conferrable on officers of the Army, Navy, or Air Force, for acts of valour, courage, or devotion to duty, performed on land, at sea, or in the air in the face of the enemy. Recipients have often received land and pensions, and could place the honorific "HJ" after their name.
- Sitara-i-Jurat (English: Star of Courage) is the third-highest military decoration of Pakistan, awarded for gallantry or distinguished service in combat, and can be bestowed upon officers, JCOs, and warrant officers of the Armed Forces including paramilitary forces under federal control. Recipients can place the honorific "SJ" after their name.
- Tamgha-i-Jurat (English: Medal of Courage) is the fourth-highest military decoration of Pakistan, awarded for gallantry or distinguished service in combat. This is essentially the NCO and enlisted version of the Sitara-i-Jurat. Recipients can place the honorific "TJ" after their name.
Foreign military relations
Main article: Foreign relations of Pakistan
Main article: China–Pakistan relations
China's relationship with Pakistan holds great importance for both countries in terms of common interest and geopolitical strategy. The alliance was initially formed to counter the regional influence and military threat posed by India and the Soviet Union. In recent years the friendship has deepened further: China and Pakistan have signed several mutual-defence treaties.
China has been a steady source of military equipment and has cooperated with Pakistan in setting-up weapons production and modernization facilities.
The two countries are actively involved in several joint projects to enhance each other's military needs, including development and production of the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, the K-8 Karakorum advanced training aircraft, the Al-Khalid tank, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems, and many other projects. The two countries have held several joint military exercises to enhance cooperation between their armed forces. China is also the largest investor in the Gwadar Deep Sea Port, which is strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.
South Asian countries
Prior to 1971, Pakistan's military had a strong presence in East Pakistan and an active theatre-level military command. After Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan, full diplomatic relations were not restored until 1976. Relations improved considerably under the Bangladesh military governments of President Major Ziaur Rahman and General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, as Bangladesh had grown distant from its former war ally, India. Common concerns over India's regional power have influenced strategic cooperation, leading to a gift of several squadrons of F-6 fighter aircraft to the Bangladesh Air Force in the late 1980s.
After being condemned by India, Great Britain, and the United States between 2004 and 2006 for repressing democracy, the Nepalese monarchy developed military ties with China and Pakistan, who offered extensive support, arms, and equipment for the monarchy's struggle to stay in power in the face of a Maoist insurgency.
When India proved reluctant to supply Sri Lanka with weapons, the insurgency-plagued island nation turned to Pakistan. In May 2000, with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels about to recapture their former capital of Jaffna, Pakistan President Musharraf provided millions of dollars of much-needed armament to the Sri Lankan government. In May 2008, Lt-Gen Fonseka of the Sri Lanka Army held talks with his Pakistan Army counterparts regarding the sale of military equipment, weapons, and ammunition. The sale of 22 Al-Khalid main battle tanks to the Sri Lanka Army was finalised during these talks, in a deal worth over US$100 million. In April 2009, Sri Lanka requested $25 million worth of 81 mm, 120 mm and 130 mm mortar ammunition, to be delivered within a month, which proved decisive in the defeat of the Tamil Tigers.
United States and NATO
Main articles: NATO–Pakistan relations and Pakistan–United States relations