The Pakistan Armed Forces are the military forces of Pakistan. They are the seventh largest in the world in terms of active troops. The armed forces comprise three main branches: Army, Navy and the Air Force, together with a number of paramilitary forces and Strategic Plans Division (SPD) forces. Since 1962, the PAF has had close military relations with the People’s Republic of China, working jointly to develop the JF-17 Thunder, the K-8 Karakorum, and other weapons systems. As of 2013 China is the 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 PAF also maintains close military relations with the United States, which gave Pakistan MNNA (Major non-NATO ally) status in 2004. Pakistan gets the bulk of its military equipment from domestic suppliers, China, and the US.
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 Pakistani government. Border clashes with Afghanistan led to the creation of paramilitary forces to deal with civil unrest and secure border areas. In 2010, the Pakistan Armed Forces had approximately 617,000 personnel on active duty, with 513,000 in the reserves, 304,000 in the paramilitary forces, and approximately 20,000 serving in the Strategic Plans Division forces, giving a total of almost 1,451,000. The armed forces have a large pool of volunteers and as such, conscription is not, and has never been needed.
The Pakistan Armed Forces are the best organized institution in the country, 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, and the first Gulf War to help the Coalition, as well as the Somalian and Bosnian conflicts.
The Pakistani military has its roots in the British military, in which many Pakistanis served prior to the 1947 declaration that marked the establishment of Pakistan. Many of the senior officers who would form the Pakistan Armed Forces had fought with British forces in World War II, thus providing the newly created country with the professionalism, experience, and leadership it would need to defend itself against India. In a formula arranged by the British, military resources were supposed to have been divided between India and Pakistan with a ratio of 64% going to India and 36% for Pakistan; however, it is estimated that Pakistan inherited only about 15% of the equipment.
Between 1947 and 1971 Pakistan fought three conventional wars against India. The last of these, the 1971 War, ended with the secession of East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh). Rising tensions with Afghanistan in the 1960s and indirect war fought against the Soviet Union in the 1970s led to a sharp rise in the development of Pakistan Armed Forces. In 1999, an extended period of intense border skirmishing with India resulted in a redeployment of forces. As of 2014, the military is conducting counterinsurgency operations along the border areas of Afghanistan, while continuing to participate in several United Nations peacekeeping operations.
The armed forces have taken control of the Government of Pakistan several times since independence, 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 army rule.