The Pakistan Army is the land-based uniform service branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces. It came into existence after the independence of Pakistan in 1947. The Pakistan Army is a volunteer professional fighting force. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) it has an active force of 550,000 personnel in 2010. In addition there were around 500,000 reserves bringing the total to 1,050,000 troops. The Constitution of Pakistan contains a provision for conscription, but it has never been imposed. The primary mandate and mission of the army is “dedicated to the service of the nation.” Since establishment in 1947, the Army (along with its inter–services: Navy, Marines and the Air Force) has been involved in three wars with neighbouring India and several border skirmishes with Afghanistan.
Since 1947 it has maintained strong presence along with its inter-services in the Arab states during the past Arab-Israeli Wars, and aided the coalition in the first Gulf War. Recently, major joint-operations undertaken by the Army include Operation Black Thunderstorm and Operation Rah-e-Nijat. Apart from conflicts, the army has been an active participant in UN missions and played a major role in rescuing trapped American soldiers from Mogadishu of Somalia in 1993 in Operation Gothic Serpent. Under the Article 243, the Constitution of Pakistan appoints the President of Pakistan as the civilian Commander-in-Chief. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), by statute a four-star general, is appointed by the President with the consultation and confirmation needed from the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Pakistan Army is currently commanded by General Raheel Sharif.
The Pakistan Army was created on 30 June 1947 from the division of the British Indian Army. The then soon to be created Dominion of Pakistan received six armoured, eight artillery and eight infantry regiments compared to the 12 armoured, forty artillery and twenty one infantry regiments that went to India. Fearing that India would take over the state of Kashmir, irregulars, scouts and tribal groups entered the Muslim majority state of Kashmir to oppose the Maharaja of Kashmir 1947. In response to this, the Maharaja acceded to India. The Indian Armed Forces were then deployed to Kashmir. This led to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. Regular Army units joined the invasion later on but were stopped after the refusal of the Chief of Army Staff, British officer General Sir Frank Messervy, to obey Pakistani leader Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s orders to move the Army into Kashmir.
A ceasefire followed on UN intervention with Pakistan occupying the northwestern part of Kashmir and India occupying the rest. Later, during the 1950s, the Pakistan Army received large amounts of economic and military aid from the United States and Great Britain after signing two mutual defence treaties, the Baghdad Pact, which led to the formation of the Central Treaty Organization, and the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954. This aid greatly expanded the Pakistan Army from its modest beginnings. The sole divisions that went to Pakistan were the 7th. 8th and 9th Divisions. The 10th, 12th and 14th Divisions were raised in 1948. The 15th Division of the Army was raised in 1950. At some point before 1954, the 6th Division was raised and the 9th Division was disbanded.
Pakistan Army took over from politicians for the first time when General Ayub Khan came to power through a bloodless coup in 1958. He formed Convention Muslim League which included Z.A. Bhutto, who would later become Pakistan’s first democratically elected Prime Minister. Tensions with India flared in the 1960s and a brief border skirmish was fought near the Rann of Kutch area during April 1965. The Army attacked India from the Kashmir front. In response on the night of 6 September 1965 Indian Armyopened the war front to Punjab Province of Pakistan, The Indian Army reached near the Pakistani city of Lahore, eventually capturing a large area of Pakistan but a treaty was reached and the area was given back. The war ended with UN backed ceasefire and followed by Tashkent Declaration. According to the Library of Congress Country Studies conducted by the Federal Research Division of the United States, the war was inconclusive militarily. The war was militarily inconclusive; each side held prisoners and some territory belonging to the other.
The Pakistan Army considers itself to have achieved a victory because it simply insists and ignores the treaty of Tashkent by saying it was arranged by USSR, who managed to hold off significantly larger force attacking Pakistani territory at different points, which the Pakistan Army did not expect and was not prepared or equipped for. Indian sources as well as most neutral sources disagree and call the end result an Indian victory. All though Pakistan failed in gaining all of Kashmir, there was highly effective support from the Pakistan Air Force which was unexpected is often considered to have neutralized India’s advantage in quantity of forces to a great extent. The accurate artillery fire provided by the Pakistan Army artillery units is also stated to have played a significant role. An uprising against General Ayub Khan during 1968 and 1969 resulted in Ayub Khan relinquishing his office as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Army in favour of General Yahya Khan, who assumed power in 1969. The 16th Division, 18th Division and the 23rd Division were raised at some point between 1966 and 1969 and the 9th Division was also re-raised during this period.
During the rule of Yahya Khan, the people of East Pakistan protested against various political and economic disparities that had been imposed on them by West Pakistan and massive civil unrest broke out in East Pakistan. During operations against these rebels, called Operation Searchlight, a faction of the Pakistan Army was responsible for the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. Beginning with the start of Operation Searchlight on 25 March 1971 and due to the Bangladesh Liberation War, there were numerous human rights abuses in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) perpetrated by the Pakistan Army, with support from local political and religious militias, especially against Hindus. Time reported a high ranking US official as saying “It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland.”
The original plan envisioned taking control of the major cities on 26 March 1971, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. The prolonged Bengali resistance was not anticipated by Pakistani planners. The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in the mid of May. Soon heavy fighting broke out between the Pakistan Army and the Indian-backed Bengali rebels. In this period the Pakistan Army killed an estimated 3 million people. In December 1971 Pakistan attacked India’s western air bases, in an attempt to thwart Indian support for the rebels. This officially led to start of the Pakistan India War of 1971 (also called the Bangladesh Liberation War). In the eastern theatre the Pakistan Army was decimated by the Indian Army and rebels, while in the western front the Pakistan Army was defeated in the battles of Basanter and Longewalla.
On 16 December 1971, Lt. Gen A. A. K. Niazi, CO of Pakistan Army forces located in East Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender. Over 93,000 Pakistani personnel surrendered to the Indian and Bengali forces making it the largest surrender since World War II. In 1997 R. J. Rummel published a book, available on the web, called “Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900”, In Chapter 8 called “Statistics Of Pakistan’s Democide Estimates, Calculations, And Sources” he looks at the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Rummel wrote:
- In East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) [the President of Pakistan, General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, and his top generals] also planned to murder its Bengali intellectual, cultural, and political elite. They also planned to indiscriminately murder hundreds of thousands of its Hindus and drive the rest into India. And they planned to destroy its economic base to insure that it would be subordinate to West Pakistan for at least a generation to come. This plan may be perceived as genocide.
According to Maj. (Retd.) Agha Humayun Amin, the Pakistan Army commanders had not seriously considered an Indian invasion of East Pakistan until December 1971 because it was presumed that the Indian military would not risk Chinese or US intervention. Maj Mazhar states that the Pakistan Army’s senior command failed to realize that the Chinese would be unable to intervene during the winter months of November to December due to snowbound Himalayan passes and the US had not made any real effort to persuade India against attacking East Pakistan.
A Pakistan International Airlines flight was sent to fetch Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from New York, who at that time was presenting Pakistan’s case before the United Nations Security Council on the East Pakistan Crises. Bhutto returned home on 18 December 1971. On 20 December, he was taken to the President House in Rawalpindi where he took over two positions from Yahya Khan, one as President and the other as Chief Martial Law Administrator. Thus he was the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator of the Pakistan. In October 1999, after the Kargil Conflict ended with the unconditional withdrawal of the Pakistani forces from the Indian controlled peaks, the Pakistan Army overthrew a democratically elected government for the fourth time, resulting in additional sanctions being applied against Pakistan, leading to General Pervez Musharraf coming to power in a bloodless coup. However, this time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sacked Musharraf when he was on his way to Pakistan from Colombo.
He dismissed the Army Chief and appointed General Ziauddin Butt as Army Chief when Musharraf’s plane was in the air. That was not enough, the plane was not allowed to land at the airport in Karachi and barricades were erected on the runway. The corps commanders acted swiftly across Pakistan, particularly in Karachi and Islamabad. Brigadiar Muzaffar Usmani took control of the airport in Karachi and arrested the then Inspector General of Sindh Police, Rana Maqbool Ahmed. Musharraf stepped down as President in August 2008. On 30 July 2009, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule was unconstitutional.
After the September 11 attacks in the United States, Pakistan joined the US-led War on Terror and helped the United States armed forces by severing ties with the Taliban and immediately deploying 72,000 troops along Pakistan’s western border to capture or kill Taliban and al-Qaida militants fleeing from Afghanistan. On the north western front, Pakistan initially garrisoned its troops in military bases and forts in the tribal areas. In May 2004 clashes erupted between the Pakistani troops and al-Qaeda’s and other militants joined by local rebels and pro-Taliban forces. However, the offensive was poorly coordinated and the Army suffered heavy casualties, while public support for the attack quickly evaporated. After a two-year conflict from 2004 until 2006, the Pakistani military negotiated a ceasefire with the tribesmen from the region in which they pledged to hunt down al-Qaeda members, stop the Talibanisation of the region and stop attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the militants did not hold up their end of the bargain and began to regroup and rebuild their strength from the previous two years of conflict.
Militants took over the Lal Masjid in Islamabad. After a six-month standoff fighting erupted again in July 2007 when the Pakistani military decided to use force to end the Lal Masjid threat. Once the operation ended, the newly formed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP (also known as the Pakistan Taliban), an umbrella group of all militants based in FATA, vowed revenge and launched a wave of attacks and suicide bombings which erupted all over North-West Pakistan and major Pakistani cities, including Karachi, throughout 2007. The militants then expanded their base of operations and moved into the neighbouring Swat Valley, where they imposed Sharia law. The Pakistan Army launched an offensive to re-take the Swat Valley in 2007, but was unable to clear it of the militants who had fled into the mountains and waited for them to leave before taking over the valley again. The militants then launched another wave of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. The Pakistani government and military tried another peace deal with the militants in Swat Valley in 2008. This was roundly criticized in the West as abdicating to the militants. After initially pledging to lay down their arms if Sharia law was implemented, the Pakistani Taliban subsequently used the Swat Valley as a springboard to launch further attacks into neighbouring regions, reaching to within 60 kilometres (37 mi) of Islamabad.
Public opinion then turned decisively against the Taliban terrorists. This opinion was highlighted following the release of a video showing the flogging of a girl by the Pakistani Taliban in Swat Valley. Similar events and terrorist attacks finally forced the Pakistan Army to launch a decisive attack against the Taliban occupying Swat Valley in April 2009, after having received orders from the political leadership. After heavy fighting the Swat Valley was largely pacified by July 2009, although isolated pockets of Taliban remained in the area.
The next phase of the Pakistan Army’s offensive was the formidable Waziristan region. A US drone attack killed the leader of the Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, in August. A power struggle engulfed the Taliban during September, but by October a new leader had emerged, Hakimullah Mehsud. Under his leadership, the Taliban launched another wave of terrorist attacks throughout Pakistan, killing hundreds of people. After a few weeks of air strikes, artillery and mortar attacks, 30,000 troops moved on South Waziristan, in a three pronged attack. The Pakistan Army re-took South Waziristan and is currently thinking of expanding the campaign to North Waziristan. On April 2012 an avalanche struck the 6th Northern Light Infantry Battalion headquarters in Ghyari sector of Siachen, entrapping 135 soldiers.