Musings on the Pakistan Army: Saga of Massive Defeats
The Obverse of the Indian Army
Both the Pakistani and Indian army trace their heritage to the British Indian army. The formation of this force can be traced to the East India company. This company ruled India till 1858, before its rule was superseded by the crown. The army then became the British Indian army and was put on a firm footing by incorporating the "Articles of War" in 1892.
The British divided the Indian nation into martial and non-martial races. This division was made after studying the history of the various races as well the experience of the British in battle with Indian races and clans.Thus the Sikhs, Gurkhas, Punjabi Muslims, Dogras among other were classified as martial races and allowed to enlist in the army.
The British Indian army had thus regiments that were both Hindu and Muslim. In 1947 with the partition of India and creation of a Muslim state of Pakistan, perforce the British Indian army was also divided. Muslim regiments were allocated to Pakistan, while others became the army of India. The Muslim regiments became the army of Pakistan. Both the armies( Indian and Pakistan) had similar origins and a secular culture. Both the army's had similar ethos and culture. But here the similarity ended, as Pakistan army veered away from its original ethos and culture and adopted an Islamic concept. The Islamization of the army gathered pace during the reign of President Zia-ul-Haq, often referred to as the "Mulla General;"
Entry into Politics after the First Kashmir War
In 1947, just after Independence, the Pakistan leadership led by Jinnah decided that Kashmir must be incorporated as a part of Pakistan as it was a Muslim majority state. An invasion of the state was authorized under the guise of local tribal warriors. The tribal force aided by the Pakistan army thought a quick victory was at hand and Kashmir would be made to accede to Pakistan.
They advanced into the valley, but it had a reverse effect: The Maharajah of Kashmir, Hari Singh panicked and signed on the dotted line to accede to India. The Indian army now moved in and the raiders aided by the Pakistan army were ousted out of the Kashmir valley. Kashmir became a part of the Indian union. Thus the dream of annexing Kashmir blew up in the face of the Military-political leadership at that time. However, Jinnah's adventure had some benefit, as Pakistan was able to hold on to a third of Kashmir, namely the Gilgit-Baltistan region as Nehru at a critical juncture agreed for a cease-fire in December 1948.
The political leadership failed to establish any roots in Pakistan and there was all around instability. In 1958 General Mohammed Ayub Khan seized power in a military coup. He established martial law and brought in the army in all spheres of civilian administration. This was a retrograde step as over the years the Pakistan army lost its professional elan as senior officers lobbied for plum civil appointments.
Fall of Ayub Khan and Failure in 1965
The Pakistan military now set about running the country. General Ayub Khan had however grandiose dreams of taking Kashmir. In addition, the Pakistan army had a poor opinion of the "Hindu" Indian army and they expected an easy victory. In 1965 "Operation Gibraltar" was launched. The idea was to infiltrate the valley with Mujahideen and engineer an uprising by the local Muslims. The Pak army was then to be thrown in to annex Kashmir. The plan was code-named “Operation Grand slam".
Both the operations failed miserably. No uprising by locals took place and the Pakistan army itself got bogged down in the Chamb sector. The Indian army opened a second front in Punjab at Lahore and Sialkot and Pakistan came under pressure. In addition to severe fighting, the Indian army captured strategic heights in Kashmir. Pakistan after their failure accepted a cease-fire. This defeat had its repercussions and Ayub Khan was ousted and General Yahiya Khan became President.
Loss of More than half the country
In 1971 an event of great importance took place. The Pakistan army created history as in a war with India it lost half the country with a larger population. The state of East Pakistan seceded from Pakistan and an independent state of Bangladesh was created. No country after the Second World War has suffered as big a defeat as the Pakistan army suffered in 1971.
The reasons for the conflict are well known, suffice that the Pak army was out of its depth and created history with 93000 soldiers surrendering, as they had lost the will to fight. The surrender ceremony was accepted by the Pakistan C-in- General Niazi and took place before cameras at the stadium in Dacca. One reason for the defeat was a complete abdication of the principles of war as the army enmeshed in politics failed woefully to give a fitting reply to a more professional Indian army. Heads had to roll after this defeat and Yahiya Khan was ousted.
Pakistan army does not inspire confidence
The Pakistan army under General Musharraf again started an operation in the Kargil heights of Kashmir. This again failed and the state of Pakistan achieved nothing. Further weaknesses were exposed when unknown to the Pak army special commandos of the US Navy entered Pakistan and shot dead the noted terrorist Osama bin Laden who had been given a safe haven by the Pak army. In an earlier incident, 28 Pak soldiers were gunned down by NATO forces on the border, as they were not alert enough. Even the so-called operation against extremists in Waziristan has achieved little, despite the use of air bombardment.
It is a sad state of affairs and as a soldier, I can pinpoint one significant reason for this and that is that the army is so enmeshed in the politics of Pakistan that it has little time for anything else and that includes professional training. I wonder how the Pakistan army is still praised by the people, even after it has lost half the country and suffered defeats galore everywhere
The army is firmly in control in Pakistan and it has got a constitutional guarantee as a pillar of power. The COAS is the most powerful man in Pakistan but it does not mean the army is equipped to fight better. The cross-border attacks in Kashmir are taking a heavy toll and as per sources, the Pak army is suffering double the casualties vis a vis the Indian army. One wonders where the Pak army will lead the nation in future as an insurrection is on in Baluchistan and the Pak Taliban and others are active on the western front.