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Pakistan Reader# 371, 22 August 2022

Pakistan at 75: The rise and rise of the military



Rana Banerji

The Pakistan Army came into existence in August, 1947 as `the largely muslim rump of the British Indian Army’,[i] saddled from the outset with the paradox of coping with a great insecurity of existence, yet emerging as the only professional institution of state, which could be relied upon to not only sustain the symbols of Islam which led to the creation of the State but also help fulfill the goal of political and social development of its people.

Partition, and the bloodshed that ensued, bequeathed to Pakistan an incomplete state apparatus, a disproportionate refugee crisis and a fraction of the resources needed to manage the enormous challenges the nascent state faced.[ii] The army arrogated to itself the responsibility to defend the ideology of Pakistan, and protect its sovereignty and very existence. Embracing Islamic ideological underpinnings - of Imam (belief), taqwa (fear of Allah), and jihad-fi-sabilillah (fight in cause of Allah), it remains pledged to `Fighting to the end’.
 
Six general characteristics of strategic culture were embraced: [iii]
Firsts, opposition to Indian hegemony: stemming partly from history, also arising from troubled relations over Kashmir;
 
Second, primacy of defence requirements: Pakistan now spends close to USD 7.5 bn (PRs 1.53 trillion) every year ranking it 19th in terms of military expenditure alone. Its Army is over 6,50,000 strong – the Defence Budget, with debt servicing and concealed expenditure under different heads, amounts to 60 per cent of its GDP; The Army has also ventured into the private sector, to perpetuate economic benefits for its retired personnel;[iv]
 
Third, nuclear deterrence: Pakistan acquired nuclear capability in 1974 (formally acknowledged in 1987). Claimed to be India-specific initially, it has moved from a position of minimum credible deterrence to full spectrum deterrence, committing itself to second strike capability and parity with India through pursuit of land, air and naval nuclear capacity (nuclear triad); Pakistan rejects ‘no first use’ and professes intention to deploy ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ in response to Indian offensives; The Military has complete control over nuclear policy;
 
Fourth, acceptance, but not over-reliance on outside assistance: Pakistan has consistently sought and received foreign supplies of modern weapons hardware and military training.
 
Fifth, stability on Western border- quest for ‘strategic depth’ for conventional and nuclear assets: this objective, excluding Indian influence from Afghanistan, was achieved with the Taliban’s takeover last year;
 
Sixth, identification with conservative Islamic causes: the emphasis on Muslim nationalism or ‘Islam’ as the guiding or rallying force for institutions of State and governance;
 
The Military’s Orbat
The Army has nine Corps and a Strategic Forces Command, which oversees deployment of nuclear capable missiles. The two-attack corps are located at Mangla and Multan. The Defensive corps (against India) are based at Rawalpindi (X Corps, also has an attack role in the Northern Areas) Gujranwala, Lahore and Bahawalpur. The Western border is looked after by the XI Corps at Peshawar and the XII Corps at Quetta. V Corps, Karachi serves as reserve. In recent times, Pakistan Army has set up Area Commands on the pattern of the Indian Army- Northern (Rawalpindi), Central (Lahore) and Southern Commands (Quetta).
 
COIN
Pakistan Army’s initial experience of fighting militancy, mainly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), (but later also in Swat of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and against the Pakistani Taliban, inside Punjab), from 2003-04 was disconcerting, against insurgents who had all modern weapons except tanks and airplanes. This forced doctrinal changes in Army training institutions like the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul and the Command and Staff College, Quetta. Pakistan Army soldiers and officers were told to re-learn basic counter insurgency operations (COIN), to cope with threats emanating not only from the traditional arch- enemy (India) but also from the indoctrinated jehadi ideologue within.

Since then, the Army has followed a policy of limited offensives with sufficient force to ‘clear, hold and build’ in FATA and Swat – superior equipment received from the US - AH- 64 Cobra helicopters and precision-guided munitions for air to surface attacks helped achieve these objectives under operations `Zarb e Azb’( June 2014- Feb 2017) and `Radd-ul-Fasaad’ (Feb 2017- present).
 
Continued reliance on asymmetric option of `Non- State actors’ against India
Addressing print & electronic media editors in a closed-door session at GHQ in March, 2018, Gen Bajwa talked of a `De-weaponised’ Pakistan where only the State is authorised to use force for `jehad’; without differentiation between `good’ or `bad’ terrorists, they would be `mainstreamed’ into politics. However, there has been no discernible let up in the abetment of trans-border violence by Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Mohammed terrorists, especially in Jammu & Kashmir.
 
Weapon holdings
Most of Pakistan’s modern military equipment comes from USA and China. In later years Pakistan received missiles and nuclear weapon components from China and North Korea; It has major armaments manufacture facilities at the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Wah the Heavy Industries Complex, at Taxila as well as other nuclear component units which have come up at Sanjwal, Fatehjung, and near Lahore. State of art Air Force facilities exist at Kamra and Sargodha.
 
Civil Military imbalance
The Pakistan military has disrupted the democratic process in Pakistan repeatedly in the past, both through direct martial law governance and indirect or `hybrid’ control, exercising a veto from behind the scenes, especially on security and nuclear policies. It tried to sustain this `carefully curated halfway house between democracy and dictatorship’, curbing avenues of dissent and opposition, `using its rivalry with India to legitimize its political and economic power and to place itself above reproach’, to keep `running the country from behind the thinnest façade of civilian rule.[v] Academics and sections of liberal intelligentsia within Pakistan credulously watched two sets of relationships emerging: `(a) between military governments and the civil bureaucracy; and (b) between political regimes and the civil bureaucracy, which suffered from `trust deficit at both ends’.[vi]
 
The recent fracas between ousted Prime Minister, Imran Khan and sitting Army Chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, which ruptured over the transfer of the Director General, Inter Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed in October, 2021  has seen the troubled relationship descend to unforeseen depths, with a favoured flunkey of Khan calling for internal revolt within the Army.
 
The nature of this crisis seemed `fundamentally different from apparently similar ones in the past when political parties used to vie with, even conspire against, one another for favours of the Miltablishment.[vii] This process now presaged `a historic role reversal’, where the Army’s failures in imposing different hybrid models were being questioned by discerning critics in civil society.
 
The future of Pakistan’s ‘hybrid’ constructs
Despite flaws in its `hybrid’ experiments, the Army leadership continues to act well beyond its limit, in violation of constitutional norms, if necessary interfering in elections. Recent disclosures by Justice (retd) Shaukat Siddiqui, who was eased out from the Islamabad High Court in 2018, show how the Army has not hesitated to fire its salvos from shoulders of a supine judiciary. In fact, in his case and later, now in some cases affecting the political fortunes of deposed Prime Minister Imran Khan, even the Judiciary has used the Army’s shoulders in reverse, to put its leadership under pressure. Imran has got away with all manner of accusations against the so called “neutrals”. However, the allegations voiced by his lieutenant Shahbaz Gill, calling for mutiny within Army’s ranks could prove to be the proverbial last straw. The Army will now think seriously once again, how to dump their own protégé and reverse his populist narrative, if only to maintain its iron grip over power.  Though current Army Chief, Gen Bajwa and former DG, ISI, Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed may have become controversial, there is no evidence of any change in the Army’s mind set, to let go of various instrumentalities, to influence political developments, albeit indirectly. In overall terms, the Army continues to hold civilian politicians in contempt. It does not like its own Generals who kowtow to civilian political leaders. 
 
The question which looms before Pakistan’s civil society is how long it will remain prepared to cynically bear up with current practices of governance under such `hybrid’ constructs?  Any change in this security ridden narrative, and a redressal of the civil-military imbalance will have to come as a movement within Pakistan, it cannot be imposed from outside.[viii] I do not see this change happening any time soon.

References

[i] Shuja Nawaz: `Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the wars within’: Oxford University Press, 2008;

[ii] C.Christine Fair: `Fighting to the end: The Pakistan Army’s way of war’: Oxford University Press, 2014;

[iii] Peter R. Lavoy: `Pakistan’s strategic culture’: US Defence Threat Reduction Agency report, Oct , 2006;available at http:/.www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/dtra/Pakistan.pdf;

[iv] Ayesha Siddiqa: `Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s military economy’: Pluto Press, London 2007, updated edition,2017;

[v] Aqil Shah: `Will Pakistan’s Military Lose Its Grip on Power?’: Foreign Affairs: 12.2020 : www.foreignaffairs.com;

[vi] Ayesha Siddiqa: ` The politician versus the bureaucracy’: The News: 10.05.21: www.thenews.com.pk;

[vii] Najam Sethi: ` Trojan horses’: The Friday Times, May 28, 2021 :www.fridaytimes.com;

[viii] Sharat Sabharwal: `India’s Pakistan conundrum: Managing a troubled relationship’: Routledge, 2022;

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