Pakistan Army: six & a half decades of selfless service
By Group Captain Sultan M. Hali (Retd.) S. I. (M)
Pakistan Army has been selflessly at the beck and call of the nation at every trial and tribulation. Each calamity, every catastrophe that Pakistan faced ever since its inception, found Pakistan Army responding to the call of the people. Earthquakes, deluge, floods, fires, wars and other calamities, found the Army leading the effort to defend, rescue and rehabilitate the people of Pakistan. It was baptism under fire for the fledgling army in August 1947, when marauding and barbarous Sikh and Hindu hordes set upon the refugee caravans migrating to Pakistan. The mass exodus of the Muslims of the subcontinent from India was ravaged and attacked by the fanatics thus necessitating the Pakistan Army being pressed into the service of protecting the refugee caravans.
1947-1948 Kashmir War. Directly after the partition, Indian forces landed in Srinagar and surreptitiously occupied the Valley of Kashmir, contrary to the diktat of the Indian Independence Act 1947. Pakistan Army was again pressed into the onerous task of trying to liberate Kashmir from the Indian invaders; resulting in the 1947-1948 Kashmir War. Devoid of weapons and arms, the Pakistan Army managed to set free some portions of the Valley, which form Azad Jammu and Kashmir while the rest remains occupied by India. For the last six and a half decades, Pakistan Army has stood vigilant at the Cease Fire Line, which later became the Line of Control, lest Indians attempt further adventurism.
1965 Pak-India War. In September 1965, Indian forces furtively crossed the international boundary with the malicious intent of occupying Pakistan. It was once again the Pakistan Army that picked up the gauntlet of defending Pakistan against the treacherous assault of a force three times its size. The names of the valiant soldiers, who preserved the sovereignty of Pakistan at the supreme sacrifice of their lives, will be emblazoned with gilded letters in the annals of Pakistan’s history. The enthusiasm and spirit of the people and Armed Forces in the 1965 War proved to be Pakistan’s finest hour. The Armed Forces proved their mettle against a vastly superior force and stopped it in its tracks. Pakistan’s valiant sons stood united as one solid edifice to defend their motherland.
Road to Development.
Pakistan was a member of US-led defence pacts SEATO and CENTO, but instead of supporting Pakistan in the face of Indian aggression, the US slapped an arms embargo on both Pakistan and India. The prohibition did not affect India since all its weapons systems were of Soviet origin. The arms embargo on Pakistan following the 1965 War, made it strive for self reliance and diversify its sources. The Pakistan Ordnance Factory, which was established in 1951, at Wah Cantonment, near Rawalpindi, to produce small arms, ammunition, and explosives was modernized and expanded to meet the challenges of modern armed forces. The blue print for Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila, as an arms rebuilding factory was also laid. Heavy Industries Taxila provides facilities for overhaul, rebuild and progressive manufacture of Main Battle Tanks, Armoured Recovery Vehicles, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), guns and production of MBT-2000 Al-Khalid, and Al-Zarrar Tanks. In addition it has the capability to rebuild, upgrade and modernize Armoured Vehicles of both Eastern and Western origin.
1971 Pak-India War. In 1971, India, which had never accepted the creation of Pakistan and was bent upon dismembering it, hatched a macabre plan of activating separatist elements in erstwhile East Pakistan and trained and armed rebels to carry out their heinous agenda. The birth of Bangladesh is embodied in gory tales of how the besieged Pakistan Army fought with limited personnel and weapons, the enemy from across the border and the one entrenched within. The battle for East Pakistan was lost but the Pakistan Army fought valiantly and its officers and men will be remembered for their bravery.
The dismemberment of Pakistan’s eastern wing gave it a new resolve to work hard and stand on its own feet. The road to development, self reliance and indigenization has enabled Pakistan to develop its own missiles, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, submarines, ships and aircraft.
The acquisition of modern weapons and equipment in Pakistan Army along with its indigenous production of combat arms and ammunition proved to be a major source of motivation for the troops to meet any challenge to Pakistan’s sovereignty. After the success of its major developments in the defense industry the Defense Export Promotion Organization (D.E.P.O.) was created to promote Pakistani defense equipment to the world by inviting major and small players to the I.D.E.A.S. Exhibition, which is held annually at the Karachi expo center.
Siachen. On April 13, 1984, Indian Army surreptitiously launched “Operation Meghdoot” (cold messenger) and occupied positions overlooking key passes in the Saltoro Range. Learning of the occupation, Pakistan Army tried to wrest control and launched attacks. Being at relatively lower altitudes, it was at a handicap and could not retake the positions, but it has maintained a military presence since, occasionally exchanging fire and ensuring that the Indians do not advance any further.
In the last 28 years, about 5000 soldiers have laid down their lives in defending their respective positions, nearly 1,000 Pakistani and 4,000 Indians. The major toll has been due to inclement weather and hostile terrain. Avalanches and landslides wipe out whole units; the air is so thin that it is nearly devoid of oxygen causing pulmonary and/or cerebral Edema. Sudden blizzards can bury shelters and field artillery in a matter of minutes; frostbites may lead to amputation of limbs. Reduced fluid intake can lead to kidney failure. The enemy is hard to see in the crags and craters in the vast whiteness—and harder to hit. Rifles must be thawed repeatedly over kerosene stoves, and machine guns need to be primed with boiling water. At altitudes of 18,000 feet, the trajectory of mortar shells is unpredictable due to rarified air and sudden gusts of wind. Yet it is the terrain, which is more hostile than the enemy. Pakistan has been proposing a drawdown of troops from the Siachen by both India and Pakistan but the Indian Army’s egotism has been the stumbling block. Prudence dictates that both sides agree to demilitarize Siachen and let the governments delineate the region based on principles and ethics.
Kargil was not a one off operation but the latest in a series of moves and countermoves at a tactical level by India and Pakistan along the Line of control in the inaccessible snow bounded Northern Areas. Indians had been creeping forward across the Line of control even after Simla agreement. The Kashmiri Freedom fighting mujahedeen occupied the Kargil heights that the Indian army had vacated for the winter. The Indians brought four regular divisions into the area along with a heavy concentration of Artillery. The Kargil operation was a landmark in the history of Pakistan army. As few as five Battalions in support of freedom fighter groups were able to compel the Indians to employ a large number of formations. Our nation remains proud of its commanders and troops, whose grit and determination was obvious and unquestionable.
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1979, Soviet armed forces invaded neighbouring Afghanistan and were poised to cross the Durand Line into Pakistan, in effort to reach the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Once again it befell the Pakistan Army to stop a super power in its tracks. It joined forces with the US and a few Muslim states to train and launch Afghan Mujahedeen to repel the Soviet invasion. After a struggle of nearly a decade, the Soviet Union was forced to retreat ultimately imploding into various smaller states.
Aftermath of 9/11. As an aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the entire world was traumatized but none felt the impact more than Afghanistan, which bore the brunt of the US led invasion by ISAF and NATO troops to decimate Al-Qaeda and depose the Taliban and Pakistan, where some of the fleeing miscreants managed to infiltrate across the porous Durand Line to seek refuge in the treacherous terrain of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, known as FATA and the peaceful and heavenly Valleys of Swat, euphemistically known as Switzerland of the east, because of its beautiful and serene lakes, lush green valleys and tranquil environment.
Pakistan reluctantly joined the US-led war on terror. The prolonged occupation of Pakistan’s western neighbour and the role played by its armed forces brought the wrath of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban upon Pakistan. They not only brought the terrorism on the doorsteps of Pakistanis but exposed its armed forces and security agencies to heinous attacks by suicide bombers. To-date 40,000 Pakistanis have laid down their lives as a result of the terror attacks, 5,000 of them belong to the Armed Forces. The terror mongers occupied the Valley of Swat, established havens in Southern and Northern Afghanistan and were threatening to attack Islamabad. Pakistan Army launched OperationsRah-e-Rast and Rah-
Restoration of the communication infrastructure was accorded top priority and the Army’s Corps of Engineers was tasked with reconstruction and rehabilitation operations in Swat, Dir and Buner districts on 09 July 2009. Undeterred by the inclement weather and hostile environment, the Army Sappers picked up the gauntlet for bringing back the life of the people of the affected areas to normalcy. The militants had created road blocks with debris of pylons and tree trunks to obstruct the movement of the Army into the area and impede the pace of the operations. Working in such adverse conditions, the Army helped rebuild schools, hospitals, bridges, dams and basic communication infrastructure to help rebuild the lives of the shattered people.
Pakistan Army and the nation are firm in their resolve to root out terrorism and are playing a major role in the efforts to counter the menace and making Pakistan a safe and secure land for its citizens, where people from every walk of life, religion and creed, dwell in peace and harmony.
In December 2001 taking advantage of the international environment India carried out massive deployment along its border with Pakistan to coerce Pakistan to regress on Kashmir issue and accept Indian hegemony. Pakistan’s response was swift and timely Due to superior strategy and national resolve response India had to retreat and withdraw its forces unconditionally after ten months of belligerent sabre rattling.
May 2 and November 26, 2011. The two dates are ominous, since an erstwhile ally US, attacked on May 2nd with the help of Navy SEALS and reportedly took out Osama bin Laden from a house in Abbotabad. This clandestine operation conducted clandestinely, without informing Pakistan, caused grave concern to the custodians of Pakistan’s sovereignty. On November 26, US-led NATO forces attacked the Pakistan Army check post in Salala situated on the Afghan border and killed 25 Army personnel. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Pakistan Army urged the government to close down the ground lines of communication for NATO and ISAF transiting logistics through Pakistan. Relationship between the two allies reached their lowest ebb but after a seven month standoff, the ice appears to be melting. Both Pakistan and the United States are combating a common enemy: “Terrorism”. In order to eradicate it and defeat this ten headed Hydra, both have to combine their resources and focus on the task at hand, dropping the trust deficit so that the war on terror can be won.
Military Training system in Pakistan is comprehensive and has a well defined structure. Pakistan Military Academy Kakul is the principal cradle of leadership for officer training for the Army. Through its portals pass, thousands of Gentlemen Cadets, who are moulded from an inchoate mass into magnificent officers, imbibed with fighting spirit, conviction in their national cause, unflinching and selfless devotion to duty. Besides other professional training institutions, Staff College Quetta and National Defence University prepare the officer cadre to face future challenges.
Pakistan Army provides equal opportunities to women, who now proudly serve alongside men to take up the challenges of defending their nation.
Pakistan’s missile program is indigenous and has a wide array of weapon systems in its missile arsenal, which range from the short range Hatf to the medium range Abdali, Ghaznavi and Shaheen and the long range Ghauri and Shaheen 2; Pakistan has successfully tested its indigenous Cruise Missile Babur, which can be launched from ground, air and sea platforms including submarines.
In May 1998, India carried out its second nuclear tests at Pokhran after the first in 1974, and became highly belligerent. Its saber-rattling forced Pakistan to come out of the nuclear closet and conduct tests of its own, declaring to the world that it possessed nuclear weapons for its defence and deterrence of war-mongers but it harbours no aggressive designs against any one.
UN Peacekeeping efforts. Since 1960, Pakistan Army has been actively participating in the UN multi-national efforts to maintain peace and order around the globe. Its contribution to UN peacekeeping has been as wide-ranging as the varied cultural, geographic, political and security conditions in which it had to operate. Congo, West Irian, Somalia, New Guinea, Cambodia, East Timor, Slovenia, Haiti, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Kuwait and Yemen are to name just a few. The humble contribution it has made in this regard bespeaks its desire to see the principles of human dignity, freedom and self-determination applied to all the peoples struggling to secure their inalienable basic rights.
Pakistan Army and Sports go hand in hand. Since the Army remains fit and pays a lot of emphasis on physical activities, it is the backbone of every physical sport in the country. From providing the infrastructure for sports facilities to participants and sponsors, the contribution of the Army in the field of sports and bringing glory to Pakistan in national and international events is unparalleled.
Conclusion. Pakistan Army has come a long way from its modest beginning. The story of the evolution of the Armed Forces of Pakistan is the story of the birth of Pakistan itself against heavy odds. Pakistan’s armed forces, though they present a formidable strength today, virtually started from a scratch. Post partition, the military assets of British India was unjustly divided in a ratio of 64: 36% between India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, Indian spitefulness resulted in Pakistan receiving only a fraction of its original share and that too in a dilapidated state. Owing to the Quaid’s exhortations, Pakistan Army made a sound start, despite the early teething problems due to unequal distribution of assets, our founding fathers made prudent decisions, which put Pakistan on the road to development.
The Army has played a major role in improving the socio-economic conditions of the tribal belt and Balochistan and has uplifted them through a sustained focus on its human resource development, education, health, communication infrastructure and poverty reduction.
The armed forces of Pakistan have always responded to any calamity, natural or manmade, to help not only Pakistanis in distress but humanity worldwide; whether it was the massive earthquake that caused havoc and devastation in Kashmir and northern areas of Pakistan. The Tsunami in Far East or floods in Turkey or cyclone in Bangladesh, Pakistan Army has responded with all its strength and missionary zeal to aid mankind. Contribution towards national development by the armed forces has not been confined to the defence sector; Pakistan Armed Forces in general and Pakistan Army in particular have contributed to building roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other basic amenities.
The Karakoram Highway is a clear example of a daring feat of construction in one of the most treacherous terrains of the world. Restructuring of the Sukkur Barrage was a challenging task, which the engineers of Pakistan Army successfully accomplished.
Pakistan Army has never demurred from lending a helping hand whenever asked to do so. It has performed multifarious tasks in the aid of civil power, whenever the occasion arose, whether it was duties during census or elections, anti-dacoit actions, tracking ghost schools, medical aid, and evacuation of flood, fire or train accident victims. Its Cantonments provide sanctity and security along with job opportunities and basic amenities like education, medical and sports facilities to local civilians residing in the vicinity.
Armed Forces organizations like SCO, FWO and NLC play a major role in providing logistics and laying the communication infrastructure in the most demanding of terrains.
During the last sixty-five years, Pakistan army has evolved into a highly motivated, modern and professional force defending the ideological and geographical frontiers of Pakistan. Equipped with state-of-the-art weapon systems, organized under sound structures and supported by battle-tested doctrines, it stands alert to serve Pakistan, both in peace, and war, to deter and combat any enemy, within and without, never being reluctant even to make the supreme sacrifice of their lives. During the last six and a half decades of Pakistan’s existence, the defenders of Pakistan have withstood multifarious challenges and tests of time. Backed by the people of Pakistan, its Army always rose to the occasion, be it guarding the frontiers in war, protecting the lives of people in various calamities, rendering services for nation building, purging the society of the menace of extremism/terrorism or service to humanity in various UN missions. The Pakistan Army makes the nation proud of its service with honour, dignity, dedication and commitment.
The Army that stands behind its people in their moments of trial during peace time has the nation stand behind it like one solid edifice during war.