IPCS Discussion

Pakistan Army: Composition, Character and Compulsions

23 Apr, 2014    ·   4405

IPCS Discussion on Rana Banerji’s monograph, ‘Pakistan Army: Composition, Character and Compulsions’, organised in collaboration with the Pakistan Studies Programme, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi.

Opening Remarks
Amb TCA Rangachari
Director, MMAJ Academy of International Studies, JMI

The monograph provides an account of the Pakistan Army that has always occupied a dominant position in Pakistan. It traces the historical influences that are key to shaping the Army’s functioning. It gives a detailed social backgrounder and talks about military doctrines and the strategic compulsions of the Army, the status of its leadership and internal cohesion. It also provides a detailed account of its civil-military relations.

Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain
Former Indian Army General Officer

The chief question driving this discussion is, what can be expected from the Pakistani Army in the future? The Pakistani Army was built during 1947-71, and it underwent a transition during 1971. Ever since, the significance of the Army has not dwindled. The credit for retaining this prominence goes to the Army itself.

Several factors that were skipped from the monograph but are of critical importance are – the issue of raising the centralised core reserves (CCRs) as had been discussed in 1991; the Indian Army imitating the innovative structure and fine leadership skills of the Pakistani Army; and the 22 out of 66 deployed brigades in southwest Pakistan.

Another vital aspect is the emotive issue of Siachen between India and Pakistan. The avalanche that killed nearly 150 men in 2011-12 raised the question of whether stationing the Army in such terrain was a feasible option. Like Kashmir, Siachen too is an emotive issue and cannot be delinked from it. However, has Pakistan been able to develop a certain level of trust with India wherein the Indian forces can afford to leave the terrain? Can one risk losing another 500 lives like during the Kargil War? Leaving the terrain at this juncture would not be advisable as there is no knowledge of Pakistan’s tactics and future moves. With greater advancements in science and technology in the future, a better environment for the troops can be created.

However, as of now, a complete withdrawal of the troops from the region would impose a sense of paranoia since athat level of trust with Pakistan has not been attained.

Another dimension is the ever-evolving dynamic of Kashmir with respect to the role of the Pakistani Army. How do they look perceive the Line of Control? Will there be stabilisation of the security situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir and the LOC? There is a strong sense of a change of heart within the Pakistan Army. Although such changes are going to be slow, the unpredictable nature of the Pakistani Army cannot be ignored.

Sushant Sareen
Senior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation

The Pakistani Army is among the most important institutions in Pakistan. The monograph has highlighted a few factors that play key roles in the strategic discourse, such as the position of dominance of the Army. In terms of ethnicity, the monograph also points out that ethnic influences play a major role within the Army. Ethnic origin-wise, most of the chiefs have primarily been Punjabis followed by Pashtuns. With the ethnic diversity evolving within the military, the nature of Pashtun nationalism is also being altered to Islamised Pashtun nationalism. Another subject of concern for the Pakistani Army is dealing with the insurgent elements. This is with regard to the Taliban that has created a fear of the fundamentalists within Pakistan. How does the Army curb this accelerating paranoia?

There were other aspects mentioned in the monograph that draw counter-views, such as the element of a liberal thinking process within the Army. Modern thought is not always favourably viewed within the Army since it has a conservative outlook. The parody is that while India continues to make all the concessions, Pakistan does not. This questions the role of its dominance and challenges its efficacy. However, the Army continues to demonstrate the ability to take decisions for ‘big ticket items’ such as for the civilian government in terms of delivery and function. Thus, the controllability factor and level of authority of the Army is challenged.

The Army has also leveraged significant state failure to receive assistance from the rest of the world. It has been drawing aid and acquisitions from various quarters across the globe including the US, China and Saudi Arabia.

Since the Taliban exhibits a ‘spoiled child syndrome,’ it becomes difficult for the Army to control or deal with it. The insurgent group’s radicalised approach creates a grave challenge for the Army to enforce consistent limits on the Taliban. This results in significant collateral damage for all the parties involved in Pakistan in addition to affecting the internal coherence of the Army.

With regard to the use of American concepts and adaptation – the Pakistani Army can be termed to be using the ‘sledgehammer approach’. It uses the most direct and convenient methods that suits itself even though it may not be the most efficient means. It has been using high technological weaponry in Kashmir; i.e. a borrowed concept from the US. The question is whether by adapting such tactics the Army will be able to pacify its chaotic areas since it has failed to do so for the US itself.

Professor SD Muni
Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi

From the onset, the Pakistani Army’s top leadership has been obsessed with the insecurity that India poses vis-à-vis its Army. Owing to the inequities in the division of assets during Partition, these feelings are justified. However, this insecurity towards India raised a sense of pride and challenge for the Army to build itself as a professional unit.

There are a few other questions that need answering, such as, what is the role of the US in building the Army? What was the process of transition of the Army to Islamisation? What was the Army’s political agenda and what did it do in the political spectrum of the country? When Bhutto wanted to curb the role of the Army - why did she fail in doing so? The monograph also does not deal with the Chinese and Saudi Arabian influences on the Army despite their significant role in building a strong alliance with the latter.

The US provides approximately US$300 million annually to Pakistan’s military finances. The Army also continues to receive security-related assistance that is worth a billion dollars. In such a scenario, how are the implications of this bilateral cooperation going to affect South Asia in the future?A

Assessments regarding the extent of Islamisation within the Army vary since no precise data is available. Estimates indicate that 15-20 per cent of the Army is sympathetic towards Islamic radicalisation. This transition has affected the professional sphere of the defence sector and questions its future growth and impact.

There are four noteworthy events in the history of the ISI wherein it failed to deliver and provide substantial evidence for the following – the coup against Benazir Bhutto, assassination of Zia ul-haq, attacks on Musharraf and the GHQ.

•The Pakistani Army has often been referred to as having ‘good intentions’ with regard to negotiations with India. Considering its frequent change of priorities, is there a misconception that it has a soft approach towards India while it has also been vocal about its aim to overwhelm India?
•Is nuclear deterrence a cause of worry? Do we see a need for the 15 core militarisation process to persist?
•In the issue of Siachen, is there potential for negotiation? How viable are the projected options?
•What are the future implications of the US resuming its robust relationship with Pakistan?
•To what extent will the Pakistan Army undermine Pashtun nationalism?
•How far will Saudi Arabia and China go to promote the Pakistani Army and Pakistan? What are the major compulsions behind it?
•There is an issue of priorities be it tactical, operational or strategic. The most important of these is tactical. The Pakistani Army’s main modus operandi has been tactical conduct in which they have seen significant success.
•Pakistan’s nuclear capability is said to be India specific as the military is in control of Pakistan’s nuclear policy. Since the state has rejected a ‘no first use’ policy and professed its clear intent to use tactical nuclear weapons in response to India’s military threats, there is no guarantee when the Army may use nuclear weapons as a first resort in warfare.
•Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are said to have been sharing trained military personnel for the latter’s armed forces. Such strong relations between both countries have been developed for security and defence reliance for several years now. This will only grow in the future which may be a note of caution for the rest of the region.
•Within the Pakistani Army, nobody has seen the ethnic factor playing a critical role. Balochistan is Punjab dominated and the Army does not give significant attention to the Pashtuns in the Pashtun areas. Therefore, ethnicity playing as a crucial aspect within the Army is off the mark. 
•Similarly, the Shia-Sunni divide is prevalent within society but it is not seen as factor within the Army.
•The withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan by the end 2014 also poses several critical questions. Changes in Pakistan could have major implications domestically and for the region, especially for neighbouring countries such as India and international powers such as the US.

Rapporteured by Roomana Hukil, Research Officer, IPCS