The Pakistan Army is the best organized group in the country, and a political force unto itself with the gradual destruction or diminution of institutions: the judiciary, the constitution, the bureaucracy, and the legislature, and the transmogrification of a parliamentary system of government into a highly personalized presidential system. Successive army chiefs promised to keep the army out of politics, but some of them brought the army to power to fill what they considered to be a political vacuum.
Since the founding of Pakistan, the army has been key in holding the state together, promoting a feeling of nationhood among disparate peoples and providing a bastion of selfless service in the midst of a venal government system. All too frequently, the Pakistan Army has felt the need to take over the government, cleanse it of corruption and try to reform its bureaucracy before returning it to civilian control. Army control of the government has all too often led to a corrupt military regime that eventually collapsed.
Pakistan is a poor country riven with ethnic and religious tensions. Pakistan enjoys close ties with China and shares an antipathy and distrust of India. Half of Pakistan disappeared following its disastrous 1971 war with India. The Army gradually gained control of Pakistan's political, social, and economic resources. This power has transformed Pakistani society, where the armed forces have become an independent class. The military is entrenched in the corporate sector and controls the country's largest companies and large tracts of real estate.
The Army has not always had a close alliance with Islamic parties. It was only during the regime of General Zia ul Haq that the military-mullah nexus was formed, first for the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union and then to help the Kashmiris against the Indian Army. Later, an electoral deal under General Pervez Musharraf allowed the mullahs to gain political traction for the first time ever, in return for their support for an amendment to the constitution that allowed him to be concurrently army chief and president.
The Pakistan Army is the largest branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces, and is mainly responsible for protection of the state borders, the security of administered territories and defending the national interests of Pakistan within the framework of its international obligations. The Pakistan Army a total strength of 520,000, about the size of of the Army of the United States, with a reserve element of 500,000 who have a reserve obligation up to the age of 45 years. Reserve status lasted for eight years after leaving active service or until age forty-five for enlisted men and age fifty for officers.
The Pakistan Army structure in many ways has a close resemblance to the British Indian Army structure at the end of the nineteenth century. During that period, recruitment into individual, homogeneous regiments depended on class and caste, rather than on territory. Over time, these regiments became sources of immense pride to the men who served in them and to the ethnic group from which they were frequently recruited. Service in a specific regiment passed from father to son; the eventual shift from British to Pakistani rule went with hardly a ripple in the structure except for the change in nationality of the senior officer corps.
The British experimented with various forms of recruitment and of elevation to officer rank. During the period between the two world wars (1919-39), the British trained Indian officers to command at least Indian troops, and training establishments were set up to produce an indigenous officer corps. A small number of officer candidates were sent to Britain to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst; after 1932 the majority of candidates were trained at the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. A rank that predated that of the native officer was the viceroy's commissioned officer--an Indian who had risen from the ranks and performed officer functions (except for commanding officer), especially at the company level. The viceroy's commissioned officer came from the same social background as did the troops in his unit and performed a dual function: for the troops, he was a role model and figure of respect to whom they could turn for advice; he was also an invaluable intermediary between the troops and the British officer who commanded them.
The Pakistani military upon independence immediately became a central part of the national consciousness. Unlike their Indian counterparts, Pakistani soldiers did not bear the stigma of being antinational. The main base of army recruitment, Punjab, was at the heart of Pakistan, and the army was immediately called upon to defend the interests of the nation against a perceived security threat from "Hindu India."
The Pakistani army was fortunate in its political position, but less so in regard to the experience and technical expertise required to field an effective military force. Muslims had been significantly underrepresented in the Indian officer corps, and when partition occurred, there was a severe shortage of personnel. To lead the planned army of 150,000 men, 4,000 officers were needed, but there were only 2,500, and many of those, especially in the technical services, were underqualified. Only one major general, two brigadiers, and six colonels were available, and in the middle officer ranks the situation was equally bad. The first two commanders in chief of the army were British. The first Pakistani commander in chief--General Mohammad Ayub Khan--did not become commander in chief of the army until 1951.
Traditionally, the army was a predominantly Punjabi force. In British India, three districts: Campbellpur (now Attock), Rawalpindi, and Jhelum dominated the recruitment flows. By 1990 the percentage representation in the Pakistan Army as a whole (officers and Other Ranks or soldiers) was as follows: Punjabis 65 percent; Pushtuns 14 percent; Sindhis and Baluchis 15 percent; Kashmiris 6 percent; and Minorities 0.3 per cent. Since then, with the provision of waivers for both physical and educational qualifications, recruitment has been increased from the formerly less well represented areas. Punjab showed an overall decline in recruitment of soldiers from 63.86 per cent in 1991 to 43.33 in 2005.
Zia was extremely skillful in protecting his base in the military. To ensure control, he was concurrently chief of the army staff, chief martial law administrator, and president, and he carefully juggled senior military appointments. The satisfaction of the military was also enhanced by arrangements under which Pakistani service personnel were seconded to the armed forces of Persian Gulf countries, where emoluments were much more generous than in Pakistan. Retiring officers received generous benefits, sometimes including land allocations, and often found lucrative positions in government service or in parastatal economic enterprises. The assignment of serving officers to approximately 10 percent of the senior posts in the civilian administration also provided opportunities for economic gain, sometimes in ways that were ultimately harmful to the army's image of itself. For example, some military personnel reportedly participated in the rapidly growing narcotics business.
Several army organizations performed functions that were important to the civilian sector across the country. For example, the National Logistics Cell was responsible for trucking food and other goods across the country, the Frontier Works Organization built the Karakoram Highway to China, the Makran Coastal Highway, flood relief operations etcetera and the Special Communication Organization maintained communications networks in remote parts of Pakistan. Pakistan Army is involved in relief activities not only in Pakistan but also in many other countries of the world, like they went for relief activities after Bangladesh was recently hit by floods. Pak Army also went to Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka after they were hit by tsunami. Pakistan army and Navy sent ships and helicopters to the friendly nations for tsunami relief operation.
The army also engaged in extensive economic activities. Most of these enterprises, such as stud and dairy farms, were for the army's own use, but others performed functions beneficial to the local civilian economy. Army factories produced such goods as sugar, fertilizer, and brass castings and sold them to civilian consumers.
The Pakistani Army is a volunteer force and has been involved in many conflicts with India. Combined with this rich combat experience, the Army is also actively involved in contributing to United Nations peacekeeping efforts. Other foreign deployments have consisted of Pakistani Army personnel as advisers in many African, South Asian and Arab countries. Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, Pakistani military forces have been extensively engaged in the War on Terrorism against Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists. Over 90,000 troops along with various paramilitary forces are involved in a protracted fight against extremists in the tribal areas of Pakistan. It is more important than ever for the army to build bridges with civilians, as success in fighting extremism and terrorism is dependent on this.
Army also provides opportunity to women to serve in the Pakistan Army. Currently, there are a sizable number of Women serving in the army. The army sees itself as a national institution and thus many non-Muslim officers (including Qadiyanis) have achieved high ranks within the army. The army in Pakistan is most organized and powerful institution of a state, like all capitalist states, has the fundamental role of preserving and protecting the assets, social status, privileges and economic exploitation of the local ruling and imperialism.
In times of natural disaster army engineers, medical and logistics personnel, and the armed forces played a major role in bringing relief and supplies. The army also engaged in extensive economic activities. Most of these enterprises, such as stud and dairy farms, were for the army's own use, but others performed functions beneficial to the local civilian economy. Army factories produced such goods as sugar, fertilizer, and brass castings and sold them to civilian consumers.
The Pakistan military also assists in natural disasters in Pakistan such as the great floods of 1992, the floods in Balochistan in 2008 and the October 2005-devastating Kashmir earthquake; army engineers, medical and logistics personnel, and the armed forces played a major role in bringing relief and supplies. In natural disasters there was no significant second wave of deaths from injury, cold, food shortages, or disease. And much credit for that probably goes to Pakistan Army. Perhaps more than anything else, the quake relief effort demonstrated the growing importance of military forces in responding to disasters. The entire fleet of Army Aviation flew innumerable sorties round the clock to take relief goods to the affected areas and brought back sick and injured back to base hospitals. Where helicopters could not reach, men carried relief goods on their back and reached the needy. The undertaking of relief operation of this magnitude could only be taken by the men and machines of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. There are reports that the United Nations recommended the Pakistan military form a standby team to respond in disasters. Integrated military-civilian responses are most likely to be successful in natural disasters.
The role of the military becomes more contentious as the immediate life-saving phase of an aid operation ends and the reconstruction phase takes over. It is therefore important for military actors to not only develop their capacity to respond to disasters, but also to develop their capacity to exit from disaster responses.