Pakistan - Security Policy

The military and public generally view India as the nation’s primary external security threat, and opposition to India is often a greater source of social cohesion than either Islam or Urdu. India’s far greater military capabilities have been a source of both fear and frustration, and this imbalance has prompted Pakistan to engage Indian forces indirectly through supporting insurgents morally, financially, or otherwise. Pakistan's nuclear capabilities have helped level military differences with its rival neighbor.

Yet India is not the country’s only security concern, as Pakhtun and Balochi irredentist movements in Pakistan’s western provinces have contributed to sometimes-tense relations with neighboring Afghanistan. The military had in its updated version of "Army Doctrine" - which enlists operational priorities of the armed forces - mentioned the threat posed by religious extremists and insurgents as the greatest danger to national security. The threat matrix is evolving and transforming. It includes both the internal challenge from terror groups of various shades and the conventional threat of external aggression.

Under the 1973 constitution, the federal government controls the armed forces, and the president is the commander in chief. The Ministry of Defence has a permanent staff of civil servants headed by the defense secretary general, and the minister of defense is a civilian member of the prime minister’s cabinet. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee deals with problems concerning military aspects of state security and is charged with integrating and coordinating the army, navy, and air force. The committee’s secretariat acts as the principal link between the service headquarters and the Ministry of Defence.

The chief of the army staff (COAS) is the key power holder in the armed forces and is also one of the triumvirate that runs the country, along with the prime minister and president. The COAS usually operates from army headquarters in Rawalpindi. The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is of particular importance at the joint services level because it manages covert operations outside of Pakistan (and in internationally disputed areas) and because it has been involved in domestic politics, usually to keep track of the incumbent regime’s opponents.

Under the constitution, the military is responsible for defending the country against external aggression and threats of war and is to aid civil authorities only when called upon. The military is forbidden constitutionally from acting independently of the elected political leadership in domestic matters. However, from 1947 to 2014 military generals acted as head of state for ove 30 years, and in times of civilian government the armed forces routinely intervene on domestic and foreign policy issues. The military justifies its consistent involvement in politics as protection from malign foreign interests and corrupt and incompetent politicians. Although public opinion surveys are rare, it appears that the public dislikes military rule, yet consistently has a more favorable view of the military than of elected officials.

Because the military conducts its affairs with carefully defended secrecy, the degree to which army officers and personnel are religiously motivated is debated. Western analysts tend to conclude that whereas the military increasingly sees itself as serving Islam, though the institution’s decision making is still largely secular. Military intervention in politics has limited civilian involvement in sensitive matters, such as Kashmir, nuclear disarmament, internal military personnel decisions, and defense spending. The military also is extensively involved in the economy, and military enterprises produce approximately 3 percent of the gross national product. Military enterprises include the Army Welfare Trust (AWT), whose assets include the Askari Bank, one of the country’s largest financial institutions, and the Fauji Foundation, which is the country’s biggest conglomerate. These and other military financial institutions often are exempt from taxes and regulations covering the manufacturing sector and asset disclosure.

Pakistan has sought to become an important actor in international politics, but its foreign military alliances often are intended to address matters with bordering countries. Other countries have established alliances with Pakistan to address their own strategic interests in South and Central Asia, and these alliances have tended to be ephemeral. Pakistan’s military relationship with China started in the 1970s as a way of countering India, but China has softened its relations since India’s military strength has increased. Still, Pakistan and China maintain a military relationship, including periodic joint military exercises.

United States aid in the 1980s was significantly reduced after the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989 but resumed after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Moreover, in March 2004 the United States granted Pakistan status as a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, which provides access to U.S. military equipment and cooperation. In fact, the United States is one of the largest suppliers of military equipment to Pakistan along with China and Russia. Pakistan’s military relations with India have been contentious, and the two countries fought a limited conflict in Kashmir in 1999. However, under the 1999 Lahore Agreement the two countries provide each other with advance notification of missile tests, and have engaged in high-level discussions that have eased tensions.

With regard to military strategy, the military’s budget and personnel have reduced strategy to largely defensive objectives, such as limited offensive tactics in bordering areas (particularly Kashmir), use of irregular forces, and deterring and countering possible attacks from foreign powers (particularly India). The military’s history of far lower military expenditures and capabilities than India has prompted the military to attempt to impose high costs on India to force its withdrawal from Kashmir.

The military hoped that its nuclear capabilities can reduce the disadvantages of its conventional forces. However, the theoretical deterrence between nuclear powers has not limited military engagement between India and Pakistan — as exemplified by the 1999 Kargil War. Pakistan’s military strategy historically has suffered from overly optimistic assessments of potential success and underestimations of diplomatic and military losses, as well as a lack of contingency planning.

Pakistan Army conducted a series of war games and field exercises, codename; 'Azm-e-Nau'. Four war games of this series (Azm-e-Nau - I-IV) were conducted from year 2009 to 2013. These war games and exercises were conducted in two main phases. In Phase-I, military plans were evaluated and refined through indoor war games and maps exercises, where various scenarios were painted and executed while putting them through numerous operational constraints. In Phase-II, the operational plans prepared in phase-I were put through the physical trials by conducting the field exercises in the real time frame scenario.

Some defense analysts are of the view that through this series of war games and field exercises, Pak Army has put a checkmate to India's Cold Start Doctrine. Contrary to the traditional battle procedure of military mobilization followed by full scale war, the Cold Start concept focused on reverse whereby Indian Army will go to war first and then mobilizes. Following the prolonged military escalation of 2002, Indian Army conceived this new concept to launch an offensive against Pakistan. This concept seeks to leverage India's modest superiority in conventional forces to respond to Pakistan's military preparedness. This doctrine necessitates reorganizing Indian Army's offensive power away from the three large strike corps into eight smaller division-sized "Integrated Battle Groups" (IBGs) that combine mechanized infantry, artillery, and armor in a manner reminiscent of the former Soviet Union's operational maneuver groups.

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