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Pakistani Army Infantry Regiments

Pakistan has six infantry regiments, each one nominally raised from each Province of the country. Some have origins in the British colonial era while others were created post independence.

The Indian Army Sepoy (from the Hindustani word sipahi) and his leaders formed a cohesive collective. They lived to serve the Unit, they were willing to die for it. Nothing must happen which would tarnish its honor, its izzat. The word in Urdu is a distillation hard to explain, encapsulating in itself the code of ethics of unflinching loyalty to a concept and not to a transient personality or cause. Always and everywhere, the Unit came first. Everything followed from it - the Regiment, the Flag, and the Country. This was the greatest battle-winning factor bequeathed by history to the Indian Army (and later to the Pakistani Army as well). The men were there, ready and willing to serve a flag, with honor, glory and mutual respect.

Quick to appreciate these traits, successive British governments brought more regional groupings into the Army. A fierce undying loyalty to the Unit was evinced by the British Officer Corps, and the Indian junior leaders and men reciprocated it. The greatest ambition of a British Officer was to command his Regiment.

By the end of the nineteenth century, recruitment was confined to certain social classes and communities--principally those in the northern border areas and Punjab. The narrowing recruitment base was a response to the Sepoy Rebellion and reflected the needs of prevailing security requirements. The bulk of the rebels in the Bengal Army came from the Indo-Gangetic Plain while those that had remained loyal were mostly from Punjab. The experience of the mutiny also gave rise to a pseudo-ethnological construction, the concept of "martial races" in South Asia. The popularization of this notion was widely attributed to Frederick Sleigh Roberts, Earl of Kandahar, Pretoria, and Waterford; Roberts was an Indian-born veteran of the British forces that put down the Sepoy Rebellion and the commander in chief of the British Indian Army from 1885 to 1893.

Roberts believed that the most martial races were located in northwestern India. He regarded Bengalis, Marathas, and southern ethnic groups as lacking in martial virtues. Their warlike propensities, he contended, had dissipated because of the ease of living and the hot, enervating climate of these regions. Roberts's views profoundly influenced the composition of the British Indian army in the last decades of the nineteenth century. For example, when the Bengal Army was reestablished in 1885, its new units were drawn from Punjab.

In 1892, army policy was changed significantly. Units were no longer raised on a territorial basis but along what was referred to as "class" lines. In effect, regiments admitted only those having similar ethnic, religious, or caste backgrounds. Between 1892 and 1914, recruitment was confined almost entirely to the martial races. These modes of recruitment and organization created a professional force profoundly shaped by caste and regional factors and loyal and responsive to British command. The procedures also perpetuated regional and communal ties and produced an army that was not nationally based.

Low-caste groups sought ''kshatriya-ization'' in the British colonial period, whereby they emulated local martial traditions of higher-caste kshatriya (or warrior) groups and adopted pseudo-rational (orientalist) criteria (such as martial-race ideology) on the basis of their military achievements in order to increase their social status.

Prior to Independence, most of the infantry regiments of the Indian Army were raised on a caste basis. Although the support arms, such as the Army Service Corps (ASC) or the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), had no specific caste composition, the infantry regiments were strictly caste units. Some infantry regiments recruited from only one caste, such as the Sikh Regiment. Other regiments operated on the class-company basis, in which a battalion level would consist of companies of different castes. Thus, in the Kumaon Regiment, a battalion would have a Kumaoni company, an Ahir Company, a Jat Company, etc. This class company system was initiated by the British primarily to avoid a repetition of the 1857 uprising.

A diversity of formations were amalgamated in 1921 into regiments, and re-designated in the great post-war reorganization of 1922. Before the 1922 reorganisation, each battalion had its own cap badge, there-after there was only one for a regiment. Prior to World War II most of the eighteen Indian Infantry Regiments consisted of five active and one training (the l0th) battalions. In each Indian Infantry Regiment the 10th trained the recruits and acted as record office for the three, four or five active battalions of the Regiment. In the years immediately preceeding the Second World War, fifteen Indian cavalry and infantry units were selected for Indianisation. No further junior British officers were posted to these units, though senior British officers remained with them until Indian officers were available to take their places.

Pakistani infantry regiments (of which there are six) and the battalions that comprise them (of which there are many) each carry a regimental color following the basic British pattern: a solid field, the color varying by regiment, with the regimental badge surrounded by a wreath in the center and scrolls inscribed with battle honors arrayed on either side. The colors of the flags do not necessarily seem to coincide with the colors of the berets or the background colors for regimental badges and names worn on the uniform.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:39:58 ZULU