Professionalism and Discipline of Armed Forces in a Society with Repeated Military Interventions — Case of Pakistani Armed Forces

Columnist Hamid Hussain makes an excellent study of our men in uniform and the potential of the institution.

“ ...Mussalmans, either you are up in the sky or down in the dumps. You cannot adopt a steady course. All the promotions will come in good time, but there will be no mad rush”. Founder of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s snub to a Muslim army officer when he asked about prospect of promotion for them in the new country. August 3, 1947, Delhi1

Armed Forces of a country constitute a unique institution which has its own set of values and ethos which are essential for the smooth functioning of the institution. Most experts of civil-military relations agree that military leadership jealously guards its autonomy in internal affairs. The civilian interference is seen as a threat to the professionalism, discipline and cohesiveness of the armed forces. This is a universal phenomenon and occurs in all societies regardless of the system of the government in place. In case of Pakistan, the periodic involvement of the military in the civil life has resulted in a very complex situation. Even officers who justify the control of the country by military acknowledge the negative impact of this exercise on the professionalism of the armed forces. In a politicized army, which is used to repeated intervention in national affairs, the politicization of officers corps is inevitable despite the denials by the brass. The military leadership has to understand the basic fact that due to the nature of running a state, this outcome is the logical one. When military rulers ban politics in the society in general, it creeps right into their own backyard. This gradually ‘corrodes their unity, cohesion and morale’.2 There are certain qualities, which make armed forces efficient, and able to carry its primary task, that is fighting and possibly winning a war. These qualities include discipline, trust, motivation and superior skills acquired by repeated manoeuvres and exercises. When army dabbles in politics, it undermines each of these qualities vital for a successful war. Every military ruler skilfully promotes, posts and rotates senior officers to keep them loyal, maintain control and avoid any threats from inside. This article will review the effect of repeated military interventions on the professionalism and discipline of the armed forces of Pakistan. The article will not discuss the internal turmoil and failed coups, which is a separate area requiring detailed discussion.
Pakistan Army is the continuation of the British Indian Army. During British colonial rule, there were frictions between the civilian and military authorities over various issues, which were mainly restricted to financial and administrative areas pertaining to the army. The tradition of strict apolitical attitude of the military authorities of Colonial India was maintained for quite a while. After independence, Pakistani officer corps very quickly showed signs of erosion of this apolitical attitude, which were not checked at that time. During 1948 Indo-Pakistan clash in Kashmir, a battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Siddique Raja in the presence of his General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major General N. M. Raza and Minister of State for Defence, Dr. Mahmud Hussain criticized the British high command and blamed his British superiors for the stalemate. Instead of giving his opinion with professional and logical arguments, he was using rhetoric and hyperbole, stating that Pakistanis would have done much better and bragged that, “Each one of us is Khalid and Tariq’.3 He was referring to Arab Muslim generals Khalid Bin Walid, who conquered a large area during the early part of Islam and Tariq Bin Ziad, who conquered Spain. The anger of a small group of officers involved in Kashmir war of 1947-48 against civilian government and British senior command was responsible for the failed coup attempt of 1951. The leader of this failed coup, Major General Akbar Khan much later in life stated, “Our ideas were different than government. We have fought in Kashmir’ but ‘government agreed to ceasefire without asking us’. He went on to state that; “I became opposed to Liaquat Ali Khan because he delayed the constitution formation”.4 This self-inflated image and extreme self-righteous attitude was not limited to the mid and junior level officers. Many senior officers who got quick promotions after independence, suffered from these grandiose ideas. Some officers really believed that they were holy warriors and compared themselves to old Muslim military leaders. Some adopted the code names after these generals like Tariq. Others were commissioning their portraits in the likeness of Napolean, Rommel and Duke of Wellington.5 Even today, several retired generals (most of them have served their whole life in peacetime and not seen any action in battle) have large sized self-portraits in military uniforms adorning their living rooms.
Military leadership often blames civilian leadership for interference in military affairs, which they consider damaging to the professionalism of the army. A close scrutiny of the last fifty-five year history of the country gives a different picture. The complex dynamics of a military government where a small group of senior officers are at the helm of affairs of the military affairs as well as trying to run a modern nation state creates a very difficult scenario. It is during the military rule that the professionalism of the armed forces is seriously damaged due to involvement in civil affairs. The promotions, transfers and postings are done not due to the competence or availability but to safeguard the interests of the military regime. As it happens with a civilian government, the interests of the government in power may not be identical with the interests of the country or military institution. When the personal authority and the hold of the ruling regime are strengthened, not all the times by fair means, then institutional norms are damaged. The major threat to a military ruler is army itself as it is only another soldier who can match the fire power of the ruling military leader. This means that military becomes his constituency and his major potential rival at the same time. To walk this fine line, every military ruler has to do certain basic things to both keep a large number of brothers in uniform, loyal and punish any potential trouble makers. In case of Pakistan, the military leadership had not followed Latin American, African or Middle Eastern model of severely punishing the officers. They have relied mainly on enticement and selective patronage to deal even with the potential rivals. Few examples will amply clarify this point. Ayub Khan, when got suspicious of Major General Sher Ali Khan Patudi, retired him and sent him as High Commissioner to Malyasia. When ambitious Lt. General Habibullah Khan Khattak was perceived as threat, he was retired but Ayub married his son to Khattak’s daughter. In addition, with direct government patronage, he became one of the biggest industrialists of the country. General Musharraf has prosecuted, sentenced to life imprisonment and later shipped Nawaz Sharif to exile in Saudi Arabia in record time but Lt. General Ziauddin Ahmad Butt (Director General of Inter Services Intelligence (DG ISI), who tried to become army chief) who probably is as guilty of the charge of causing ‘dissention among the military’ was simply sacked and he now quietly leads prayers at small gatherings of his friends.
The first casualty of the consolidation of the coup makers is the merit in promotions. It is not only the professionalism but also loyalty to the person or regime, which comes first. The process started when Ayub Khan took over as Commander-in-Chief. The first attempt by some army officers to overthrow the civilian government three years after independence (known as Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case) in 1951 gave Ayub the chance to clear the deck as he wished. A retired Lt. General commenting about that period states, “when some general officers were promoted by the Commander-in-Chief against the consensus of opinion of the board and for reasons which were plainly not those of merit, but of affiliations and loyalty, it became obvious that one had to toe the line and be loyal and accept the changes in approach. Thus were the highest leaders for battle selected”.6 When General Muhammad Musa was selected by Ayub as Commander-in-Chief, many senior officers resented that appointment as he was considered a mediocre with only quality of personal loyalty to Ayub. (He served two terms from 1958 to 1966). The trend continued during Yahya Khan’s tenure. Several officers were promoted to senior ranks by Yahya who were not approved for promotion by the selection board. Many posts were upgraded and senior ranks proliferated as many officers were performing civil duties. At one time, eleven Brigadiers were promoted to Major General rank. This wholesale of promotions resulted in much ridicule even in the army. One Subedar Major commented that in his long service, he had not heard of so many Lance Naiks being promoted at one time.7 In one case, General Abdul Hamid Khan was promoted to four star rank as a new year gift to him. Similar policy was followed during Zia’s rule. Officers were promoted to the higher ranks without regard to merit or the availability or need for that post to keep them loyal. At least twelve positions were upgraded to the ranks of Brigadier, Major General and Lieutenant General.8 General Zia asked his defence secretary to promote three of his colleagues to four-star rank. The reason for their promotion he gave was that, “they have served me loyally and deserve this promotion”. He had to be persuaded to drop this idea.9 A retired Lt. General who was very close to General Zia during early part of the Martial Law commented about Zia era that the promotion system of Pakistan Army has been destroyed due to the destruction of institutionalized process.10 Many officers to get the promotion or extension of their service have to compromise some principles or accept humiliations. A Major General who was approaching the retirement came to know that one of his junior officers was acquainted with Zia. He pressurized the officer to plead to Zia for his promotion. The junior officer against his wishes brought the issue to Zia’s attention several times and finally the Major General was promoted.11 Late General Akhtar Abdur Rahman is probably the only general not only in Pakistan but also in whole world who has been superseded a record number of times. He has been superseded all the way from Colonel to General. Only one thing, which kept him afloat, was that he was the most trusted ally of Zia and Zia’s eyes and ears as intelligence chief. This one quality overrode all professional standards. In a military government, as a small group of senior officers continue beyond the normal tenure, which causes resentment among juniors, whose prospects of promotion are jeopardized. To offset that, military rulers upgrade and proliferate the senior ranks. India with such a large organization has only one four stars general. Most of Israeli Armed Forces chiefs had held the rank of Major General. In contrast, Pakistan has three serving four-star generals. It does not need a rocket scientist to figure out that a country like Pakistan does not need a Major General to head Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) or Lt. Generals to head hockey and cricket organizations.
Most senior officers who have spent a life hearing ‘Yes Sir’ are not willing to hear any dissenting voice. This ensures a status quo and kills any independent thought and exchange of new ideas. The current promotion system of depending solely on a flawless annual confidential report means that the general attitude becomes ‘never disagree’. When officers with this super-sensitivity about their career are given important tasks, they tend not to rock the boat or to do any thing new or innovative. The result is a kind of stagnation at the institutional level. When such officers become generals, most of them tend to become ‘smiling nodders’ thus giving a semblance of a consensus among the highest decision making body of the armed forces. Is this comment too harsh for the senior brass? One cannot generalize the whole brass but there have been a number of senior officers who have damaged the reputation of the institution by their acts of omission and commission. Majority of them are from lower middle class backgrounds that use their influence to climb the socio-economic ladder. It is also correct that a number of them displayed behaviour which was not great and showed their preference for petty protocol issues rather than higher grounds. Two examples will suffice in this regard. A former Corps Commander after narrating how ruler of Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Zaid Bin Sultan Al Nayyan) drove him around in his Mercedes, laments that General Zia-ul-Haq ‘never gave me the opportunity to serve his Highness again’.12 One wonders if the respected general was enlisted in the army to serve Pakistan or Royal Highnesses of foreign countries. During Zia’s rule, the dual role of some officers (civil and military) created situations, where petty protocol issues became source of irritation. The decision was made that protocol will be followed according to service seniority. The Lt. Generals who were also provincial governors insisted that they should be given precedence over four star generals in their own provinces. When North West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P.) governor Lt. General Fazl-e-Haq came to know that Deputy Chief of Army Staff, General Iqbal Khan will be given precedence at passing out parade at Kakul, he did not show up at the parade. Similarly, when Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), General Sawar Khan was given precedence at a Staff College Quetta function, the provincial governor, Lt. General Rahimuddin Khan skipped the function.13 There have been a large number of good and professional officers who reached senior ranks but they never made any headlines because they restricted themselves to their profession. Even when they were involved in civil affairs, they kept themselves clean. An Ahmadi (Ahmadi sect is generally considered a heretic sect by majority of Muslims and was declared non-Muslim by Pakistani government in 1970s) Major General commanding a division, was well-respected due to his professionalism and was considered a very good officer by his peers and juniors. Due to his religious beliefs, he could not be promoted further. Zia candidly acknowledged this to him personally, apologized to him and offered him the governorship of a province. The officer declining the governorship. At junior and mid-level, Pakistan army has remained professional by and large as these officers are mainly involved in their primary task, that of soldiering. There have been a number of officers who had resigned their commissions rather than tarnish the image of the institution of soldiering. A former Major of Pakistan army resigned his commission when Ayub Khan took over. He participated in 1965 and 1971 wars without recall or any reserve liability. Years later, he asked his son, a bright officer to resign his commission. It is this breed of soldiers, which has kept the institutional frame of the Pakistan army intact.
After every coup, the initial group of senior officers is of same age and seniority. Most of them have served together and have more friendship rather than strict hierarchy. This means that the coup leader is first among the equals. He has to give more room to his colleagues. In case of Zia, he has to put up with many transgressions of his corp commanders who had launched the coup with him. Many senior officers fully aware of the source of real power insisted on keeping their military appointments in addition to vying for lucrative and powerful positions in government. Lt. General Rahimuddin Khan accepted the governorship of the province on the condition that he be continued to command the II Corps in Multan. Similarly, Lt. Generals Faiz Ali Chisti, Ghulam Hasan, Saeed Qadir and Major General Jamal Said Mian retained their military appointments in addition to becoming ministers in federal cabinet.14 Lt. General Fazal-e-Haq would publicly show his brashness in presence of Zia (cleaning his pipe when Zia would be addressing an austere gathering). In 1980, when Chisti was informed about his retirement, he reminded Zia of his promise stating that, “You had said earlier that we would go together”.15 In 1984, when Lt. General S. M. Abbasi was informed about his retirement, he became furious (despite the fact that he had already got an extension and served six years rather than the normal tenure of 4 years for a Lt. General), and said that Zia was backtracking from an earlier promise that he will be promoted to four star and appointed Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCOSC). Abbasi told Arif that Zia was using senior officers to serve his purpose and later dumped them unceremoniously. When Zia consulted his intelligence chief (Akhtar Abur Rahman) about who should be appointed CJCOSC after General Sawar Khan, Akhtar offered himself.16 When Lt. General Jehanzeb Arbab was told about his retirement, he refused to relinquish charge. Zia sent some senior officers to persuade him along with many incentives including an ambassadorial assignment.
The erosion of professionalism if not checked quickly can become a very slippery slope, resulting in damage to the reputation of the institution. I’ll give few examples of the senior officers in their own words to show that the standard of higher posts needs immediate attention. Lt. General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi (He was Corps Commander in East Pakistan in 1971) in his memoirs narrates an episode of his bravery during his early days. He gives the details of the daring action of overpowering the Christian Librarian of Staff College of Quetta in 1947. He states, “I told Captain Ishaq to go to Baluch Regimental Centre, which was located in Quetta, and get a section of infantry from there. When the librarian was closing the library, I pounced upon him and relieved him of the keys. I ordered Captain Ishaq to mount a guard of armed infantry section”.17 All this sensational and heroic action was done to get keys from an unarmed civilian librarian. Niazi has also reproduced a confidential citation when he was awarded Sitara-e-Khidmat. This was given to him because he had fought locusts.18 One is lost at what was special about it to award a medal and more interestingly fighting the locust is such a national secret that citation was confidential. Lt. General Faiz Ali Chisti (Commander of X Corps in Rawalpindi) in enumerating long list of his achievements under Zia proudly cites that Zia trusted him to organize the extraordinary session of the Islamic Foreign Minister’s Conference and 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal (Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) Birthday) conference in 1980.19 Interestingly, the Corps Commander who followed Chisti also takes the credit of organizing the conference of Islamic Foreign Ministers as proof of his competence. A Lt. General gives the list of his successes as Commandant of Infantry School at the rank of Major General, which includes, “face lifting of the school”, “establishment of school bakery”, “improvement of officer messes with officer like menu” and “installation of three tube wells”.20 A Major General who commanded an armoured division (6th Division in Kharian) explains his achievements as division commander in these words. “The Division’s various administrative problems were attended by providing better accommodation to the officers and men, organizing sports activities, polo tournaments and the club/messes social activities. We also had the Iranian Polo Team
visiting Pakistan and Kharian. There was a flurry of foreign guests in Kharian”.21 A retired Lt. General in his memoirs gives two page long list of his achievements. One and a half page is for his services in different civilian areas. President of Pakistan Golf Association and Pakistan Flying Club as well as membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew’s in Scotland is also mentioned.22 Another Major General published the copies of dinner invitations, which he received during his stay in London in his autobiography. The list is complete with even the menu, which includes items such as Creme Portugaise, Salade Francaise, Saumon Fume and Souffle Pierrot.23 A retired Lt. General and former Director General of ISI has recently given his list of achievements in an affidavit in a court regarding a libel case. He stated that he ‘symbolizes the Islam loving populous of Pakistan’ and ‘institutions of practicing Muslims’, most prominent member of Tableeghi Jamaat ‘with international fame and reputation’, ‘first general officer with full grown beard’ and that Sikhs have given him a ‘next to Guru status’. Amusingly, he calls himself a cult figure and that CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) has joined hands to destroy his ‘cult’.24 The commander of elite strike corps at Mangla (a serving Lt. General) is Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board while CJCSC (a four star General Muhammad Aziz Khan) is godfather of Pakistan Hockey Federation. These appointments had neither improved performance of hockey and cricket teams nor polished fighting skills of the generals. Such absurd decisions make Pakistan army a laughing stock in the professional world of armed forces. Memoirs of several retired generals are full of pictures in military uniforms and row of medals shaking hands with foreign dignitaries and laying foundation stones of public buildings. This is not the job of serving generals and even for some unavoidable reasons they have to perform these pathetic duties, this is not something to be proud of or brag about. Generals should be known for their performance in war (if that occurs) and their excellence at tactics and strategy of war and contribution to defence of the country. No one knows, which bright star of army has advised such pathetic decisions but the earlier they can be scrapped the better for the army and the country.
In most countries, there are various gallantry awards which are given to the soldiers for their acts of bravery. This is a common practice and helps to create a healthy competition among various services of the armed forces. The practice needs constant evaluation and an institutional review to see that no negative feelings arise due to bias in giving these awards. Like any other measure, in a healthy dose, this policy may be beneficial but if not done prudently, it can cause more problems. The recipients can have swelling of their egos while those who don’t get an award get dejected. In 1965 war, there was a mad rush for the gallantry awards. This caused so much trouble that a committee was set up by General Headquarters (GHQ) to investigate the matter. The committee found that 60-70% of awards were given without merit. On the basis of these findings, GHQ asked all unit/formation commanders to resubmit a revised list for the gallantry awards. To avoid any embarrassment, the military brass decided that the names which have already been announced should be allowed to keep their awards, regardless of the fact whether they deserved it or not.25 Similarly, during the 1965 war, one officer was sacked for incompetency, but nevertheless given an award to compensate him for his removal’.26 After the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, eight Pakistan Air Force pilots stationed in Syria participated in routine patrolling of Syria and Lebanon. In April 1974, during one of these patrols, a Pakistani pilot (Flight Lieutenant Sattar Alvi) shot down an Israeli Mirage fighter aircraft. Four gallantry awards (two by Syria and two by Pakistan) were given to two Pakistani pilots for downing one aircraft. Every soldier who is sent to the battlefield by the leadership deserves full support of the nation. Those who perform well should be acknowledged but common sense and humility should be the guiding principle not exaggerated and self-deluding hyperbole. In long run, it only gives to complacency of the armed forces as an institution, which damages the professionalism. Lt. General Faiz Ali Chisti received his Sitara-e-Basalat on March 23, 1980. It is not clear for what kind of military services, he received this award? In the previous three years, he was manning several civilian ministries. Since October 1999 coup, many serving officers have been working in civilian sectors. They have been bragging about peacetime awards and telling that in army everything is done on merit. They have become butt of many jokes among the civilians working with them. Gallantry awards for performance in battle should be retained and given with prudence but all paraphernalia of different awards for peacetime bureaucratic works of the army should be scrapped for good.
Many senior officers not used to frank and open discussion and debate easily get irritated when asked pointed questions even by their junior colleagues on professional matters. ISI Chief Hamid Gul rather than giving his professional opinion will throw tandem tantrums at briefings at Foreign Office. Similarly, during Pakistani ambassadors conference in 2000, another ISI Chief Lt. General Mahmud Ahmad ‘reprimanded the ambassadors for not relying ‘on the intercession of Providence’ while analyzing Pakistan’s Afghan policy.27 These officers, who are unable to give sound professional arguments to support their doctrines, indulge in such abrasive attitude. This would discourage any meaningful debate let alone criticism. Some officers who asked some uncomfortable questions found at the peril of their careers that this was a risky business. When Zia-ul-Haq was Corps Commander in Multan, during the visit of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he asked the wives and children of officers to line up and shower flower petals on Bhutto’s motorcade. Later, during an address to garrison officers, one junior officer, Captain Muhammad Kausar of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME) questioned the appropriateness of the act. This brought the ire of Zia, resulting in many hardships for the officer. His military career was cut short and he was hounded out of the army. Similarly, during a meeting with officers in Quetta, Colonel Ghulam Sarwar Cheema (Directing Staff of Staff College) questioned Zia about the execution of Bhutto. Zia issued the order of Colonel’s removal from service right after the meeting. Many other junior and middle rank officers who questioned the political actions and not the military matters of the military regime were hounded out of service. The reason for this attitude is the factor of suspicion on part of the ruling regime. Even Zia’s close confidant, General Arif admits that ‘The army lost a handful of upright and intelligent officers who had the courage to ask discerning questions’.28 Such innocuous questions were seen as a potential threat to the military regime, which was the main reason of quick dismissals without any proper institutional due process. A retired Indian Brigadier has rightly advised his country which equally applies to Pakistan that, “the breed of senior officers who only show their importance by losing their temper and introducing restrictions need to be canned and shipped out of the Army because they are responsible for this lack of growth”.29
There is a normal process of limited internal surveillance of army personnel in all countries. In countries, where military is directly controlling the state, the issue becomes very important to prevent a counter-coup. Internal surveillance is greatly expanded at the cost of mutual trust and cohesion of the institution. The process started very early after the failed coup of 1951. All senior officers are under regular surveillance by ISI and Military Intelligence (MI). The result is an enormous clout which even junior officers of the armed forces intelligence community enjoy. A Lt. General who served as Corps Commander during Zia time comments, “Merit unfortunately was no longer the only criterion for promotion; rather, it was loyalty to the regime. The ISI had already acquired a major say in promotion to senior ranks”.30 One case will give the negative impact of such measures on the high command. Lt. General Jahandad Khan was ordered to take the Command of X Corps in Rawalpindi from Lt. General Faiz Ali Chisti with immediate effect. Jahandad describes the process in these words, “I was called for briefing by the DG ISI, Lt. General Akhtar. He told me all about the anti-regime designs and activities of Chisti and urged me to assume my command immediately”.31 These few words tell a lot about mutual respect and trust among the higher echelons of the army. X Corps responsible for the defence of the most critical and active area has been involved in such unprofessional activities like arrangements of conferences in Islamabad and receiving foreign dignitaries. Lt. General Faiz Ali Chisti headed X Corps from 1977-1980. During the same time period, he served as advisor to Chief Martial Law Administrator, head of several ministries (the list includes Establishment, Kashmir Affairs, Labour and Manpower, Petroleum and Natural Resources) Chairman of Federal Inspection Commission, Chairman of Election Cell and Chief of Protocol. He made several foreign tours not related to military affairs (in 1978 to United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries to evaluate performance of Pakistani embassies, in 1979 to China and Saudi Arabia as head of labour delegation and in 1980 to Canada to represent Pakistan at the opening ceremony of school for Islamic Studies). He was contemplating on diverse issues and giving his pearls of wisdom. He was having brain storming sessions with politicians of all hues and colours, advising General Zia to strictly enforce law and order, control the prices of ghee and cement and hold local bodies elections. In addition, he would enlighten his countrymen about issues like formulating new labour policy, which would enforce Islamic principles, prevention of industrial accidents, and urgent need for carrying studies in Pakistan on various handicrafts.32 It is anybody’s guess to judge how he could have
performed his duties as Corps Commander efficiently and professionally. This abnormal behaviour was not new. Long ago, in 1953, when army was called in aid to civil power to restore law and order in Lahore, the commanding general, Lt. General Muhammad Azam Khan had similar delusions. He gathered principles and teachers of all colleges to tell them how to educate the nation. Another former Corps Commander of X Corps, who was also involved in arranging conferences in Islamabad calls this non-military activity ‘major events of national importance’ although he admits that such deviations interfere with professional duty.33 Officers who should be training for war are busy presiding bureaucratic protocol meetings and arranging for transport and accommodation of conference delegates. Such things are bound to impact on the performance of the armed forces. When ISI was heavily engaged inside the country and senior commanders at important posts with tasks of laying down the war strategy were busy evading the spy network and involved in arrangements of conferences, it is no surprise that they were caught off guard when Indian forces sneaked into Siachin. All officers in ISI (responsible for external intelligence) MI (responsible for all military related intelligence), X Corps (whose area of responsibility is Siachin) and Force Commander Northern Area (directly incharge of Siachin), lived happily after enjoying all perks and privileges. No body has been asked any question, let alone held accountable for their mistakes. The country and armed forces are paying the price in money and lives for this act of omission at the highest level.
When senior military officers remove civilian leaders, they break a taboo of the army. It is quite natural that the junior officers show the same contempt not only for the politicians but everything civilian. This superiority complex also set in very early with long-term negative impact both for the military and the country. The induction of army officers in civilian areas with tremendous powers and privileges result in many complications. The officer gets the taste of power and it becomes very difficult for him to adjust to lower status. On the other hand, other officers try to get to these privileged positions resulting in a race among junior officers and many jealousies and rivalries, thus damaging the cohesiveness of armed forces. In March 1953, Martial Law was declared in Lahore to control law and order situation. The disturbances quickly fizzled out but the role of military expanded so quickly to so many areas that an abnormal situation was created. Army officers started to preside public functions, addressing public gatherings, touring city areas and opening new markets and public buildings. Uniformed officers started to appear in social and diplomatic functions with their pictures flashed all over newspapers.34 From a simple ‘aid to civil power’ duty, army quickly penetrated the civil society thus setting the stage for military take over in next few years. In 1965, Major (later Lt. General) Jahandad Khan was Military Secretary to Governor of West Pakistan. He rang Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the province (equivalent to the rank of Major General) and summoned him to his office to tell him to make fool proof security arrangements for the visit of the Chinese President.35 One can imagine how this Major will feel when he is posted back to his unit. During Zia rule, a provincial military governor on being retired and posted as ambassador asked his ADC (at rank of Captain) if he would like to accompany him as member of Foreign Service. The Captain talked to his friends, who was ADC to another provincial military governor, who in turn asked his boss to send him also to Foreign Service. Now, two general officers were sending requests to GHQ wanting to induct their ADCs in Foreign Service. During his Presidential referendum, taking Corps Commanders in uniforms with him to his address to public gatherings was the most unfortunate and ill-thought decision on part of General Musharraf. During present military government of General Pervez Musharraf, a dangerous trend has been set up on two fronts. First, a large number of officers including Corps Commanders and GOCs of divisions have been involved in contacts with politicians giving the semblance of fiefdoms rather than fighting units. Second, in an unprecedented move (which even previous military governments have not done), a large number of serving and retired officers have been manning almost all civilian sections of the society. The involvement of senior officers of armed forces in political manoeuvring both during service and after retirement have already significantly damaged the image of army as a neutral institution. Now the involvement of even mid-level officers in political manoeuvres and making and breaking of political parties and alliances is a bad omen for the military. In a multi-ethnic society like Pakistan, where armed forces have disproportionate number of officers from a narrow segment of the society, such ill-thought policies may sow the seeds of a civil war with devastating consequences for the country in long run.
The soldier’s contempt for the civilian is well-known. The attitude of some senior-most officers using very objectionable methods to portray their superiority does not augur well for the lofty posts they hold. The behaviour of some officers is plainly offensive. Such examples set a very bad precedent and very quickly trickles down to lower levels. In long run, this damages the reputation of the armed forces. In 1992, the dinner at a wedding reception in Lahore was delayed as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Asif Nawaz Janjua was late in coming. Nothing unusual about this in Pakistan as it is a common practice. The interesting part is that the other invited guests included the President, Prime Minister and Governor of Punjab who were already waiting. When the COAS arrived, all three dignitaries were standing in line to greet him. In 1992, at Lahore Airport, when an IGP tried to speak to COAS, Asif Nawaz, he pushed him away with his baton without saying a word. Colonel Shuja Khanzada served in ISI for 12 years (in Afghanistan and 2 years in Washington). In 1994, he was transferred back from Washington on orders of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Used to unhindered power and clout, the Colonel got upset at his transfer with immediate effect. He called and later met Chief of General Staff (CGS), Lt. General Jehangir Karamat, DGISI, Lt. General Javed Ashraf Qazi, DGMI, Lt. General Ali Quli Khan and even COAS Abdul Waheed Kakar. He even told Kakar that ‘you guys let me down’ and that if ‘General Beg been there, or General Janjua been there, how dare they pull me out from there. I would have seen that. Or if somebody like Musharraf had been there, how could anybody put their hands on me and pulled me out’.36 This is the reaction of a mid-level intelligence officer on just being transferred from a cushy assignment abroad by a civilian Prime Minister.
It does not take long for young officers to catch up on the arrogance and contempt of civilians. In 1988, young army officers manhandled a provincial assembly member from Rawalpindi, Bashir ul Hasan after a dispute. In April 1992, in Lahore, a police inspector, Hasan Danyal arrested a army Captain Nadeem Arif in civil clothes on charges of teasing young women and assaulting a police officer. A case was registered against the army officer and he was released. Four days later, the captain along with fellow officers and eighty soldiers carrying weapons with live ammunition invaded police station. The police station was ransacked and furniture and vehicles were destroyed. The police officer was kidnapped. He was tortured and dragged behind the jeep. A senior officer who later investigated the event as Colonel GS of Corps Headquarters gives a different version of events. According to him, two army officers were publicly beaten by police inspector. A group of 50-60 army officers who attacked the police station had hockey sticks, tent poles and may be one or two handguns.37 In a similar incident in Mardan, in a clash with the police, military personnel attacked the police station. In the resulting firing between police and army personnel, one police constable was killed. The brawls of youngsters whether civilian or uniformed are not a major issue and can occur in any society. The problem occurs when such brawls occur on the basis of a self- righteous and exaggerated sense of patriotism on part of officers. One bright officer describing his early experiences in army states, “I straight away settled down to good soldiering — and in my exuberance had a few street fights with youngsters trying to belittle the army’.38 Another bright commando officer Major (later Brigadier, who died during a para jump when his parachute didn’t open) Tariq Mahmud Shah was notorious for such fights during his early days in Quetta. Such attitude if not checked by military leadership has two negative effects. First, general public who respect the army only for its disciplined life starts to have different thoughts as army officers are seen more looking like police (probably the most hated public servants). Second, and more dangerous is that the officers start to see these civilians as potential traitors. It was in this background that the criticism of army by Bengalis was seen as anti-national activity. In March 1971, when ‘Operation Searchlight’ was launched in East Pakistan, a large number of civilians were killed due to indiscriminate use of firepower. The attitude of senior officers regarding such incidents has to be balanced and keeping in view of the institutional image. While minor discretions by junior officers can be ignored but serious breach of law needs to be handled more maturely. A Colonel (later Brigadier) who investigated the incident of attack on police station by army officers has used words like ‘invasion force’ for the army officers and destruction of a police station as ‘a surgical operation and the blow was delivered with speed and precision’. He told the officers involved that, “If you had asked me I would not have permitted you, but well done”. To be fair to him, at least he admitted that ‘my wild impulse and institutional compulsions were once again at work’. The army chief (General Asif Nawaz Janjua) told the investigating army officer, “Good. See that the officers are not harassed”.39 Similarly, when Major Tariq Mahmud after executing few captured Balochis told his GOC ‘Sir: If we follow the normal legal routine, they will go free. I know that they are guerrillas, therefore, I have executed them” and the general concurred. He didn’t question the wisdom of his junior officer who was now acting as law enforcer, prosecutor, witness, judge and executioner for his prisoners. The critical importance of adherence to law of the land by all officers cannot be ignored. Otherwise, the country runs the risk of turning its army into an armed ‘mafia’ who would protect its kin at all costs with devastating consequences. Any aberration needs to be checked firmly and promptly which will enhance the image of the army as an organized and disciplined force, which has the capacity to punish the culprits among its own ranks.
Contrary to popular belief, military is neither all that cohesive nor monolithic. Like any other bureaucratic organization, there is a wide range of opinion about different issues including military’s role in civilian arena. Unfortunately, in case of Pakistan, there is no other institution, which has any influence let alone control over the military. The only limiting effect is the public opinion and pressure and wisdom on part of higher ranks of the army itself. This means that it is the military’s own leadership which have to do some soul searching at least in short term to prevent deterioration of professionalism. Few areas need immediate attention. Until Pakistan army decides to quit the civil arena permanently (the chances of which seem very slim at present), special courses are needed at all level to educate officers about their role and interaction with various sections of the society. This will help to decrease the friction between army and society. Pakistan army consists of Pakistanis and not aliens. The clean image of the army is due to its distance from the civil society and not due to some inherent piety and goodness. The more soldiers will interact with civil sectors; higher are the chances of they being contaminated by the corruption. The quicker the present government disengages soldiers from the civil areas, the better for the armed forces. Threats and intimidation may not prevent the publication of the scandals involving officers of armed forces. The military brass should be assured that the running of golf courses and business conglomerates by GHQ will come under close scrutiny by general public as well as business dealings of retired army officers. To decrease the politicization of the army, absolutely minimal number of senior most officers needs to be in contact with politicians. In view of the pyramidal nature of the promotion system of the officer corps and large economic gap between the senior and mid-level officers, it is natural that officers who are not promoted will become resentful. The reason is not that those who are not promoted are somehow deficient or bad officers but it is the nature of the military’s hierarchy and promotion system. Officers need to be educated that not getting promotion does not mean condemnation. Similarly, there is a huge difference in life style of senior and junior officers after retirement. Those officers who are not promoted need a programme before their retirement to help them adjust in civilian life. Educational courses (business, small economic activity courses) prior to their retirement would help them adjust in civil life with minimum financial and psychological stresses. There are several other areas including economic and administrative restructuring of army, risks involved with deep penetration of civil society by uniformed officers and tactical and strategic military doctrines which need a comprehensive analysis and input from all sections of the society to help build a stable society and professional armed forces.
The major problem with the military leadership is the dilemma which they are facing vis-a-vis civilian society. Safeguarding the military’s institutional interests which also include “not accepting responsibility or allowing prosecution for human rights violations, the preservation of institutional prestige including recognition of the military’s past role as national ‘saviours’, and the preservation of current prerogatives and resources”40 are also the very same factors which undermine the professionalism of armed forces. Protection of officers involved in gross misconduct and violations during internal security duties (in the name of protection of institutional reputation), creation of myths and exaggerated battle accounts and fictitious bravery records (to portray military as national saviour) and ostentious lifestyle of senior officers and non-military uses of defence budget (in the name of national interest and defence) all undermine the fighting abilities of the officer corps. Every institution needs periodic evaluation and reassessment to improve its performance and to adjust to changing situations to achieve its objectives with minimum cost. This rule applies to armed forces also. Adequate attention needs to be paid to the areas, which help to promote the growth of an officer and broaden his horizons to help him perform his duties professionally. Currently, at National Defence College (NDC) level, there is some frank debate and discussion on various issues but it is limited to NDC. Once the officer leaves NDC, he moulds quickly back to the institutional norms prevalent for decades. To prevent further deterioration in the professionalism of the officer corps, it is critical that a detailed analysis be done. All procedures and practices need periodic assessments to improve them and make armed forces better prepared for the difficult challenges ahead.
The basic problem in decision-making in the Army is that people do not “grow” to be senior officers. They simply get “promoted” to senior ranks.41

1Hamid, Shahid. Major General (r). Disastrous Twilight (London: L. Cooper, 1986), p. 219
2Maniruzzaman, Talukdar. Military Withdrawal From Politics: A Comparative Study (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1987),
p. 8
3Siddiqi, A. R. Brigadier (r). The Military in Pakistan: Image and Reality (Lahore: Vanguard Books, 1996), p. 14-15
4Interview of Major General Akbar Khan, Pakistan: Generals aur Siasat
(in Urdu) Generals and Politics (Lahore: Vanguard Books, 1991), p. 292-93
5Siddiqi. Military in Pakistan, p. 14 & 19
6Rahman, Atiqur. Lt. General (r). Our Defence Cause: An Analysis of Pakistan’s Past and Future Military Role (London: White Lion Publishers, 1976), p. 42
7Khan, Fazal-Muqeem. Major General (r). Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership (Islamabad: National Book Foundation, 1973), p. 150
8Shafqat, Saeed. Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan: From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997), p. 203
9Khan, Jahandad. Pakistan: Leadership, p. 183
10Interview of Lt. General Faiz Ali Chisti. Hasan Ali. Pakistan: Generals Aur Siyasat, p. 59
11Arif, Khalid M. General (r). Khaki Shadows: Pakistan 1947-1997 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 166
12Chisti A. Faiz. Lt. General (r). Betrayals of Another Kind: Islam, Democracy and the Army in Pakistan (London: Asia Publishing House, 1989), p. 82
13Arif, Khalid M. General (r). Working With Zia: Pakistan’s Power Politics 1977-1988 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 153
14Arif. Khaki Shadows, p. 170-71
15Arif. Working With Zia, p. 217
16Arif. Working With Zia, p. 217-18
17Niazi, Amir Abdullah. Lt. General (r). The Betrayal of East Pakistan (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2000, Second Impression), p. 12
18Niazi. Betrayal of East Pakistan,
p. 15-16
19Chisti. Betrayals of Another Kind, p. 93
20Interview of Lt. General (r) Imtiaz Hussain Waraich. Defence Journal (Karachi, Online Edition. All further references are from online edition), October 2001
21Interview of Major General (r) Syed Wajahat Hussain. Defence Journal, August 2002
22Chisti. Betrayals of Another Kind,
p. 245-46
23Hamid, Shahid. Major General (r). General Ki Aap Biti (in Urdu). Autobiography of a General. (Lahore: Jang Publishers, 1992), p. 220-21. Appendix: 6 & 7
24for copies of the signed affidavit of Lt. General (r) Javed Nasir, see South Asia Tribune, December 23-29. www.satribune.com
25Malik, Tajjamul Hussain. Major General (r). The Story of My Struggle (Lahore: Jang Publishers, 1992, Second Edition), p. 74
26Rahman. Our Defence Cause,
p. 39
27Ahmad, Khalid. Why Do ISI Chiefs get into Trouble? The Friday Times (Weekly, Lahore. Online Edition), November 02, 2001
28Arif. Khaki Shadows, p. 154 & 167
29Mukherjee, Trigunesh. Brigadier (r). Inside The Indian Army (New Delhi: Manas Publications, 2000), p. 149
30Khan, Jahandad. Lt. General (r). Pakistan: Leadership Challenges (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 182
31Khan, Jahandad. Pakistan: Leadership, p. 210-213
32Chisti. Betrayals of Another Kind,
p. 138, 177, 179, 188
33Khan, Jahandad. Pakistan: Leadership, p. 222
34Siddiqi. The Military in Pakistan, p. 28-29
35Khan, Jahandad. Pakistan: Leadership, p. 92
36Interview of Colonel (r) Shuja Khanzada, 1999. South Asia Tribune, Vol: 2, July 27-August 02, 2002, www.satribune.com
37Qadir, Muhammad M. Brigadier (r). Of Good Order and Military Discipline. Defence Journal, October 2002
38Interview of Major (r) Raja Nadir Pervez. Defence Journal, October 2002
39Qadir, Muhammad. Of Good Order
40Koonings, Kees & Kruijt, Dirk (Ed.) Political Armies: The Military and Nation Building in the Age of Democracy (London & New York: Zed Press, 2002), p. 29
41Mukherjee. Inside the Indian Army, p. 134