(Reproduced from DEFENCE JOURNAL, NOVEMBER 1997)


Publisher and Managing Editor DJ, IKRAM SEHGAL studied the additional assumption of the appointment of Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) by Gen Jahangir Karamat, the former COAS Pakistan Army in November 1997 and finds that while a Higher Defence Organisation was necessary, it may not necessarily be so large and unwieldy. Whatever was said in November 1997 remains still the truth, eighteen months later when Gen Pervaiz Mushraf, COAS Pakistan Army, has assumed acting charge

When Gen Jehangir Karamat assumed the charge of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in January 1996 he was easily the most professional soldier in Pakistan's history who made it to that post, both on merit and seniority, and this despite the desperate and ugly machinations and manipulations of an unscrupulous and most undeserving rival, Javed Ashraf Qazi. At one stage the adverse propaganda had become so dirty that Karamat had gone to the then COAS Gen Waheed Kakar and asked to be relieved as CGS. Assuming additionally the post of retiring Chairman JCSC on Nov. 08, 1997, the COAS follows in the illustrious footsteps of three fine professional soldiers, Generals Sharif, Iqbal Khan and Shamim Alam. Despite being upright and deserving, even these three could not establish the writ of their superior rank because of circumstances beyond their control, the reasons differing in all three cases. While some good officers from the other Services did make it to Chairman JCSC, they did not have the requisite knowledge and experience besides professional competence to dominate their nominal subordinate, the COAS. Probably the worst case scenario was that of the retiring Chairman JCSC Farooq Feroze Khan, a pilot who preferred solo flying throughout his career and neither had any outstanding expertise or noteworthy abilities that would know him as a leader to influence the dovetailed cooperation and coordination that symbolises the nature of the JCSC appointment he held for the past five years. If there is today an open debate about the efficacy of the JCSC, it is more because of Farooq Feroze's marked ineffectiveness in the post of Chairman.

To be or not to be, that is the question the new Chairman JCSC must answer on behalf of his new appointment in the next few months. While he must certainly have been distracted because of the unnecessary constitutional crisis in the country invented out of thin air, that is now history.

Jehangir Karamat now has an excellent opportunity to take the Pakistan Armed Forces into the 21st Century as a modern, responsive and efficient fighting machine. As Chairman JCSC and concurrently COAS, he must reform, reorganize and re-structure the entire Armed Forces along lines suited to modern warfare. He has to break the mindset of the 19th Century that keeps us mired in tactical and strategic concepts of an unreal world. We live in a false world of invented heroes, in fact for their own petty ambitions or selfish agendas these so-called 'brilliant' men emasculated the potential of this fine army. If our military manpower did not inherently have a high percentage of dedicated professionals, we would be a pushover for any adventurer, let alone our traditional enemy.

Certainly there is a need for an integrated higher command as justified by General Sharif in his important paper in 1975 that led to the creation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC). Both in 1965 and 1971, there was a criminal lack of coordination between the three Services, whenever there was inter-action the results were spectacular. General Sharif is a very thorough professional person and his priority was to create a higher defence organisation which was very necessary. However his aim was far different from that of the then late PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who wanted to create a buffer between himself and the Army, whose pre-eminence he felt he had reduced psychologically by changing the nomenclature of its Chief from Commander in Chief (C-in-C) to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in 1971. This manipulation did not work in practice. Though General Sharif was the first Chairman JCSC, appointed in 1976, in July 1977, his nominal subordinate late General Ziaul Haq, then COAS, did a successful coup de etat and removed the PM, becoming Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). In a mindboggling subsequent development Ziaul Haq became President and was Sharif's boss but Sharif remained Chairman JCSC and was Ziaul Haq's boss, at least on paper. The JCSC was thus doomed soon after its inception, in the mass perception it became a redundant HQ, an unnecessary white elephant. The last Chairman JCSC made that perception of redundancy come true.

To analyze the need for a higher defence organization and its structure let us make a comprehensive study of the major factors. Because of the need to keep large standing defence forces, we are hard put in the matter of resources to completely overcome the technological edge that is vital for defence needs. Any long-term strategy for our defence needs must take in relevant existing factors: (1) the geographical layout and terrain (2) the enemy's intentions and capabilities. (3) our own existing defence preparedness and available resources, and (4) likely help available from our allies and other friendly countries. With regards to the last factor, the three Benazir years have been spent in alienating our traditional allies in such fashion that their help becomes a matter of some doubt, available only as a dubious option. Experience has shown that instead of going in for some complicated strategy we must stay with the KISS formula, i.e. 'Keep It Simple, Stupid!'

For defence purposes, Pakistan can be divided into five areas, geographically from North to South, viz (1) Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas, (2) Punjab plains, (3) Northern Desert, (4) Southern Desert and (5) the Coast. The crucial aerial dimension must be treated as a separate front. Any war will thus take place over six fronts. For this we have to create six Commands, each looking after a separate front. In accomplishing the mission, two more Commands, viz (1) a Strategic Reserve, spread in depth over Quetta and Peshawar, consisting of at least three armoured and three motorised divisions in a sort of a 'Rapid Deployment Force', and (2) a Logistics Command based at Quetta, responsible for overall supply over mainly land routes during times of war. The geographical layout of the country, a study of India's war capabilities and previous experience points to the following possible Indian moves, viz (1) blockading of Karachi and Pakistan's coastline, (2) invasion of Sindh, (3) attempt to sever Pakistan in the narrowest section from Rahimyar Khan to Daharki, (4) the usual attempt to capture Lahore and/or Sialkot, (5) inroads in Azad Kashmir sectors from Siachen down to Bhimber, and (6) carrying out heliborne attacks to capture nodal points to await link-up with a ground attack or in conjunction of an air strike against Pakistan's nuclear facilities. Though it is possible, it is quite unlikely that India can bring maximum forces to bear on any one sector because of logistical limitations in concentrating forces either in the open desert or the Punjab plains. Concentrated force can be exerted in a combination, e.g. (1) invasion of Sindh and (2) a blockade of Karachi and Pakistan's coastline.

In the field of maritime warfare, there is only one possible mission for our Navy, viz, to ensure logistics continuity. Any hope to keep Karachi port open for any operations except military would not only be futile but fanciful. However, despite its blue-water capability Indian Navy cannot come less than 200 miles away from our coastline, the Exocet ensures that. Instead of keeping open a sea-lane to Karachi, the Navy should aim to keep the area along the coastline from Aden to the mouth of the Persian Gulf open for merchant shipping. This can be done by a combination of smaller surface ships, submarines, missile boats and land-based aircraft, forcing the Indian Navy to come close to the coastline and thus become vulnerable.

We should obtain missile boats in dozens in contrast to the few that we presently have. On the other hand, the interdiction of merchant ships plying to Indian ports can be done by declaring an exclusion zone at least 500 miles off the Indian coast and giving our submarines free rein to sink any ship in that zone irrespective of nationality. The keeping open of sea-lanes along the coastline will enable Pakistani and a third country cargo vessels to use Gwadar, Gulf (Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc.) and Iranian ports (Chahbahar, Bandar Abbas, etc.). We must plan to have lighterage vessels available in Gwadar and Pasni. Thereafter, supplies can be shuttled to Karachi (and elsewhere) by road or smaller vessels on an organised basis. We must have a positive policy for developing Gwadar as a major seaport and staging area. As a logistics base, the airport at Gwadar must be expanded to receive larger transport aircraft.

The primary aim of the PAF must be to gain air superiority over the battlefield, the secondary aims must include destruction of the enemy's vital military installations and giving Close Air Support (CAS) to our land and the sea forces. Economic targets are important but are a distant third unless vital to the enemy's immediate war effort. As far as civilian targets are concentrated, one must remember that Churchill heaved a sigh of relief when Goering during the Second World War inexplicably turned the German Luftwaffe against London to break the civilian morale and in the process gave a welcome respite to military targets, particularly British airfields. Proliferation of enemy numbers and quality enhancement of enemy fighter aircraft dictates that unless we induct in a minimum of 100 aircraft of the Mirage-2000s/SU-30 MK type and soon, we will face a major crisis in time of war, the magnitude of which can be assessed from the aerial damage pictures taken in the 1967 and 1991 air campaigns in the Sinai and the Gulf respectively. Even with 100 more aircraft, we will be hard to put to stabilize our air posture over the battlefield despite our obvious quality edge in manpower. A few days must elapse during which our land forces will be at the mercy of Indian CAS missions, we will find it difficult to contain their ground offensive without adequate air support. We have already contented that the Army Aviation, which already operates Super Mashaks must have them properly armed and fitted in a CAS role. While the attrition rate in this 'poor man's air force' will certainly be high, it will not be of the Kamikaze-level as some are suggesting. The Artillery Forward Observation Officer (FOO) always have a high casualty rate but their impact on the course of battle is far in excess of the quantum of force applied. CAS by Super-Mashaks under the control of the immediate battlefield Commander will be an effective local force-multiplier which will free the PAF to carry out its primary aim of gaining air superiority without having to divert its resources for missions extraneous to the prime one. The PAF can return to the CAS role with a vengeance once it wins the battle of air survival. This country must come up with about US $ 3-4 billion to purchase advanced combat aircraft 'even if we have to eat grass'. This money is vital to purchase 100 Mirage-2000 type air craft at US$ 35-40 million per copy. If we can manage to acquire the Chinese version of the SU-27s, the numbers will increase and/or the quantum of money required will be much less. A major logistics organisation must organize receipt of all types of cargo at Quetta from the designated seaports (including Turkish ports), mobilising own and hired transport (previously contracted for) to bring these supplies to Quetta via Iran (Zahidan) and Afghanistan (Chaman), break bulk at Quetta according to the need and dispatch as per the requirement to each front. To compensate for the road transport charges, we can keep our exports going in the reverse direction so as to earn vitally needed foreign exchange.

Mobility must be focussed around concentrated armour formations. The tank regiment should be taken away from the Infantry Divisions and organised into at least three to four Armoured Divisions from the existing inventory. The anti-tank capability of the Divisional Recce and Support Battalion as well as that integral to each of the nine infantry battalions must be upgraded in lieu. Troops must be designated to each sector as required, e.g., Azad Kashmir (AK) should have more Divisional Headquarters for effective command and control. Similarly infantry battalions across the Army (except in fixed defences such as AK) must be made smaller, three rifle companies instead of four for the same. Armoured Divisions should be integral to Punjab and the two Desert Commands (Punjab's two formations must be on either side of the Ravi) to ensure that every enemy penetration is met with fierce armour counter-attack concentrated at point of impact as a solid punch of iron and steel. The Southern Command should have an Armoured Division plus. Skeptics will say that all this is very well, you may somehow scrape together the armour, what about armoured infantry mobility and the integral self-propelled artillery? We should take a calculated risk in accepting that our infantry support may not be armoured but use four wheel soft vehicles as 'battle taxis'. Thanks to a liberal car import policy and the prediction of our rich to have Land Cruisers and Pajeros, our mobility problem can be solved by a clearly defined mobilisation policy where civilian owners should be given pre-designated assembly points when any alert is sounded. A law should be passed that non-compliance would result in confiscation followed by punitive action. The desert areas require four 'Long Range Desert Groups' (each of light infantry brigade strength). Bahawalpur (two), Chor (one) and Badin (one), equipped with light tanks, half tracks. Land Cruisers, Pajeros, etc. and camels, whose mission would be to operate deep inside enemy territory, forcing extra manpower around his airbases, lines of communications, supply depots, etc. Each of the four land commands should be able to fight independent battles with committed air support provided from airbases integral to it. A Command may have one or three Corps, composition has to be according to the terrain and enemy dispositions. Similarly the Tables of Organization and Equipment (Ts of O & E) will vary according to the requirement. The Army's Strategic Reserve should have at least three armoured and three motorized divisions.

Standardisation of arms and equipment is very necessary through the three Services, while duplication of administrative effort must be avoided. That should be the major peacetime role for a Special Task Force in the JCSC. In the eight Commands, the Air Force and Navy head one Command each. The critical battle for survival will be fought by the four Land Commands with the Strategic Reserve in the shape of another Land Command. Not to say that outstanding Air Force and Naval service officers will not be brilliant enough to command such a force, but that will only be very occasionally. Can we afford to take that chance? The answer is that the Chairman JCSC must be someone from the Army, it is very much in keeping with reality. The air battle and the war at sea are important but not as important as the vital battle on land, spread over four district COMMANDS. But do we need a large JCSC HQ and a separate Chairman? I do not think so. I think that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) should concurrently act as the Chairman of the JCS Committee, with a small tactical HQ with senior officers from the three Services as an inherent part of GHQ, not an attachment. The COAS could perhaps have a Vice COAS to help him absorb the routine load of work but he should be in clear Command of the Committee.

Throughout the Muslim history, mobility and ingenuity have been the key to success. The infantry has always borne the artillery has been devastatingly accurate in support. In the modern world, there is a third dimension with the addition of air power. As far back as Yarmuk, one of the decisive battles of the western world, Muslim cavalry has proved decisive in inflicting defeat on the enemy. While the fundamental premise of swift and decisive action must remain paramount in all our planning, the major thing to remember is that the arguments here do not represent (or claim to be) an all-encompassing solution but provoke food for thought about how much can be accomplished at little cost by imaginative but pragmatic reorganization of our Armed Forces. Those who have the country's best interest at heart will always have the courage to enact change, that is the essence of leadership, the ability to be a non-conformist in the face of routine, particularly when the stakes are high. Assessment of a professional soldier in peacetime can hardly be made if he stays strictly on a routine course but in the conduct of his command he is always a good subject for evaluation. By that measure, Gen Jehangir Karamat has performed quite well as COAS but it is in instituting reforms across the board that his true assessment well really be made. For Pakistan to remain stable, a strong and efferent Armed Forces is very necessary. A quirk of fate has provided excellent Chiefs of the Navy and the Air Force, so the new Chairman has the necessary human tools. Will he have the courage to break the traditional mould and use it for the good of the Armed Forces and the country?