Brig (Retd) YASUB ALI DOGAR talks about the need for
a higher coordination mechanism in the Armed Forces


Lately the role of the Joint Staff Headquarters has been a source of controversy in the national newspapers. Views varying from making it an all-powerful institution to its altogether disbandment have been expressed. It has basically been criticized due to its inability to play a positive role both in planning higher direction of war, or for that matter in internal security matters. The power ‘Troika’ consisted of the Army Chief with the President and Prime Minister and not the Chairman Joint Staff Chiefs of staff Committee. Critics citing the example of India where the three chiefs rotate as the Committee Chairman have questioned the wisdom of our having such a large HQ with at best a ‘co-ordinating’ role in the present environment. In order to assess the requirement of Pakistan’s Higher Defence Organization a study of various systems in vogue having some relevance to us has been carried out.


Historical Perspective. The evolution of higher defensive organization in any country is a result of its prevailing geopolitical and strategic environment. The formation of this structure in some of the major countries has had an historical evolution based on their requirement for exercising proper command and control over their military machines.

United Kingdom. CIGS (Chief of Imperial General Staff) was the senior most Army Officer looking after the Army’s operational role, First Sea Lord was the senior naval Officer. The RAF came under existence as an independent force after the First World War after a long continuous battle by Lord Trenchard (Major General, later Marshal of the RAF). The three services functioned under the War/Defence Minister till 1965 when the present organizational set up was created. Lord Mountbatten of Burma who had gone back to his command of the Mediterranean Fleet after his stint as Viceroy of India was appointed as the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in 1965. Canada and Australia also follow a somewhat similar system.

USA. Till 1948 the US Departments of War and Navy dealt with COS. Army and CNO Navy separately. The Commander-in-Chiefs in the field like the C-in-C Pacific had elements of all services under him, these C-in-Cs could be from any of the service. The defence services went through major structural changes in 1947-49 when USAF was recognised as an equivalent service. The Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff appointment came into being with Army, Navy and USAF Chiefs being part of the Joint Chiefs. Later US Marine Corps was able to get a seat along with other Chiefs for matters concerning Marine Corps. These days the US National Guards have mounted an intensive campaign to become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their campaign has the backing of many Senators and Congressmen with NG background. The US commands world over are multiservice commands and are operating under the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Service Chiefs basically deal with personnel, training and related matters. US Army troops within USA except those with overseas commitments like the Central Command and Special Operations Command function under the COS Army.

Israel. The Israeli Defence Forces are part of a unified command structure under the Ministry of Defence. The Israeli Defence Forces HQ structure is as under: -



Comd IAF Comd Israeli Comd Comd Comd

Navy Northern Central Southern

Front Front Front

The COS has always been from the Army, signifying it being a supra service and pivot of all operational importance in context with Israel’s geo-strategic environment. No details are known of their logistics systems, however, it is believed that except for the procurement of special to service facilities the remaining are centralized under the IDF HQ.

Turkey, Egypt Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan have a system in which the Chiefs of General Staff (equivalent to our CHAIRMAN JCS) exercise the operational commands. Their system is quite similar to one prevailing in USA with some local variations.

Indo - Pakistan. Till 1947 the designation of the senior most army person in India was C-in-C India. He was second to the Viceroy in the order of precedence. The commanders of airforce and navy were designated as Air Officer Commanding, Royal Indian Air Force and Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy. The C-in-C India’s HQ was known as the General Headquarters (GHQ India) and acted as the superior HQ for all services to fulfil their requirements. It was only in June 1947 when the British expecting that both India and Pakistan were likely to designate their own officers as the C-in-C, whereby the Airforce and Naval Chiefs would become subordinate to them, changed the designations. Field Marshal Auckinluck was designated as the Supreme Commander and given a separate HQ to supervise the transfer of power to both the dominion armies. The old GHQ was re-named as the Army HQ, the Airforce and Navy commanders were designated as the C-in-Cs of their respective services. Lt Gen Sir Frank Messervy (13 Lancers) and Gen Bucher (FFR) were designated respectively as C-in-Cs for Pakistan and India. Ironically Pakistan retained the nomenclature of GHQ but without the overall authority of old GHQ. In India till today it is known as the Army HQ. In Pakistan, the problem of interservices co-ordination and integration was further compounded due to location for these HQs at Karachi for Navy, Peshawar for PAF and old Northern Command HQ for GHQ at Rawalpindi. A small Joint Services Secretariat was raised for the purposes of inter service co-ordination as part of the Ministry of Defence at Karachi. It did not or could not play its contemplated role. It is a well-known fact that in 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Naval Chief learnt of the outbreak of hostilities on Radio Pakistan on evening of Dec 3 .

After the traumatic events of 1971, Pakistan faced an altogether different scenario. It was President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who ordered the move of all service HQs to Islamabad. He also changed the designations of the C-in-Cs to Chief of Staffs. Whether it made any difference or was just an exercise in semantics is anybody’s guess. Later the present higher defence organisation came into existence in 1976 with Gen. Shariff as the first Chairman JCSC and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq as the first COAS under this system. Unfortunately even before the system could evolve itself into a cohesive working structure the July ‘77 coup disturbed the power balance totally. Gen. Shariff honourable, as he was refused to carry on and his remaining term was completed by Adm. Sharif as Acting Chairman JCSC. Since then the appointment has not been able to evolve itself into its rightful place nor been able to exert its intended role due to an inordinate 11 long years of Martial Law under the first COAS of this planned Higher Defence Organization.

Salient Features of the Present System

1. Joint Staff HQ is headed by the Chairman JCSC who is supposed to exercise operational control over all services in case of war/emergency.

2. The JS HQ has operational, logistics and training branches with somewhat ambiguous roles.

3. The JS HQ does not have troops directly subordinated to it. It is supposed to act through the Service HQs. Even the ISI, which is the only Inter Service Intelligence Agency, does not come under this HQ. The best Gen. Iqbal could achieve after a very strong representation was a briefing by DG ISI to the Chairman.

4. The National Defence College and the Joint Services Staff College function under the JS HQ to train officers for higher direction of war at operational and strategic levels respectively.

5. The Chairman’s appointment can be held by a senior officer from any service.

6. The working framework or rules of business between Joint Services Headquarters and Services Headquarters has been side-tracked due to service bias attitude harbouring recalcitrance.

Anomalies in the Present System

1. Whereas the JS HQ is supposed to co-ordinate and exercise operational control of combined operations in war it does not have any headquarters/troops directly subordinated to it i.e. the Corps HQ, Pak Fleet or the PAF Air Defence Commands etc.

2. The operations and other branches of the three services are far more authoritative than that of the JS HQ, leaving no possibility for a more harmonised and cogent role by the JS HQ in the present system.

3. The role of the Army which is three fourth of national defence structure, is brought to parity in the JS HQ’s present organizational structure .

4. Institutions like the NDC and JSSC have not been able to contribute towards a unified defensive thinking. Overall concept and doctrines need harmonising and jointness in their approach. At present the doctrine does not cater for tactical, limited or all out nuclear scenarios, JLAW scenarios like the Follow on Forces concepts, Special Operations and other such matters. Overall the military thought process needs joint planning processing centres for stimulating fruitful, prudent and economical responses.

5. Overall it has the responsibility but neither the authority nor the resources to carry out its intended task at present.

Suggested Organizational Structure Having come so far forward in having a tri service HQ the nation can not afford a retrograde step by disbanding it and going back to pre 1976 structure. A dynamic and vibrant nation can only go forward. Any future arrangement should take cognizance of actual ground realities and operational requirements of national defence and not be regressive in application. It should have the following attributes:-

1. This should be the main HQ to exercise actual control over national defensive effort and not be limited to a co-ordinating role only. The word committee be removed and the Chairman must exude his supremacy over the services chiefs at least on policy pronouncements and their implementations.

2. It should be functional and not a HQ in being only.

3. It should be cost effective i.e. everyone in the HQ should be functioning both in peace and war appointments, which will basically function in emergencies can be added as war increments.

4. The organizational structure should be in some proportion to the war efforts of each service.

5. Having considered all the above factors it is considered that we have following options to evolve a purposeful structure.

Option-1. This is an option of least structural changes and can be adopted as a short-term measure. It entails raising of an Army Field HQ from within the present resources of the GHQ and placing it directly under the JS HQ. All army troops facing the main enemy threat could be under the Army Field HQ. The remaining reserves to be under the GHQ. In this connection we can learn from history. The German OKH and OKW were exercising control over Russian Theatre and Western Theatre of War respectively. In USA the international commands come under the Chairman JCSC and the continental commands come under the Army COS.The diagrametical layout of this structure is as under.

Chairman JCS




The main advantages / disadvantages of this structure are:-

1. Least disturbance in present system.

2. The organizational structure for Army field HQ can be raised from within the present organization of GHQ.

3. The Operational control over main war effort will move to the JS HQ.

4. The service chiefs will remain effective over their respective services particu- larly in non-operational matters.

5. No changes in present organizational structure of the Army except raising of the Army Field HQ.

6. COAS’ role vis-a-vis. Comd Army FD HQ will be ambiguous requiring deli- cate handling

7. Not futuristic in concept in view of new emerging operational possibilities.

Option - 2. In this option it is visualised that all fighting elements particularly on the main defensive effort will function under the JS HQ . The remaining will function under the service chiefs. This structure is illustrated by the following diagram:-


Comd Army Compak Comd 3x Services

Fd HQ PN PAF Air Chiefs


The salient features of such an organization are:-

1. The JS HQ deals primarily with service chiefs on non-operational matters and force comds on operational matters .

2. Service Chiefs remain effective for training, logistics and personal matters etc for their respective services.

3. Army FD HQ was tried out in Zarbe- Momin ex and the concept was found to be workable.

Option - 3. This entails a major reorganisation of our higher HQs at Corps and above level in Army along with the GHQ and JSHQ. It is a long-term option. To implement this it is suggested that GHQ and JS HQ should be merged into one HQ and its strength reduced by 25-40 % particularly of army officers and men in GHQ. This manpower to be replaced by Naval and PAF personnel. The overall structure may look like:-


VCOS (Navy/PAF in rotation)

Western Northern Central Southern CNS CAS

Comd Comd Comd Comd Pak Navy PAF

The salient features of this organizational structure are:

1. No Corps HQs are required, with defensive formation, the infantry/armour divisions will be directly under the GOC-in-Chiefs of Commands. Therefore the Command HQ structure can be raised from within existing resources by merging of various Corps HQs

2. Strike Corps HQs may be retained till a better option comes up.

3. JS HQ deals primarily with operational aspects leaving the remaining to service chiefs/VCOS (army).

4. Army’s pre-dominant role recognized in the operational set-up by having the chief from the Army. VCOS will look after the army’s non-operational requirement leaving the CDS/Chairman to look after operational aspects.

5. Overall this is quite similar to Israeli structure that is considered to be one of the most efficient systems.


1. It has already been stated that Option-1 is a short-term option and Option-3 requires major reorganization of the Services structure. It is felt that the Army FD HQ should be raised now and placed under the JS HQ. Meanwhile studies and wargaming carried out to evaluate option 3, which should be adopted in the longer run with necessary changes as required in our environment.

2. Regardless of the option selected the designation of Chairman JCSC should be changed to Chief of Defence Staff or Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff ‘Committee’ part should be omitted.

3. The budget and allocation of all resources to the three services should be done by the CDS/Chairman of the JS HQ.

4. Institutions like the Service staff colleges should be merged into Defence Services Staff Colleges at Quetta to enhance joint services thinking. The regrettable move of PN Staff College to Lahore would have been better served if it had moved to Quetta. Even a country like Bangladesh has raised its own Defence Services Staff College. Similarly Military College Jhelum should allow its cadets to opt for all the three services rather than Army alone. An excellent National Defence Academy is available in this shape.

5. The CDS/ Chairman should be the president of the board for promotion upwards to three stars and above rank in all the services .

6. Lot of common trades/cadres should be combined i.e. doctors, engineers, cooks, drivers, bandsmen etc. Canadian Armed Forces was able to reduce their trades to 95 from over 200.

7. Procurements of new weapons system should be debated at the JS HQ and only with joint consensus purchases be permitted. So that as at present all the three services do not end up with different weapon systems.

8. Maximum priority should be given to indigenous weapons/equipment manufacturing to lessen the burden on buying extremely costly weapon systems.

9. Lastly the teeth to tail ratio can be further improved by reducing overlapping logistics/administrative chains/schools of instruction/training centres. It is felt that Army can easily raise one additional Corps by reducing the training centres etc.

10. Special Operation Comd (SOC) should be raised along with additional Special Forces out of this saving .

11. The Armed Forces contribution in the nation-building task can be enhanced significantly by undertaking the following and classifying these as operational/national security tasks.


1. Training and provision of manpower for anti-terrorist tasks.

2. Road building by Army engineers in coastal Areas, Baluchistan and other inaccessible areas.

3. Provision of communication facilities in far-flung areas of the country.


1. Organize and administer the coastal launch/ferry traffic by itself or through Bahria Foundation.

2. Open up the national inland waterways on the pattern of IWTA (Inland Waterway Transport Authority in East Pakistan).


1. Opening up remote airfields and provision of assistance to CAA in this respect.

2. Linking up distt/division level cities/stations through short haul aircraft by Shaheen Airways.


It is very strongly felt that whatever changes are to be carried out they must be done now. The new structure will have its own dynamics and will require time for settling down. Armed Forces organizations take time maturing and evolving into purposeful structures. All the above options are workable, cost effective within present resource constraints. It is now for the government to take a decision in the interest of the nation.


Brig (Retd) Yasub Ali Dogar was born on Dec. 8th 1946 in Hushiarpur (East Punjab). Married. Excellent in English and Urdu. Can also communicate in Pushto. Has widely travelled both inside and outside the country particularly in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Possesses wide knowledge and personal experience of situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia. 1965-71. Commissioned in Guides Infantry (Frontier Force Regiment). Served 1971-77 in SSG (Commandos). Commanded an armoured infantry battalion. Commanded Siachin Bde and was director in ISI as well as in Anti-Narcotic Force. Is an M.Sc and a graduate of command and Staff College, Quetta and National Defence College, Kohat. Awarded for gallantry, SI (Military) for meritorious services and COAS commendation card for ANF duties.