Fifty Years of the Pakistan Army
(The Misplaced Sojourn)

Columnist Col (Retd) G H NIAZ takes us down memory lane to the present time vis-a-vis the Pakistan Army

Peace time is normally spent by the nations particularly the Armed Forces for preparation for war. The Pakistan Army at the time of independence was not properly equipped specially the Armour and Heavy Weapons. But the JCOs and Jawans were war veteran and well trained. The majority of Officers had war experience and well groomed by the experienced British Officers. The Army with all its shortcomings fought the Kashmir War of 1948 gallantly but we failed to achieve the objective.

The cancellation of 'Operation VENUS', presence of certain ambitious senior officers, withdrawal of British Officers from the command from operational areas and the failure of correct appreciation of the situation by the political leadership by accepting ceasefire resolution at a very crucial stage when the battle commander (Gen. Akbar) was in a position for a successful offensive operation, changed the victory into defeat. The Indian Army successfully achieved their mission by link up Poonch and capture of Kargil.

These dedicated and veteran junior officers and JCOs trained the newly commissioned officers from PMA and OTS and recruits and achieved a very satisfactory standard.

The un-successful Pindi Conspiracy case of March 1951 shook the political and Army leadership to a great extent. The political leadership became cautions of power and role of the Army and specially the Commander-in-Chief who was now being considered as the pivot of the strength.

The partial martial law of March 1953 in Lahore and curfew in Karachi and certain other cities kept the Army away from their profession but for a very short duration which did not effect their efficiency.

The Army exercise 'NOVEMBER HANDICAP' conducted in 1954 gave the Army practical experience and confidence.

Election were due to be held in the country under 1956 constitution. President Sikander Mirza did not see much future in these elections for his Republican party, he therefore worked out the plan. Its essential elements were abrogation of the constitution, imposition of martial law by using General Ayub Khan and the Army and after dust settled, scheme was to kick out General Ayub Khan and appoint a docile and pliable Commander-in-Chief in his place and thus rule the country undisturbed. With the Army Chief behind him and Americans all out to help him with economic and other aid, he thought he would be the king of Pakistan for life. Unfortunately for him things did not quite work out according to his plan. Martial Law was declared on 8th October, 1958 with Sikander Mirza as President, but the Army under the leadership of General Ayub Khan took over the government from him on 27th October.

The people of Pakistan were thoroughly fed up with the politicians, welcomed the change in the Government. The re-action among certain section of the population was very bullish, the Army was generally happy with the golden revolution - the bad lot mainly the politicians and the corrupt bureaucrats would be swept away and a clean, fair and just administration would bring welfare and happiness for the common man. The evil days of the tyranny, injustice, bribery and corruption would be over. General Ayub Khan's broadcast to the Nation reflected the thoughts of the officers cadre of the Army generally.

Troops employed during the martial law were limited and therefore did not effect their professional efficiency. The senior Army Officers got themselves involved completely in the civil affairs and most of them never reverted to the Army. But it affected the efficiency of the officers, those who remained longer on the martial law duties and also got involved in the social evil practices.

The operation of 'RAAN OF KUTCH' in May 1965 was a great success and morale booster for the Army. But the operation 'GIBRALTAR' was a complete disaster, lack of coordination at the top, absence of any real efforts to arouse A K population and errors in the detailed execution of the plan, led to the failure of the operation. Gibraltar caused enough reaction in the Indian High Command and making body for them to launch attack on Pakistan in September 1965. The war was fought by the entire Nation. The Army was capable of repulsing the initial offensive of a much superior enemy, who failed to achieve his mission. The war is known to be the war of company commanders. The higher echelon was hardly involved in the initial stages. The war ended in a stalemate despite much greater superiority in number of Indian Forces due to the courage of our men and officers and timely removal from the battle front of the demoralized and panicky senior officers in staff and command.

Aggression by hostile power normally tends to bring the desperate element in a state close together. Unfortunately in Pakistan's case of 1965 war brought about quite opposite result as far as relation between the two wings were concerned. One cannot help feeling that almost every major development or event took the two wings further and further apart. Even a cursory examination of the reasons for this tendency leads one to but one conclusion,. The inability of the political leadership to lay sound foundation for the state of Pakistan.

On 25th March 1969 General Yahya Khan became the CMLA and assumed the control of the country's affairs. The aging Field Marshal who was so fond of quoting history could see history being repeated and this time he was at the receiving end. The wheels of fortune had turned full circle. When this betrayal of democracy took place, the political leadership of the country publicly welcomed it.

The regime held first fair and just elections in the country under supervision of the Army. But unfortunately the people of Pakistan elected two main representatives Mujib and Bhutto, neither of whom had the slightest bit of patriotism for Pakistan as one. Separation was the best way for both of the political leaders as well as for the destruction of the prestige of the Army. The Military leadership failed to counter the manipulation of the two politicians and the insurgency that followed but at no stage was the army unpatriotic, treacherous or treasonous.

Then eventually came the war with India. The Army at all fronts fought gallantly but suffered ignominious defeat. There was possibility of saving 90,000 troops from becoming Indian prisoners but the political leader saw to it that the relevant resolution in the United Nations were frustrated. The Army command cannot escape the responsibility for what happened. The basic appreciation by the command and staff in GHQ failed to take into consideration the array of hostile elements in East Pakistan, the Indian support to these elements and finally the responsibility of war with India. Once the military option was chosen, General Yahya failed in choice of the commander and also failed to carefully vet the method adopted to bring the insurgence situation under control. This defeat along with the offensive propaganda against the army successfully destroyed the prestige of the army. The political leaders achieved their mission. The people's hatred for the army was intense.

On 5th July, 1977 the COAS General Zia-ul-Haq declared Martial Law in the country. In his speech affirmed his faith in democracy 'I genuinely feel that the survival of this country lies in the democracy alone'. He assured the nation that neither he nor the army had any political ambitions in the following words: 'I want to make it absolutely clear that neither I have any political ambitions nor does the army want to be taken away from its profession of soldiering. My sole aim is to organize free and fair elections which would be held in October this year. Soon after the polls, power will be transferred to the elected representatives of the people. I give a solemn assurance that I will not dissipate my power and energies as CMLA on anything else. I will do my best to refrain from doing anything which is likely to restrict the power of judiciary.'

The period of three months got extended for almost eleven long years. During this period the Army was taken away from its profession of soldiering. The Defence budget was indiscriminately spent on unrelated to the efficiency bearing projects. The indiscriminate promotion in the army specially in the higher ranks, make it the Army of Generals. To look after the welfare of senior officers quality houses were built for them at a nominal price, plots and land were distributed. Living accommodation for junior officers was given the lowest priority. With this state of affairs there was frustration in the junior ranks.

On 17th August, 1988 the history repeated itself and all the political leadership with all its spirit of democracy took over the Government. The Army was awarded 'Tamgha-e-Jumbhoriat'. The Army exercise 'ZARB-E-MOMEN' held almost after thirty five years was a part of Glasnost policy which was adopted by the then COAS. According to some veteran senior army officers, this exercise was more of a showpiece than anything else and to impose upon the political leadership of its strength. With most of the vehicles and other equipment being off road and beyond local repairs due to non-availability of spare parts, hardly anything was learnt.

It is unfortunate but understandable that whenever the ARMY has been used in any province in Aid of Civil power or in the manner it was used in Balochistan or in DIR NWFP/Sindh and Karachi widened the gulf between provinces and created bitterness against the officers and men of the Army. Such feelings at any stage for a National Army are disastrous to the prestige of the Army. The longer the Army remain out of their barracks/profession of soldiering, the more they get involved in the social evils and more possibility of counter offensive.

Men may lie but the facts do not. It is a fact that we fought three wars and lost all of them. There are many claiming to be the hero and most deserving case for Nishan-e-Haider, but who were the cowards and responsible for the defeat. In the interest of portraying the truth to the succeeding generations, it is our moral duty and obligation that an objective, unbiased, authoritative and truthful account of all the three Indo-Pak wars which led to the failure and defeat be known to the Nation. The literature of Indo-Pak wars has been produced in India and the West forming the basis for discussion in the military institutions the world over. One of the misplaced reasons was the secrecy and the security aspect.

The role of our Armed Forces has to be taken into account from 1947 onward and we must embark upon a nation-wide effort to produce literature of all kinds of the Indo-Pak wars looking both for causes of success as well as failure.

Lastly a piece of advice - Pakistan Army should learn from the 'adverse remarks' passed a few years back by Ex-Chief of Indian Army General Joshi, while giving a TV interview, it should wind up all its welfare projects like bakery and vegetable shops, let this aspect be looked after (presently poorly managed) CSD shops. Extricate all its combat manpower committed on such unprofessional venture - 'GOLF COURSES' are very much inclusive, ruthlessly curb the VVIP/VIP legacy of General Zia and go in for a real austerity drive.

It is the duty of the Army to defend the territorial integrity of Pakistan and we must prepare ourselves for this. Let the Army remain in its respected, admired and loved position capable of defending the Honour of the Nation, with greater success and keep the flag of Pakistan high with GLORY, POWER AND VICTORY. Amin.