Pakistan Forces

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Pakistan Army

Pakistan Army | Pak Fauj

Former Indian Muslim Army officers formed the Pakistan Army after India’s partitioning in 1947, serving in the British Indian Army. Pakistan Army is the largest branch of the nation’s military. It is a professional, volunteer combat force, with approximately 550k active personnel and 500k reserves (though estimations vary widely). Constitution gives a basis for the service draft, but enrollment is never imposed in Pakistan.

General Headquarters (GHQ) is the single command structure based at Rawalpindi Cantt near the Joint Staff HQ.

Flag of the Pakistan Army
Flag of the Pakistan Army

The Pakistan Army is commanded by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), by statute a Four-Star Army General, appointed by the President with the Prime Minister’s consultation and confirmation. General Qamar Javed Bajwa is the chief of army staff till 2018.

Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad is the current Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

The Army has a broad range of corporate, commercial, and political interests. On many occasions, it has taken control of the civilian government to restore order in the country.

The Pakistan Army Aviation Corps reportedly operates approximately 250 aircraft that including 40 AH-1 Cobra combat helicopters.

The Army Strategic Forces Command runs a wide range of missile systems in its arsenal.

Despite the Pressler amendment enforced in the 1990s, the Army focused on developing land-based weapon systems and military hardware production. Private innovation resulted in the successful development of G3A3 Rifles, Anza missile systems, and Al-Zarrar and Al-Khalid main battle tanks (MBTs).

Since 1947, the Army has made three wars with neighbouring India and several border conflicts with Afghanistan.

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Pakistani soldiers being decorated after a tour of duty with the UN in the DR Congo
Pakistani soldiers being decorated after a tour of duty with the UN in the DR Congo

Due to Pakistan’s diverse geography, Army has great combat experience in a variety of areas. The army has maintained a strong presence in the Arab world during the Arab–Israeli Wars and aided the Coalition Forces in the first Gulf War.

Pakistan Army played a major role in the Bosnian war battle and rescued trapped American soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993.

Recently, the Army’s major joint operations include Operation Black Thunderstorm and Operation Rah-e-Nijat, against armed rebels within Pakistan. The Pak Army also an active participant in UN Peacekeeping missions.

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According to the Pakistani Constitution, the existence of the Pakistan Army and its constitutional role is protected, with its primary objective to serve as the land-based uniformed service branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces. The Pakistani Constitution establishes the Pakistan Armed Forces as having the following uniform branches:

The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.

 Constitution of Pakistan

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Command and Control Structure

A minister of defence is responsible for providing leadership in the army. The department of the army is usually headed by the Army Secretary-I at the Ministry of Defense, with the Defense Secretary handling the department’s administrative affairs. Under Pakistan’s Constitution, the Prime Minister is the Chief Executive while the President serves as Commander-in-Chief.

The Chief of Army Staff, 4 star general, advisor on expeditionary and land warfare matters under the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Chief of Army Staff is the highest-ranking officer in the military.

There is only one combat headquarters, the Army General Headquarters, which is located within Rawalpindi Cantonment in Punjab, in Pakistan, near the Joint Staff Headquarters. Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) are commissioned at the three-star rank and assist the Chief of Army Staff at all levels of operational command.

Army General Headquarters operates under the direction of the Army Chief, including the appointed officers:

  • Chief of General Staff, under whom the Military Operations and Intelligence Directorates function
  • Chief of Logistics Staff
  • Quartermaster General (QMG)
  • Master General of Ordnance (MGO)
  • Engineer-in-Chief, the chief army engineer and typographer
  • Judge Advocate General
  • Military Secretary
  • Comptroller of Civilian Personnel

During Gene’s tenure at Army GHQ, major changes were introduced in the military bureaucracy in 2008. The institution of two new PSOs: the Inspector-General for Arms and the Inspector-General for Communications and Information Technology, was initiated during the tenure of Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Check: Pakistan Army Ranks and Salary


Commissioned officers

In Pakistan, the commissioned officer ranks and insignia are patterned after the ranks and insignia of the British Army. To qualify for a commission in the Pakistan Army, applicants must be accepted and graduate from the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, Cadet Colleges, or Officer Candidate Schools (OCS – Sui or Jhelum). Candidates for becoming officers in the armed forces are required to complete four years of college study.

Therefore, they are assigned distinctive insignia representing their specific staff community. Selection for the officer corps is highly competitive, with less than 320 candidates entering the academy each year. Those who have already graduated from veterinary, engineering, and medical schools are instantly recruited in the administrative corps.

After completing 12 years of education in their respective fields (such as attending schools and universities), members of the staff corps spend two years at the Pakistan Military Academy where they divide their time equally between training for military duties and academic studies to achieve a baccalaureate degree in English.

Furthermore, the Army employs 6,500 civilians in areas such as financial management, accounting, engineering, construction, and administration. The military officers in the Pakistani military retire at an average age of forty-two to sixty, depending on their rank, and then seek work in the government or the private sector where they are paid more and have greater opportunities to gain more.

As of 2018, according to an estimate by IISS, the Pakistan Army stands at 815,00 soldiers, including active-duty personnel from the Regular Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard, as well as 70,000 soldiers from the Frontier Corps, which is under the command of Pakistan’s Army.

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Warrant officers

JCOs are used in the Pakistan Army who is equivalent to Warrant officers or Limited duty officers in the US military. JCOs were introduced in India by the British across the enlisted and officer ranks of the former British Indian Army.

A JCO is a specialized person with a specific field of expertise in their particular job, originally appointed (NS1) after rising from enlisted ranks and subsequently promoted (SM3) by the commanding officer.

Since a considerable gap existed between officers and enlisted personnel when the new army was established in 1947, the use of junior commissioned officers was a continuation of the former Viceroy’s commissioned officer rank.

The junior officer’s rank system has become obsolete over the past years due to the rise in enlisted enrolment and the adoption of the U.S. Army’s ranking principles than the British. Enlisted personnel continue to desire promotion to the levels of JCO/WO as a powerful incentive to not attend accredited four-year colleges.

Check: List of Top Cadet Colleges in Pakistan

Enlisted personnel

Recruitment and enlistment in the army take place nationwide, but the army recruiters keep in mind ethnic balance, encouraging those who were turned away to enlist in either the Marine Corps or the Air Force.

Many of the enlisted personnel had only rudimentary literacy skills with few coming from the poor and rural areas, but with access to affordable education have accomplished matriculation (12th Grade).

Formerly, the army recruits were re-educated along the way in a paternalistic regimental training centre, learning the official language, Urdu, if necessary, and having a period of elementary schooling before their actual military training began.

They begin to feel like Pakistani during their thirty-six-week training period rather than solely a member of a tribe or a village.

During their years of service, enlisted personnel participate in regular military training cycles, take academic courses to advance, and often retire or gain a commission.

Noncommissioned officers (or enlistees) wear chevrons of their regimental colors on the right sleeve. It is important that the center point of the uppermost chevron remains 10 cm from the point where the shoulder is situated.

A company/battalion appointment wears an appointment badge on their right wrist. A higher pay scale and attractive benefits are provided upon enlistment, including free housing, land allocation, and financial aid for college. In the armed forces, pension age varies based on the enlisted ranks that a service member has attained.

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Recruitment and training

Recruits were recruited largely from Jhelum, Rawalpindi, and Campbellpur by the British Army’s recruiting administration prior to August 1947. From 1947 to 1971, the Pakistan Army recruited the majority of its soldiers from Punjab. Due to the strong recruiting interest coming from the poor rural families of Punjab and the fact that Punjab was the most populous province of Pakistan, the Pakistan Army was commonly referred to as the “Punjabi Army.”

Today, Pakistan Army recruiters do struggle in enlisting citizens who are willing to give of themselves to the armed forces from urban areas (such as Karachi or Peshawar) where college educations are quite popular (especially in the US and English-speaking countries). Additionally, they may be employed in the private sector with lucrative salaries and benefits, whereas military recruits are still drawn from rural and remote areas of Pakistan, where dedication to the armed forces is much higher than in the urban centers.

Following 1971, the Bhutto administration implemented a Quota system and drastically reduced the number of officers and men from Punjab; this policy still exists today in order to maintain ethnic balance in the army. Anyone who is turned away is strongly encouraged to join the Marine Corps or the Air Force.

By 1991, the army department reduced its personnel from Punjab significantly, downsizing the army to 63% of its original size and issuing qualified medical waivers to interested recruits, while encouraging the citizens of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh to enlist. Each district in Pakistan has been allotted a fixed proportion of seats in all branches of the Pakistan Army based on census data, which has given every citizen of Pakistan an equal opportunity to join the Pakistan Army. According to the Department of Army, from 2003-05, 43-70% of its staff from Punjab was downsized.

Since the army recruiters take responsibility for educating the interested enlistees from Balochistan and Sindh to 12th grade and the height requirement of 5 feet 4 inches is acceptable, the Department of Army has relaxed its recruitment and health standards in Sindh and Balochstan. There remains a height requirement of 5 feet 6 inches with matric in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where recruitment is popular.

Basic training takes place at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, the only Bootcamp where the army has its basics. Usually, cadets undergo such training for two years and then graduate from the Academy. No matter where they attend military schools and colleges in other parts of the country, all recruits, enlistees, and officers candidates attend the PMA for training.

As one of the longest boot camps in the country, it takes two years to complete, and the training continues for two years until the cadet can graduate from the academy before going on to pick the college they would like to attend to begin their military career.

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Women and religion in the Pakistan Army

Pakistan has had women in its military since 1947, and there are currently about 4,000 women serving in the armed forces. The Women’s Guard Section of the National Guard was formed in the years 1947, 1948, and 1949 in order to train women in medical work, welfare work, and clerical positions (this was later disbanded).

Female cadets are trained at Pakistan Military Academy’s Lady Cadet Course, which is a special course for women in the Pakistan Army. Female officers are inducted at the Pakistan Military Academy, where they undergo six months of training as their male colleagues. Training includes tactical instruction and physical productivity exercises. Female officers wear standard military khaki uniforms.

Major-General Shahida Malik is Pakistan’s first woman general officer who was promoted to two-star status, as Pakistan is the only Muslim-majority nation to appoint women to general officer positions. A first-ever training session for female paratrooper officers was conducted in July 2013. The first Pakistani woman Lieutenant General, Nigar Johar, was appointed to the army in 2020. She came from the Pakistan Army Medical Corps.

It has been a commanding force for Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians and Sikhs in Pakistan. The Chaplain Corps offers religious services to Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.

Shercharn Singh was the first Sikh to be commissioned into the army in 1993, while Major-General Julian Peter became the first Christian to command a unit. From 1947 until 2000, Hindus were prohibited to enlist in the Pakistan Army prior to the federal government’s reversal of the policy. As of 2006, Hindus began being recruited for the Army, and all faiths are welcome to apply for any rank or command.

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