ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan Army: The Schisms Within – Analysis


By Dr. Subhash Kapila

The Pakistan Army could earlier tide over with United States assistance the widespread image of it having indulged in nuclear weapons proliferation to rogue states and also as a state-sponsor of terrorism and proxy war through Islamic Jihadi terrorist organizations created by it. The United States on grounds of tactical expediency was prompted to protect Pakistan Army’s image on the expectation that the Pakistan Army committed to a collusive relationship with the United States would honestly keep to its pledges in return for more than $20 billion pumped predominantly for the Pakistan Army.

The strategic denouement between the United States and Pakistan Army which was building up for the last two to three years over the Pakistan Army not delivering on its pledges given to the United States peaked in the last two months, more notably with the United States targeted liquidation of Osama bin Laden deep within Pakistani territory and that too in the heart of the Pakistan Army major garrison city of Abbottabad.

In the wake of this significant achievement of the United States, what has emerged in the public domain within Pakistan and in the international focus globally are two major implications. Both these implications concern the overall perceptional image of the Pakistan Army.

Within Pakistan, the Pakistan Army stands besieged for the first time at the bar of Pakistani public opinion for having failed to protect Pakistan’s National Honor and Pakistan’s National Sovereignty both in the Abbottabad US Special Forces attacks and the Karachi PNS MEHRAN attacks. This development coupled with the Pakistani public’s disillusionment with Pakistan Army’s military predominance in Pakistani politics and failures on other fronts has witnessed a growing crescendo within Pakistan that the Pakistan Army should revert back to its barracks and introspect.

Internationally, the Pakistan Army has lost trust of its most steadfast strategic patron, the United States and other Western nations allied to the United States.

Nemesis has finally caught up with the Pakistan Army and its Generals. Both the people of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army’s strategic patron, the United States, want the Pakistan Army to account for 63 years of its dubious record of duplicity with both. The Pakistani public want the Pakistan Army to account for its dishonorable record of not protecting the National Honor and National Sovereignty of Pakistan and painting false perceptions of a combined US-India-Israel threat to generate public perceptions that it is only the Pakistan Army which stands as a shield and ‘The Sword of Islam’ against evil designs. Also ,this as an alibi for military coups.

The United States now wants and seemingly dictates that the Pakistan Army deliver on the strategic pledges that it gave to the United States repeatedly and yet all along the Pakistan Army Generals kept undermining the US & NATO Forces military operations in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan Army today finds itself held tightly in a cleft- stick as to regain the trust of the Pakistani people it would have to adopt strong and adversarial positions against the United States. On the other hand if it does so, the Pakistan Army risks a US military intervention.

Against this contextual background this Author had penned the last Paper as “Pakistan Army’s Military Effectiveness Analyzed” (SAAG Paper No. 4545 dated 15 June 2011) That Paper dwelt on the analysis of the overall military effectiveness of the Pakistan Army at a higher level. What were not touched in the last Paper were the schisms within the Pakistan Army prevailing today which needed a separate analysis.

This Paper intends to examine the main theme of this Paper under the following heads:

  • Pakistan Army Chief Versus the Corps Commanders :Schism at the Apex Level
  • Pakistan Army’s Tussle Within Between the United States Lobby and the China Lobby
  • The Feudal Disconnect Between the Officers and Soldiery
  • Muslim Maulvis( Religious Teachers) Questionable Role in Pakistan Army Units
  • Pakistan Army’s Morale Lowest Ever Since 1971

Pakistan Army Chief versus the Corps Commanders: Schism at the Apex Level

Reports in the American media and within Pakistan indicate that in the recent Corps Commanders Conference held after the Abbottabad United States military operation, a sharp cleavage became visible between the Pakistan Army Chief, General Kayani and the eleven Corps Commanders. It transpires that the powerful Corps Commanders were critical of the Army Chief’s and his Director General Lt General Shuja Pasha’s undue deference to the United States and succumbing to US pressures and dictating military operations of the Pakistan Army in Pakistan’s frontier regions.

The Pakistan Army has always been known to be a Pakistan Army Chief-Centric army in which all important decisions are made by the Pakistan Army Chief and are unquestioned. This was also ensured by the Pakistan Army Chief ensuring that all key appointments at higher echelons are personal appointees of the Chief himself.

Probably this is the first time that the Corps Commanders have voiced dissent in the all-important Corps Commanders Conference and that schism has seeped into the public domain

The pressures from the Corps Commanders stands reflected in the communiqué issued after the Corps Commanders Conference.

This is a schism that does not augur well for the overall united image of the Pakistan Army military hierarchy.

Pakistan Army’s Tussle Within Between the United States Lobby and the China Lobby

Pakistan has been a predominantly an anti-American nation for long. The Pakistan Army too has been the same and in fact has itself fostered the anti-American sentiment within Pakistan. This sentiment became more pronounced after the United States military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 and intensely pronounced in recent years.

On the other hand China has subtly cultivated a strong China Lobby within the Pakistan Army. One cannot forget that this should be accepted as a natural corollary of the Pakistan Armed Forces dependency of 75% on Chinese military hardware, China’s rhetorical support of Pakistan against India in Indo-Pak Wars and China providing the Pakistan Army with its nuclear weapons arsenal and long range missiles.

In recent times with the Pakistan Army being under intense US pressure to deliver on its strategic pledges, the cornered Pakistan Army gives a window of opportunity to the China Lobby within the Pakistan Army to be more assertive in pushing the China Agenda.

General Kayani and Lt Gen Shuja Pasha are being perceived as strongly pro-American and their positions become that more questionable from the China Lobby. The extensions given to both these Generals are also being perceived as having been made under US pressure on the Pakistani Government.

Analytically, it can be expected that in the next couple of years one could expect the China Lobby in the Pakistan Army to gain more ground.

The Feudal Disconnect Between the Officers and the Soldiery

The Pakistan Army discarded the British Indian Army traditions of Officer-soldier camaraderie relationship a long time back, probably sometime in the Zia years. The reasons may have something to do with forging of a more Islamic identity for the Pakistan Army.

Armies of any nation reflect the socio-economic patterns prevalent in their societies. General Zia as President in his attempts to forge an Islamic Pakistan Army adopted a strategy of enlisting more officers from rural backgrounds than urban backgrounds who were relatively more liberalist in views and hence less amenable to adopt Islamist fundamentalist precepts.

With shared rural backgrounds it should have been logically expected that the contrived Islamist coloration of the Army would result in a more strong Officer-soldier relationship in the Pakistan Army and therefore less disconnected.

This does not seem to have materialized and indicators and observations of those studying the Pakistan Army are led to believe that the earlier feudal disconnect of hierarchical equations still prevails between the Officers and soldiers in the Pakistan Army.

Muslim Maulvis (Religious Teachers) Questionable Roles in Pakistan Army Units

There are no studies available on the role of Religious Teachers (Muslim Maulvis) who are posted in all Army units to provide religious instruction, spiritual succor and motivation to all ranks. This is similar to the roles of Army Chaplains in US and Western armies.

However when it comes to the Pakistan Army, the roles of the Muslim Maulvis raises some questions and concerns. This concerns the impact of the widespread Islamic fundamentalism prevalent in Pakistan’s religious clergy in the civil street and how far has that trend affected the Muslim Maulvis in Pakistan Amy units.

Has the Pakistan Army been able to insulate the Pakistan Army Maulvis from the Islamic fundamentalism prevalent on the Civvy Street? If not then it would be fair to assume that such Maulvis in Pakistan Army units would be more like political commissars of the Soviet Union but added and impelled by the Islamic religious fervor of Islamic fundamentalist urges which they would have picked up in Islamic seminaries.

A legacy of the Zia years was that such Maulvis were used to keep under watch any non-Islamist customs and behavior of even the Officer cadres of the Pakistan Army.

This itself could lead to command and control problems in the Pakistan Army and possibly even a better hold of the Muslim Maulvis over the Pakistan Army soldiers than the Officers who lead them. It would be a serious schism.

Pakistan Army’s Morale Lowest Ever Since 1971

The schisms in the Pakistan Army have in one way or the other, directly or indirectly ,have contributed to the ironic state today where the morale of the Pakistan Army has been rated as the lowest ever since 1971 when the Pakistan Army surrendered to the Indian Army on 16 December 1971 in Dacca.

The Pakistan Army’s lowest morale since does not arise from any Indian Army actions today. This lowest morale ever since 1971 arises from the schisms within the Pakistan Army inflicted upon it by the acts of commission and omission of the Pakistan Army Generals.

This lowest morale affliction on the Pakistan Army is the end product of Pakistan Army Generals obsessive addiction to pursuing proxy war and state sponsored terrorism against India and the Talibanization of Afghanistan, both pursued through utilizing Islamic Jihadi terrorist organizations and Islamic fundamentalist militias sponsored by the Pakistan Army.

In effect what has happened is that the soldiers and middle rank Officers of the Pakistan Army find it repugnant to fight and kill their own people in Pakistan’s frontier regions. Further they feel that the Pakistan Army Generals are forcing them to fight America’s war against their own countrymen. Reports of Pakistan Army personnel refusing to join battle in frontier areas are available and also of laying down arms against frontier insurgents.

Reports indicate that there is a swelling anger in the barracks of the Pakistan Army prompting lately the Pakistan Army Chief General Kayani to travel to five major Pakistan Army garrisons in what the media describes as town-hall meetings where he had to face some pronounced barbed questions critical of Pakistan Army current posturing.

Concluding Observations

The Pakistan Army today has lost two of its main and strongest supporters due to the acts of commission and omission of its Generals and the prevailing schisms within the Pakistan Army.

The Pakistani public was the strongest admirers and supporters of the Pakistan Army so far. Today the Pakistan Army has lost the trust and respect of the Pakistani nation so much so that the Generals have been forced to sate in their communiqué that it is not good for the Pakistan Army to be maligned and disrespected.

The United States has irrationally bolstered successive Pakistan Army military regimes overthrowing civilian governments. The United States unquestioned support for the Pakistan Army encouraged the growth of Pakistan Army’s illusions of strategic grandeur far outweighing its true military worth. The Pakistan Army was led to believe that that it could box much above its true worth.

Today when nemesis has finally caught up with the Pakistan Army, the Pakistani Generals are for the first time confused as to how to deal with the challenges that now stare squarely in its face.

The Pakistan Army Generals can issue strong condemnations and warnings to the United States over what has happened in the last two months, but what condemnation and warnings can the Pakistan Army issue against the Pakistani public?

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email: [email protected])

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SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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