Ever since the creation of Pakistan, the Armed Forces have played a crucial role in ensuring its integrity and promoting nation-building. Their contribution in settling millions of refugees who migrated from India and stabilizing the country during its initial years was indeed a herculean effort. Above all, they have ensured the defense and security of the country against an inimical India whose leadership wanted to break the country before it was able to gel and stabilize as an independent state. The military and civil service were clearly the most organized, disciplined and experienced institutions that Pakistan inherited at the time of independence. The British had relied heavily on areas that later constituted Pakistan for recruitment in the Indian Armed Forces. There were a significant number of military officers and other ranks among them who had served in units or formations that had participated in World War II.
In the early years, it was largely due to the professional competence and high morale of the Armed Forces and support of the people that they enjoyed thwarting Indian designs to destabilize Pakistan. India’s hegemonic designs have been the central characteristic of its policy and relations with Pakistan. Its aggressive policies meant to subjugate Pakistan resulted in the 1965 and 1971 War. Even before that, in 1948, a major skirmish took place between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. In 1965, it was the valor and professionalism of our Armed Forces and support that they enjoyed of the people that they were able to push back an enemy seven times bigger with a much larger inventory of weapons and equipment.
India’s obstinacy in not resolving the Kashmir problem and taking unilateral measures to define its future is at the heart of the core issue that divides and generates ill will between the two countries. Relations between India and Pakistan have seriously suffered due to Prime Minister Modi’s intransigent and highly inimical policies toward Pakistan, and are further complicating the resolution of the Kashmir problem along with other bilateral issues.
The fight against terrorism, especially the way the military dealt with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been a remarkable achievement considering how these groups were financed and supported by India and other hostile elements from abroad. Until recently, TTP has used Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks in Pakistan. However, with the Taliban now in control, Pakistan expects that they will ensure that TTP is no longer allowed to operate against it or any other country, as was reiterated by DG ISPR in a recent press conference.
The Armed Forces have always been at the forefront to assist in national efforts during man-made crises or natural calamities. Their role during the devasting earthquake in 2005 of 7.6 magnitude that struck the Himalayan region of Northern Pakistan and Kashmir, and other calamities was exemplary. The sacrifices of military personnel in defending the border, braving the punishing weather and taking positions on the heights of Siachen or in the desert of Thar are a living proof of their dedication and professionalism. Whether it be natural disasters, earthquakes, flooding or forest fires, it is the Armed Forces that have played a significant role in mitigating the suffering of the people by providing immediate relief and assistance.
The fallout from the precarious peace situation in Afghanistan is a major security challenge that the military, especially the Army leadership, is handling very ably. All along it has played a constructive and robust role in assisting peace initiatives in Afghanistan. In the recent years, realizing the importance of geoeconomics, the military leadership has been a major proponent of regional connectivity whether it be as a partner with China on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects or engaging with the U.S. on bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. The more significant aspect of Pakistan’s foreign policy is that it endeavors to stay away from a great power competition. Despite its very strong and strategic ties with China, it has maintained strong military-to-military relations with the U.S. and cooperates closely with it on Afghanistan and is a partner for peace and development.
In 1947, Pakistan’s industrial and technological base was very weak and there was no defense industry. Pakistan Ordnance Factory (POF) was established with the assistance of those engineers and workers who had migrated to the country. In the last 70 years, POF has expanded into more than sixteen factories and produces state-of-the-art small arms, weapons and equipment for the Armed Forces. In addition, several major defense production factories have been established and Pakistan proudly claims to produce a wide range of military weapons and equipment that include armored fighting vehicles, guns, missiles, radars, aircraft and naval ships, etcetera, indigenously. Initially, our reliance was on U.S. sources, but after the 1965 War with India, the U.S. and Western countries imposed an embargo and Pakistan turned to China for major weapon systems. China has been relatively more forthcoming in assisting in Pakistan’s defense production capabilities. In technology transfer and establishment of defense factories, China has been a major source. In addition, Pakistan has developed its own capability, which is a source of pride. The private sector has contributed in manufacturing defense items as well. Research and Development is an important dimension of a country’s indigenous capability; it helps in reducing reliance on foreign sources for transfer of technology especially in technologies that technologically advanced countries are reluctant to share.
Constant efforts are being made to ensure that Pakistan’s defense industries are governed according to modern management practices. Advances in defense technology have been staggering during the last four decades. However, progress in aerospace, electronics, microelectronics, telecommunications, fiber optics and several other areas has revolutionized the weapon systems and brought in new concepts of national defense. Pakistan’s military has been keeping up with the pace in selected areas.
Pakistan’s military accords the highest priority to training and professional competence of its personnel, for it realizes the critical role it plays in building the capability and morale of its forces. It has been trained not only for conventional wars but also to combat insurgencies and hybrid warfare.
It was successfully able to eliminate the influence of TTP that had made inroads into the tribal areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and threatening other important areas.
In Afghanistan, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has played a critical role in rightly insisting that the only way of stabilizing the country is through a political consensus. The Army’s contribution in managing millions of Afghan refugees has been no less. The Armed Forces have tried to uphold Jinnah’s vision of aiming to seek peace in the region. It is unfortunate that Indian obstinacy that reflects in its complete disregard for human rights and commitments to honor the UNSC resolutions have been the major obstacle in its realization.
In reality, however, Pakistan’s leadership would have to work with utmost sincerity and dedication to reflect on the idealism of its founder who had always insisted on politics of inclusion and policies that would benefit the people. This would require greater understanding and cohesion among various provinces, fair treatment of minorities, more balanced and people-oriented policies, and above all, a self-reliant economy. Straying away from this vision in the past has cost the nation that it can ill afford in the future.
The professionalism and dedication of the Armed Forces, be it the Army, Air Force or Navy, and the inter-services harmony and synergy will remain the hallmark of its future successes. Judging from their past and present state of professional competence, it gives confidence of their continued national contribution for the stability and integrity of Pakistan.
The writer is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues.
E-mail: [email protected]
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