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Hilal English

Beyond the Battlefield: AIMH’s Quest for Military History Preservation

March 2024

AIMH, a premier institution founded to preserve Pakistan's military history, is dedicated to safeguarding and sharing the nation's rich military legacy through education and engagements.

Delving into the annals of time, Pakistan's military history traces its roots to the resilient ancestors along the formidable Indus. These forebears cultivated the land and fended off successive waves of invaders, laying the foundation for the warriors whose descendants now serve in the modern-day Pakistan Army. Structurally, the Pakistan Army directly inherits the legacy of the venerable regiments of the old British Indian Army, some predating the formation of Pakistan by nearly two centuries. With a rich and proud history spanning both sides of Partition in 1947, the army has steadfastly defended Pakistan.
The intertwined narratives of Pakistan's military history and the evolution of the Pakistan Army constitute a significant chapter in the nation's overall story. Recognizing the imperative for officers and soldiers to be well-versed in military history, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) endorsed a proposal on June 2, 2017, leading to the establishment of the Army Institute of Military History (AIMH). On July 28, 2021, COAS formally inaugurated AIMH, marking a significant milestone in preserving and perpetuating Pakistan's rich military legacy.
Positioned as a semi-autonomous research entity with a broad outreach in both civilian and military realms, AIMH draws academic and professional guidance and inspiration from a reservoir of knowledge, wisdom and vision–its governing body–the Army History Board (AHB) and falls under Inspector General Training & Evaluation (IGT&E). Nestled in Rawalpindi, the institute carries the mandate to archive, record, research, teach, and promote military history. It encompasses allied subjects such as physical history, battle honors, regimental lineages, customs of the service, and more. AIMH serves as a platform for veterans, academia, subject experts, and civil society members to convene, sharing their insights on matters pertinent to the Army. The institute also extends its reach to academia and students.

AIMH serves as a platform for veterans, academia, subject experts, and civil society members to convene, sharing their insights on matters pertinent to the Army. The institute also extends its reach to academia and students.

Comprising distinct wings for military history, physical history, and special studies, AIMH has emerged as a hub for historical and current affairs. It acts as a melting pot, fostering dialogue among serving and retired officers and civilians. The institute's focus remains on military history, with research directors engaging with the Army's schools of instruction, universities, and colleges as visiting faculty and guest speakers.
This feature unfolds the narrative of AIMH's dynamic journey from July 2023 to December 2023, showcasing its diverse range of activities, impactful engagements, and significant accomplishments in the realm of military history during this short stint of six months. The report details various undertakings, including educational programs, commemorative events, international engagements, and initiatives dedicated to preserving and disseminating the rich military legacy of Pakistan.
Formal Visits and Engagements. In the course of its dynamic journey, the AIMH hosted an impressive total of 21 formal visits, welcoming distinguished delegations, senior serving and retired officers, as well as esteemed foreign dignitaries. Each visit provided a platform for a detailed briefing on the role and activities of AIMH, showcasing the institute's dedication to preserving and promoting military history. Some notable highlights from these visits include:
IGT&E. On November 2, 2023, Lieutenant General Fayyaz Hussain Shah, HI (M), the Inspector General Training & Evaluation, acknowledged and appreciated the collective efforts that transformed AIMH from concept to reality. He commended the progress made on various projects undertaken by the institute.
Commander Lahore Corps. On September 7, 2023, Lieutenant General Syed Aamer Raza, HI (M), the Commander Lahore Corps, interacted with the faculty of AIMH, expressing appreciation for the institute's meticulous efforts across all endeavors.
President NDU. On October 19, 2023, Lieutenant General Rahat Naseem Ahmed Khan, HI (M), the former President of the National Defence University, lauded AIMH's efforts in archiving, documenting, and promoting military history.
▪ Lieutenant General Nigar Johar (R). The former Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Nigar Johar, visited AIMH on December 13, 2023 in acknowledgment of the institute's contributions.
U.S. CENTCOM Delegation. A delegation from the United States Central Command visited AIMH for the second time on December 5, 2023, receiving a detailed briefing on the role and functions of the institute.
German Armed Forces Delegation. A delegation from the German Armed Forces, representing the Center for Military History and Social Sciences, engaged in a productive visit aimed at identifying and enhancing areas of cooperation in military history between the two countries.
Malaysian Army Delegation. A delegation from the Malaysian Army, led by Major General Dato Haji Semaon Bin Haji Marjuki, Assistant Chief of Staff (Ops & Training Branch) of the Malaysian Army, visited AIMH on November 7, 2023, contributing to bilateral cooperation on military history matters.
Delegation of Academy of Strategic Defence Studies, Sultanate of Oman. AIMH hosted a delegation from the Academy of Strategic Defence Studies, Sultanate of Oman on September 19, 2023, providing them with a detailed overview of the institute's functions followed by an interactive session with AIMH research faculty.
Commandant AFC&SC/President SANDU. Major General Muhammad Jadou Al Rawaili, Commandant of the Air Force Command and Staff College (AFC&SC) and President of the Saudi Arabian National Defence University (SANDU), discussed bilateral cooperation on military history issues during his visit on November 8, 2023.
Defence Attaché Egypt. Brigadier General Mohamed Saad Abelrazek, Defence Attaché of Egypt, visited AIMH on August 23, 2023, expressing keen interest in displayed artifacts, AIMH publications, and exploring avenues for enhancing bilateral cooperation on military history.
Defence Attaché Australia. Captain Andrew Burnett, Royal Australian Navy, visited AIMH on September 13, 2023, receiving a comprehensive briefing on the institute's role and functions, followed by a tour of the institute.
Defence Attaché Iraq. Brigadier General Masood Zakhoy, Defence Attaché of Iraq, visited AIMH on October 20, 2023, fostering ties and collaboration on military history matters.
Head of ICRC Pakistan. On August 23, 2023, Mr. Nicolas Lambert, Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for Pakistan, engaged in discussions focused on data related to refugees and prisoners of war from the 1971 War.
NCA’s Senior Officer Leadership Course (SOLC). A delegation of civilian officers from the National Command Authority (NCA), attending SOLC-11, visited AIMH on November 30, 2023. This was the second visit by the SOLC course members. The delegation appreciated the institute's efforts in preserving the military history of the Pakistan Army and Pakistan as a whole.
Educational Initiatives and Outreach. The Military History Education Program (MHEP) took center stage, with focused efforts at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), and Command and Staff College (C&SC). Train the Trainer Cadre and guest speaker lectures at PMA, along with mentoring sessions at C&SC, marked significant progress.
Additionally, a pivotal aspect was the military history lectures for field formations, where 42 sessions were successfully delivered across 11 stations and were attended by a large number of officers. This initiative aimed to educate young officers and foster a deep understanding of military history.
Academic Collaboration and Initiatives. Apart from formal visits, AIMH engaged with academia through various avenues. Talks by esteemed personalities like Lieutenant General Muzammil Hussain (R), interactive sessions with think tanks, workshops, and visits by student groups added an academic dimension to AIMH's outreach. The institute also organized workshops on historical consciousness, leadership challenges, and thematic sessions with experts and faculty.
Publications of AIMH and Research Evaluations. AIMH is actively pursuing the publication of monographs and editions of Bugle & Trumpet, a six-monthly publication. A monograph on the Battle of Yarmuk and Beg's Stories from the 1971 War are in the final stages of publication.

Internship Program. AIMH, through its well-structured internship program, offers students a unique opportunity to refine their personality, academic and research expertise, and contribute to enhancing awareness of the Army through the lens of military history. The recent completion of the third internship batch, consisting of 26 interns, took place from July 10 to August 18, 2023.
During this period, each student was assigned an individual research topic, allowing them to delve into specific areas of interest. The evaluation process was conducted by the relevant research faculty, ensuring a comprehensive assessment of the interns' contributions. Beyond engaging in hardcore research work, participants also benefited from interactive sessions with the research faculty. Additionally, visits to the Army Central Library and the Army Museum in Rawalpindi were also organized, enriching the interns' experience and awareness.
Military History Research Training for Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Cadets. In a week-long initiative, eight cadets from the PMA of third and fourth terms, underwent a specialized training program at AIMH. The primary focus of this cadre, conducted from December 18 to 22, 2023, was to equip the cadets with a solid understanding of research methodology, how to conduct seminar(s), and the intricacies of small unit actions during the Indo-Pak Wars.
The training aimed to empower the cadets, upon completion, with the skills necessary to conduct research and deliver seminars on the specified subjects. This investment in the education and research capabilities of PMA cadets contributes to their holistic development and enhances their knowledge of military history within the context of Indo-Pak conflicts.
Defence Archive Update–War Diaries and Document Digitization. AIMH is actively engaged in the digitization process of war diaries, digests of service, and important/rare documents. The ongoing effort has resulted in the successful digitization of over 142,170 pages. Notably, during the period under review, an additional 21,404 pages have been scanned, marking significant progress in the preservation and accessibility of historical records.
Vacuumation Progress–Digitization of GSPs and Vital Documents. Simultaneously, the Defence Archives is making strides in the vacuumation process, focusing on the digitization of GSPs and other crucial documents. The current period has seen the vacuumation of over 1,480 pages, thus adding longevity to the life of these precious documents.
Military History Education Program (MHEP). The MHEP, designed to provide comprehensive military history education at the PMA and the C&SC, has demonstrated steady progress. At PMA, AIMH's research faculty conducted the Train the Trainer Cadre and Guest Speaker lectures for the 147th and 148th PMA Long Courses from August 29 to September 1, 2023. Similarly, AIMH research faculty visited C&SC in August and September 2013 to mentor on subjects related to military history as part of the WFS package. DG AIMH also delivered a talk at C&SC on the importance of military history. Under this program, 42 garrison-level talks on military history-related subjects/operations were also delivered across 11 stations, educating young officers.
Military History Preservation, Research, Compilation, and Publication Program. AIMH's dedication to preserving military history is unmistakable, as reflected in its ongoing and diverse projects. Multiple books are currently progressing through various stages of development, with a particular focus on monographs dedicated to exploring various subjects.
Additionally, AIMH has significantly enriched its collection by acquiring and preserving a diverse array of rare books, articles, gazetteers, and research papers. This initiative has substantially expanded AIMH's reference library, which now boasts an impressive collection of over 4,200 books on Indo-Pak military history. This growing repository not only enhances the institute's resources but also solidifies its commitment to fostering a comprehensive understanding of military history.
Oral History Preservation Program (OHPP). Under the OHPP umbrella, AIMH recorded nearly 200 interviews. The transcription process is underway, with 120 interviews completed so far.
East Pakistan 1971–Historical Narratives. A significant focus during this period, which sought to project the historical realities, genocide of the Bihari community and dispel myths related to the 1971 War. Briefings, interactions, and outreach efforts were made at national and international levels, reflecting AIMH's commitment to rectifying historical narratives. Additionally, a series of briefings and interactive sessions were conducted with key stakeholders, Bangladeshi delegates, and various high-ranking officials, addressing pertinent issues. Furthermore, efforts are in hand to navigate legal hurdles and facilitate the issuance of CNIC for former soldiers of the East Pakistan Civil Armed Forces (EPCAF). 
Pakistan's Role in the U.S. Rangers Rescue Operation in Mogadishu, Somalia. In the years 1992-1995, the Pakistan Army played a significant role in the United Nations (UN) mission in Somalia, engaging in various activities across multiple domains. One notable success story during this period was the U.S. Rangers Rescue Operation on October 3, 1993, famously known as "Blackhawk Down." 
Despite Pakistan's significant contribution to the UN mission and the success of the rescue operation, the Pakistani peacekeepers have not received adequate credit. Currently, multi-domain research work is underway, involving interviews with around 40 veterans from that operation and a comprehensive study of all available sources. The aim is to publish a book presenting Pakistan’s perspective on that operation. Additionally, plans are in motion for the creation of a documentary to further highlight the role played by Pakistani peacekeepers in the said mission.
Formation, Regiment/Corps History Preservation Program. AIMH's efforts extended to visiting various regimental centres and schools of instruction to collect historical material, ensuring the preservation of Pakistan's military heritage.

The institute's diverse programs and initiatives not only emphasize its dedication to historical legacy but also highlight its role as a key player in knowledge dissemination.

War Graves Identification Progress. Out of the fourteen identified Victoria Cross graves, significant strides have been made in locating five graves, distributed across various locations–one in Rawalpindi, two in Kohat, and two in Mardan. Notably, after extensive efforts and cemetery cleaning at Kohat Christian Cemetery, two graves have been successfully identified: Brigadier John Adam Tytler and Captain Henry William. Current initiatives include ongoing efforts to identify graves such as Captain Henry John (Bannu), Lieutenant William David Keny (Jandola), and Captain Eustace (Miranshah).


Saragarhi Monument Restoration. The AIMH team conducted a thorough visit to the Saragarhi Monument, analyzing historical facts related to the event. Additionally, necessary repairs to the monument were carried out by Peshawar Corps. AIMH played a pivotal role by providing historical data, including a comprehensive account displayed at the site.
Ali Masjid and Khyber Mess Renovation Visit. A recent visit by the AIMH team to Ali Masjid and Khyber Mess showcased the successful renovation of the site. The restoration efforts not only reinstated its military traditional appearance but also preserved its historical essence, ensuring a harmonious blend of the past and present.
Regimental Affairs and Overseas Outreach Program. Following AIMH's recommendation, a restored uniform pattern of the service dress (SD) featuring a necktie has received formal approval from the COAS and has been officially implemented across the Army. The stitching of the old pattern has been discontinued with immediate effect and is scheduled to be phased out entirely by December 2026.
Efforts to gather historical data have yielded information on four British officers who lost their lives while serving in the Pakistan Army in 1947. One officer was associated with the Guides Cavalry, sacrificing himself to protect his men from a Sikh mob in 1947. Additionally, three Royal Engineer officers were serving with the Royal Pakistan Engineers in 1947, with two of them losing their lives while rescuing refugees and one being killed during the Kashmir Liberation War in 1948. 
This comprehensive overview underscores AIMH's unwavering commitment to the preservation, documentation, and education of Pakistan's rich military history. The institute's diverse programs and initiatives not only emphasize its dedication to historical legacy but also highlight its role as a key player in knowledge dissemination. As AIMH progresses forward, its multifaceted approach ensures a bountiful harvest of knowledge and understanding, guided by a steadfast commitment to the nation's historical legacy.

The author is the Editor of Hilal English Magazine.
E-mail: [email protected]