Monday, November 12, 2007

The Pakistan Army: A failing Force

Here's a piece I did for Frontier India (Wikipedia Page) today. I'm posting the first few paras. Check out the full story at

Pakistan Army: A Failing Force

Pakistan has always been on a razor’s edge, torn between its identity as a moderate Islamic democracy that Jinnah had envisioned, and an unstable state that has seen repeated Military rule. But politicians and soldiers have always stood together on one issue- the unquestioning policy of state-sponsored terrorism. This support hasn’t abated even when Pakistan’s very existence has been threatened. But now, that policy is boomeranging on its creators, proved by the events of the last one year.

Pakistani officers joke about how the million- strong Indian Army couldn’t even stop terrorists. As they get more hopelessly bogged down in the mess called Waziristan, it probably doesn’t sound so funny any more. Today, the Pakistani Army stands battered by the very terrorists it created. Over a hundred soldiers have been captured and many more have died fighting a menace that they created. Fifteen Brigades have been moved to these areas from the Indian border, including Skardu and Mangla, an action that speaks volumes about the seriousness of the situation and the ineffectiveness of Pakistani actions in the NWFP. Morale is low, desertions are rampant, and suicide attacks on Army installations have been devastatingly successful.

In every major engagement that they’ve been involved in, the Pakistan Army has lost ground. As professional as it purports itself to be, there is not a single war that the Pakistani Army has won in its history of existence. Failure and defeat seem to come naturally. And yet, it seems almost dyslexic in its inability to learn from its mistakes. The wars with India never went their way. They were able to temporarily pacify the Baluch problem, but the brutality with which they accomplished it has ensured that the problem remains. It has faced defeat after defeat against the fiery Pashtun tribesmen in Waziristan, and it’s only a matter of time before the issue threatens the very existence of Pakistan.

The first war was soon after the formation of Pakistan. Breaking the standstill agreement, the Army launched an attack on the Independent State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. Even with the element of surprise and a head start, they were beaten back and Pakistan lost the prime real estate of Jammu and Kashmir Valleys to India. Pakistan’s second attempt at ‘liberation’, the 1965 war, fared no better. Not only did they receive no support from the local populace, but lost vital territory to the Indian Armed Forces, a force they had dismissed as weak and beaten after the 1962 loss. If not for the goodwill of Lal Bahadur Shastri, and the compulsions of International politics, India would have captured Lahore and destroyed much of the Pakistani Army.

The third war was an unmitigated disaster that even the most enthusiastic Pakistanis cannot deny. The beleaguered forces in the East had no chance against an army advancing from three sides upon it, but their collapse and the speed of the Indian advance surprised all. Boxed in, the Pakistani Army launched attacks on the western front, hoping to gain territory that they could barter later. But even that effort met its doom, beaten and destroyed by Indian forces far smaller than the Pakistani’s. Yet again, they were saved by American intervention and Indian magnanimity. 93,000 troops surrendered, shattering the morale of the Force and the nation, a disgrace that they’ve tried hard to whitewash.

By then, the cracks within were starting to show..... (read more)

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