The changing face of Pakistan’s army

The Army of Pakistan has evolved over its 64 years of independence to its current composition of professional officers.

PAKISTAN, October 29, 2011— The Army of Pakistan is a professional force whose ideology and philosophy reflects the personality of its leader.  The political ideology of the institution has varied from that of a strict practicing Muslim to a liberal democratic general changing the ideologue of the Pakistan Army with him.

The military leadership promotes those who think like he does and forces out those who are different.  The officers following the majority grow in the ranks and the officers differing from the majority are degenerated and eliminated from the competition. 

After the partition of the Indian continent into two separate countries, India and Pakistan, in August 1947, Army personnel could choose which country to join leading  to the creation of the Pakistan Army and to a series of coups in order to determine power rankings in the Army and Pakistani government. 

Many muslim military officers opted for the Pakiston Army, while Hindu officers joined the Indian Army. Secular officers from the united Indian army divided between the India and Pakistan armies.  The officers who joined the Pakistan army trained the junior officers in a secular lifestyle emphasizing loyalty to country rather than loyalty to religion. 

Pakistan army’s first commander-in-chief was General Sir Douglas Gracey  (1894-1964). Gracey is recogonized for refusing to send Pakistan Army troops to Kashmir, India, retiring from his post in 1951 and removing the role of the Englishman as the titular head of the Pakistan Army.

From 1951 to 1958 General Aybu Khan was in power creating the Conventional Muslim League that elected Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto.  In 1969, General Yahya Khan assumed power which led to the deaths of many as civilian unrest in East Pakistan led to the execution of West Pakistanis and the Biharis and Bengalis that supported them. 

General Yaha Khan was found responsible for the 1971 Bangladesh Atrocities during which more than three-million people were killed by the Pakistani Army under Khan. Zulifikar Ali Bhutto returned to Pakistani after Khan was overthrown in 1971.

Pakistan’s turmoil continued when in 1977 Army General Zia ul-Hag overthrew the government, leading to the conviction and hanging of Z.A. Bhutto allowing ul-Hag to assume power as a military dictator until his accidental death in 1988.

The Kargil Conflict led to a military action between Pakistan and India, resulting in Pakistan withdrawing from Kargil and the Pakistan Army, once again, overthrowing the elected government and putting General Pervez Musharraf into power however his rule was declared unconstitutional and Musharraf and he was replaced in July 2009 by Brigadiar Muzaffar Usmani.  

General Ayub Khan imposed martial law in October 1958 on Pakistan and became the first military dictator of Pakistan.  Although he was a dictator, he was liberal in his thoughts.  He did not try to change the lifestyle of the officers of Pakistan army or to impose any religious ideals on the military.  Ayub Khan subsequently transferred his power to General Yahya Khan, who had a vision to democratize Pakistan. Under his leadership, Pakistan held its first parliamentary elections in 1970.  During Yahya Khan’s rule, secular liberals joined the military, mimicking Yahva Khan’s ideology.  Strict and extremis religious people felt no attraction in joining a secular institution. During this time, Pervez Musharraf, a secular liberal, entered the junior ranks of army. 

The secular face of Pakistan army continued till General Zia-ul-Haq became the Chief of army staff. General Zia was a practicing Muslim and he imposed martial law on Pakistan in July 1977.  While he was in power, Pakistan fought the proxy war of US against communist USSR. To fight the war against USSR, General Zia encouraged a particular brand of Islam in Pakistan generally and in the army specifically. As a result, secular officers faced difficulties in the military.  They were forced to observe General Zia’s Islam or to retire.  General Zia died in an air crash in August 1988, and with his death, ended the era of an extreme, fundamentalist, radical, Islamic army. 

After demise of General Zia, started an eleven year democratic period during which two major political parties governed Pakistan. The army leadership took a backseat and indirectly used its influence to formulate the policies of Pakistan. During this eleven year period, five generals took the position of chief of army staff one after the other and each had a different personality. So this transitional period helped to lessen the radical influence of General Zia on the army.

A radical general named Zaheer-ul-Islam Abbassi even tried to undertake a coup without any bloodshed but was unsuccessful and he and his associates were removed from service. At the beginning of this transitional period, Pakistan army consisted of officers which were mostly religious minded or adopted a religious lifestyle due to influence of General Zia but at the end of this transitional period, Pakistan army had straightened, smoothened, changed, evolved and started to shape into a third type and the radicals had mostly removed or retired from service.

As a result of the two extremes; Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-Haq, the Pakistan army saw the growth of a third type of officer which was a synthesis of the two extremes.  This third type of officer flourished under General Pervez Musharraf, the third military dictator who ruled from 1999 to 2008. Pervez Musharraf, himself entered army as a secular individual, but was forced by the Zia-ul-Haq regime to observe strict Islamic way of life.  He survived that regime and converted into the third type of officer.

Today Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is continuing the secular, professional Army.

 The present Pakistan army consists mostly of people of the third type who have a mixture of religious and secular beliefs.  These officers on the one hand, know fully well how to exploit and manipulate religious laws to their benefit and on the other hand they know how to deal with the secular civil society of Pakistan and they have no strict allegiance with any of the party. 


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Qaisar Farooq Gondal

Qaisar Farooq Gondal is an ordinary moderate muslim living in Pakistan. He is facing the challenge of living in a country which is rapidly loosing its friends in the global community because of its policies. He is trying to bring close people of Pakistan and America in an attempt to avoid any catastrophe. He is a physician by profession but enjoys writing and feels more in control of the things through his literary efforts.


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