In 2002, a Pakistan army officer took leave and went to wage jihad in Afghanistan according to a Pakistani media report. The Friday Times (Lahore) reported “the case of a serving officer who had taken leave and gone to Afghanistan to fight the jihad.” This officer was reported to have said that there were also other officers in Afghanistan who had chosen to fight alongside the Taliban.
In September 1995, a couple of Pakistan army officers, including a major general and a brigadier, were arrested for planning a takeover of army headquarters and the civilian government to establish a strict Islamic political system in Pakistan, according to a report in the newspaper Daily Times. The Lahore-based newspaper added: “Some Islamic parties supported their cause when they were put on trial and convicted, accusing the government of targeting Islamic elements in the army.”
The adversities that the Pakistani military has encountered in various battles were attributed to the failure of its leaders, and not to the lack of professionalism or skill of the soldiers.
Army-one and army-two?
Over the years, the Pakistan army had been regarded as a well-disciplined and well-trained outfit that relied entirely on voluntary recruitment. Pakistani citizens have shown great respect, even admiration, for its soldiers and officers. A large number of young men used to sign up routinely for service in the army as officers or soldiers, following family or tribal traditions. Since the Pakistani military has been in power for most of that nation’s existence, a military career also ensured upward social and economic mobility. The adversities that the Pakistani military has encountered in various battles were attributed to the failure of its leaders, and not to the lack of professionalism or skill of the soldiers.
A recent article ”Pakistan’s General Problem,” in the magazine Open (10 June 2011), tells a typical story: “In 1999, two days after the Pakistan Army embarked on its Kargil misadventure, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed gave a ‘crisp and to the point’ briefing to a group of senior Army and Air Force officers. Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail, who attended the meeting, later wrote that they were told that it was nothing more than a defensive manoeuvre and the Indian Air Force will not get involved at any stage. ‘Come October, we shall walk into Siachen — to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold,’ General Mahmud told the meeting. Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air Commodore Abid Rao to famously quip, ‘After this operation, it’s going to be either a Court Martial or Martial Law!’ as we walked out of the briefing room,’ Air Commodore Tufail recalled in an essay.”
Hanif explains, “The infiltration of jihadis, who are unprofessional and other-directed, will pose a serious challenge in the military itself. The military has developed other problems. It works hand-in-glove with the Americans and NATO troops in warding off the jihadis, but at the same time, they cater to the needs of these jihadis. This has pitched a section of the military against its own people, and that creates a serious dilemma within the rank and file. There are also reports that the army is much more poorly trained and equipped than it was decades ago.”
“Islam created Pakistan, but it now divides Pakistan. Fuelled by ideological passions, diverse social and religious Muslim formations have developed in different parts of the country”¦”
As Hanif also points out, the Pakistan military’s “biggest folly has been that under Zia it started outsourcing its basic job — soldiering — to these freelance militants. By blurring the line between a professional soldier — who, at least in theory, is always required to obey his officer, who in turn is governed by a set of law — and a mujahid, who can pick and choose his cause and his commander depending on his mood, the Pakistan Army has caused immense confusion in its own ranks. Our soldiers are taught to shout ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ when mocking an attack. In real life, they are ambushed by enemies who shout ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ even louder. Can we blame them if they dither in their response? When the Pakistan Navy’s main aviation base in Karachi, PNS Mehran, was attacked, Navy Chief Admiral Nauman Bashir told us that the attackers were ‘very well trained.’ We weren’t sure if he was giving us a lazy excuse or admiring the creation of his institution. When naval officials told journalists that the attackers were ‘as good as our own commandoes,’ were they giving themselves a backhanded compliment?”
Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physicist, who believes the army is getting weaker, attributes the weakening to the rise of jihadis within the armed forces and other drawbacks. His observations are trenchant and worth quoting at length: “The problem is not the lack of materiel — guns, bombs, men, and money. These have relatively easy fixes. Instead it is the military’s diminished moral power and authority, absence of charismatic leadership, and visibly evident accumulation of property and wealth. More than anything else, the Army has sought to please both the Americans as well as their enemies. Recent revelations have brought this contradiction into stark relief.