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1. The military structure of Pakistan has evolved in following two distinct periods. The first period is from 1947 to 1973. After the creation of Pakistan, initially the British structure continued in spite of number of concrete administrative initiatives. Pakistan Army had very less number of Pakistani officers and higher levels were managed by British officers. Main reason was non availability of trained Pakistani military officers to cope with higher military management positions. Hence, Pakistani a large number of military officers were sent to England, the U.S. and other Commonwealth countries for necessary command and staff training. Additionally, accelerated promotions were given at the lower level. The first C-in-C of Army was General Ayub who took over in 1951 and was promoted from lieutenant colonel to general in just four years. This transformation period was slower in air force and navy as compared to army. First naval commander (Vice-Admiral Mohammad Siddiq) and the air force commander (Air Marshall Asghar) took over in 1953 and 1957, respectively. Initially inter-services co-ordination and integration was not effective due to the location of Headquarters at Karachi for Navy, Peshawar for PAF and GHQ at Rawalpindi. A small Joint Services Secretariat was established at Karachi for inter-service coordination in the Ministry of Defence at Karachi but it could not play desired role. The only serious effort to streamline national security was made after the dismemberment of the country in 1971 by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. But again his effort could not hold ground and the process were reversed. It is a historical dilemma that everyone who came in power discarded the efforts of his predecessors and took the nation back to the starting point.

2. The second period started from 1973 onwards. The 1973 Constitution thrice mentions “security or defense” which shows the mixed understanding, taking these two terms as interchangeable, which they actually are not. In 1976, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto brought about major changes in the overall military structure by issuing a white paper which first time mentioned national security. It was clearly stated in this paper that National security was responsibility of the whole nation and combined strength of defense and political leadership and institutions would deter adversaries. It also indicated that national defense was not merely a military affair. Rather it had to be ensured through cohesive employment of political, diplomatic and economic strategies. The white paper also identified that ineffectiveness of Defence Committee of Cabinet (DCC), Joint Chiefs Committee Secretariat and the Ministry of Defence. As per this white paper following actions were taken:-

  • The prime minister was recognized as the Chief Executive of the Federation and made responsible to the nation for safeguarding the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Pakistan, and preserving and protecting its constitution.


  • The Ministry of Defence was reorganized.


  • Separate Defence Production Division was established.


  • All services headquarters were shifted to Islamabad.


  • Commander-in-Chief of Army was change to Chief of Army Staff, and the ranks of Naval and Air Chiefs were raised equal to the Army.


  • A separate Military Wing in the Cabinet Division was established to work as secretariat of DCC. It was chaired by the prime minister, with members that included the ministers of defense, interior, states and frontier regions, Kashmir affairs, information and broadcasting, communication, commerce, industries and production. DCC was asked to define the task of armed forces in accordance with national strategy and secure necessary assessment and plans for the defense policy from CJCSC.

3. Some of the other principles adopted for defense planning included:


(a)      Unity of effort, unity of aim and overall strategy for the national defense.

(b)      A permanent, cohesive Higher Defence Organization.

(c)      Defence planning as a continuous process in inter-service setup.

(d)      Transcending inter-service rivalry by giving accurate military advice.

(e)      Most judicious and cost-effective use of meager resources by unbiased planning and controlling authority.

4. A defense council was also established which was held responsible for translating the defense policy into military policy. It was to be chaired by the prime minister, and include the ministers of finance, defense and foreign affairs, the CJCSC, the three services chiefs, the secretary generals of defense and finance and the secretaries of foreign affairs, defense and finance. A joint staff headquarter was established to coordinate the three services’ efforts, with chairman joint chiefs of staff committee to act as military advisor to the prime minister having precedence over all other armed forces officers.

5. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto did succeed in establishing a new organization, but before the new system could fully function, his government was taken over by General Zia and process was derailed. Thereafter, no structural reforms could be brought in except for establishment of national security council initially by General Jahangir under Mian Nawaz Sharif’s government and later by General Musharaff which could not succeed. However, a new military structure of national command authority got firmly established after the 1998 nuclear tests. This institution has civil and military representations with a permanent secretariat in the form of the strategic plans division.

Wg Cdr Nasir Kaleem Zafar

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