The Organization and History of Pakistan’s Military
By: Maria Cano
The Pakistan Armed Forces were created from the British Indian Army in 1947 (Heathcote 1995, 253). They are comprised of the Army, Navy, and Airforce and are led by Zubair Mahmood Hayat, who currently serves as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (Shaikh 2016; Blood 1996, 287-288). This committee includes the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, and Chief of Air Staff, and is the highest administrative body in Pakistan’s military (Blood 1996, 288). Also relevant is the Inter-Services Intelligence, the agency responsible for covert operations abroad (Blood 1996, 288). The minimum age for voluntary military service is sixteen, although eighteen is the minimum age for deployment (Central Intelligence Agency, 2019). Women can serve in all three branches (Central Intelligence Agency, 2019).
Pakistan’s armed forces saw action one year after independence when it fought the first war with India over Kashmir in 1948 (“Timeline of U.S.-Pakistan Relations,” 2019). Since then, the nations have fought three other wars with each other in 1965, 1971, and 1999 (“Indo-Pakistani Wars and Conflicts,” 2019). Pakistan’s military has also had a significant influence in the country’s politics. The periods of 1957-1971, 1977-1988, and 1999-2008 were marked by military coups and martial law (Siddique, Aslam, and Khan, 2017, 71-74). As recently as 2018 there have been rumors that the military may have interfered with the country’s elections in favor of current Prime Minister Imran Khan (Wilkinson, Saifi, and Westcott, 2018).
In the 1960s Pakistan sided with the United States in its proxy war with the Soviet Union, with Pakistan providing intelligence and military support, and the U.S. contributing to the development of the Pakistan Armed Forces (“Pakistan Armed Forces,” 2019). Pakistan also developed strong military ties with China during this time (Afridi and Bajoria, 2010). The armed forces continued to benefit from U.S. aid until it came to a halt in 1990, due to the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and growing American concerns surrounding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (“Timeline of U.S.-Pakistan Relations,” 2019). Since then, U.S. security assistance has been offered and withdrawn several times (“Timeline of U.S.-Pakistan Relations,” 2019). This happened most recently in in 2018, when assistance was suspended “over what [the U.S. government] sees as a failure by the Pakistani government to adequately clamp down on terror groups within its borders” (Laura Koran, Michelle Kosinski, and Ryan Browne , 2018). However Pakistan continues to receive aid from other countries such as China, which provides the nation with aircraft, missiles, and nuclear technology (Jamal Afridi and Jayshree Bajoria, 2010).
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Wilkinson, Bard, Sophia Saifi, and Ben Westcott. “Former Cricket Great Imran Khan Claims Victory in Disputed Pakistan Election,” CNN, July 26, 2018. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/26/asia/pakistan-polls-close-intl/index.html.