The Army in Pakistan

Two accounts on the Pakistan Army deliver a mixed bag—an objective history by one and sweeping conclusions by the other.

Published : Sep 17, 2014 12:30 IST

THESE books help one to understand the political situation in Pakistan today; especially Brian Cloughley’s objective history of the Pakistan Army which is in glaring contrast to the perfervid advocacy style of C. Christine Fair, so evident in her writings. Both books are works of great labour. Each in its own manner provides some rich insights. Both authors have useful contacts in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Cloughley spent two years as deputy head of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) and “conceived the highest regard for the professionalism of both the Indian and Pakistani armies. President Zia invited me to visit Pakistan in 1985, when I renewed my acquaintance with many senior officers. I served as Australian Defence Attache from 1988 to 1994. During the latter period I was encouraged by successive Army Chiefs to broaden my knowledge by attending many military exercises and travelling extensively to improve my understanding of the country and to visit headquarters and units.” In two places he cites “a British Intelligence Appreciation of 1966” besides a 1972 Report by the Australian High Commission in New Delhi to Canberra.

Over the years one has come to respect the author’s scholarship and objectivity. This renders inexcusable, indeed unforgivable, a gross libel he delivers wantonly and with total lack of even elementary care. It concerns Morarji Desai, who was unworthy of being India’s Prime Minister (1977-1979). But he was a patriot to the core.

Cloughley writes that during the Bangladesh War, the United States “had a source close to power in New Delhi. Morarji Desai was not personally close to Indira Gandhi (loathing was mutual), but he was a member of her Cabinet as well as being a paid agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is likely [sic] that he provided information regarding India’s military preparations to the CIA but, in spite of the drama (and success) of having such a highly-placed source, it would not have taken any intelligence organisation long to discover that something was afoot.” (Emphasis added throughout.)

His source is the infamous and discredited account by Seymour Hersh. It is unnecessary to dwell on the improbabilities he mentions. The record is there for anyone to read. A little care would have taught him that Morarji Desai had ceased to be a member of the Cabinet in 1969. By 1971, he was the Prime Minister’s staunchest adversary. On the strength of all this, he proceeds to write of “the tales of the traitor Morarji Desai”.

One need not dilate on some omissions such as Benazir Bhutto’s acceptance of the Army’s conditions when she became the Prime Minister in 1988. It stipulated the upper hand on Afghanistan, India and the bomb. Also, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq struck on July 4, 1977, after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had reached an understanding with the opposition. The Rawalpindi conspiracy case was built on a non-conspiracy.

LoC and Kargil

These flaws do not detract from the high quality of the rest of the book. There is an authoritative account of why the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir was ended 100 miles (160 kilometres) short of the border with China. “Lieutenant Colonel B.M. Tewari was one of the Indian representatives who held meetings (nine altogether) with their Pakistani counterparts from 10 August to 11 December 1972. Ten years later, a Brigadier, he was garrison commander in Srinagar (in Indian-administered Kashmir) and, like most Indian officers, genial, comradely, and good company when sure that the intelligence services were not looking over his shoulder. And Tewari said that delineation of the Line of Control was effected in the most gentlemanly manner and the reason the description of the LoC stopped at grid reference NJ 980420 was that nobody in their right mind (or words to that effect) could possibly want any of the land between there and the Great Wall of China, and that they (the Indian officers and their Pakistan colleagues) agreed that anyone who wanted to lay claim to ice, snow, and rocks was welcome to them.”

One wonders what gives Cloughley the confidence that the Aksai Chin, “if it ever went to international arbitration, would probably be awarded to India”.

On Kargil, he writes: “Pakistan behaved outrageously and contrary to international norms—and, of some importance, inconsistently with the Simla (now Shimla) Accord of 1971. India, in spite of politically motivated bluster and understandable but excessive nationalism, had its confidence shaken by the Kargil debacle. Over 600 soldiers were killed and some 1,800 wounded in a few weeks, as against 1,150 dead and 3,000 incapacitated in almost three years in the disastrous ‘peacekeeping’ operation in Sri Lanka (July 1987-April 1990). This is a dreadful toll to be exacted, and it would have been very much higher if the intruders had not withdrawn as a result of mediation”, a fact many in India prefer to deny.

The ably documented narrative covers the period between 1947 and 2012 and also the Memogate and the Mansoor Ijaz of dubious credentials. The full text of the memo is reproduced. Not everyone accepts the denials of Hussain Haqqani, whose career is studded with shifts in loyalties, about his patron of the moment President Asif Ali Zardari’s role in the affair. Many suspect that he sought American help, via Haqqani via Ijaz to stave of an Army coup he dreaded, rightly or wrongly.

Pakistan’s Army is an independent player. On July 18, 1993, “the Chief of Army Staff brokered a deal in which both the waning President (G.I. Khan) and Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) stepped down”. (Ian Talbot; Pakistan: A New History ; Oxford University Press, Karachi; 281 pages; Rs.895; page 152. An able work.)

Of another such incident in 2009, Christine Fair recalls: “According to Jane Perlez, [ The New York Times , March 16, 2009] ‘one encouraging sign for Washington was the role played in the crisis by the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who let Mr Zardari know that he could not rely on soldiers to confront the protesters who were threatening to descend on Islamabad to demand the return of Chief Justice Chaudhry’. The retired general Jehangir Karamat, whom Sharif dismissed from the post of army chief in 1998 and who later served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, explained that ‘the military acted to avert, to correct and to clear the way for full democracy with the centre of gravity where it should be—in Parliament and the people’. Karamat went as far as to call this ‘new’ military approach ‘the Kayani Model’, in which Kayani had been ‘invisible but around, fully informed and acting through well-timed and effective influence in the right quarter’, during the crisis.” (“Why the Pakistan army is here to stay: Prospects for civilian governance”; International Affairs ; Volume 87:3; 2011; page 582).

“Revisionist” army

The central thesis of her book is that the Army is “revisionist”. She amplifies, “The strategic culture of the Pakistan Army encompasses the collectivity of its corporate beliefs, values, and norms as well as the accumulating weight of its historical experiences. Taken together, the army’s strategic culture serves as a lens through which the Pakistan Army understands its (domestic and foreign) security environments, formulates appropriate responses to these challenges, and ultimately makes decisions about which options are most suitable to these threats as the army understands them.

“Unlike some armies that primarily concern themselves with external security challenges, the Pakistan Army also involves itself in managing domestic affairs of the state. This means that in the strategic culture of the Pakistan Army there is an inherent linkage between internal and external security challenges. This primarily occurs because the Pakistan Army sees itself as responsible for protecting not only Pakistan’s territorial frontiers but also its ideological frontiers….”

Her assertions, she adds, rest on proof. “Having read decades of the military’s professional publications and accounts of senior officers, I conclude that the army’s strategic culture shapes the way the Pakistan Army understands the kinds of threats it faces from Afghanistan and India; informs the particular ways that the army understands its principal foe, India; suffuses its conflicts within and beyond Pakistan’s borders with various mobilisations of Islam; and influences the tools that Pakistan has developed to manage its varied security challenges within Pakistan itself and in South Asia.”

Such literature, redolent of self-glorification, is not always a dependable guide. How wide off the mark Christine Fair is on a fundamental, the Kashmir dispute, emerges from this plaint. “Pakistan does point to India’s larger and growing military capability as evidence of India’s intentions toward Pakistan. India’s capabilities do warrant appropriate defensive investments. Curiously, while Pakistan could have framed its demands for Kashmir within the rubrics of water security and defensibility of its terrain , it has not done so with few recent exceptions.” (Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s emphasis in 2010 on water as a source of conflict.) Lack of even a slight familiarity with the record on Kashmir is evident. The dispute, which arose before the one on the waters, centred on plebiscite (1947-1960). Every military dictator offered an olive branch. In 1960, Ayub Khan virtually abandoned the demand for plebiscite and suggested exploration of alternatives to it. In 1981, Zia offered a no-war pact and Pervez Musharraf arrived at an understanding with Manmohan Singh on the famous four points. A formidable record for the “revisionist”.

It is surely puerile to assert that, as with Junagadh, “Pakistani maps still lay claim to Hyderabad”. It is one thing not to recognise its accession to India after the Police Action; quite another to “lay claim to it,” which Pakistan never has. This is perfectly understandable in one who seriously believes that “at the root of its [Pakistan’s] revisionism is not security but rather deep ideological commitments that predate the independence of the State ”. Such consistency is all too rare. Apparently, then, Jinnah was as Islamist as Zia. The author’s sweeping conclusions, so confidently delivered, never cease to amuse even as her documentation is impressive.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment