Pakistan has some 600,000 men under arms, an enormous volunteer standing force designed to counter what it considers the only significant threat to its territorial integrity: India. On its other borders it has: benevolent and co-operative China in the north; chaotic but inconsequential Afghanistan in the west; and Iran, which presents no military threat, in the southwest desert region. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since partition of the sub-continent at independence in 1947. The border tensions after the parliment attack in India are now unlikely to spark another conflict, however, neither side wishes to drop its guard since the contentious issue of sovereignty over Kashmir remains a major irritant in relations.
The president of Pakistan is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee has a co-ordinating headquarters in Chaklala near Rawalpindi. The Ministry of Defence in Rawalpindi is a small element which, with the Ministry of Defence Procurement, is involved in overall budgetary matters and some planning, mainly in regard to indigenous defense industry. (All other government offices of importance are located close to the Parliament building in the capital, Islamabad.) The Chiefs of Staff Committee is a deliberative and advisory body without statutory powers. It is responsible for advice to government on infrastructure matters, especially in communications and logistics; for recommendations regarding force structure of the three services (and the civil paramilitary forces that are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior); for review, but not necessarily construction, of joint-service defense plans (which are not extensive); and as a sounding-board for government intentions concerning internal security matters.
The army of Pakistan numbers some 560,000. Were there a requirement to increase that number, there would be no shortage of soldier applicants. The quality of the officer corps, however, has been diluted since the late 1970s by admission of some less well-educated cadets to the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), and there is a shortage of junior officers. The old military families maintain the PMA tradition, but the emerging middle class tend to send their sons to civilian colleges rather than to the still prestigious but poorly paid armed forces.
General Headquarters (GHQ) is in Rawalpindi, and although there are plans to move to Islamabad, it is unlikely this will be effected soon. Cost alone mitigates against collocation with other government elements.
GHQ commands the army, but it has been realized that the span of responsibility is too large and that communications problems hamper command-and-control procedures. There has been study of a proposal that would involve creation of two intermediate HQs, each to be responsible for a number of corps, probably on a geographical basis. This would be militarily sound, but the cost would be prohibitive and it is doubtful if sufficient officers of good quality could be found to staff two such headquarters. One alternative considered was to have two of the corps HQs act as "army group" HQs, but it was recognized that this would be unworkable. The compromise has been to issue corps commanders with directives that permit them wide latitude in the event of hostilities. As with most compromises, this solution would not be entirely satisfactory but is the best alternative in present circumstances.
Of Pakistan's nine corps, seven are sited close to the Indian border. Those in Peshawar (11 Corps) and Quetta (12 Corps) no longer have defense of the western border as their prime role; it is now intended that their units reinforce the east in the event of hostilities with India. To this end they have practised tactics associated with terrain in the east, including the night crossing of major obstacles. In Karachi, 5 Corps (with some elements at present involved in internal-security operations in Sindh Province), has the role of countering a thrust by India intended to cut the main Karachi-Lahore road. (This important route is being complemented by the new Indus Highway leading up the centre of the country, an initiative prompted by both economic and strategic considerations.) The corps is also responsible for coping with possible landings by Indian marines or special forces.
Based in Rawalpindi (Chaklala), 10 Corps commands forces in defensive positions along the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir. It has four lightly equipped infantry divisions, one of which is the Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) which is responsible for much of the more mountainous region, including the Siachen Glacier where confrontation with Indian troops continues. The three infantry-heavy formations in Lahore (4 Corps), Gujranwala (30 Corps) and Bahawalpur (31 Corps, which is moving to Pano Aqil), are tasked with countering Indian thrusts in their immediate areas. Both 1 Corps (Mangla) and 2 Corps (Multan) are armour-heavy "strike" corps which would implement the "Riposte" doctrine. There are rumors of a possible formation of another strike corps, however, it is more likely that independant armoured brigades would provide greater flexibility with lesser costs.
From the time of the 1965 war, through that of 1971, and until the Indian Army's exercise Brass Tacks in 1987, emphasis was on static defense of the LOC and the border. Penetration of Indian territory would be undertaken only on an opportunity basis. The doctrine was flawed, mainly because of the lack of strategic depth in Pakistan, but no alternative was given serious consideration until it was realized that a "stand and fight" doctrine would probably result in serious penetration by Indian forces without Pakistani forces being able to manoeuvre effectively. The Indian Army would have gained and retained the initiative, enabling it to destroy Pakistani formations piecemeal as they reacted to Indian thrusts.
The Riposte is simple in concept: it is intended that the two strike corps conduct a limited advance along narrow fronts with the objective of occupying Indian territory near the border, probably to a depth of 40-50km. Pakistan considers that international pressure would result in a ceasefire after 3-4 weeks of conflict: enough time to gain some territory to be used in subsequent bargaining. There would be acceptance of Indian penetration, which would be inevitable given the lack of mobility within the infantry-heavy divisions. Independent armoured and mechanized brigades are intended for quick counter-attack and exploitation, and would add considerable weight to advances by the strike corps.
The Riposte is practised at all levels. Major exercises involve the crossing of large obstacles at night with emphasis on subsequent breakout and rapid advance. So far as has been seen, the concept has been adequately translated into workable plans which are continuously being refined. However, total mechanization of the two strike corps has been slowed by the effects of the Pressler Amendment, and it will take some time for them to achieve desired mobility.
The army's main weaknesses are poor co-operation with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and inadequate appreciation that Indian tactical air power is a serious threat. Some planning has been based on unrealistic assessment of achievement of local air superiority over the forward edge of the battle area. There is emphasis on ground air defense (AD) by surface-to-air missiles (such as the Anza, Swedish RBS70 and US Stinger) and gun systems. Both strike corps have considerable AD assets intended to be deployed rapidly during obstacle crossings and breakout, but few equipments are self-propelled which would be a disadvantage in the concept of the Riposte.
The army is well-trained, adequately equipped, and increasingly effective in C3I. It is probable that more equipment will be obtained from non-US sources but the cost will be considerable. This could result in some manpower cuts, especially in areas of "fat" such as nonessential support. Proposals for reduction in numbers of domestic staffs have met with resistance but, if money is to be available for high-priority materiel acquisition, there will have to be sacrifices.