Pakistan Journey from Scratch to Nuclear Power

Pakistan Army 1965 War


The Pakistan Army came into being as a result of the amalgamation of the Muslim troops of the pre-independence British Indian Army. The origin of many of its units dates back to the beginning of the British rule in the subcontinent. This relation, however, is of mere historical nature. With the birth of Pakistan, a hotchpotch of the ill-equipped and ill-organized troops, breaking away from the old and established British Indian Army, had been transformed into a disciplined fighting force in consonance with the national ideals and aspirations.

On 3 June 1947, the British Government announced the plan for the partition of the sub-continent between India and Pakistan, and for the transfer of power to the two new states on 15 August 1947. On 30 June 1947, the procedure for the division of the armed forces was agreed upon by the Partition Council, chaired by the Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten and consisting of the top leaders of the Muslim League and the Indian Congress. Field Marshal Auchinleck, then C-in-C India, was appointed Supreme Commander under Mountbatten to ensure a smooth division of units, stores, and so on. It was announced on 1 July 1947, that both countries would have operational control of their respective armed forces by 15 August 1947.

Early Years

Between 1939 and 1945, the strength of the Indian Army grew to a maximum of 2,018,196 personnel. On the eve of Partition in 1947, the figure had come down to about 11,800 officers, 450,000 other ranks plus about 50,000 of Indian Princely States’ Forces. It is noteworthy, at that time (as per the policy of the British Raj since 1857) there were only two completely Muslim combat units (1/15 Punjab Regiment and 3/16 Punjab Regiment), although there were several completely Hindu and Sikh units and regiments of the combat arms. The original agreement called for the armed forces and other assets to be divided into the ratio of 64% for India and 36% for Pakistan, but Pakistan was later forced to accept a 1/3 share of assets. Of the total 46 training establishments; only nine were located in Pakistan; all of the 17 Ordnance Factories were located in India, as were most of the Ordnance Depots and Engineer Store Depots. In addition to Pakistan receiving far fewer stores than originally stipulated, most of the stores received were of general nature, perishable, unwanted, and obsolete. The move of 150,000 Pakistani personnel as well as 508 units and subunits of various sizes was to be carried out by rail through Indian Punjab and the Sikh Princely States.

Pakistan Army History

After 53 trains carrying personnel and their families were attacked, detailed, and massacred by armed bands of Sikhs and Hindus in connivance with the railway authorities, the sea route from Bombay to Karachi was adopted. The Punjab Boundary Force consisting of five brigades under Major General Rees was created by Field Marshal Auchinleck’s Supreme HQ in August-1947 to escort refugees from border districts of the two Punjabs across the international borders. Its area of responsibility covered 37,500 square miles and a population of 14.5 million. It was a gigantic task for a limited force manned largely by neutral British officers. About seven million Muslims migrated to Pakistan, and five million Sikhs and Hindus to India; a million perished.

Against an estimated requirement for about 4,000 officers, Pakistan had initially only about 2,300 – the gap being filled up on Quaid-e-Azam’s appeal, to some extent, by 484 experienced and qualified British officers, who volunteered to stay and help Pakistan and the Pakistan Army in difficult times. Many Polish and Hungarian officers also volunteered for the medical corps. Prior to August 1947, the most senior Pakistani (and Indian) officers were in ranks of brigadiers; after independence, the command of Army units had to be given to officers in their early 30s with eighteen years service, many of whom had combat experience and had won battlefield awards in World War II. Similarly, brigade commanders had 13-15 years of service and division commanders 19-20 years.

Out of the Northern Command HQ nucleus, the GHQ was organized at its present location. Lt Gen Messervy, the then GOC-in-C Northern Command, was promoted and appointed Commander-In-Chief (C-in-C) Pakistan Army. The GHQ started functioning on 15 August 1947 without adequate staff or records, as it was held back in New Delhi.

By October 1947, guarding 5,000 miles of West and East Pakistan’s frontiers, there were about ten infantry brigades with less than 50% strength, and an armoured brigade with only 13 running STUART tanks. The Army had ammunition reserves for less than one week. In a Joint Defence Council Meeting, both Mountbatten and Supreme Commander Auchinleck had made it clear to Pakistan that in case of war with India, no other member of the Commonwealth would come to Pakistan’s help. Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the first Pakistani C-in-C, was to recall in later years: “It would always be a matter of pride and glory for this army when history will recall how heavy a burden was placed on its young shoulders and how creditably it always rose to the occasion”.

After the fraudulent accession of Kashmir by the Maharaja on 27 October, Mountbatten and Nehru air-transported the Indian Army into the Sri Nagar Valley. The Indian Army’s offensive was halted at the Ceasefire Line (now Line of Control) Initially by Azad Kashmir Forces, and from April 1948 with support of the iII-organised Pakistan Army without adequate logistic support. At midnight on 30 December, GHQ India asked for a ceasefire to become effective on 1 January 1949. Pakistan accepted as the fate of Jammu and Kashmir had been taken over by the UNO. Thus ended the six-month war in Kashmir. By the end of 1948 five infantry divisions had been organized, but these were still lacking their full complement of supporting arms and services. The few artillery regiments received at partition were grouped into three Artillery Groups under independent headquarters to ensure maximum flexibility. By early 1949, the Pakistan Army had completed its formative stage and had been bloodied in battle experience, and continued its re-organization. On the integration of Bahawalpur State in January 1949, the 6th (B) Division was created, but this was subsequently disbanded in 1956 on the re-organization of the army.

Back in August 1947, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, foreseeing the financial and military difficulties ahead, asked for US economic and military aid. Incidentally, the same request had also been submitted by New Delhi and Kabul. After an evaluation of Pakistan’s strategic location at the crossroads of South-, Central-and West Asia in proximity to both China and the Soviet Union, the USA acceded to Pakistan’s request under the American Mutual Security Legislation. In early 1954, Pakistan and the USA signed a Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement. Between 1954 -1965, Pakistan received US$650 million in military grants, US$619 million in defence support assistance, and US$ 55 million in cash or commercial purchases. This aid enhanced Pakistani defence capability by increasing the firepower and mobility, and improving C3I facilities of five and a half divisions. The armed forces were modernised in keeping with the world trends; two Corps HQ were also catered for. Many senior and junior officers went for training and orientation to USA; new cantonments were built, and existing ones were expanded and modernised. By August 1947, the 7th Division (located in Rawalpindi with two brigades) was the Pakistan Army’s only division. There also were static HQ designed “Areas” and “Sub-areas”, having brigades and battalions at more than 50% below strength.

In the following months, as Pakistani personnel kept arriving from all over India, Middle East, and southeast Asia by rail and sea, the 8th Division was organized out of the Sind Balochistan Area, and the 9th (F) Division was created out of brigades of the Peshawar and Waziristan Areas. Similarly, the Lahore Area was re-organized as the 10th Division, and the 12th Division was raised in November 1948. The forces in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were designated as East Pakistan Army, then as a Sub-area and finally in December 1948 as HQ 14th Division, initially with only two battalions that eventually were built up to brigade strength.

1948 War

Pakistan-India War 1947-48

The 11 Cavalry equipped with armoured cars were the only unit employed in the war. The GHQ assigned the unit an essentially defensive and passive role but the indomitable Colonel Tommy Masud commanding the unit was too resolute a man to be restrained 44. The unit thus took a prominent part in operations in Bhimbhar-Mirpur area under Tommy Masud, but its role remained limited since it was not allowed to conduct any major offensive operation to support the militia. The Pakistani GHQ finally moved 3rd Armoured Brigade near Bhimbhar, for a projected counterstroke at Indian communications to Poonch, when the Indians made a unilateral offer of ceasefire on 30 December 1947-1948.

The Rann of Kutch Conflict (April 1965)

India and Pakistan became engaged in a short but sharp conflict into Pakistani claimed-area in the Rann of Kutch in April 1965. Both armies had fully mobilized. Pakistan eventually proposed a ceasefire, which India accepted; an agreement was signed, and the forces disengaged. The Award by the Arbitration Tribunal vindicated Pakistan’s position. India then shifted the center of gravity of operations to the Northern Areas.

1965 War


After several ceasefire violations, India attacked across the international border from Sialkot to Sind sectors. The attacks were halted on all fronts, and in a series of counterattacks, the Pakistan Army penetrated inside Indian territory capturing more territory than the Indian Army. The biggest tank battle since World War II was fought at Chawinda, inflicting heavy casualties. India eventually asked for a ceasefire, arranged by the UN on 23 September 1965.

The Third Evolution Phase (1966-1970)

In 1966, commenced the third phase of the evolution of the Pakistan Army, which was able to at least partially enhance its defence capability over these five years. The US embargo on military aid to Pakistan, and the continued Soviet heavy build-up of Indian forces, forced Pakistan to turn to China, North Korea, Germany, Italy and France for its defence procurement programmes. China, a time-tested friend and neighbour, enabled Pakistan to raise three fully-equipped infantry divisions with gun and vehicles, 900 Chinese tanks, and MiG-19F aircraft for the air force. France supplied Mirage aircraft and submarines. In 1968, the Soviet Union offered US$30 million worth of aid to Pakistan and supplied 100 T-55 tanks, Mi-8 helicopter, guns and vehicles; in 1969, however, Soviet support was abruptly stopped under Indian pressure.

1971 War

1971 Instrument of Surrender

1971 was the most tragic year in Pakistan’s history, a year of political crises and conflict. Unable to resolve a political problem by political means, the then Martial Law regime resorted to military action in East Pakistan on the night on 25/26 March. Widespread insurgency broke out, covertly aided by Indian trained infiltrators and India’s Border Security Forces. In the first week of April, personnel of two infantry divisions and civil armed forces were airlifted in Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) planes with a 6,000-mile non-stop route via Sri Lanka – the longest operational air move by the army. A quick reaction by the Pakistani authorities restored 80% normalcy in the eastern wing of the country. Covert operations having failed, India concentrated about 400,000 regular army personnel in 12 divisions supported by five tank regiments, seven air force squadrons, and the Indian Navy. These forces, further strengthened by about 1,00,000 guerillas (Mukti Bahini) attacked from all directions on 20 fronts across the international border on 21 November, without a formal declaration of war. Intense fighting raged till 16 December in both Pakistan’s wings; no town or battalion position could be overrun, till a ceasefire accepted by Pakistan was perfidiously changed into surrender by Indian-Soviet machinations.


After almost twelve years of clandestine efforts India exploded a nuclear device at Pokhran on 18 May 1974 not far from Pakistan’s borders, as part of her coercive diplomacy, thus starting a nuclear arms race in the Sub-continent. By 1986, after only seven years of a crash programme, Pakistan had acquired her own nuclear capability to match and deter that of India. Thus was established a strategic balance in the region, ‘striking terror into the hearts of the enemy’ as enjoined by the Holy Quran.

In 1976, the Higher Defence Organization was streamlined and revitalized. The western-influenced strategic doctrine was critically analyzed and re-evaluated in light of our geostrategic realities and operational environment. Core issues of Quranic concepts of warfare, regulated by laws like Jehad, checks, and balances on the use of force, the prohibition of total unlimited war, humane measures to protect women, children and prisoners, encouraging negotiations for honourable peace and that enemies need not be permanent, and other fundamentals were highlighted in the re-evaluation.

Soviet Invasion on Afghanistan (1979 – 1989)

In December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The US offered US$400 million worth of military aid, which was however spurned by Pakistan as inadequate for a “frontline state”.

Apprehensive of the two front threats to Pakistan, in 1981 the US again offered a package of US$1.5 billion worth of military aid. This was accepted and in five years provided 40 F-16 fighters, 100 M-48 tanks, 64 M-109 155mm SP howitzers, 40 M110 203mm SP howitzers, 75 towed howitzers, and 1,005 TOW anti-tank missile systems, considerably enhancing Pakistan’s defence capability. India and Pakistan are now engaged into a military conflict on the world’s highest battlefield in 1982 resulting into more loss of lives due to harsh weather as compare to combat losses.

By 1989, the Soviet Union – having suffered heavy losses in men and material, and unable to withstand the Jehad – commenced withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan. Under the Pressler Amendment, the US again imposed an embargo on all economic and military aid to Pakistan, which continued for five years. In 1995, the Brown Amendment authorised a one-time delivery of US military equipment, contracted for prior to October 1990, worth US$368 million.

Nuclear Power

On May 28, 1998, Pakistan became a nuclear power when it successfully carried out five nuclear tests at Chaghi, in the province of Baluchistan. This was in direct response to five nuclear explosions by India, just two weeks earlier.

Pakistan maintains that its nuclear program is for self-defense, as deterrence against nuclear India. A former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, offered justification for Pakistan’s nuclear program when he said that if India were to produce a bomb, Pakistan would do anything it could to get one of its own. It has always been maintained by Pakistan that a nuclear threat posed to its security can neither be met with conventional means of defense, nor by external security guarantees.

India had already posed a nuclear threat against Pakistan ever since it tested a nuclear device in May 1974. At that time Pakistan had no nuclear weapons. India maintained that its nuclear program was based on their requirement to have a minimum nuclear deterrence, and that it was not against any specific country.

After the tit-for-tat nuclear explosions, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution urging India and Pakistan to halt their nuclear weapons programs. The United States and other Western states imposed economic sanctions against both the countries. The U. N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, urged both the countries to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which Pakistan agreed to sign if India did the same.

After the tests, both sides declared that they had completed their series of nuclear testing and both announced a moratorium on future testing. Pakistan announced the moratorium on June 11, 1998, and offered to join in new peace talks with India. Even long before these tests, Pakistan has time and again proposed for a nuclear weapon-free zone in South East Asia.

Missile Programme

Pakistan’s missile program is rapidly evolving, achieving greater accuracy, payload capacity, and range. Pakistan is becoming a seller of missiles and missile technology while remaining outside the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Missile Table for Pakistan

Ballistic and Cruise Missiles
Pakistan sees its ballistic and cruise missile programs as a key to its strategy to deliver nuclear weapons. It continues to balance against India’s conventional superiority and follows a high-frequency testing schedule. Pakistan considers its nuclear weapons to be national “crown jewels” and likely holds missile delivery systems in similar regard.

Capabilities – Ballistic Missiles
Pakistan has a variety of deployed ballistic missiles ranging from tactical battlefield weapons to medium-range ballistic systems with the ability to hit any target in India. Pakistan currently deploys three tiers of ballistic missiles: battlefield short-range ballistic missiles (BSRBMs), short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM), and medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs).

The Army’s primary BSRBM is the Hatf I (1, 1A and 1B models) with a range of 70 to 100 km depending on the variation. In November 2013, the Army successfully test fired the Nasr (Hatf-IX) BSRBM. The Nasr is a 60-120 km range missile, launched from a multi-tube launcher capable of launching four missiles before reloading. The system is a quick reactionary “shoot-and-scoot” missile that can be launched on minimal notice and quickly moved to another location for a second launch. The development of the Nasr raises serious proliferation concerns, as it provides a quick-launch battlefield nuclear deterrent weapon that could easily lead to force escalation or an arms race of similar weapons and deterrent systems in the region.

In February 2013, Pakistan conducted a test launch of the Abdali (Hatf II) BSRBM. The Abdali is a more traditional launch system with a single vertical launch capability. Whereas the Nasr fulfills the role of a tactical, battlefield deterrent, the Abdali, with a range of 180km, will serve as a more traditional short-range strategic deterrent.

Pakistan deploys three SRBMs: the Ghaznavi (Hatf III), Shaheen I (Hatf IV), and Ghauri I (Hatf V). The Ghaznavi has a range of 320 km and the Shaheen I 900 km. The Shaheen I. The Ghauri I has a range of 1200 km.

Our most advanced missiles, and the cornerstones of Pakistan’s deterrent arsenal, are the Ghauri II (Hatf V) and Shaheen-II (Hatf VI) MRBMs. The Ghauri II (Hatf V), a follow-on to the Ghauri I based on North Korea’s Nodong, has a range of 1500-1800 km and carries a 1200 kg payload. The Shaheen-II (Haft VI) is a two-stage road-mobile missile with a 2500 km range capable of carrying a 1000 kg payload.

Pakistan – India Escalations

Brasstacks was a codename of a major military exercise of the Indian Army in Rajasthan, that took place in 1986 until its execution in 1987. It was the major and largest troop mobilization of Indian forces in the subcontinent. Operation Brasstacks involved numbers of infantry, mechanized, air assault divisions, and 600,000 army personnel who were massed to within 100 miles of Pakistan. The magnitude and large scale direction of the exercise led Pakistan to assess that India was displaying an overwhelming conventional superiority and was planning to invade Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan viewed this exercise as a direct threat, so it quickly responded with maneuvers of its unified forces. During this time, Doctor Abdul Qadeer Khan gave an interview to Indian diplomat, Kuldip Nayar in which he made it clear that “Pakistan would use its atomic weapons if its existence was threatened. In Feb 1987, General Zia visited India, had invited to see a cricket match between the two countries, and met Rajiv Gandhi.

The tensions diminished in March 1987, with an agreement by the two nations to withdraw 150,000 troops in the Kashmir area, followed by a second agreement to withdraw more troops in the desert area, which was also signed in the same month.

The 2001–2002 Pakistan – India military escalation resulted in the massing of troops on either side of the border and along the Line of Control (LoC) in the region of Kashmir. This was the second major military escalation between two countries after Brasstak, following the successful detonation of nuclear devices by both countries in 1998. The military buildup was initiated by India blaming Pakistan for a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001 about which India could not provide any proof till today. Western, coverage of the escalation focused on the possibility of a nuclear war between the two countries and the implications of the potential conflict on the American-led “Global War on Terrorism” in nearby Afghanistan. Tensions de-escalated following international diplomatic mediation which resulted in the October 2002 withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani troops from the international border.

After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India accused Pakistan of coordinating the attacks through a terrorist named Ajmal Qisab which later on, was recognized as an Indian citizen. The accusations lead to strained relations between the two countries for a period of time. The accusations were taken seriously by the International Community, resulting in the United States calling for probes into it. Initially, Indians reported that about 15 terrorists attacked a hotel in Mumbai, however, they declared only one of them as Pakistani whereas they did not speak about the rest of the 14 terrorists till today. Basically, like always, it proved to be an episode of blame game against Pakistan. Tensions de-escalated following international diplomatic mediation which resulted in the withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani troops from the international border.

Pakistan and India are engaged in an ongoing military confrontation in the disputed over Kashmir region the heightened tensions stem from a suicide car bombing that happened on 14 February 2019. In the bombing, a militant from Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force members in Pulwama. Like previous episodes, without going into details India blamed Pakistan behind the scene and forgot its atrocities being inflicted on innocent people of Kashmir. On 26 February the Indian Air Force violated the air space of Pakistan for the first time since 1971. India claimed that it conducted a surgical strike against an alleged terrorist training camp but could not provide any proof, once asked by domestic and international media. Very next day Pakistani fighter aircrafts conducted a successful airstrike in Indian occupied Kashmir area where Indian ammunition dumps were targeted, intentionally causing no causality. Two Indian fighter aircraft were shot down and one Indian Pilot named Abhinandan was apprehended, however, he was handed over to India the next day.

Op Koh-e-Pema

Kargil valley comprises a cluster of most rugged, inhospitable and difficult to conquer mountain peaks and ridges. A part of the valley has been liberated by Freedom Fighters during Kashmir War 1947-49, however later, it was recaptured by the regular Indian Army in 1971 illegally, as, In line with Karachi agreement of 1949, Cease-fire line was delineated up to Pt NJ9842. Kashmiris and native of GB continued to manifest their resolve for freedom of lost territory. In early 1999, locals and Kashmiris freedom fighters sneaked across LOC and occupied the vacant height dominating Kargil, Dras, and Batalik areas. By April 1999, Indians realized the strategic surprise achieved by Mujahideen and responded with full military might. India made hue and cry at the international level and named it “infiltration” by Pakistan Army. Consequently, the Pak Army had to come to the rescue of Mujahideen and bravely fought against Indian. This limited war ended in mid-July and both armies reverted to pre-war positions. As per Indians, they lost 553 officers and soldiers (the actual figure is much more) two helicopters and a combat aircraft whose Pilot named Nachi Kainta was arrested by Pakistan Army. Many Pakistani soldiers laid their lives while defending their motherland. Captain Kernal Sher and Havildar Lalak Jan were among the recipients of Nishan-e-Haider.


Karakorum Highway was inaugurated in 1979, India wanted to disrupt this land link between Pakistan and China, so the Indian Army illegally occupied part of Siachen in 1984. In line with the Karachi agreement of 1949, the Cease-fire line was delineated up to Pt NJ9842. Till the early 1980s permanent deployment of troops remained restricted only along the demarcated line of control/ South of Pt NJ9842. Even during the wars of 1965 and 1971, no movement of troops was resorted to from either side. In the late 1970s, India started taking interest in Siachen by sending military mountaineering expeditions. This information was received from civilians of the area and International Alpine Magazine in early 1983. Indian intrusions were confirmed by aerial reconnaissance and foot patrols of the Pakistan Army. India reached Saltoro Range and occupied Sia La and Bilafond La in April 1984. When Pakistan’s 62 Bde along with SSG troops were ordered to occupy these areas, the troops found that Indians were already entrenched on Sia La and Bilafond La. This operation by the Pakistan Army led to the first armed clash on the glacier on 25 April 1984 Own troops occupied Gyong La, Yarma La, an access route to K2 on Convoy Saddle.


The Pakistan Army, like Pakistan, started virtually from a scratch on 14 August 1947, in the face of heavy odds. Since independence, the Army, like the Navy and Air Force, has evolved into a highly-motivated and modern force defending the ideological and geographical frontiers of Pakistan.

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