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Integrated defence command

One of the lasting lessons of World War II was that modern warfare can only be waged by an integrated Defence Command. Germany’s early success in the war was due to a centralized decision-making rather than a combined command structure. While the German Navy performed admirably thereafter in pursuing the war aims by making the Atlantic dangerous for crossings and thus strangulating Britain materially, the Luftwaffe frittered away its resources in a decisive swing away from its prime mission of destroying Britain’s air machine to the more horrific (and psychological) method of attacking civilian targets and demoralizing the population, particularly London. Even while Churchill mourned the loss of lives and property of Londoners, he breathed a sigh of relief that the Royal Air Force, brought to its knees, was being spared to fight another day. In contrast, by the end of the war, the Allies had a totally integrated Defence Command structure, symbolized on the western front by General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces (or Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) as it was known). In the Eastern Sector, despite his differences with the US Navy, which had been given paramount power for warfare in the Pacific, once Naval superiority had been achieved, General Douglas Mac Arthur was the Czar of all military operations being conducted to defeat Japan.

Korea, Vietnam, Falkland Islands and more recently the Gulf War are all examples of the dire necessity of a coordinated command structure. Pakistan seems to have half-learnt these lessons, in theory rather than actual practice. During the 70s, the Joint Chiefs of Staffs Committee (JCSC) was created, incidentally more for political reasons to cut down the Army Commander’s nuisance value than any great belief in military philosophy. Almost 20 years later, it remains an ineffective instrument of use, an impotent white elephant that has all the ingredients for performing admirably except the authority to do so. All three Services have developed better knowledge of each other over the years but the coordination and cohesiveness necessary for conducting modern wars is lacking.

On March 5, 1991, in an article in THE NATION entitled “The Gulf Crisis, Some Lessons Some Opportunities”, this scribe wrote, quote, “We may have paralysed our own command and control mechanism by inadequacies in our present organisational structure. Although lip-service is given to on unified command by having a Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), it is common knowledge that he is a figurehead of an ineffective body whose only claim to fame is protocol duties and preparation of position papers of various kind, the routine job of a think tank. How toothless a tiger Chairman JCSC is was shown to good effect by late Gen Zia who as COAS was nominally junior to the Chairman JCSC, General Sharif, when he took over power as Chief Martial Law Administrator. This later persisted with Zia becoming President but remaining COAS till his death. More recently, in our last crisis, the COAS had the prominent role of political troubleshooter. The Gulf crisis should have revived impetus for total inter-service cooperation, hardly up to the required proficiency at this time despite flamboyant paper rhetoric to the contrary. The Chairman JCSC should have the same authority as that specified for the Chairman JCS in the USA even if it is necessary to re-designate him as C-in-C Armed Forces for Defence Services. The President, as in USA, remains the Supreme Commander. GHQ Pakistan should be the GHQ of all the three Services, not only of the Pakistan Army”. Similarly on June 18, 1991, in “Selecting the Chiefs”, we continued, quote” The attention being showered on the COAS appointment in contrast to that of the superior in rank Chairman JCSC exposes the contradictions in the present system and calls out for the immediate constitution of a Unified Command where the Commander of all the Armed Forces, as Chairman, JCS, calls the shots rather than the Chief of one of the three Services, albeit the most dominant one”.

We must seriously consider integrating our command structure in practice given the fact that the war time clock has started ticking. Another of the lessons of the Gulf was drawn out in the aforementioned article of March 5, 1991 was that Iraq’s Central Command was paralysed to our detriment because of Allied Air superiority and electronic warfare measures, quote, “To cater for breakdown of channels of communications, we must create six Commands, each capable of independently fighting large scale battles, if a need so arise, viz. (1) Northern Command including AK. Northern Areas and all areas within Chenab River and the Indus (2) Eastern Command between Chenab and the Ravi (3) Central Command south of Ravi but excluding Sukkur, (4) Southern Command including Sukkur but excluding Karachi and the Coastal area (5) Coastal Command to include Karachi and Pakistan coastal areas and (6) Western Command to include all areas of Balochistan and NWFP bounded to the east by the Indus. Except for critical areas which we must defend in AK (two Corps). Lahore and Sialkot (one Corps each), Rahimyar Khan-Pano Aqil belt (one Corps) and Chor-Umerkot-Nabisar-Badin (one Corps), the rest of the Army should be grouped into Divisional and Brigade-sized Task Forces within respective Commands supported by commensurate Air Force elements as well as Artillery and Anti-Aircraft Divisions in addition to their integrate supporting arms e.g. artillery, armour etc. The Army and Air Force must be under command of the Naval effort in the Coastal Command”.

Our problem is that whereas peace should be spent fruitfully planning to fight a war, we spend the time we should be preparing for war adding to the administrative burden and hoping that nothing will happen to disturb the state of peace. Effective deterrence is the only guarantor of peace. A good example is of France pre-World War II, its much-vaunted war machine was superb in pomp and bluster, faced with the German military juggernaut it simply disintegrated. While the Pakistan Armed Forces (or at least its leadership and a segment thereof) have been constantly engaged in some military operation or the other over the years, we do not seem to accept the force of logic and/or strive to break out of the straitjacket that binds us to old practices.

By circumstances rather than any design, we are now given a unique opportunity to correct this great anomaly in our ability to wage a successful war. Since personalities have a lot to do with successful implementation of a comprehensive plan, it is imperative that we choose a person of substance for the post of Chairman JCSC, due to become vacant in November 1994 when the present incumbent, Gen Shamim Alam Khan, a professional soldier to his roots, retires. At that point, the senior-most person in the Armed Forces will be Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan, who has been given a year’s extension and would thus be a shoo-in to be the first Air Force person to become Chairman JCSC. While Farooq Feroze Khan may be an able person besides being extremely lucky (and according to Napoleon the latter attribute is more important than the former), he would not be in a position, given the size of the various forces to carry out a purposeful vertical or horizontal integration of Defence Command. While air superiority counts a great deal, any war with India will essentially be a land battle and it is imperative that in the present situation a person from the Army maintains continuity in the command set-up. In the same breath, one must add that there is suspicion far and wide that he may be the political choice of the present set-up because of his penchant to toe the line. This was quite apparent when his “absentee landlord” status as Chairman PIA suited the first Ms Benazir regime in flooding PIA with appointees and promotions on basis of pure nepotism and favouritism while running amok with respect to decisions concerning the Airline. This quality may be good enough for other reasons, it is not good enough to meet the professional requirements of a crucial post in modern warfare where we will be literally fighting for the survival of our nationhood. This same token disqualifies another suitable professional Admiral Saeed, the present CNS, from consideration as the Navy has a crucial but minimal role to play in the overall battle.

The only course open seems to be to promote Gen Waheed to Chairman JCSC on the retirement of the present incumbent in November. However, this will not be conducive for many reasons, prime among them that would mean that the Army will see three changes of COAS every 18 months or so, late Gen Asif Nawaz having died in January 1993 having taken over from Gen Aslam Beg only in June 1991. The Pakistan Army needs a modicum of continuity for many reasons and in the present circumstances, it is important that Gen Abdul Waheed need persevere as COAS through his term of office. Given the present perception of the COAS role in national affairs and the range of crisis we are presently engulfed in, it becomes additionally important for his continuation in that role, keeping the Army steady even as we are in the transition stage moving to a unified command structure. As such we are faced with conflicting logic, while the new Chairman CJSC has to be an Armyman we cannot move Gen Waheed out of the COAS slot. Can we then promote somebody who is junior to the COAS to be his nominal boss? To avoid this seniority tangle, Lt Gen Farrukh Khan, the present Chief of the General Staff (CGS), aptly fills the desired slot except that he stands to retire in June 1994. On the death of Gen Asif Nawaz, Lt Gen Farrukh Khan had both the necessary seniority and profound ability to become the COAS. However, he lost out due to GIK’s Machiavellian game-planning in which Mian Nawaz Sharif was used as the inadvertent instrument to deny Farrukh the top army job that he well deserved. On assumption of the COAS post by Gen Waheed, both Lt Gens Farrukh and Arif Bangash, then (and now) CGS and QMG respectively, should have retired as per tradition or would have as per service since Gen Waheed, though from the same course, was in order of seniority junior to both of them. However Gen Waheed, very rightly decided the Army needed the continued service of both these officers, particularly the CGS as the operations boss of the Army, so he first requested them not to retire as per the tradition and then turned to the government for an extension in their service for one year each, both of which were granted. This was particularly important in the case of Farrukh because of all appointments in the Pakistan Army the CGS is the closest approximate of the Chairman CJSC. In the present unique circumstances, the best man for the job of the Chairman CJSC would be Farrukh as he is technically senior to Waheed while retaining the mutual confidence necessary between the two posts. That he has outstanding professional and personal capabilities confirms his suitability. This man has served two COAS as CGS loyally, one of them his junior when lesser mortals would have left the scene in peevishness and frustration, if not anger. If he was considered so indispensable then, can we also not reward his potential and use it for the nation? One of the examples of retirement at an awkward time was that of Lt Gen Imitiazullah Warraich, then Deputy Chief of Army Staff, presently Managing Director Fauji Foundation, in June 1991 only two months before Gen Beg retired. An outstanding professional officer, his untimely retirement was quite a loss to the Army (and the country) as it disrupted the smooth career planning process down the line. If he had been made VCOAS and a four star general, this could have been avoided. Farrukh’s case is almost similar in that we stand to lose a competent professional soldier due to bad timing for no fault of his or the Army’s.

In the “Changing of the Guard” in THE NATION on Jan 16, 1993, this scribe wrote, quote “One major mistake of the late COAS was not to appoint a full time Vice Chief of the Army Staff, someone who could take a load of weight from the shoulders of the Chief by negotiating the mundane and the routine. The obvious choice, Lt Gen Hameed Gul, had never reconciled to Gen Asif Nawaz’s elevation as COAS. Gen Asif Nawaz reacted to this by seeing him as an implacable rival. After at least two Asif Nawaz-initiatives at reconciliation of sorts were seen to be rebuffed by Hameed Gul, he sidelined him by posting him to the post of Director General Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF). By refusing to move to HRF, which he perceived as an obvious insult, Gen Hameed Gul violated the basics of military discipline and was prematurely retired, we thus lost the services of a good soldier of Pakistan. Gen Asif Nawaz may have erred by ruffling Hameed Gul’s feathers, in the final analysis it was his prerogative as COAS, you cannot have two swords in one scabbard. The loss of the COAS and the uncertainty that shrouded Pakistan for 48-72 hours only points to the necessity that the chain of command must be established by appointing a full-time VCOAS, or at the very least a Deputy COAS. The seven who have been superseded may have accepted their fate quietly, it goes to their credit. The under-the-surface bitterness was tailor-made for exploitation by the Un-Godly”. Along with the appointment of the Chairman CJSC, we must appoint a full time VCOAS who should be a four star general. Three extremely competent Lieutenant Generals available as per the seniority pecking order are Khalid Latif Moghal, Jahangir Keramat and Naseer Akhtar. Since Khalid Latif Moghal is from the same PMA Course as Gen Waheed and Lt Gen Farrukh, to keep the balance of career planning from being disturbed down the line the choice should be from Lt Gens Jahangir Keramat or Naseer Akhtar. While Jahangir Keramat has remained out of the public eye in a purely professional slot and is, therefore, extremely popular among the professional officer cadre, Lt Gen Naseer Akhtar has performed an extremely difficult politico-military role in Sindh admirably. He also has commensurate popularity among the rank and file. His special (and historical) achievement has been the integration of the ethnic Sindhi into mainstream Pakistan though the same cannot be held true of the Mohajir Community. In contrast to Jahangir Keramat, who is one of the outstanding officers of the Army, Naseer Akhtar seems to have a better claim to be VCOAS. In another round of permutations and combinations, either of the two could make a good COAS if Gen Waheed should go upto the slot of Chairman JCSC. If the present COAS is prepared to work under a nominal subordinate then these officers are good choices to be Chairman JCSC themselves, given that Lt Gen Farrukh Khan is denied a post tailor-made for his professional capabilities. Lt Gen Hameed Gul was one of the outstanding officers produced by this Army. Farrukh’s loss would be another material blow to the Armed Forces, particularly in the present circumstances. Naming a few of the Corps Commanders should not decry the professionalism and services of the others like Lt Gen Ghulam Mohammad, Lt Gen Tariq, etc with the present ISI chief Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi also a contender, given the fact that he has gained the confidence of the present political hierarchy, provided he successfully performs a field job as Corps Commander as is both a necessity and a tradition rather than being elevated from his present post.

To quote, (a paragraph with suitable alterations from the aforementioned article), “Every man must have ambition, that of the professional soldier is the top job of COAS. To that end one feels disappointed for those who could not make it to the post of COAS, each of the men ahead of (the eventual choice) may have his own particular strong point. However, once the appointment of COAS has been made, any controversy must cease in the national interest. The steel and grit of the Army is the surest guarantor of freedom, the COAS is the symbol of the guarantee. As his two predecessors before him have shown, (any COAS) will prove that he is very much his own man and as much as the supreme national interest dictated that he become the COAS superseding other gifted generals so one expects that he will be guided by the supreme national interest in supersession to all vested interest. The post of COAS Pakistan Army is like King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, anyone who grips it is transformed into the embodiment of all the patriotic wishes of the citizens of this country, the cause takes over the man”.

If the government is sincere in the choice of professionals for the top slots in our professional military machine, the choices are limited to capability rather than political acceptability. The Pakistan Armed Forces remain the surest rock on which Pakistan’s freedom is based, let the choices be professional ones in order to safeguard that freedom.

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