TThe Pakistani Armed Forces (Urdu: پاک مسلح افواج, Musalah Afwaj-e-Pakistan) are the military forces of Pakistan. They are the seventh largest in the world in terms of active troops. The armed forces comprise three main branches: the Pakistan Army, the Pakistan Navy (including the Pakistan Marines) and the Pakistan Air Force, together with a number of paramilitary forces. The armed forces were formed in 1947 when Pakistan became independent from the British Empire. Since then, the armed forces have played a decisive role in the history of Pakistan. A sense of national unity and identity was forged out of the wars of 1947 and 1965 against India. Border clashes with Afghanistan led to the creation of the paramilitary forces to deal with civil unrest as well as secure the border areas. The Marines were commissioned in 1971, however due to a poor performance in the 1971 war they were disbanded. In 1990, they were commissioned again and serve as part of the Navy.
In 2010 the Pakistani Armed Forces have approximately 617,000 personnel on active duty, 513,000 in reserve and 304,000 in it's paramilitary forces giving a total of almost 1,451,000 personnel. The armed forces have a large pool of volunteers and as such, conscription is not, and has never been needed.
The Pakistani Armed Forces are led by an officer corps that is not restricted by social class or nobility and are appointed from a variety of sources such as service academies and direct appointment from both civilian status and the enlisted ranks. The Pakistan Army is the best organized group in the country and is highly respected in civil society and the social ranks as an institution. Since the founding of Pakistan, the army has been key in holding the state together, promoting a feeling of nationhood and providing a bastion of selfless service.
The Pakistani Armed Forces are the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping efforts, with more than 10,000 personnel deployed in 2007. Other foreign deployments have consisted of Pakistani military personnel as advisers in African and Arab countries. The Pakistani military maintained division and brigade strength presences in some of the Arab countries during the Arab-Israeli Wars, and the first Gulf War to help the Coalition as well as the Somalian and Bosnian conflicts.
Main article: Military history of Pakistan
The roots of the Pakistan Army trace back to the British Indian Army which included several personnel from present day Pakistan. In picture are troops of the Khyber Rifles striking a pose, circa 1895.
Before 1947, most military officers of the newly formed Pakistan Armed Forces had served in the British Indian Army and fought in both World Wars and the numerous Anglo-Afghan Wars. Several experienced commanders who fought in the British military in World War II joined the Pakistani Armed Forces giving it professionalism, experience and leadership. After independence, the military was supposed to have been divided between India and Pakistan with a ratio of 64% going to India and 36% for Pakistan; however, it is estimated that Pakistan inherited only about 15% of the equipment.
Post-independence, it has fought three wars against India, several border skirmishes with Afghanistan and against the Soviet Union which occupied Afghanistan in 1979, and an extended border skirmish with India in 1999 (Kargil War) and is currently conducting anti-terrorist operations along the border areas of Afghanistan. The Pakistani Armed Forces have participated in several United Nations peacekeeping operations.
The Pakistan Armed Forces have also taken over the Pakistani government several times since independence mainly on the pretext of lack of good civilian leadership, whom most Pakistanis regard as corrupt and inefficient. However, according to the political parties removed from power by the army, political instability, lawlessness and corruption are direct consequences of army rule.
It is estimated that as much as 80-90% of Pakistani troops are deployed along the India-Pakistan border to counter a perceived invasion threat from India. However, 15,000 troops have been shifted to the Swat Valley to counter the Taliban invasion. Additionally since the September 11th terrorist attacks, Pakistani military forces have engaged intermittently in the War on Terrorism against Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists. Compared to other militaries, It has suffered the highest number of casualties in the war. Those troops along with various paramilitary forces are involved in a protracted fight against extremists in the tribal areas of Pakistan. After the Mumbai incident, several brigades were moved back east. The Pakistan military also assists in natural disasters in Pakistan such as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the floods in Baluchistan in 2008.
Organization and Command Structure
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Pakistan
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee deals with all problems bearing on the military aspects of state security and is charged with integrating and coordinating the three services. In peacetime, its principal function is planning; in time of war, its chairman is the principal staff officer to the president in the supervision and conduct of the war. The secretariat of the committee serves as the principal link between the service headquarters and the Ministry of Defence in addition to coordinating matters between the services. The three branches within the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee deal with planning, training, and logistics. Affiliated with the committee are the offices of the engineer in chief, the director general of medical service, the director of inter-services intelligence, and the director of inter-services public relations.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee
The three Service Chiefs together with the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee form the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
General Tariq Majid—Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani—Chief of Army Staff
Admiral Noman Bashir—Chief of Naval Staff
Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman—Chief of Air Staff
Pakistan Navy Ships
As of 2010, about 650,000 people were on active duty in the military, with an additional 543,000 people in reserves. It is an all volunteer military, but conscription can be enacted at the request of the President with the approval of the Pakistani parliament. The military is the seventh largest in the world and has a large number of troops deployed around the globe in military assistance and peacekeeping operations.
Members of the Pakistani military hold a rank, either that of officer or enlisted, and can be promoted.
The following table summarizes current Pakistani military troop levels:
Pakistani Military Troop Levels
ServiceTotal Active Duty PersonnelTotal Reserve
Coast GuardClassified (est. 9,000)0
A Pakistani soldier in combat gear during training
The standard uniform for the Pakistan Army was a traditional old British Army Khaki but this has been recently changed to a camouflage pattern uniform which is standard for other armies of the world. The colours of the new camouflage pattern uniform depend on the geographical areas in which the troops operate so that they can blend in with the environment & more.
The rank structure is also patterned on the British model. Following the British Indian tradition, there are three junior commissioned officer (JCO) grades between enlisted and officer rank for those who rise by promotion from among enlisted recruits. The junior commissioned officer is a continuation of the former viceroy's commissioned officer rank during the British colonial period. Promotion to JCO rank, however, remains a powerful incentive for enlisted personnel; thus, if JCO ranks are ever phased out, it will probably be a slow process.
Nishan-i-Haider, Highest military decoration of Pakistan. Awarded "to those who have performed acts of greatest heroism or most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger and have shown bravery of the highest order or devotion to the country, in the presence of the enemy on land, at sea or in the air ... and scarificed their lives for this cause. this award can not be given to an alive soldier"
Foreign military relations
Foreign relations of Pakistan
The People's Republic of China's relationship with Pakistan has often been regarded as all weather and time tested. This friendship for both the Asian countries holds great importance and is priceless in terms of common interest and geo-strategic alliance initially to counter the Indian and Soviet Union threat. In recent years the friendship has deepened even further and China has several defence treaties with Pakistan.
China has been a steady source of military equipment and has cooperated with Pakistan in setting up weapons production and modernization facilities.
The two countries are also actively involved in the joint venture of several projects to enhance each others' military needs, including JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, K-8 Karakorum advanced training aircraft, space technology, AWACS, Al Khalid tank, missiles and many other projects. The two countries also held several military exercises together to further deepen and enhance cooperation between the two armed forces. Also China is the largest investor in the Gwadar Deep Sea Port, which is strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.
South Asian Countries
Defense attachés from Russia and Pakistan visit the communications tent at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Abuja, Nigeria, July 21, 2008,during Africa Endeavor 2008.
After independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan, full diplomatic relations were not restored until 1976. Relations improved considerably under the military regimes of Ziaur Rahman and Hossain Mohammad Ershad in Bangladesh, which had grown more distant from its war ally, India. Common concerns over India's regional power have influenced strategic cooperation leading to a gift of several squadrons of F-6 fighter aircraft to the Bangladesh Air Force in the late 1980s.
Animosity against India has also led Pakistan and Nepal to form a close military relationship. Condemned and isolated from India, Great Britain and the United States between 2004 and 2006 for repressing democracy, the Nepalese monarchy developed military cooperation with China and Pakistan, who offered extensive military support, arms and military equipment to Nepal for the monarchy to stay in power and fight the Maoist insurgency. Both Pakistan and China have provided medium-tech weapons to Nepal.
With India reluctant and unwilling to supply it weapons that Sri Lanka was looking for, Colombo turned towards Pakistan by 1999. In May 2000, President Musharraf of Pakistan supplied millions of dollars of much-needed weapons to the Sri Lankan government, when separatist Tamil Tiger rebels were about to recapture their former capital of Jaffna. In May 2008, Lt-Gen Fonseka of the Sri Lanka Army held talks with his Pakistan Army counter-parts regarding the sale of military equipment, weapons and ammunition. The sale of 22 Al-Khalid MBTs to the Sri Lanka Army was finalised during these talks in a deal worth over US$100 million. In April 2009, Sri Lanka requested $25 million worth of 81 mm, 120 mm and 130 mm mortar ammunition to be delivered within a month which proved decisive in the defeat of the Tamil Tigers.
United States and NATO
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen reviews Pakistani troops during a ceremony honoring Mullen's arrival to Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 9, 2008. Mullen is visiting the country to discuss security issues with Pakistani military officials. Since 9/11, Pakistan and USA have established close military ties.
Main article: U.S.-Pakistan relations
Pakistan's has had an on-again and off-again relationship with the United States. When relations were good, this meant access to funds, sophisticated weaponry and training. When relations were bad, it meant bitter disillusionment and the severing of support at critical junctures. These wide swings of fortune are something to which the Pakistanis have become accustomed, and they recognize that, whatever the provocation, the relationship with the United States has too much potential benefit to be discarded lightly. After the attacks of September 11, Pakistan received a huge increase in military aid from America. In the three years before the attacks of September 11, Pakistan received approximately $9 million in American military aid. In the three years after, the number increased to $4.2 billion.
France is also actively involved in building and maintaining an alliance with Pakistan within the defence industry. A key note of this defence alliance was the joint-venture of Agosta submarines for the Pakistan Navy and the Mirage fighter aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force, being the largest operator of Mirage III and V aircraft after the French Air Force.
Middle Eastern Countries
Pakistan – Saudi Arabia relations, Iran-Pakistan relations, and Pakistani–Turkish relations
The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Norfolk (SSN 714) leads a formation of vessels through the North Arabian Sea April 17, 2008, during Arabian Shark '08, a joint exercise between Pakistan, Bahrain and the United States focused on antisubmarine warfare.
The Pakistani military's close ties to the nations of the Middle East are based on a combination of geography and shared religion. The closest ties are with Saudi Arabia--a sporadically generous patron; much of the equipment bought from the United States during the 1980s, for example, was paid for by the Saudis. The smaller Persian Gulf states also have been sources of important financial support. The flow of benefits has been reciprocated. Beginning in the 1960s, Pakistanis have been detailed as instructors and trainers in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Pakistani pilots, sailors, and technicians have played key roles in some Persian Gulf military forces, and Arabs have been trained both in their home countries and in military training establishments in Pakistan. Pakistani army, under the leadership of the dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq were instrumental in putting down the Palestinian revolt Black September in Jordan against King Hussein in the early seventies.
Pakistan enjoyed strong military relations with Iran during the Shah era. Both Pakistan and Iran were in the American camp opposing the Soviet Union and its allies which included India. During the 1965 war of Pakistan with India the Shah provided free fuel to the Pakistani planes who used to land on Iranian soil, refuel and the take off. After the Iranian revolution, Pakistan was among the first countries to recognize the new Iranian government and continued to maintain strong military relations. Iran sent its Military officers and personnel to be trained in Pakistani academies when military and diplomatic ties with the USA were severed following the hostage taking of the US Embassy. Pakistan also helped give spare parts and other items to the largely American equipped Iranian Military. The relations began to deteriorate when the Soviet war in Afghanistan caused large number of Sunni foreign fighters to arrive in Pakistan. General Zia ul Haq's extremist views towards the Shias caused tensions to rise between Sunni and Shia communities in Pakistan much to the discomfort of Iran. The Arab countries and USA pressured Pakistan to stop its military aid to Iran due to the Iraq-Iran War in which USA and Sunni Arab countries were backing Iraq. Iran was blamed for the rising ethnic tensions between Sunni and Shia because of Pakistan's support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. Relations continued to decline in the 1990s when with Pakistan's help the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. Iran and the Taliban almost went to war in 1997 over territorial and drug trafficking disputes. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Iran moved closer to India.
After 9/11 and the overthrow of the Taliban, Pakistan and Iran have begun to re-build their ties. Delegations have been exchanged, and Pakistan has sold military equipment to Iran. In early March 2005, Pakistan acknowledged A. Q. Khan had provided centrifuges to Iran, though it denied having had any knowledge of the transactions. Pakistan also has military ties with Turkey and would like to use these, as well as its Iranian connections, as a bridge to the new Muslim states of Central Asia.
A member of Pakistan Navy Special Service Group aboard Pakistan Navy Ship PNS Babur
Special Service Group, Special Service Group Navy, and Special Service Wing
The Special Service Group (SSG) is an independent commando division of the Pakistan Army. It is an elite special operations force similar to the Special Air Service and the Delta Force. Official numbers are put at 2,100 men, in 3 Battalions; however the actual strength is classified. It is estimated to have been increased to 4 Battalions, with the eventual formation of 2 Brigades of Special Forces (6 Battalions).
Special Service Group Navy (SSGN) is an independent commando division of the Pakistan Navy. It is an elite special operations force similar to the Special Boat Service and DEVGRU. Official numbers place the strength between 700 to 1,000, in 1 Company; however the actual strength is classified.
Special Service Wing (SSW) is an independent commando division of the Pakistan Air Force. It is an elite special operations force similar based upon the US Air Force's Special Tactics Squadron units. This the newest component to the Special Forces of Pakistan. The division has recently been built up and is fielding between 700 to 1,000 men in 1 Company.
United Nations peacekeeping missions involving Pakistan
Pakistan is the single largest contributor of UN peacekeeping forces, with more than 11,000 Pakistani military personnel serving in UN peacekeeping operations worldwide.
The table below shows the current deployment of Pakistani Forces in UN Peacekeeping missions.
Start of operation
Name of Operation
United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC)
Democratic Republic of Congo
Second Congo War
United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)
Second Liberian Civil War
United Nations Operation in Burundi ONUB
Burundi Civil War
United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI)
Civil war in Côte d'Ivoire
United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS)
Second Sudanese Civil War
Pakistan's Nuclear capable Babur Cruise Missile
Main article: Nuclear Doctrine of Pakistan
The Pakistan military possesses nuclear weapons and sufficient means both developed entirely by civilian scientists and engineers of Pakistan, through a range of missiles and aircraft—to deliver these over considerably long distances. However, unlike India, Pakistan does not have no-first-use policy and maintains the use of nuclear weapons as a deterrent and to peacefully prevent India and other world countries to offset the large conventional advantage other countries like USA and India enjoy over Pakistan.
Pakistan is not a part of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), citing concerns that it unfairly favours the established nuclear powers, and provides no provision for complete nuclear disarmament. The Strategic Nuclear Command forms part of Pakistan's National Command Authority which is responsible for the management of the country's tactical and strategic nuclear weapons.
Pakistan and weapons of mass destruction
Pakistan's Military Intelligence (MI) is one of the three main intelligence services in Pakistan. MI is tasked with counter-insurgency operations, identifying and eliminating sleeper cells, foreign agents and other anti Pakistani elements within Pakistan. Additional functions involve monitoring high level military and political leaders and safe guarding critical facilities such as military and non-military installations.
Some other Professional and Technical Military Institutes:
National Defence University
Command and Staff College
PAF Air War College
Pakistan Navy War College
Military College of Engineering
College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
Army Medical College
Military College of Signals
College of Aeronautical Engineering
College of Flying Training
Pakistan Navy Engineering College
Judge Advocate General Branch
The military justice system rests on three similar service laws: the Pakistan Army Act (1952), the Pakistan Air Force Act (1953), and the Pakistan Navy Ordinance (1961). The acts are administered by the individual services under the central supervision of the Ministry of Defence. The army has a four-tier system; the air force and navy, three-tier systems. The differences in tier levels reflect whether their competence extends to officers or enlisted men only and the severity of the punishment that may be imposed.
Civilian courts cannot question decisions handed down by the military court and double jeopardy is prohibited. In cases where a military person is alleged to have committed a crime against a civilian, the central government determines whether military or civilian courts have jurisdiction. Former servicemen in civilian life who are accused of felonies committed while on active duty are liable for prosecution under the jurisdiction of military courts. These courts are empowered to mete out a wide range of punishments including death. All sentences of imprisonment are served in military prisons or detention barracks.
Pakistani Arms Industry
A MFI-17 Mushshak
POF Eye special-purpose weapon fitted with a semi-automatic pistol
Pakistan began with virtually no military production capability. By 1951, Pakistan had created the Pakistan Ordnance Factory at Wah Cantonment, near Rawalpindi, to produce small arms, ammunition, and explosives. During the period of reliance on United States supply, there was little attention given to domestic production, but after the assistance cutoffs in 1965 and 1971, Pakistan relied on China's help to expand its facilities, including the modernization of Wah. The Heavy Industries at Taxila was established in 1971 as an equipment rebuilding facility, followed in 1973 by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, north of Islamabad. The air force assembled Chinese F-6s and French Mirages; produced the Mushak trainer, which was based on the Swedish SAAB Safari; maintained radar and avionics equipment; after the success of Mushak the Super Mushak and Karakoram-8 Advance jet state-of-art training platform were made.
The Ministry of Defence Production was created in September 1991 to promote and coordinate the patchwork of military production facilities that have developed since independence. The ministry also includes seven other specialized organizations devoted to research and development, production, and administration.
The navy is supported mainly by a facility at the Karachi Shipyard, which has limited production capacity. In 1987 development of a submarine repair and rebuild facility at Port Qasim was begun. By early 2000, in a joint project with China led to the development of the JF-17 Thunder fighter and the Al-Khalid Tank. Pakistan also has taken major steps to becoming self sufficient in aircraft overhaul and modernization and tank and helicopter sales and in a transfer of technology with France led to the construction of the Agosta 90 B Submarine in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
After the success of its major developments in the defence industry the Defence Export Promotion Organization (D.E.P.O.) was created to promote Pakistani defence equipment to the world by inviting major and small players to the I.D.E.A.S. Exhibition, which is held annually at the Karachi expo center. In recent reports, the defence exports were worth over $200 million USD in 2006 and growing annually.
Pakistan's MBT, Al Khalid Tank
Throughout the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) at Karachi in November 2006, Pakistani firms have signed joint development, production and marketing agreements with defence firms from South Korea, France and Ukraine. These agreements include new reactive armor bricks, 155 mm artillery shells, and other developments in armor and land weaponry. These agreements all relate to the Pakistan Army's AFFDP-2019 modernization program of its armor, artillery and infantry.
Pakistan's indigenous produced JF-17 Thunder. Pakistan plans to induct over 300 of these fighters.
The Pakistan Air Force plans to retire several types of combat aircraft by 2019. Joint production and further development of the JF-17 Thunder light-weight multi-role fighter is ongoing and around 150 JF-17 are expected to be inducted by 2015, replacing all A-5C, F-7P, Mirage III and Mirage 5 fighter-bombers. The F-7PG will be replaced later and the JF-17 fleet may eventually be expanded to 300 aircraft. Orders have been placed for at least 36 Chengdu J-10 fighters from China, around 26 upgraded second-hand F-16AM/BM and at least 18 new-built F-16C/D Advanced Block 52. Two types of Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft are to be introduced, 4 Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C from Sweden and the ZDK-03, a Chinese AEW&C based on the Shaanxi Y-8F-600 cargo aircraft. The Il-78 aerial refuelling tanker is to be inducted and will be capable of refuelling the JF-17 and J-10, 4 are to be acquired second-hand from Ukrainian surplus stocks. The fleet of Shenyang FT-5 and T-37 Tweet is being replaced by around 75 K-8 Karakorum intermediate (jet) training aircraft.
Pakistan Navy Frigate PNS Shahjahan
Mclanery (ASW) Class For Pakistan Navy
In 2005 Pakistan ordered four F-22P light frigates from China in a deal worth $600mn. The first is expected to be commissioned 2009 and the remainder by 2013. One of the frigates has already been completed and formally delivered to the navy, its formal induction in to the Pakistan Navy however, would take place at a later date. One of the F-22Ps will be built in the Karachi Shipyard. The F-22P is an improved version of the Type 053H3 Jiangwei II class light frigate, it has a displacement of at least 2500 tons. The first F-22P will be called PNS Zulfiqar, and thus become the Zulfiqar Class.
Plans to procure 4 used frigates were dropped in favour of 4 new-built corvettes. According to Turkish press the Pakistan Navy is reportedly interested in procuring the Milgem class corvettes from Turkey. The frigate USS McInerney (FFG-8) with considerable anti-submarine warfare capability will be handed over in August 2010.
According to Jane's IDEAS 2004 interview with former Pakistan Navy Chief ex-Admiral Kariumullah another four or so new frigates will be acquired. Kanwa Defence Review recently reported that the Pakistan Navy has shown recent interest in the Chinese Type 054 frigate.
In mid-2006 the Pakistan Navy announced its requirement of three new SSK attack submarines to replace the two Agosta-70 submarines and rebuild its fleet – after retiring the 4 Daphne class. French naval firm DCN offered its latest export design – the Marlin SSK – which is based on the Scorpene SSK, but also uses technology from the Barracuda nuclear attack submarine. The German firm HDW offered the U-214 SSK. Credible reports confirm that the Pakistan Navy has opted for the Gernman U-214's which will be built in Pakistan and includes transfer of technology. According to Walter Frietag the contract has been finalised 95 percent.
Pakistan is also seeking to enhance its strategic strike capability by developing naval variants of the Babur cruise missile. The Babur cruise missile has a range of 700 km and is capable of using both conventional and nuclear warheads. Future developments of Babur include capability of being launched from submarines, surface combatants as well as range extension from 500 km to 1000 km. The Airborne version of Babur, 'RAAD' has already been successfully tested.