Pakistan Army – a source of national pride

After the 1857 mutiny, a large number of Muslims and Sikhs from Punjab were inducted into the British Indian army who were considered the martial races and Hindus were less preferred. Punjabi Mussalmans (PM) dominated the recruitment during British period from Potohar Plateau and areas of Salt Range followed by Pakhtun tribes. The Britishers focused on a caste system and introduced class composition, viceroy commissioned officers (VCOs) and the category of Indian officers.
Author Shuja Nawaz has discussed at length the concept of “Martial Race” in his book “Crossed Swords”. According to him, the concept of Martial race was given by Lord Roberts of the British Indian army from 1885 to 1893. Religion was downplayed and the class composition was considered an important unifying factor. After independence, for some time Pakistan too relied on the specific areas of martial races for recruitment. Now, recruitment in the army is being done from across Pakistan from Chitral to Taftan and Gilgit to Karachi. To encourage more recruitment from interior Sindh and Balochistan, the Pakistan Army has relaxed some recruitment standards. Nearly 40,000 Balochis are serving Pakistan army including over 800 officers. In 2019, midshipman Naveed Zehri from Khuzdar became first cadet from Balochistan to receive “Sword of Honor” at the Pakistan Naval Academy. Usman Anwar Baloch of 144 PMA long course from Naushki received “Sword of Honor” at the PMA and become first ever Baloch to receive the honor.
All the infantry regiments of Pakistan are named after the regions like Punjab Regiment, Baloch Regiment, Frontier Force Regiment, Sindh Regiment, Azad Kashmir Regiment and Northern Light Infantry Regiment. In army there is no concept of provincialism, ethnicity or sectarianism. All the ethnicities, people from different religions and sects are respected. There is only one mosque in a unit where all offer prayers together. A great example in this regard can be seen in a NLI Regiment where Sunnis, Shias, Ismailis and Nur Bakshis offers their prayer in the same mosque. Similarly, respect is given to Christians, Hindus and Sikhs serving Pakistan Army and other services. In the past Christians and Parsis officers rose to higher ranks and still many are serving in senior ranks. The strength of Pakistan’s army includes a large reservoir of disciplined manpower with organizational ability and strength, technical expertise and sincerity of purpose. It is Islam and love for the country which unites all ranks behind one commander.
Stephen Cohen wrote in his book “there are armies that guard their nation’s border, there those that are occupied with protecting their own position in society and there those that defend a cause or idea, Pakistan Army does all three”. When a natural calamity hits, be it in the form of an earthquake, flood, or heavy rains, all ranks of the Army (armed forces) risk their lives to protect their countrymen. The Pakistan Army played a significant role during the devastating earthquake of 2005. Again, in the recent floods the army (armed forces) are playing the lead role in rescue and relief operation because of masses trust in them. Over a period of time Pakistan Army has undertaken comprehensive programmes to uplift standard of education, health, communication in the far-flung areas of country including Balochistan, interior Sindh, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Students from these areas are being given hostel facilities across Pakistan and are getting admission in prestigious institutions of Pakistan.
The Pakistan army is a national army which is a symbol of national integration, security, stability and the strongest bastion of defense. Inside Ingal Hall (Col Ingal was first commandant PMA) there is a saying of Field Marshal Chetwode CinC of British Indian Army. “The safety, honor, welfare and comfort of your country comes first, always and every time. The honor, welfare of the men you command next, your ease comfort and safety come last always and every time”.

The writer is a retired brigadier and freelance columnist. He tweets @MasudAKhan6.

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