Pakistan Armed Forces

The Pakistan Armed Forces (Urdu: پاکستان مُسَلّح افواج‎, Pākistān Musallah Afwāj) are the military forces of Pakistan. They are the sixth largest in the world in terms of active military personnel and the largest among Muslim countries. The armed forces comprise three main service branches – Army, Navy, and Air Force – together with a number of paramilitary forces and the Strategic Plans Division Force.[2] Chain of command of the military is organised under the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) alongside chiefs of staff of the army, navy, and air force.[2] All of the branches work together during operations and joint missions under the Joint Staff Headquarters (JS HQ).[2]

Since the 1963 Sino-Pakistan Agreement, the military has had close military relations with China, working jointly to develop the JF-17, the K-8, and other weapons systems. As of 2013, China was the second-largest foreign supplier of military equipment to Pakistan.[3] Both nations also co-operate on development of nuclear and space technology programs.[4][5][6] Their armies have a schedule for organising joint military exercises.[7] The military also maintains close relations with the United States, which gave Pakistan major non-NATO ally status in 2004. Pakistan gets the bulk of its military equipment from local domestic suppliers, China, and the United States.[3]

The armed forces were formed in 1947 when Pakistan became independent from the British Empire.[8] Since then, the armed forces have played a decisive role in the modern history of Pakistan, fighting major wars with India in 1947, 1965 and 1971, and on several occasions seizing control of the civilian government to restore order in the country.[8] The need for border management led to the creation of paramilitary forces to deal with civil unrest in the North-West and security of border areas in Punjab and Sindh by paramilitary troops. In 2017, per IISS, the military had approximately 653,800 active personnel in the armed forces, including 25,000–35,000+ personnel in the Strategic Plans Division Forces and 282,000 active personnel in the paramilitary forces.[9] The armed forces have a large pool of volunteers so conscription has never been needed, though the Pakistani constitution and supplementary legislation allow for conscription in a state of war.[10]

The Pakistan Armed Forces are the best-organized institution in Pakistan, and are highly respected in civil society.[11] Since the founding of Pakistan, the military has played a key role in holding the state together, promoting a feeling of nationhood and providing a bastion of selfless service.[12] In addition, the Pakistan Armed Forces are the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping efforts, with more than 10,000 personnel deployed overseas in 2007.[13] Other foreign deployments have consisted of Pakistani military personnel serving as military advisers in African and Arab countries. The Pakistani military has maintained combat divisions and brigade-strength presences in some of the Arab countries during the Arab–Israeli Wars, aided the Coalition forces in the first Gulf War, and took part in the Somali and Bosnian conflicts.

Pakistan Armed Forces
پاکستان مسلح افواج
Flag of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee
Inter-Services Flag of Pakistan Armed Forces
FoundedAugust 14, 1947 (age 71)
Service branchesFlag of the Pakistan Army Pakistan Army
Naval Jack of Pakistan Pakistan Navy
Ensign of the Pakistan Air Force Pakistan Air Force
Naval Standard of the Pakistan Marines Pakistan Marines
Ensign of the Pakistan Paramilitary Paramilitary Forces
HeadquartersJoint Staff Headquarters, Rawalpindi
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Arif Alvi
Minister of DefencePervez Khattak
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff CommitteeGeneral Zubair M. Hayat, PA
Military age17–49 years old
Active personnel654,000 (ranked 6th)
Reserve personnel550,000
BudgetUS$10.8 billion(2017)[1]
Percent of GDP2.9% (2017)
Domestic suppliers
Foreign suppliers
Related articles
RanksArmy ranks and insignia
Naval ranks and insignia
Air Force ranks and insignia


The roots of the Pakistan military trace back to the British Indian Army, which included many personnel from present day Pakistan. Pictured are troops of the Khyber Rifles, striking a pose, c. 1895.

The Pakistan military has its roots in the British Indian Army, in which many British Indian Muslims served during World War II, prior to the Partition of India.[14] Upon Partition, military formations with a Muslim majority were transferred to Pakistan,[14] while on an individual basis Indian Muslims could choose to transfer their allegiance to the new Pakistani military. Those who did so included Ayub Khan (British Indian Army), Haji Mohammad Siddiq Choudri (Royal Indian Navy), and Asghar Khan (Royal Indian Air Force).[14] Many of the senior officers who would form the Pakistan Armed Forces had fought with the British forces in World War II, thus providing the newly created country with the professionalism, experience, and leadership it would need in its wars against India.[15] In a formula arranged by the British, military resources were to have been divided between India and Pakistan in a ratio of 64% going to India and 36% for Pakistan; however, Pakistan initially demanded 50% of the equipment.[16]

The Pakistani military retained British military traditions and doctrine until 1956, when the United States dispatched a special Military Assistance Advisory Group to Pakistan; from this point, American military tradition and doctrine was generally adopted by Pakistan's military.[17] In March 1956, the Pakistani military order of precedence of three services changed from "Navy-Army-Air Force" to "Army-Navy-Air Force". In the 1990s, the additional reforms of the military eventually changed the order of precedence to Army-Navy-Air Force-Marines; though the Marines remained part of the Navy, not a separate service branch.[18]

Between 1947 and 1971, Pakistan has fought three direct conventional wars against India, with the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 witnessing the secession of East Pakistan as independent Bangladesh.[19] In the latter war, the Pakistan Armed Forces were the main perpetrators of the Bangladesh genocide, in which, most independent researchers estimate, around 300,000 to 500,000 people were killed and 200,000 to 400,000 were raped, while the Bangladesh government claims the number of deaths was as high as 3,000,000.[20][21][22][23] Rising tensions with Afghanistan in the 1960s and an indirect proxy war fought against the Soviet Union in the 1970s led to a sharp rise in the development of the Pakistan Armed Forces.[24] In 1999, an extended period of intense border-skirmishing with India, the so-called Kargil War, resulted in a redeployment of forces.[25] As of 2014, the military has been conducting counterinsurgency operations along the border areas of Afghanistan, while continuing to participate in several United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Since 1957, the armed forces have taken control from the civilian government in various military coups – ostensibly to restore order in the country, citing corruption and gross inefficiency on the part of the civilian leadership. While many Pakistanis have supported these seizures of power,[26] others have claimed that political instability, lawlessness, and corruption are direct consequences of military rule.[27][28][29]

Current deployments

Within Pakistan

Comparative Army Corps Distribution. India and Pakistan
Approximately 70% of military forces are deployed near the eastern border with India, c. 1997.

It is estimated that approximately 60–70% of Pakistan's military personnel are deployed along the Indo-Pakistan border.[30] In the aftermath of the United States invasion of Afghanistan, more than 150,000 personnel were shifted towards the Tribal Areas adjacent to Afghanistan.[31] Since 2004, Pakistan's military forces have been engaged in military efforts against al-Qaeda extremists.

In comparison with multinational and US forces, Pakistan's military has suffered the highest number of casualties in the war on terror, both in confrontations with al-Qaeda and during border skirmishes with the United States. After the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the subsequent standoff with India, several combat divisions were redeployed to Eastern and Southern Pakistan.

In addition to its military deployments, the armed forces also assist the government in responding to natural disasters such as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the nationwide floods of 2010.


A large number of Pakistan Armed Forces personnel are deployed overseas as part of the United Nations' peacekeeping missions. In 2010, an estimated 12,000 personnel were serving abroad, making Pakistan a large contributor of troops to the UN.[13]

Organization and command structure

Leadership of the Pakistan Armed Forces is provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), which controls the military from the Joint staff Headquarters (JS HQ), adjacent to the Air HQ, Navy HQ, and Army General HQ (GHQ) in the vicinity of the Rawalpindi Military District, Punjab.[8] The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee is composed of the Chairman Joint Chiefs, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Commandant Marines, and the Commander of the Special Plans Division.[8]

At the JS HQ, it forms with the office of the Engineer-in-Chief, Navy Hydrographer, Surgeon-General of each inter-service, director of JS HQ, and Director-Generals (DGs) of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Inter-Services Selection Board (ISSB), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the Strategic Plans Division Force (SPD Force).[32]

Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC)

Following military failures in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War, federal studies on civil–military relations were held by a commission led by Hamoodur Rahman, Chief Justice of Pakistan.[2][32] Recommendations of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission helped establish the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee to co-ordinate all military work and oversee joint missions and their execution during operations.[32][33]

The chairmanship of the JCSC rotates among the three main service branches, with appointment by the prime minister confirmed by the president.[32] The chairman outranks all other four-star officers; however, he does not have operational command authority over the armed forces.[34] In his capacity as chief military adviser, he assists the prime minister and the minister of defence in exercising their command functions.[34]

Technically, the JCSC is the highest military body; and its chairman serves as the principle staff officer (PSO) to the civilian prime minister, Cabinet, National Security Council (its adviser), and president.[32] The JCSC deals with joint military planning, joint training, integrated joint logistics, and provides strategic directions for the armed forces; it periodically reviews the role, size, and condition of the three main service branches; and it advises the civilian government on strategic communications, industrial mobilisations plans, and formulating defence plans.[32] In many ways, the JCSC provides an important link to understand, maintain balance, and resolve conflicts between military and political circles.[32] In times of peace, the JCSC's principle functions are to conduct planning of civil–military input; in times of war, the chairman acts as principle military adviser to the prime minister in the supervision and conduct of joint warfare.[34]

Position Photograph Name Service
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair General Zubair Mahmood Hayat  Pakistan Army
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan  Pakistan Air Force
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa General Qamar Javed Bajwa  Pakistan Army
Chief of Naval Staff Zafar Mahmood Abbasi Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi  Pakistan Navy


Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Shahjahan & Tippi Sultan.jpeg
Pakistan Navy ships

Troop strength

As of 2010, estimations by national and international bodies were that approximately 653,800 people[35] were on active duty in the three main service branches, with an additional 482,000 serving in paramilitary forces[35] and 550,000 in reserve.[36] It is an all-volunteer military, but conscription can be enacted at the request of the president with the approval of the parliament of Pakistan.[37] The military is the seventh largest in the world and has troops deployed around the globe in military assistance and peacekeeping operations.[36]

Pakistan is the only predominantly Muslim country in which women serve as high-ranking officers and in combat roles, and a sizeable unit of female army and air force personnel has been actively involved in military operations against Taliban forces.[38][39][40][41]

Members of the Pakistani military hold a rank, either that of officer or enlisted, and can be promoted.[42]

The following table summarises current Pakistani military staffing:

Pakistani military troop levels
Service Total active-duty personnel[35] Total reserve[35]
Army 550,000 500,000
Navy 34,500 5,000
Air Force 70,000 8,000
Paramilitary Forces 482,000 Unknown
SPD Force 21,000+[43][44] Unknown


A Pakistan Army soldier in combat gear during training

From 1947 to early the 2000s, Pakistan's military uniforms closely resembled those of their counterparts in the British armed services.[45] The Army uniform consisted of plain yellowish khaki, which was the standard issue as both the combat uniform (ACU) and the service uniform (ASU).[46] The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) uniform was primarily based on the Royal Air Force uniform, with bluish-grey as its reporting colour markings.[45] The Navy uniform was likewise based on the Royal Navy uniform, with predominant colours of navy blue and white.[46]

In 2003, the service uniforms for each major service branch were revised and orders were made to issue new uniforms roughly based on the American military.[46] With Marines reestablished in 2004, the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) uniforms are now worn by each service in respect to their colours; the flag of Pakistan patch worn on the shoulder became compulsory.[47]

In the military, the service dress, however, remains yellowish khaki for the Army; plain white service dress for the Navy (including the Marines).[48] The Air Force abandoned its rank and uniform structure in 2006, and introduced its own uniform insignia which closely resembled that of the Turkish Army.[48]

The Army's standard UCP is based on a pixelated version of the region's arid desert patterns.[48] The army's UCP varies depending on the type of missions and deployment it is being used for.[48] The Navy's UCP is based on a design that incorporates sparse black and medium grey shapes on a light grey background.[48] The Marines have a woodland pattern featuring light brown, olive green and dark blue shapes on a tan or light olive background.[48] Slight colour variations have been noted. Other than a greenish flight suit and a standard service dress, the Air Forces's Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) camouflage features a variation of the six-colour desert pattern.[48] In each service's UCP, the name of the service branch, rank, and gallantry badges are worn on the chest; insignia are worn on the shoulders with the compulsory flag-of-Pakistan patch.[47]

Joseph P. Hoar 1994

Standard yellowish khaki (on right) as both ACU and the ASU, 1994.

Mian Muhibullah Kakakhel in young age as a Flight Lieutenant in Pakistan Air Force

A Pakistan Air Force service uniform, 1974

Tamgha-i-Imtiaz awarded by Admiral Noman Bashir, Chief of Naval Staff

A traditional white navy service dress, 2008

Gen Fazle Haq

Earliest ACU in the 1980s

US Navy 091012-N-8132M-245 Marines assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU), along with Marines from Kuwait and Pakistan, conduct an amphibious assault demonstration during Exercise Bright Star 2009

Marines (as laying down) standard UCP.

Lt Gen David Halverson with Lt General Raheel Sharif

Comparison of US Army and Pakistan Army's UCP, 2013.

US Navy 110612-N-OT964-194 Chief Navy Diver Aaron Knight, assigned to Commander Task Group (CTG) 56.1

One of Pakistan Navy's previous UCP in 2010. The Navy changed its camouflage in 2013.

US Navy 050510-N-9693B-005 Sailors aboard the Pakistani Naval ship (PNS) Tariq (DDG 181) stand watch during a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) drill in the Gulf of Oman

Pakistan Navy's sailors wearing anti-flash gear while operating a Guided missile frigate, PNS Alamgir.

Pakistani F2000.JPEG

Pakistan Air Force's Special Service Wing (SSW) in its current camouflage.

Pakistan Air Force F-16 Red Flag 2010 group photo

The PAF's fighter pilots with the greenish g-suit in comparison to USAF; the same pattern is used by the Pakistan Navy.

Rank and insignia structure

As Pakistan became independent, the British military ranks and insignia were immediately commissioned by the armed forces as part of a legacy of British colonialism.[49] Within a few months of its founding in 1947, the military had inherited all professional qualifications of the British military in India.[42][50]

In respect to the British Indian military, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) authorised the three junior commissioned officer (JCO) pay grades between the enlisted ranks and commissioned officers.[51] The JCO grades are equivalent to the civil bureaucracy's pay scales for those who rise by promotion from among enlisted recruits. The JCO grades in the Pakistani military are a continuation of the former Viceroy of India's commissioned pay grades during the British colonial period.[52] Promotion to the JCO, however, remains a lucrative and powerful incentive for the enlisted military personnel; thus, if JCO ranks are ever phased out, it will probably be a slow process.[52]

Gallantry awards

  1. Nishan-i-Haider (English: Sign of the Lion) is the highest military decoration of Pakistan. It is 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." As of 2013, this award has been given to ten Pakistani servicemen who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.[53][54]
  2. Hilal-i-Jurat (English: Crescent of Courage) is the second-highest military decoration of Pakistan, and the highest to be given to a living Pakistani (the Nishan-i-Haider has only been awarded posthumously.) The award is conferrable on officers of the Army, Navy, or Air Force, for acts of valour, courage, or devotion to duty, performed on land, at sea, or in the air in the face of the enemy. Recipients have often received land and pensions, and could place the honorific "HJ" after their name.
  3. Sitara-i-Jurat (English: Star of Courage) is the third-highest military decoration of Pakistan, awarded for gallantry or distinguished service in combat, and can be bestowed upon officers, JCOs, and warrant officers of the Armed Forces including paramilitary forces under federal control. Recipients can place the honorific "SJ" after their name.
  4. Tamgha-i-Jurat (English: Medal of Courage) is the fourth-highest military decoration of Pakistan, awarded for gallantry or distinguished service in combat. This is essentially the NCO and enlisted version of the Sitara-i-Jurat. Recipients can place the honorific "TJ" after their name.

Foreign military relations


China's relationship with Pakistan holds great importance for both countries in terms of common interest and geopolitical strategy. The alliance was initially formed to counter the regional influence and military threat posed by India and the Soviet Union. In recent years the friendship has deepened further: China and Pakistan have signed several mutual-defence treaties.

China has been a steady source of military equipment and has cooperated with Pakistan in setting-up weapons production and modernisation facilities.

The two countries are actively involved in several joint projects to enhance each other's military needs, including development and production of the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, the K-8 Karakorum advanced training aircraft, the Al-Khalid tank, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems, and many other projects. The two countries have held several joint military exercises to enhance co-operation between their armed forces. China is also the largest investor in the Gwadar Deep Sea Port, which is strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.

South Asian countries photo essay 100121-F-6655M-208

Prior to 1971, Pakistan's military had a strong presence in East Pakistan and an active theatre-level military command. After Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan, full diplomatic relations were not restored until 1976.[55] Relations improved considerably under the Bangladesh military governments of President Major Ziaur Rahman and General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, as Bangladesh had grown distant from its former war ally, India.[55][56] Common concerns over India's regional power have influenced strategic co-operation, leading to a gift of several squadrons of F-6 fighter aircraft to the Bangladesh Air Force in the late 1980s.[57]

After being condemned by India, Great Britain, and the United States between 2004 and 2006 for repressing democracy, the Nepalese monarchy developed military ties with China and Pakistan, who offered extensive support, arms, and equipment for the monarchy's struggle to stay in power in the face of a Maoist insurgency.[58][59]

When India proved reluctant to supply Sri Lanka with weapons, the insurgency-plagued island nation turned to Pakistan. In May 2000, with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels about to recapture their former capital of Jaffna, Pakistan President Musharraf provided millions of dollars of much-needed armament to the Sri Lankan government.[60] In May 2008, Lt-Gen Fonseka of the Sri Lanka Army held talks with his Pakistan Army counterparts regarding the sale of military equipment, weapons, and ammunition. The sale of 22 Al-Khalid main battle tanks to the Sri Lanka Army was finalised during these talks, in a deal worth over US$100 million.[61] 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.[62]

United States and NATO

Mike Mullen reviews Pakistani troops
American Chairman of Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen reviews Pakistani troops during a ceremony honouring Mullen's arrival in Islamabad in 2008.

Throughout its history, Pakistan has had a fluctuating military relationship with the United States. During times of co-operation, US military funding and training have enhanced the Pakistan Armed Forces; in contrast, severing of US support at critical junctures has led to bitter disillusionment. These wide swings of fortune are something to which the Pakistanis have become accustomed, and they recognise that, whatever the provocation, the relationship with the United States has too much potential benefit to be discarded lightly.

In support of the United States' 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan's armed forces received large amounts of military aid, funding, and training. According to Ministry of Finance calculations, in the three years prior to the 11 September attacks, Pakistan received approximately $9 million in American military aid; in the three years after, the amount increased to $4.2 billion.[63] News Photo 060320-F-0193C-009
General Peter Pace salutes Pakistani servicemen.

Pakistan has maintained strong military-to-military relations with the 28 member states comprising the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[64] NATO regards its relations with Pakistan as "partners across the globe."[64] With the support of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Pakistan was designated a "major non-NATO ally" in 2004.[65][66][67][68]

Since the 2000s, military relations have improved between the Russian armed forces and the Pakistan armed forces.[69][70]

Middle Eastern countries

Ships during the exercise Arabian Shark '08
Pakistan Navy ships deployed in the Arabian Sea, near Oman.

Pakistan's close ties to the nations of the Middle East, based on geography and shared religion, have led to periodic military deployments since the 1960s. The Arab world countries – many of them wealthy but with small populations and limited militaries – have historically depended on regional armies to provide a protective umbrella and military muscle in times of instability and crisis.[71] The Pakistani military has retained a particularly close relationship with Saudi Arabia which has been a sporadically generous patron: much of the military equipment bought from the United States by Pakistan in the 1980s was paid for by Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait also have been important sources of financial support.[72]

Pakistani military personnel have been posted as military advisers and instructors to the militaries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Kuwait, and the UAE. Pakistan Air Force, Navy, and Army personnel played crucial roles in building the UAE military. Many Arab military officials have been educated at Pakistan's military staff colleges and universities. A combat division commanded by Major-General Zia-ul-Haq was instrumental in putting down the Palestinian Black September revolt against King Hussein in Jordan in the early 1970s.

Parallel steps
Navy guards marching in 2009 .

Pakistan has enjoyed strong military co-operation with the Iranian military since the 1950s. Iranian leader Mohammad Reza Shah provided free fuel to PAF fighter jets in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, allowing Pakistani planes to land at Iranian Air Force bases, refuel, and take off. The military relationship continued even after the Iranian revolution, as Pakistan was among the first countries to recognise the new Iranian government. In the aftermath of the hostage crisis in Tehran, the United States severed its ties with Iran, leading Iran to send its military officers and personnel to be educated at Pakistani military academies. Relations became difficult following the Soviet–Afghan War, when hundreds of foreign fighters (mostly Sunni Arabs) arrived in Pakistan to take part in the Afghan Jihad. Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq's military administration policy reflected extremist views towards the Shiites and caused religious tensions to rise between Sunni and Shiites in Pakistan, much to the discomfort of Iran. During the Iran–Iraq War, the Arab countries and the United States, who were supporting Iraq, pressured Pakistan to discontinue its covert support and military funding for Iran.

The 1980s were a difficult time in military relations for both countries, as Iran was blamed for the rising ethnic tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Pakistan. The relationship further deteriorated in the 1990s when the Taliban, with Pakistan's support, began their rule of Afghanistan. In 1998, Iran and Afghanistan were on the verge of war over the assassination of Iranian diplomats. Iran's relations with India improved during this time, with both supporting the Northern Alliance against the Taliban.

The situation began to normalise in 2000, with Pakistan and Iran reinstating trade relations. In the wake of the 11 September attacks in the United States and the fall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the two countries began rebuilding their military ties. Over the years, diplomatic delegations have been exchanged, and Pakistan has agreed to sell military equipment to Iran. In addition, Pakistan has maintained strong military-to-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.

Special operations forces

Pakistan Navy Special Service Group member silhouetted aboard Pakistan Navy Ship PNS Babur
A member of Pakistan Navy Special Service Group aboard Pakistan Navy Ship PNS Babur.

After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, recommendations for establishing an elite commando division within the army were accepted. Commissioned in 1956 with help from US Army Special Forces, the Pakistan Army's Special Services Group (SSG) is an elite special operations division; its training and nature of operations are roughly equivalent to British Special Air Service (SAS) and US Army Special Forces and Delta Force. Tentative estimates of the division's size are put at four battalions but the actual strength is kept highly classified.

With the successful commissioning of Special Services Group, the Pakistan Navy accepted recommendations for commissioning its own special operational unit shortly after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.[73] Established as Special Service Group Navy (SSGN) in 1966, it is an elite and secretive commando division whose training and combat operations are similar to the Royal Navy's Special Boat Service and US Navy's Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) and Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) teams.[73] Operatives' identities and actual static strength are kept secret and classified.[73] Very few details of their missions are publicly known.[73]

A small unit of Pakistan Marines have, since 1990, operated reconnaissance units to deter the Indian Army's actions in the Sir Creek region.[74][75] Other battalions of Marines are trained to carry out operations with airborne, heliborne, submarine, and waterborne insertions and extractions.[76]

The Special Service Wing (SSW) is the newest special operations commando division, established by the Pakistan Air Force in 2004, in the wake of challenges posed by the Afghanistan war.[77] The unit was active earlier and had seen action during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, 1965, and 1971. The SSW is designed to execute difficult aerial and land operations, serving as equivalent to the US Air Force's Special Tactics Squadron units.[77] Following the secretive tradition of its counterparts in other services, the actual number of its serving personnel is kept classified.

UN peacekeeping forces

In 2009, Pakistan was the single largest contributor of UN peacekeeping forces, with more than 11,000 Pakistani military personnel serving in UN peacekeeping operations worldwide.[78]

The table below shows the current deployment of Pakistani Forces in UN Peacekeeping missions.

Start of operation Name of operation Location Conflict Contribution
1999 United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) Democratic Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of Congo Second Congo War 3,556 Troops.[79]
2003 United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Liberia Liberia Second Liberian Civil War 2,741 Troops.[80]
2004 United Nations Operation in Burundi ONUB Burundi Burundi Burundi Civil War 1,185 Troops.[81]
2004 United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) Ivory Coast Ivory Coast First Ivorian Civil War 1,145 Troops.[82]
2005 United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) Sudan Sudan Second Sudanese Civil War 1,542 Troops.[83]
Staff/observers 191 observers.[84]
  • The total number of troops serving in peacekeeping missions was 10,173 as of March 2007.

Involvement in Pakistani civil society

JGSDF International disaster relief activities in Pakistan
Pakistan military troops in relief efforts missions in 2005.

According to the views of Russian scholar Anatol Lieven, the Pakistan Armed Forces play a vital role in keeping the Pakistani state together, promoting a spirit of unity and nationhood, and providing a bastion of selfless service to the nation.[19] As an institution, the armed forces have been integrated into Pakistani civil society since the establishment of the country in 1947.[85] The military has been involved in building much of the country's infrastructure (such as dams, bridges, canals, power stations, and energy projects) and civil–military input from all sections of the armed forces has helped to build a stable society and professionalism in the armed forces.[85]

In times of natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, army engineers, medical and logistics personnel, and the armed forces generally have played a major role in rescue, relief, and supply efforts.[86] In 2010, armed forces personnel donated one day of salary for their flood-effected brethren.[87]

In 1996, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Jehangir Karamat, described the Pakistan Armed Forces' relations with civilian society:

In my opinion, if we have to repeat of past events then we must understand that Military leaders can pressure only up to a point. Beyond that their own position starts getting undermined because the military is after all a mirror image of the civil society from which it is drawn.[88] photo essay 110719-F-GQ530-253
Pakistan Air Force airmen participating in relief operations.

According to 2012 reports of the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), around 91.1% of civilian infrastructure in the Federally Administered Tribal Area was built by the armed forces in a policy based on sustainable development plans, to improve the livelihood of ordinary people of the region.[89] According to Air Force statistics, the air force conducted approximately 693 relief operations in Pakistan and abroad during the fiscal period 1998–2008.[90] The Air Force carried and distributed thousands of tons of wheat, medicines, emergency shelters, and provided assistance to rehabilitate the disaster-effected areas of the country.[90]

US Navy 100605-N-3973P-124 Pakistani navy Surgeons and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Nicholas Marcotte use a raven litter stretcher to transport Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class William West during a medical training exercise
Pakistan Navy medical specialists conducting medical training while abroad on sea mission.

During the wave of floods from 2010 to 2014, the Navy and Marines launched relief operations nationwide and provided healthcare, medicines, relief efforts, and coordinated the distribution of food in the flood-effected areas.[91] In the Navy's own admission, it had provided 43,850 kilograms (96,670 lb) of food and relief goods to flood victims; this included 5,700 kg of ready-to-cook food, 1,000 kg of dates and 5,000 kg of food dispatched to Sukkur. The Pakistan Naval Air Arm had air dropped more than 500 kg of food and relief goods in Thal, Ghospur, and Mirpur areas.[92]

Engineering units of the Navy and Marines built more than 87 houses distributed to the local internally displaced persons (IDPs). About 69,000 affected IDPs were treated in Navy and Marines medical camps.[93]

Commemoration and parades

The Youm-e-Difa (English: Defence Day) – Pakistan's day in remembrance of fallen soldiers of the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965 – is observed on 6 September.[94] Memorial services are held in the presence of Pakistan's top military and civil officials.[95] Wreaths of flowers are laid on the graves of the fallen soldiers and ceremonies are held across the country.[96] The change of guard ceremony takes place at Mazar-e-Quaid, where the cadets of inter-services academies present Guard of Honour and take the charge.[94] Additionally, the Youm-e-Fizaya (Air Force Day) is celebrated on 7 September, and the Youm-e-Bahriya (Navy Day) on 8 September.[97]

The Pakistan Armed Forces parades take place on 23 March, which is celebrated as Youm-e-Pakistan (Pakistan Day). All main service branches parade on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad, where the weapon exhibitions are televised.[98]

Weapons of mass destruction and policy

Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons began in 1972, following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, with the government adopting a policy of deliberate ambiguity which was practised and observed from 1972 to 1998. Amid pressure built after India's nuclear test in 1998, Pakistan successfully conducted its first publicly announced nuclear tests in 1998: Chagai-I and Chagai-II.[32] With these tests, Pakistan became the seventh nation to achieve the status of a nuclear power.[99]

Under a public policy guidance, strategic weapons and projects are researched and developed entirely by civilian scientists and engineers, who also develop a wide range of delivery systems. On military policy issues, Pakistan issues directives towards "first use"[100] and maintains that its program is based on nuclear deterrence, to peacefully discourage attack by India and other countries with large conventional-force advantages over Pakistan.[101] According to United States military sources, Pakistan has achieved survivability in a possible nuclear conflict through second strike capability.[102] Since the early 1990s, Pakistan's nuclear strategists have emphasised attaining "second strike" capability in spite of their "first use" policy.[103] Statements and physical actions by Pakistan have cited the survivability through a second strike, forming a naval-based command and control system to serve as "the custodian of the nation's second-strike capability."[104]

In January 2000, the head of United States Central Command, General Anthony Zinni, told NBC that longtime assumptions that India had an edge in the South Asian strategic balance of power were questionable at best. Said Zinni: "Don't assume that the Pakistanis' nuclear capability is inferior to the Indians".[105]

Despite international pressure, Pakistan has refused to sign either the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Initiatives taken towards consolidating strategic infrastructure led to the establishment, in 2000, of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), which oversees the policy, military control, development, and deployment of the country's tactical and strategic nuclear arsenals. The command and control of the strategic arsenal are kept under an inter-service strategic command which reports directly at the Joint staff HQ.[106]

Since its establishment in 2000, the chairperson of the NCA has been the Prime Minister of Pakistan.[107] The NCA supervises and forms a tight control of the strategic organisations related to the research and development in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).[107] Pakistan has an extremely strict command and control system over its strategic assets, which is based on C4ISTAR (Command, Control, Communications, and Computing of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance) which is kept under the Air Force.[107] The Islamabad-based Strategic Force Organization (SFO) has a three-tier system which forms by combining the Nuclear Command Authority, Strategic Plans Division Force (SPD Force), and each of three Inter-Services strategic force commands. The SPD's own force called SPD Force is responsible for security of nuclear weapons while the strategic forces commands of the air force, army, and navy exercise the deployments and eventual usage of the WMDs.[107] However, the executive decisions, operational plannings, and controls over the WMDs remains vested with the NCA under the Prime Minister of Pakistan.[107]

Defence Intelligence cycle

Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is the premier intelligence service of Pakistan that is responsible for providing, managing, and co-ordinating military intelligence for the Pakistan Armed Forces.[32] After an eminent intelligence failure in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the ISI was established by Army Major-General R. Cawthome and Navy Commander S.M. Ahsan, in a view to co-ordinate military intelligence from each major service branch and provide an inter-service intelligence estimate.[108] While intelligence operatives are recruited from each service, including civilians, the ISI has become very powerful and influential.[32] Due to its wide range of intelligence operations and influence, the ISI has been criticised both internally and externally. The Director General for Inter-Services Intelligence is the head of the ISI and also the principal adviser to the Prime Minister and President of Pakistan; the ISI reports directly to the prime minister.

The Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI) provides intelligence to the Army, while the other main branches are served by Naval Intelligence and Air Intelligence. The intelligence services in each branch are tasked with providing intelligence on foreign operations, performing counterintelligence operations, and 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 military and non-military facilities. The director-generals of each intelligence branch are usually two-star officers.

Traditionally, the bulk of intelligence work and efforts in Pakistan has been carried out by the ISI, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as well as the others in the Pakistani intelligence community. To provide better co-ordination and eliminate competition, the National Intelligence Directorate (NID) was established in 2014.[109] The NID serves a similar purpose as the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, providing statistical analysis and counter-insurgency recommendations at all levels of command.[110]

Military academies

The military academies are:

There are also a number of engineering, professional, and higher education military institutes:

Military justice system

Pakistan's military justice system rests on the inter-services administrated Judge Advocate General Branch (JAG); all military criminal cases are overseen by the high-ranking officials of joint tribunals of the military.[111] Each major service branch has its own service law: Army Justice Act, promulgated in 1952; the PAF Justice Act, established in 1953; and the Navy Ordinance, enacted in 1961.[112] The identities of active-duty uniformed JAG officials are kept classified and no details of such individuals are made available to media.[111]

All three sets of service laws are administered by the individual major service branches under the central reporting supervision of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).[112] The army has a four-tier system; the air force, navy, and marines have a three-tier systems.[112] The two top levels of all three-tier systems are the general court-martial and district court-martial; the third level comprises the field general court-martial in the army, air force, and navy. The fourth-level tier of the army comprises the summary court-martial.[112] The differences in tier levels reflect whether their competence extends to officers or enlisted personnel, and the severity of the punishment that may be imposed.[112]

Pakistan's Supreme Court and the civilian courts cannot question decisions handed down by the military judges, and double jeopardy is prohibited.[112] In cases where a member of the military is alleged to have committed a crime against a civilian, then the MoD and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) determine the prosecution of the case to be tried, whether military or civilian courts have jurisdiction.[112] 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.[112] These courts are empowered to dispense a wide range of punishments including death.[112] All sentences of imprisonment are served in military prisons or detention barracks.[112]

Weapons industry


Pakistan gdp growth rate
GDP Rate of Growth 1951–2009

At the time of the creation of Pakistan, the country had virtually no military industry or production capability. In 1949–50, the contribution of the industrial sector to the GNP was only 5.8%, of which 4.8% was attributed to small-scale industries.[113] The new nation's only major heavy-industry operation was the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW), which was focused on civil maritime construction. All military industrial materials and weapons systems were either inherited or purchased from the United Kingdom.[113]

By 1951, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan had established the Pakistan Ordnance Factory (POF) in Wah Military District, with a civilian chemist, Dr. Abdul Hafeez, serving as director and senior scientist.[113] The POF was oriented towards the production of small arms, ammunition, and chemical explosives.[113] During the period of reliance on United States supply, from 1955 to 1964, there was little attention given to domestic production. Almost all military weapons and equipment were provided by the United States, as part of Pakistan's membership in South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CENTO).[113] By 1963, the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DESTO) was formed by POF Director Hafeez for the purposes of military research and development.[113] After U.S. military assistance was cut off in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 (followed by the disastrous 1971 War), Pakistan turned to China for help in expanding its military industrial and production capabilities, including the modernisation of the facilities at Wah.

Manufacturing by Province
Industrial manufacturing in Pakistan from 1973 to 2000.

Faced with defence and security issues involving much larger opponents on both its eastern and western borders, the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Finance require a disproportionate share of the nation's resources to maintain even a minimally effective defensive stance.[112] Since 1971, the military budget of the armed forces grew by 200% in support of armed forces contingency operations.[112] During the administrations of Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, approximately 50–60% of scientific research and funding went to military efforts.[112]

In 1993, Benazir Bhutto's defence budget for the year was set at P₨.94 billion (US$3.3 billion), which represented 27% of the government's circular spending and 8.9% of GDP, in calculations shown by the United States military.[112] Despite criticism from the country's influential political-science sphere,[114] the government increased the military budget by an additional 11% for the fiscal year 2015–16.[115]

Defence industry

Bomb Shells produced at POF WAH
DESTO]], and POF.

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the US Congress scrutinised its military aid to Pakistan despite efforts by U.S. President Richard Nixon.[116] After the war, the programs on self-reliance and domestic productions were launched with the establishment of the Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) in 1972, to promote and co-ordinate the patchwork of military production facilities that had developed since independence.[113] New military policy oversaw the establishment of Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) in Taxila and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra, north of Islamabad. The militarisation of the Karachi Shipyard Engineering Works (KSEW) took place the same year. The PAC reverse-engineered several F–6J, F–7P, Mirage III, and Mirage 5 fighter jets (of the Chinese and French), built the Mushak trainer (based on the Swedish SAAB Safari), and maintained radar and avionics equipment. After the success of the Mushak, the Super Mushak and the state-of-art Karakoram-8 advanced training jet were produced. The MoDP includes seven other specialised organizations devoted to research and development, production, and administration.[113]

MP4 a and G3 produced at POF WAH under licensed
Rifles and firearms produced by POF displayed at an arms exhibition.

In 1987, the KSEW began developing submarine technology and rebuilding the submarine base near Port Qasim. In the 1990s, concerns over Pakistan's secretive development of nuclear weapons led to the "Pressler amendment" (introduced by US Senator Larry Pressler) and an economic and military embargo. This caused a great panic in the Pakistan Armed Forces and each major service branch launched its own military-industrial programs.

By 1999, the KSEW had built its first long-range attack submarine, the Agosta 90B, which featured air-independent propulsion (AIP) technology purchased from France in 1995. By early 2000, a joint venture with China led to the introduction of the JF-17 fighter jet (developed at PAC) and the Al-Khalid main battle tank, built and assembled at HIT. Since 2001, Pakistan has taken major steps toward becoming self-sufficient in aircraft overhaul and modernisation and tank and helicopter sales.[113]

After the success of its major projects in the defence industry, the Defence Export Promotion Organization (DEPO) was created to promote Pakistani defence equipment to the world by hosting the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), which is held biennially at the Karachi expo center. Pakistan's defence exports were reportedly worth over US$200 million in 2006, and have continued to grow since.[117]

Main Inter-Services branches


PakBatt-medal-12 (10225473763)
Pakistani soldiers being decorated after a tour of duty with the UN in the DR Congo

After the partitioning of India in 1947, the Pakistan Army was formed by Indian Muslim officers serving in the British Indian Army.[118] The largest branch of the nation's military, it is a professional, volunteer fighting force, with about 550,000 active personnel and 500,000 reserves (though estimates vary widely).[119][120] Although, the Constitution provides a basis for the service draft, conscription has never been imposed in Pakistan.[121] A single command structure known as General Headquarters (GHQ) is based at Rawalpindi Cantt, adjacent to the Joint staff HQ.[32] The army is commanded by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), by statute a four-star army general, appointed by the president with the consultation and confirmation of the prime minister.[122] As of 2018, General Qamar Javed Bajwa was the chief of army staff.[123][124] Army General Zubair Mahmood Hayat is the current chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.[125] The army has a wide range of corporate (e.g.: Fauji Foundation), commercial (e.g.: Askari Bank), and political interests, and on many occasions has seized control of the civilian government to restore order in the country.[126]

The Army Aviation Corps reportedly operates about 250 aircraft, including 40 AH-1 Cobra combat helicopters. The Army Strategic Forces Command operates a wide range of missile systems in its arsenal.[127] In spite of the Pressler amendment enforced in the 1990s, the army has been focused on development of land-based weapon systems and production of military hardware.[128] Domestic innovation resulted in the successful development of G3A3 rifles, Anza missile systems, and Al-Zarrar and Al-Khalid main battle tanks (MBTs).[128]

Since 1947, the army has waged three wars with neighbouring India, and several border skirmishes with Afghanistan.[129] Due to Pakistan's diverse geography, the army has extensive combat experience in a variety of terrains.[130] The army has maintained a strong presence in the Arab world during the Arab–Israeli Wars, aided the Coalition Forces in the first Gulf War, and played a major role in combat in the Bosnian war as well as rescuing trapped American soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. Recently, major joint-operations undertaken by the army include Operation Black Thunderstorm and Operation Rah-e-Nijat, against armed insurgents within Pakistan. The army has also been an active participant in UN peacekeeping missions.[36]

Air Force

Brought into existence in 1947 with the establishment of the Pakistan Air Force Academy, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is regarded as a "powerful defence component of the country's defence."[131] The prefix "Royal" was added in 1947, but dropped when Pakistan became an Islamic republic in 1956.[106] The PAF is the seventh-largest air force and the largest in the Islamic world, with about 943 combat fighter jets and over 200 trainer, transport, communication, helicopter, and force-multiplier aircraft. A single command structure Air Headquarters (AHQ) is based at Rawalpindi Cantt, adjacent to the Joint staff HQ.[32] The air force is commanded by the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), by statute a four-star air chief marshal, appointed by the president, with the consultation and confirmation of the prime minister.[122] As of current appointment, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman is the CAS.[132]

In many important events in Pakistan's history, the air force has played a pivotal, influential, and crucial role in the nation's defence and national security, and promoted a sense of security in civil society.[133][134][135][136] Its military significance and importance in public perception contribute to the PAF's dominance over the other major service branches.[137] The PAF officially uses the slogan: "Second to None; fully abreast with the requisite will and mechanism to live by its standards in the coming millennium and beyond."[138]

F-16 Red Flag 2010 Pakistan Air Force 9 sqn Griffins
PAF F16s in tight formation in Nevada, U.S, c. 2010.

Historically, the air force has been heavily dependent on U.S., Chinese, and French aircraft technology to support its growth, despite impositions of the Pressler amendment.[106] While F-16s continue to be a backbone of the air force,[139] the local development and quick production of the JF-17 have provided an alternative route to meet its aerial combat requirements.[140] According to PAF accounts, the air force plans to retire several of its ageing French-licensed Mirage III and Mirage 5 fighter jets.[141]

Two JF-17 Thunders
Pakistan's domestically-produced JF-17 Thunder, developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.

Joint production with the Chinese Air Force of a light-weight multi-role combat aircraft and further avionics development of the JF-17 is ongoing at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). As of 2016, 70 JF-17s are operational and have replaced 50 Mirage IIIs and F-7Ps. The PAF plans to replace all F-7Ps and Mirage III/5 aircraft by 2020.[142][143][144] The F-7PG will be replaced later, and the JF-17 fleet may eventually be expanded to 300 aircraft.[145] Realizing the importance of fifth generation fighter aircraft, the PAF successfully negotiated for the procurement of approximately 36 Chinese FC-20 fighter jets – a deal worth around US$1.4 billion, signed in 2009.[146][147] It was expected that the FC-20s would be delivered in 2015.[148] In close co-ordination with Turkish Aerospace Industries, the PAC engaged in a mid-life update (MLU) program of its F-16A/Bs, approximately 26 of which are in service.[149] In 2010, the air force procured at least 18 newly-built F-16C/D Block 52s under the Peace Gate-II by the United States.[150]

Ilyushin Il-78 (R11-003)
A PAF Il-78A air tanker.

In 2009, the PAF enlisted two types of airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems aircraft: four Erieye-equipped Saab 2000s from Sweden, and six [text missing] – a Chinese AWACS based on the Shaanxi Y-8F cargo aircraft.[151] Four Ilyushin Il-78 aerial tankers, capable of refuelling F-16, Mirage III, Mirage 5, JF-17, and FC-20 fighters, have been acquired second-hand from Ukrainian surplus stocks.[152][153][154] The fleet of FT-5 and T-37 trainers is to be replaced with approximately 75 K-8 Karakorum intermediate jet training aircraft.[155] Other major developments continue to be under development by the local aerospace industries;[156] some of its electronic systems were exhibited in IDEAS 2014 held in Karachi.[157] Since the 1960s, the PAF has held regular combat exercises, such as Exercise Saffron Bandit and Exercise High Mark, modelled on the USAF Weapons School; many authors believe the PAF is capable of mastering the methods of "toss bombing" since the 1990s.[158][159]


The Pakistan Navy was formed in 1947 by the Indian Muslim officers serving in the Royal Indian Navy. The prefix "Royal" was soon added but dropped in 1956 when Pakistan became an Islamic republic.[160] Its prime responsibility is to provide protection of nation's sea ports, marine borders, approximately 1,000 km (650 mi) of coastline, and supporting national security and peacekeeping missions.[161] With approximately 71 commissioned warships and 36,000 active duty personnel, its operational scope has expanded to greater national and international responsibility in countering the threat of sea-based global terrorism, drug smuggling, and trafficking issues.[162]

Larkana (PB 157)-090309-N-4774B-055
PNS Larkana in Karachi

A single command structure known as Naval Headquarters (NHQ) is based at the Rawalpindi Cantt, adjacent to the Joint Staff HQ. The navy is commanded by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), who is by statute a four-star admiral, appointed by the president, with the required consultation and confirmation of the prime minister.[122] As of October 2014, Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah is the chief of naval staff.[163]

The Navy operates the domestically built Agosta 90B submarines.

Navy Day is celebrated on 8 September to commemorate its service in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. The navy lost one-half of its force in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.[164] The Navy heavily depended on American-built naval technology and operated a large infrastructure from 1947 to 1971.[160] The Pressler amendment forced an embargo in the 1990s, during which the navy developed air independent propulsion (AIP) technology purchased from France and built the Agosta-class submarines; two of these (as well as one of the new frigates) were built at Pakistan's facilities in Karachi.[165] The navy's surface fleet consists of helicopter carriers, destroyers, frigates, amphibious assault ships, patrol ships, mine-countermeasures, and miscellaneous vessels.[166] Established in 1972, the Naval Air Arm provides fleet air defence, maritime reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare capability. Mirage 5 aircraft donated by the PAF are flown by the Navy, equipped with Exocet anti-ship missiles.[166] The Navy's fleet of P-3C Orion turboprop aircraft, equipped with electronic intelligence (ELINT) systems, play a pivotal role in the Navy's gathering of intelligence.[167] Since 2001, the navy has emphasised its role and expanded its operational scope across the country with the establishment of Naval Strategic Forces Command, based in Islamabad.

Pakistan Navy Westland Sea King Asuspine-1
A Pakistan Navy's Westland Sea King.

In the 1990s, the navy lost its opportunity to equip itself with latest technology and negotiated with the Royal Navy to acquire ageing Tariq-class destroyers in 1993–94, which continue to be extensively upgraded.[166] During the same time, the Navy engaged in a process of self-reliance and negotiated with China for assistance.[166] This ultimately led the introduction of F-22P Zulfiquar-class frigates, which were designed and developed at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW); at this same time, the Agosta-90B submarines were also built.[166] Pakistan's role in the War on Terror led to a rapid modernisation, which saw the induction of the PNS Alamgir anti-submarine warship in 2011.[168] The submarines remain to be backbone of the navy,[169] which has been developing a nuclear submarine.[170] Since 2001, media reports have been surfaced that the Navy has been seeking to enhance its strategic strike capability by developing naval variants of the nuclear cruise missile.[171] The Babur cruise missile has a range of 700 kilometres (430 mi) and is capable of using both conventional and nuclear warheads.[172] Future developments of Babur missiles include capability of being launched from submarines, surface ships, and a range extension to 1,000 kilometres (620 mi). An air-launched version, Ra'ad, has been successfully tested.[172]

Since the 1990s, the navy has been conducting joint naval exercises and has participated in multinational task forces such as CTF-150 and CTF-151.[173]

JF-17 background Mirage 5 ROSE foreground

A Navy Mirage-5E (with Sky blue markings underneath) with JF-17, which are flown by navy pilots but remain under air force.[174]

Pakistan Navy Orion Asuspine

A Navy P3C-Orion in flight

US Navy 110928-N-QL471-015 A Pakistan navy SA-319B Alouette III helicopter lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)

A Pakistan navy Alouette IIIB helicopter lands aboard the aircraft.

Pakistan Navy Breguet 1150 Atlantic Asuspine-1

A Pakistan Navy Breguet Atlantic Asuspine-1 taxied.


Official logo of the Pakistan Marines
Badge logo of Pakistan Marines.

Recommended by the Navy, based on Royal Marines, the Pakistan Marines were established in 1 July 1971 to undertake riverine operations in East Pakistan.[175] The Marines saw their first combat actions in amphibious operations during the Bangladesh Liberation War, fighting against the Indian Army.[176][177] Due to poor combat performance in the war, high losses and casualties, and inability to effectively counter the Indian Army, the Marines were decommissioned by 1974.[177] However, Marines continued to exist in its rudimentary form until 1988 to meet fundamental security requirements of Pakistan Navy units. In 1990, the Marines were recommissioned under Commander M. Obaidullah.[175]

US Navy 091012-N-8132M-245 Marines assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU), along with Marines from Kuwait and Pakistan, conduct an amphibious assault demonstration during Exercise Bright Star 2009
Pakistan Marines in close co-ordination with the US Marines Corps, 2009.

The Marines are the uniform service branch within the Navy whose leadership comes directly from the Navy.[176][177][178] It shares the Navy's rank code, but conducts its combined combat training with army at Pakistan Military Academy Kakul and School of Infantry in Quetta.[175][179]

Its single command structure is based at the Manora Fort in Qasim Marine Base in Karachi and the Marines are under the command of the Commander Coast (COMCOAST), by statute a two-star rear-admiral.[180] According to the ISPR, the Marines are deployed at the southeastern regions of Pakistan to avoid infiltration and undercover activities from the Indian Army.[178]

As of current appointment, Rear Admiral Bashir Ahmed is currently serving as the Commandant of Marines. A small number of Marine Battalions are deployed at the Sir Creek region[181] to deter the Indian Army, and coordinated the relief efforts in the 2010 Pakistan floods.[182] Almost an entire combat contingent of Marines were deployed in Sindh and Southern Punjab to lead the flood-relief operations in 2014.[183][184]

For intelligence purposes, the army immediately raised the combat battalion of the Marines, from the officers of the Navy, in 1999.[185] Major intelligence activities are gathered from the Sir Creek region by the Marines, where an entire battalion is deployed to conduct reconnaissance.[175][185]

Paramilitary forces

The paramilitary forces are under various ministerial departments, and appointments are directly made from the armed forces. In a 2010 estimate, Pakistan's paramilitary personnel are approximated at 420,000.[186] Appointments for military offices and for command of the Pakistan Rangers, Coast Guards, National Guards, and Frontier Corps are made by the army while the Navy appoints the Maritime Security Agency as part of the external billets commission. Two-star rank officers are usually appointed to command the paramilitary forces.[187]

The PAF trains and commands the Airports Security Force for ensuring the safeguard and protection of airports in Pakistan.[187] On some occasions, air force officers been appointed to corporate positions at Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority as deputies.[187]

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Further reading

  • Shah, Aqil (2014). The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-72893-6.
  • Ayub, Muhammad (2005). An army, Its Role and Rule: A History of the Pakistan Army from Independence to Kargil, 1947–1999. RoseDog Books. ISBN 9780805995947.

External links

Air Force ranks and insignia of Pakistan

The Ranks of Pakistan Air Force are primarily based on Royal Air Force rank structure, though ranks for other ranks personnel and insignia differ. Insignia for officer ranks were changed from the British influenced ranks to a Turkish style one on 5 July 2006.

Army ranks and insignia of Pakistan

The Ranks of Pakistan Army are primarily based on British Army Ranks structure, though ranks for other ranks personnel and insignia differ.

Officers and JCOs of the Pakistan Army in khaki uniform wear their rank insignia on the shoulders, while NCOs wear them on the arm. In CCD, all army personnel wear their insignia on the chest.

Awards and decorations of the Pakistan Armed Forces

The awards and decorations of the Pakistan Armed Forces recognize a service member's service and personal accomplishments while a member of the Pakistan armed forces. Together with military badges, such awards are a means to outwardly display the highlights of a service member's career.

Defence Housing Authority, Islamabad

The Defence Housing Authority, Islamabad (DHA Islamabad) is a neighbourhood located within the Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area. The neighbourhood is divided into five parts and straddles the Islamabad Capital Territory-Punjab provincial border. The neighbourhood was primarily established for military personnel in 1992 by the Pakistan Armed Forces Welfare Department.

Inter-Services Public Relations

The Inter-Services Public Relations (Urdu: بین الخدماتی تعلقات عامہ‎; abbreviated as ISPR), is the media wing of the Pakistan Armed Forces which broadcasts and coordinates military news and information to the country's civilian media and the civic society.The ISPR directorate serves the purpose of aiming to strengthen public relations with the civic society, through interacting with the media. The directorate also works as the principle voice of the Pakistan's military, with its director-general serving as the official spokesperson of the armed forces. In addition, the ISPR provides funds, productions, and assists with the military-produced public relations media– both military dramas and the war films.

Joint Staff Headquarters (Pakistan)

The Joint Staff Headquarters (reporting name:JS HQ), is the combatant joint-field operations secretariat and principal headquarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee established after Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 in Rawalpindi. It is situated next to the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army. The JS HQ served as the principle headquarters of Pakistan Armed Forces and concerned authorities relating the defence and strategic developments.

The JS HQ was set up to improve coordination, command and communication between the three branches of the Pakistan Armed Forces.

Judge Advocate General Branch (Pakistan)

The Judge Advocate General Branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces is composed of Pakistan's Military senior officers, lawyers and judges who provide legal services to the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines at all levels of command. JAG branch comes directly under the Adjudant-General Branch of the army. The Judge Advocate General's Legal Service includes judge advocates, warrant officers, paralegal noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted personnel, and civilian employees. In Pakistan, the Judge Advocate General can have the rank of Lieutenant-General, Major or Brigadier-General. The JAG is currently led by the combined Pakistan Armed Forces's senior-rank officers that includes the Vice Admirals of the Navy, Air Marshals of the Air Force, and the Lieutenant-Generals of the Army whose names are kept highly classified.

The JAG officers provide legal help to the military in all aspects, in particular advising the presiding officers of courts-martial on military law. According to the military justice law of Pakistan Armed Forces, the JAG's ruled decision cannot be challenged in civilian courts nor the civilian court can interfere in JAG' court hearing. Recently, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani ordered an inquiry into an Internet video that shows men in military uniforms executing six young men in civilian clothes. According to the ISPR, the military public organization, the Pakistan Army's JAG Branch's lawyers and investigators will be leading the investigation, and the investigation will be headed by a Major General, a two-star general officer of Pakistan Army. In 2010, after the successful outcomes of Operation Janbaz, and the captured terrorists are currently prosecuted in a military court, headed by one star rank Brigadier.

Minister for Defence Production

The Minister for Defence Production, also known as MoD-P is the Cabinet-level federal ministry of Government of Pakistan. The department is tasked with the production of the defence materials and production of the defence-related equipment for the Pakistan Armed Forces. The minister serves in the cabinet of the Prime Minister, and is required to be an elected member of Parliament. It was formerly the part of Ministry of Defence, but it was made separate from the ministry. The MoD-P is a high-profile and executive department that is charged with the financing, purchasing, and negotiating the defence materials within the country of abroad.

The ministry is directly related to Pakistan Defence Forces where a large number of civilians and military officers are employed in the industry. The political and executive head is known as Minister for Defence Production, is currently headed by Parliamentarian Rana Tanveer Hussain. The current Defence Production Secretary is Lt Gen Tanvir Tahir HI(M) (Retd).

National Engineering and Scientific Commission

The National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) is a civilian controlled scientific and engineering organization of Pakistan, responsible for carrying out research and development in many areas including information technology, fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering, with specialties in the design and production of communication systems and aerodynamic vehicles for the Pakistan Armed Forces. It is under the administrative control of the Strategic Plans Division of Pakistan's National Command Authority and is headquartered in Islamabad, Pakistan.

In 2007 it was reported that NESCOM had exported products worth approximately $40 million annually to various countries in the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa. According to then Chairman Samar Mubarakmand, NESCOM had developed various communication systems and electronic counter-measures systems for the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy.

Naval Strategic Forces Command (Pakistan)

The Naval Strategic Forces Command (Urdu: بحریہ حکمت عملی افواج‎ reporting name:NSFC), is one of the three major unified commands of the Pakistan Armed Forces responsible for the defence and protection of naval and naval-nuclear assets in the country. The command was commissioned on 24 June 2004, at Naval Headquarters (NHQ) after the concept was approved by then-Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Shahid Karimullah. The Naval Command is responsible for operational planning, directives, and deployment of nuclear weapons on its naval vessels.The Naval Command provides vision, leadership, doctrinal guidance, resources and oversight to ensure component naval special operations forces are ready to meet the operational requirements of combatant commander. It is a vital part of the Pakistan Strategic Forces Command, and directly reports to Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Naval ranks and insignia of Pakistan

In the Pakistan Navy, there are various Naval ranks and insignia that identify their roles as commanding officers and varies with their responsibilities. These ranks corresponds in equivalency with the other militaries around the world, complementing those of the Royal Navy's rank structure (service uniform) and reflecting the rank equivalency with the United States Navy's insignia and ranks.

PNS Qasim

The PNS Qasim (also known as Marines Base Qasim) is a major marines base that serves as the headquarter of the Pakistan Marines for their administrative, operational and logistic requirements. PNS Qasim, the garrison of Pakistan Marines, is served as the logistic base for the Marines which is responsible for general administration and naval/military logistics requirements. The Pakistan Marines Corps structure is composed of five segments, and the PNS Qasim is part of the Eastern Naval Command of Pakistan Navy. The base is named after the legendary Muslim Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim who conquered Daybul and the coastal areas of Sindh around 712 CE.

Pakistan Armed Forces deployments

Pakistan Armed Forces deployments include all Pakistani military deployments that are stationed outside Pakistan and serving in other countries. The sixth largest military power in terms of active troops, Pakistan has an extensive history of overseas military presence, especially in the Middle East, where it has maintained military contingents, missions and battalions in several states. As part of its foreign policy efforts to expand its military relations and influence in the region, Pakistan signed defence protocols during the 1970s with several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Libya, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, under which members of the armed forces of these countries were imparted professional training by Pakistani advisers and military trainers. Saudi Arabia signed a bilateral agreement with Pakistan on defense cooperation; during that time, there were 40,000 to 50,000 Pakistani military personnel serving abroad with the largest number of these, about 20,000, deployed in Saudi Arabia. By the 1980s, Pakistan maintained military missions in 22 countries, becoming the largest military manpower deployer in the Third World.

Pakistan Navy Western Command

The Western Naval Command (reporting name: COMWEST) is a naval military command of the Pakistan Navy mainly scattered across the province of Baluchistan. It is currently headquartered in the Headquarters Commander West at PNS Akram in Gwadar. The command is currently commanded by Commodore Syed Faisal Ali Shah TI(M) who is designated as the Commander West or COMWEST.

The Western Command mandates an area of responsibility of the western contingent of the country and to maintain the efficiency of the command many bases and military establishments have been placed under the COMWEST. Fully operational establishments and units include an airbase at Pasni PNS Makran, PNS Akram a depot for detachments at Gwadar, a naval base at Jiwani and the 3rd marine battalion consisting of 800 marines under the command of Commander Rehan. COMWEST command provides logistic and administrative support as well as the security to the under development Naval station at Turbat. COMWEST command is also responsible for the security of the Gwadar port. The command has an approximate area of 700 miles. COMWEST is a type commander who comes under the Coastal Command based at Karachi.

Pakistani Instrument of Surrender

The Pakistani Instrument of Surrender (Bengali: পাকিস্তানের আত্মসমর্পণের দলিল, Pākistānēr Atmasamarpaṇēr Dalil ) was a written agreement that enabled the surrender of the Pakistan Armed Forces Eastern Command on 16 December 1971 at the Ramna Race Course garden in Dhaka, thereby ending the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Lieutenant-General A A K Niazi, Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan, surrendered to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Joint Commander of Indian and Bangladeshi Forces. Air Commodore A. K. Khandker, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Bangladesh Forces, represented the Provisional Government of Bangladesh at the surrender.The day is commemorated as Victory Day, a national holiday in Bangladesh; and as Vijay Diwas on the Indian military calendar.

President of Pakistan

The President of Pakistan (Urdu: صدر مملکت پاکستان‎ — Ṣadr-e Mumlikat-e Pākistān, Urdu pronunciation: [ˌsəd̪ˈr-eː ˈmʊm.lɪˌkət̪-e pɑː.kɪs.t̪ɑːn]), is the head of state of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the civilian Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces, per the Constitution of Pakistan. The office-holder represents the "unity of the Republic". The current President of Pakistan is Arif Alvi.

The President is kept informed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan on all matters of internal and foreign policy, as well as all legislative proposals. The Constitution vests the President with the powers of granting pardons, reprieves, and the control of the military; however, all appointments at higher commands of the military must be made by the President on a "required and necessary" basis, upon consultation and approval from the Prime Minister. In addition, the Constitution prohibits the President from exercising the authority of running the government.The president is indirectly elected by the Parliament of Pakistan through the Electoral College for a five-year term. The Constitution requires the President to be a "Muslim of not less than forty five (45) years of age". The President resides in an estate in Islamabad known as Aiwan-e-Sadar (Presidential Palace). There have been a total of 13 Presidents. In the absence of the President, the Senate Chairman takes over as the Acting President until the President resumes office, or the election for the next President is held.


Sitara-e-Basalat (Star of Good Conduct) is a non-operational gallantry award of Pakistan Armed Forces given to individuals for distinguished acts of gallantry, valor or courage while performing their duty. It is given by President of Pakistan on the recommendation of service chief.


Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (Urdu: تمغائے امتیاز‎), (English: Medal of Excellence), is a state-organised honour of the State of Pakistan. It is the fourth-highest decoration given to any civilian in Pakistan based on their achievements. While it is a civilian award, it can also be bestowed upon military officers of the Pakistan Armed Forces and worn on one's uniform. The award is not limited to the citizens of Pakistan, and can be awarded to foreign citizens who have performed great service to Pakistan.

Women in the Pakistan Armed Forces

Women in the Pakistan Armed Forces are the female soldiers who serve in the Pakistan Armed Forces. Women have been taking part in Pakistani military since 1947, after the establishment of Pakistan. As of 13 June 2013 around 4,000 women are serving in the Pakistan Armed Forces. In 2006, the first women fighter pilot batch joined the combat aerial mission command of PAF.

The Pakistan Navy prohibits women from serving in the combat missions, especially in the submarine force command. Rather they are appointed and serve in operations involving military logistics, staff development and senior administrative offices, particularly in the regional and central headquarters. There has been a rise in the numbers of women joining the combat PAF in recent years.

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