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  Pakistan Creates Army Commands  
 
By Brig Arun Sahgal (Retd) Published : June 2007
 
     
It appears that Pakistan has finally taken the decision to reorganize its operational deployment based on Corps to create three new geographical commands aimed at improving the operational efficiency and working of its land forces.
 

The Northern, Southern and Central Commands that are being created will be responsible for the administrative arrangements of the corps falling under their respective commands, according to a Pakistan Army official.

The official said while the establishment of the Northern and Southern Commands has been finalised, the Central Command was to be raised shortly. In keeping with the Indian Army practice, a three-star General (Lt. General) will head the regional commands.

The commanders for the two commands viz Northern and Southern are likely to be announced within a few weeks while that of the Central command will have to await formal orders.

The Pakistan Army would be the second arm of the Pakistan's defence forces having three separate commands. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) already has three commands.

According to Pakistani press reports, the headquarters of the proposed Southern Command will be at Quetta, provincial capital of Balochistan, while that of the Northern Command is yet to be determined. The two likely choices being discussed are either Gujranwala or Mangla.

In organisational terms the step to create regional commands can perhaps be attributed to the long outstanding demand of the Pakistani military to make higher decision making in Pakistani Army more rational.

Dealing with the collegiums of nine corps commanders is never easy. This is more so in the case of Pakistan where the generals are required to take not only professional military decisions but also deliberate on broader national political and governance issues.

It is important to highlight that while President Gen Musharraf may have the confidence of his corps commanders, there are also peculiar circumstances in which the Pakistani army is functioning; he refuses to step down as the Army chief thereby blocking promotion of others in the line to the coveted post.

That's why, Gen Musharraf has no option but to obtain consensus in almost all the decision making situations and keep dissent at the lowest levels.

The questions that arise are why the change at this stage?

Particularly as he is facing both civil unrest and fundamentalist backlash signified by fundamentalists holed in seminaries barely two km from the President House in Islamabad. Second, and an associated issue, is the implication both in terms of impact on the existing military hierarchy as also at the lower, functional level.

The two possible implications are:

1. A charitable one, that the restructuring has been under examination of the General Head Quarters (GHQ) for some time and has finally been accepted for approval after due debate and consideration. The rationale is that the span of control of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was much too large and with duties both of the President and the army chief, Gen Musharraf was perhaps finding it difficult to devote adequate time, and thereby finding it difficult to manage the army's day-to-day affairs.

2. It could be an attempt to cut the fractious corps commanders down to size by diffusing their authority and cutting direct communication to the President and Islamabad, the seat of the government.

Does it mean that there are dissensions within the Pakistani military hierarchy or was Gen Musharaff finding it difficult to manage dissent - some of which is natural - within the collegium of Corps Commanders?

The fact that Gen Musharaff decided to implement the restructuring and then proceed on a three-nation tour, signify his confidence in his corps commanders. Their willingness and acceptance of Gen Musharraf's dictates indicates that they have decided to fall in line and accept the change as inevitable.

It needs to be highlighted that most of the Corps commanders are hand picked by Gen Musharaff and are personally loyal to him except perhaps the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff or the Vice Chief of the Army.

As an appeasement policy, both have been upgraded to full General's rank.

Nonetheless, if reports emanating from Pakistan are to be believed, there also appears to be growing signs of dissension between this troika of the Higher Military Command in Pakistan.

While it may be too early to speculate, given the fact that Gen Musharaff is facing increasing pressure internally as also from a resurgent Taliban, bringing these changes at this juncture with their potential to disturb the existing balance in power equations, does not make sense unless it is part of a larger game plan or a ploy to distance himself from the day to day functioning and lay the onus of operational and administrative efficiency on to the new Army Commanders.

Also it could be his attempt (under US influence) to distance the corps commanders from routine governance issues where the Army could be getting more and more involved to greater operational orientation.

GEOGRAPHICAL BOUNDARIES OF COMMANDS

Even more interesting than the creation of the commands is the location of their headquarters which allude to possible area of operational control of the newly created commands.

The Headquarters of Southern Command ordinarily should have been at Karachi or Malair Cantonment. However, as per reports, it will be at Quetta.

Does it mean the two corps falling under the operational jurisdiction of Southern Command is 12 Corps in Balochistan and 5 Corps in Sindh and Southern Punjab?

What inferences can be drawn form this?

It appears that Pakistan is giving greater salience to dealing with deteriorating internal security situation in Balochistan as also the security of economic assets along the Mekran coast, including the strategic Gwadar civil and naval port.

A question that arises then: is this being done as a matter of military judgment or part of politics of appeasement towards both the US (to deal with growing Taliban influence) and the Chinese (to protect their economic stakes?

Similarly what is the rationale of creating a Command HQ at Gujranwala or Mangla; is it to secure the vital hinterland comprising Punjab (Satluj - Chenab - Jhelum)? Will this include the existing 10 Corps of Pakistan that is operationally responsible for the Pakistani Occupied Kashmir and Northern Areas?

Alternatively will the Northern Command's area of operational responsibility extend to operational areas of Pakistani 4 and 10 Corps, i.e. with Punjab and J&K centric bias. Another question that arises is who will be operationally responsible for NWFP where Pakistan's 11 Corps is normally deployed?

Will this come under the soon to be created Central command with lateral division of responsibility encompassing 11 and 4 Corps?

Taking cognisance of peculiar politico military dynamics and the current problems of Gen Musharaff, it will not be wrong to assume that this latest development of creating army Commands is both an exercise in organisational restructuring as also related to his attempts to control the fractious corps commanders.

Developments in the near future will need to be watched carefully to understand the rationale and motivations behind this move.

 
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