War is defined by strategists as the art of imposing the national will of a country on to another by use of force (military). The underlining factor in this definition is the ‘national will’. The corner stone of this philosophy is that the decision by a country to go to war must be taken by the people for which the parliament is the sovereign institution for their representation. The armed forces are simply an instrument used to achieve the national objective. The final decision lies with the civilian chain of authority and not with the military commanders, who are subservient to the former. Unfortunately, however, during all our conflicts with India, the civilian factor has largely been missing. This article endeavors to briefly analyze the civil-military coordination (or the lack thereof) during our past wars.

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The 1948 war fought in Kashmir was an indigenous movement, basically started by revolt of the Muslim Company of 4 Jammu and Kashmir Regiment, led by the courageous stalwart, Major (later Colonel) Hassan in Srinagar. He marched his company to Gilgit and after a bloody battle defeated the non Muslim Companies of 6 Jammu and Kashmir Regiment located in Bunji near Gilgit. The Muslim Company of this Regiment also joined Maj Hassan. Maj Brown, Commandant of Gilgit Scouts also joined the effort and arrested Brig Ghansara Singh who had been sent to Gilgit by the Indians as Administrator of the Northern Areas at the time of partition. Despite Maj Hassan’s repeated laments to send an envoy to Kashmir, Pakistan Government’s reluctance finally manifested in sending a Class II Gazetted Officer of the rank of ‘Tehsildar’ to look after the affairs of Northern Areas. This operation was subsequently taken over by the Pakistan Army, and a two pronged advance was planned and executed; one towards Leh known as Ibex force and the other towards Sirinagar, called Tiger Force, lead by Maj Hassan. When the Ibex force contacted Leh and the Tiger Force was only 12 miles short of Wuller Lake, the Indian Army realized that they had been beaten in time and space as the advancing force had crossed the Burzel Pass in extreme cold weather conditions, much earlier than expected. Consequently, Indian PM, Mr. Nehru very cunningly convinced PM Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan to take the matter to the UN for plebiscite and stop the bloodshed. Actually Nehru’s aim had been to save Srinagar by gaining time so that the Indian Army could arrive and take strong defensive positions. Thus the war lost support of the civilian establishment and the weapons and ammunition which were being sent to the ‘warriors’ were stopped. The Ibex advance was halted at the fringe of Leh and Maj Hassan was removed from Command for 15 to 20 days. Thus the golden opportunity to capture Srinagar and Leh was lost. A section of military officers were highly disappointed, which resulted in the famous ‘Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case’. The subsequent murder of Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan may also be attributed to the same reason. Thus the failure to capture Kashmir can be attributed to the lack of understanding and coordination between the civilian leadership and military, which was against the will of the people of Northern Areas and Nation as a whole.

The 1965 war was conducted by military rulers in the complete absence of any meaningful civilian establishment; however, the national will was publically manifested by the people of Pakistan for which due acknowledgment has to be accredited to the leadership of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, who, through his great leadership qualities, lead the Country while it was in its infancy. In addition to his outstanding efforts for the development of the Country in the economic, agricultural, industrial and other fields, the memories of the genocide of Muslims at the time of partition, the 1948 Kashmir war and the illegal occupation of Kashmir by the Indian Army provided reasons for the general public to nurse a large amount of rancor against India and thus extended their full support to the Army. Given his demonstrated performance and the fact that people looked up towards him and the Army in high esteem, he mobilized the entire nation, which supported the war wholeheartedly. The war started with operation ‘Gibraltar’, guerilla warfare in occupied Kashmir with the support of the locals and, after creating political turmoil, operation “Grand Slam” was launched from Chamb-Jorian sector to cut Jammu off from Kashmir. The presumption, however, that the war would remain limited to the theatre of Kashmir only was proved wrong and India unexpectedly launched its two pronged offensive towards Lahore and Sialkot which was gallantly halted and repulsed by the Pakistan Army. Given the size and volume of the Indian Army as against the Pakistan Army which had limited reserves, the Indian offensive had been a perilous move. As per military calculations, their effort could have been easily successful. It was undoubtedly due to the high moral, superb training, daring leadership and the support of the people of Pakistan that the Indian onslaughts were successfully halted and repulsed. Overall, Pakistan was victorious as it was able to halt and repulse the Indian attacks with the support of the Nation. The national will, albeit illegitimate, played an important role in the success of this war.

The story of the 1971 war is however quite different. It was lost due to the reason that public support for this war was totally absent. As a matter of fact, a large segment of the public was against the Army and a section of East Pakistanis were fighting against the Army in the shape of the Mukti Bahni with full support from India. The western civilian leadership had a desire for the separation of East Pakistan for geographic, cultural and political reasons. They thus manipulated policies, while keeping the Army leadership as the scapegoat. At the military level, the strategy; ‘The defense of West Pakistan lies in the defense of East Pakistan’ had been a failure. Keeping in view the overwhelming size and resources of the Indian Army, this strategy entailed committing India’s corps in East Pakistan thereby creating parity on the western front and subsequently launching an offensive on the western front for riposte by capturing strategically important areas to be traded with India later on the eastern front. Consequently, while the Eastern Command with comparatively meager resources was exhausted absorbing the weight of the enemy’s advancing corps and naval blockade, the Western Command failed to launch the planned offensive at the right time. The political leadership with its vested interests, coupled with the military failure, had a catastrophic effect on the nation in the shape of fall of Dhaka. This war was lost due to incompetence of military planning and execution, and the vested interests of the political leadership which resulted in the complete disregard of the will of the Nation.

Militarily, the Kargil operation was an ingenious plan which had been daringly executed by the Pakistan Army. It was a limited war; restricted to Kashmir only, with the sole objective to cut off the Indian line of communication between Srinagar and Leh, thus forcing Indian Divisions at Siachen out of supplies. The Srinagar – Leh road was initially dominated by fire and subsequently occupied physically. Had this operation been logically concluded, the Indian divisions at Siachen would have been completely annihilated. It was a dagger thrust on India which forced her to open track 2 diplomacy with Pakistan. It had been a golden opportunity for the permanent solution of the Kashmir problem, which was unfortunately lost due to lack of civil – military coordination. During this operation, the civilian establishment had its own reservations and the foreign ministry failed to positively present Pakistan’s case in the comity of nations. This war was stopped due to the unwillingness of the civillian leadership. Thus this successful operation could not be effectively concluded due to absence of national will.

The ‘War on Terror’, under the able command of Gen Raheel Sharif, is undoubtedly a great success. The entire areas of North as well as South Waziristan have been cleared of terrorists within a short period of two years. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is a great success. It is the largest anti terror operation in the history of the world. The second phase of the national action plan is on its way to success. The success of this operation has to be attributed to the fact that this difficult war has national will on its side. This operation, besides having the approval of the parliament, also has the blessings of all political parties of the Country. This has given a real morale boost to the Army, and their demonstrated performance is clearly manifested. The entire nation is supporting the Army and the morale of the entire nation is very high which reminds of the old days of the 1965 war.

The above brief history of wars clearly manifests the lack of coordination and dexterity between the civil – military relations. Both military as well as civilian establishments have to understand that success in a war has to be achieved through the national support of the people; of which operation Zarb-e-Azab is a glaring example in this regard. It is therefore imperative to have a national consensus before entering into any conflict in order to improve the probability of a favorable outcome.