On paper, to the north, those Pakistan Army (PA) battle formations that are LoC-specific and Chicken’s Neck-specific are the Mangla-based I Corps that comprises the Gujranwala-based 6 Armoured Division, Kharian-based 17 Infantry Division, the 37 Mechanised Infantry Division also in Kharian, and the 8 Independent Armoured Brigade; and the Rawalpindi-based X Corps that includes the Gilgit-based Force Command Gilgit-Baltistan, Murree-based 12 Infantry Division, Mangla-based 19 Infantry Division, the Jhelum-based 23 Infantry Division, and the Rawalpindi-based 111 Independent Infantry Brigade. Formations allocated for operations along the ‘Shakargarh Bulge’ are the Gujranwala-based XXX Corps comprising the Sialkot-based 8 Infantry Division and 15 Infantry Division; Lahore-based IV Corps with its 10 and 11 Infantry Divisions, two semi-mechanised Independent Infantry Brigades (including the 212 Bde) and one Independent Armoured Brigade; and the Multan-based II Corps made up of the Multan-based 1 Armoured Division, and the Okara-based 14 Infantry Division, 40 Infantry Division and an Independent Armoured Brigade. Thus far, no significant forward deployments of any of these formations have taken place.
Down south, the battle formations arrayed against Rajasthan include the Bahawalpur-based XXXI Corps with its 26 Mechanised Division, 35 Infantry Division, two Independent Armoured Brigades and the 105 Independent Infantry Brigade; and the Karachi-based V Corps with its Pano Aqil-based 16 Infantry Division, Hyderabad-based 18 Infantry Division, Malir-based 25 Mechanised Division, plus three Independent Armoured Brigades at Malir, Pano Aqil and Hyderabad. So far, only some elements of the 25 and 26 Mechanised Divisions have been deployed opposite an area stretching from Jaisalmer to Fort Abbas and the PA has begun flying relentless sorties of its Shahpar (CH-3) tactical UAVs that were acquired from China’s CATIC in 2012.
This is probably a precautionary measure aimed at monitoring the IA’s upcoming Division-level armoured/mechanised infantry exercises that are held during wintertime. Along the Durand Line, formations that are deployed include the Peshawar-based XI Corps currently with its 7, 9, 14, 17 Divisions and part of 23 Division, along with two independent infantry brigades; and the Quetta-based XII Corps with the 33 and 41 Infantry Divisions).
The PA, however, is most unlikely to attempt any form of escalation along either the LoC or the WB since it presently has a deployment ratio of 54.6%, while the resting and re-equipping ratio is 12.7%, and the remaining 33% is undergoing the training cycle. This trend will continue for at least another four years, since the defunct Durand Line too became active from mid-2014.
It may be recalled that since March 2002, the PA has been forced by elements that later on went on to become the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) by 2006 to wage a three-front war against the TTP and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in South Waziristan (which also included Chechan and Uighur militants; against the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan in the sensitive Darra Adam Khel-Kohat area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or KPK (formerly NWFP) and the Shia-dominated Kurram Agency of FATA; and, against the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), headed by Maulana Fazlullah, and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in the Swat Valley of KPK.
The TTP’s cadre base is more than 20,000 tribesmen and the Abdullah Mehsud group from the Alizai clan of the Mehsud tribe from South Waziristan commands about 5,000 fighters. Other militant groups within the TTP include Maulvi Nazir from the Kaka Khel sub-tribe of the Ahmadzai Waziri tribe (South Waziristan), Hafiz Gul Bahadur from the Ibrahim Khel clan of the Utmanzai Wazir tribe (North Waziristan), the Haqqani network using manpower from the Mezi sub-tribe of the Zadran tribe (North Waziristan), Mangal Bagh (Khyber), TNSM (Swat, Dir, Malakand), and Faqir Mohammad (Bajaur).
Some 35% of PA troops (about 180,000 out of an end-strength of approximately 550,000 active-duty personnel and another 500,000 reservists) were engaged in LIC campaigns since 2007 till 2014 and are still literally bogged down throughout the entire 27,200 square kilometres of FATA.
Formations fully committed to LIC operations include the 37 Mechanised Infantry Division and 17 Infantry Division from Mangla-based I Corps in Swat, 19 Infantry Division from X Corps in northern Swat (based out of Jhelum), 7 Infantry Division from Rawalpindi-based X Corps in North Waziristan (based out of Mardan), 9 Infantry Division from Peshawar-based XI Corps in South Waziristan (based out of Kohat), 14 Division from Multan-based II Corps, Jhelum-based 23 Division (with 7 infantry brigades) of the X Corps, and 40 Infantry Division. The Gujranwala-based XXX Corps and the Bahawalpur-based XXXI Corps lent one Brigade each.
In all, there are approximately 17 infantry brigades or 45 infantry battalions, and 58 Frontier Corps (FC) wings now engaged in LIC operations. By mid-2011, 1,83,400 troops had a westward deployment orientation (it now stands at 206,000), while another 10,000 are now abroad on UN-related peacekeeping missions.
Clearly, therefore, the PA is most unlikely to stage large-scale land offensives involving manoeuvre warfare. Instead, the PA, whose MBT armoury presently comprises 550 Al Khalids, 320 Type 85IIAPs upgraded to Al Zarrar standard, 500 Type 59s upgraded to Al Zarrar standard, 380 Type 59s, 450 69IIAPs, and 320 T-80UDs, making for a total of 2,520 tanks, is likely to do what it did in both 1965 and 1971, i.e. use the combination of its armoured and mechanised infantry assets to swiftly transform Pakistan’s semi-urban and rural areas bordering India’s Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Rajasthan states into impregnable fortresses for the sake of blunting the Indian Army’s (IA) expected shallow-depth land offensives that could be launched from southern J & K and northern Punjab through the Chicken’s Neck and Shakargarh Bulge areas.
Given Pakistan’s elongated geography, it is possible for the PA to use its interior lines of communications for deploying its warfighting assets to their forward concentration areas within 72 hours. To this end, the PA has since 2007 built a sprawling new central ammunition storage depot to the South of its Mangla Cantonment, and has also expanded the existing depot at Kharian.
Therefore, the IA’s principal doctrinal challenge is to seek ways of enticing the PA to come out in the open so that its armoured/mechanised infantry formations are forced to engage in manoeuvre wars of attrition, during which the IA will be required to swiftly locate and destroy in detail the adversary’s warfighting assets and capabilities. Exactly how this can be achieved will be explained in the near future.
(to be concluded)
It appears that the NORINCO’s ZBD-08 tracked carrier carrying the AFT-10 CM-501G NLOS-ATGMs too has felt the need for a panoramic target acquisition/tracking system just like the IA had felt the need for its NAMICAs armed with Nag ATGMs! This new version of the ZBD-08/AFT-10 combination is now at the expo centre in Zhuhai for the forthcoming Airshow China 2016 event (starting November 1), which will be an aerospace event in name only and will play host to the complete range of land-based weapons developed by various military-industrial entities of China. Judging by external looks, especially the camouglage paint patterns, all such weapons platforms are being targetted for sales in the Middle East/North Africa regions.