Democracy and the parliamentary system developed in the British Isles because the sea bordered them, and therefore they required a navy and not an army to protect them. Lack of a standing army had allowed the nobles to rebel and impose legal limits on the power of the King under the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215, which ultimately resulted in the calling of the first parliament as early as 1264. There was a short phase of fanaticism, which resulted in the creation of Cromwell’s model army and the dissolution of parliament. However, it was a temporary affair because the model army was founded in 1645 and was disbanded in 1664. 

A vast, inhospitable ocean to the south and insurmountable mountains to the north and east protected the Indian sub-continent, but it had land routes in the west, which had to be protected by land forces. 

In 1772, when Hastings became the first Governor-General of India, one of his first undertakings was the rapid expansion of the presidency's army. Hastings recruited from the "major breeding ground of India's infantry in eastern UP and Bihar,known as Purbiyas who had been recruited by Mughal Empire armies for two hundred years. The East India Company had these soldiers comprising up to eighty per cent of the Bengal army. In contrast to the soldiers in the armies of Indian rulers, the British sepoys not only received high pay, but also received it regularly. With the new musket technology and naval support, the Bengal armyled by British officers became a formidable force, which united India by defeating Muslim, Hindu and Sikh rulers of the subcontinent, and were periodically sent abroad especially to Afghanistan, to create and install a pro-British government. 

In the first war of independence of 1857 or the Sepoy Mutiny as the British called it,almost the entire Bengal army, both regular and irregular, revoltedin support of the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II. All ten of the Bengal Light Cavalry regiments were lost, and out of the 74 regular Bengal Native Infantry regiments in existence at the beginning of 1857, only 12 escaped disbandment. John Lawrence, the Governor of the Punjab, raised a fresh army to recapture the rebel cities of Delhi, Lucknow and Kanpur. It consisted mostly of recruits from Pathan and Punjabi Muslims and Sikhs. The British for loyal service rewarded these ethnic groups by being given the status of martial races.

The repeated attacks by Afghans had devastated the Punjab, so the saying was, ‘What one eats and drinks is one’s own; the rest is Ahmed Shah’s’. The British Army provided them with material necessities as well as prestige for working for the rulers. Punjab needed the British as much as the British needed Punjab. The British enacted the Punjab Alienation of Land Act, to prevent the moneylender from exploiting the Punjabi peasant, who had become the backbone of the British army. The Act limited the transfer of landed property only to those among the agricultural classes. The British government began construction of canals in the plains of the Western Punjab in 1885 and brought large tracts under cultivation. These were called the Canal Colonies, where land with sufficient canal water became available for cultivation. Land was also granted for keeping and breeding horses, camels, and other animals for supply to the army. No other field of work gave such a great return in the Punjab as joining the army. For those who joined the British Army, the best and the biggest reward was the allotment of land. It encouraged peasants and the landowning classes to join the British Army, and even the non-agricultural class took to military service to retain their social status. 

In 1893, the Punjab, which included the NWFP until 1901, formed 44% of the entire Indian Armed Forces, including Gurkhas. This further increased to 57% in 1904. At the outbreak of the First World War, there were 100,000 Punjabis serving in the army, of whom 87,000 were combatants. 380,000 were enlisted during the war, of which 231,000 were combatants. This made a total of 480,000 who served from the Punjab. According to another estimate, the Punjab supplied 54% of the total combatant troops in the Indian army during the First World War. The Punjab’s population accounted for less than 10% of British India, but contributed over half of the entire Indian Army. By 1929, 62% of the whole Indian Army was Punjabi. One out of 28 males was mobilised in the Punjab against one to 150 in the rest of India.

According to 1861 Census, the English population in India was 125,945. Of these about 41,862 were civilians and about 84,083 European officers and men of the Army. In 1880, the standing Indian Army consisted of 66,000 British soldiers, 130,000 Natives, and 350,000 soldiers in the princely armies. The British were at first cautious, as before 1857 there were nine Indians to one British soldier, however in 1914 there were about two Indians to one British. They had to open recruitment to Indians during the First World War; therefore by 1918 there were six Indian soldiers to one British. Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, the strength of the British Indian Army was 155,000. A ninth division, 9th Secunderabad) Division. Was formed. And by November 1918, the Indian Army rose in size to 573,000 men.140,000 soldiers saw active service on the Western Front in France and Belgium.Nearly 700,000 served in the Middle East, fighting against the Turks in the Mesopotamian campaign.Also serving in the First World War were so-called "Imperial Service Troops", provided by the semi-autonomous Princely States.





Before the Second World War, on 3rdSeptember 1939, the strength of India’s army was some 237,000 of all ranks. The autumn of 1939 and the spring of 1940 was mostly devoted to planning therefore some 53,000 men were enlisted. Not until May 1940 India was in a position to raise 100,000 men. The problem was;

  1. To produce forces on modern lines with suitable weapons, machines and speed of movement on land, sea and the air.
  2. To produce soldiers from agricultural background
  3. To build an industry to manufacture required products
  4. To train technicians of all kind to maintain all kind of equipment
  5. To train men and officers in handling modern weapon


When on Tuesday 2ndSeptember 1941, India entered on the third year of the War with her material resources developed and her defense forces expanded to a degree unprecedented in her history. Men left their ploughs and bullock carts in order to learn the use of the most modern mechanical weapons of war. The agriculturist became a skilled technician in a modern mechanized army. By September 1941, the Indian forces had reached 700,000; in the past twelve months it has increased by not fewer than 460,000. Now there was an average recruitment of 40,000 per month and has 180,000 serving overseas.Later on during the Second World War the Indian Army would become the largest all-volunteer force in history, rising to over 2.5 million men in size.About 87,000 Indian soldiers lost their lives during this conflict. Indian soldiers were awarded 30 Victoria Crosses during the Second World War.

From a total of about 55,000 Indians taken prisoner in Malaya and Singapore in February 1942, about 30,000 joined the INA,[32] which fought allied forces in the Burma Campaign. Others became guards at Japanese POW camps. Indian nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose led the 40,000-strong INA.An unknown number captured in Malaya and Singapore were taken to Japanese-occupied areas of New Guinea as forced labour.  About 6,000 of them survived until they were liberated by Australian or US forces, in 1943–45

On 5 November 1945, The Court Martial trial of INA officers was held in a barrack in the Red Fort at Delhi. Major-General A B Blaxland and other members of the court took their seats at 10.15 am. Defence Counsel Sir Dalip Singh, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mr. Bhula Bhai Desai, Mr. Asaf Ali and Dr. K N Katju sat at the left of the court. On their opposite sat Sir N P Engineer, Advocale General of India and Lt. Col Walsh, Military prosecuter. Accused Captain Shah Nawaz (Muslim), Captain Sehgal (Hindu) and Lieut Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (Sikh) filed in saluted the court and stood attention. All three were charged with waging war against the King-Emperor under Section 121 of the Indian Penal code. All the three accused pleaded not guilty. They were permitted to take seat. Before taking seat they all saluted Pandit Nehru and other members of the Defense Committee.

On 21 and 22 November 1945, five persons were killed and 86 were injured in Calcutta by firing by police. At five places and fifteen military lorries were set on fire by crowd which carried Congress, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, Khaksars and other flags. Shouts of Bande Matram, Marshal Subhas ki Jai, League Zindabad, down with police Zoolum, etc. On 23 November 1945, All forms of public transport are at a standstill and the whole city is practically on hartal – schools, colleges, shops and markets are closed – the railway have also been affected. The tension in Calcutta appears to be spreading outside. Twenty-four persons were injured about ten of them seriously when police opened fire at two places in South Calcutta … the demonstration of students and the Hindu public against the INA trial has created a critical situation in Calcutta. Mobs are going out of control and police are resorting to firing

As a result of the Partition of India in 1947, the formations, units, assets, and indigenous personnel of the Indian Army were divided, with two thirds of the assets being retained by the Union of India, and one third going to the new Dominion of Pakistan. Four Gurkha regiments (mostly recruited in Nepal, which was outside India), were transferred from the former Indian Army to the British Army, forming its Brigade of Gurkhas and departing for a new station in Malaya.Due to a shortage of experienced officers, several hundred British officers remained in Pakistan on contract until the early 1950s.

Indian Air Force was started in 1932 but growing slowly. The expansion rate increased rapidly after the outbreak of war. And factories for the assembly of aeroplanes started functioning.

The Royal Indian Navy was a very small force used mainly for coastal patrol work. Many of the men had never even seen a sea but soon became ocean going fleet.

       At the outbreak of war there were some 6,000 military vehicles of all types in India. There was a change from an agricultural and animal to an industrial and mechanical economy and no less than 41,000 different articles for the use of armed forces was begun to be manufactured.

           On Wednesday 3rdSeptember 1941, Viceroy had Broadcast on the second anniversary of the war that India is awake; she is mighty and formidable; and she shall, if you so determine, be mightier yet … Indian soldiers went into battle on a December morning in the western desert as the spearhead of a great attack, and won at Sidi Barrani our first resounding victory. Today India is the focus point of the nations and territories of the Eastern group. In Egypt, in the Sudan, in Eriteria and Ethiopia; in Iraq, Syria, and Iran; the armies of India have sought and found glory on many fields … our soldiers scaled the heights of Keren and amba Alagi and stormed Damascus … They broke through the iron ring at El Mechili and are continuing the heroic resistance at Tobruk.

       On Monday 22ndSeptember 1941, Jam Saheb of Nawanagar paid a visit to Indian Army and Indian State forces in Egypt, Palestine, Syria and western frontiers, and on return said that Indian troops have won the admiration of everyone by their courage, skill and determination and are in good cheer. Their occupation of Iran was most timely and everyone including the Iranians was happy about it

On 16 December 1941, Secretary of State, Amery, said, In the past Indian army was in a large measure an instrument through which India attained her internal unity and that unified system of peaceful administration and of reign of law which are an indispensible foundation for her further advance to free and equal partnership in the British Commonwealth. Task was to keep order on the restless northwestern frontier and stand guard against the somewhat remote contingency of a serious invasion from that quarter. Indian troops took part in wars of the Empire and more particularly on a very large scale with great distinction in the last Great War.  

However, ‘Indian reinforcement were, at the very beginning of this war, hurried to Egypt, Aden, and Singapore. Indian troops have played a decisive part in the conquest of Eriteria, Abyssinia and Syria. Their prompt arrival checked the German design at Irak, as their action in Iran has more recently forestalled a similar German enterprise and opened a line of communication to Russia. A powerful Indian force stands side by side with British and Australian troops in Malaya. In less than two years, a peacetime Indian army of some 200,000 men has been increased to nearly a million. Recruits are still coming at the rate of 1,000 a day. Over 250 factories were turning out munitions. Over 3.5 million pound have been subscribed in Viceroys fund and over three million by the Indian states and the provinces to provision fighter squadrons of Royal Air Force.

On 3rdSeptember 1942, General Wavell praised the Indian army in following words. ‘The men who broke the Italian line at Sidi Barrani and drove them into headlong rout, the men who stormed the heights of Keren and Amba Alagi, the men who captured Damascus in face of great odds, the men who fought the rearguard actions of Malaya and Burma, the men who stood and stand dauntless against Rommel’s Germans, the men who now protect India on all fronts from her foes, the men who fight as the comrades side by side, whatever their caste and creed – these are the defenders of India in her hour of danger. Rajputs, Mahrattas and madrassis; the great fighting races of Punjab; Pathans from the frontier; Jats and garwalis; and many others – men of the north, men of the centre, men of south, from the whole countryside of India, they fight together with the sturdy Gurkhas of our Ally, Nepal, alongside British and allied troops. These are true representatives of India’s nationhood.’

  Jinnah claimed that proportion of Muslims in the army was 65, ‘Muslims can give 500 times more trouble than the Hindus because they have more guts than the Hindus. In response, Sir Jogendra Singh, the Sikh member of the government of India revealed in the council of state on 20 October 1942, that on 1stAugust 1942 the percentage was;

Muslims                      32

Sikhs                           8.5

Hindus                        49.5

Christians                     0.67

Others                           3.47

Gurkhas                      5.86

               On Monday 22 October 1945, The Commander-in-chief, Sir Claude Auchinlek announced plans for complete Indianization of India’s armed forces of the future … The grant of permanent commissions in the Royal Indian Navy and the Indian Army will in future be restricted to Indians and to other persons domiciled in India, who are subjects of His Majesty or of a prince or Chief in India. The recruitment of officers to the Royal Indian Air Force is already subject to this restriction … In order to meet immediate needs, it has been decided to offer 40 regular commission to European officers of the Royal Indian Naval Reserves … The three Indian services will still require a quota of British officers …. There were at present 2,300 regular British officers without including medical officers or the Army in India Reserve. Before the war there were 3,900 regular British officers, of whom 1,600 had either retired or killed. Indian regular officers numbered 450, who were left over from those who had joined the Army between 1918 and 1940 … Among Emergency commissioned officers Europeans numbered 11,900 and Indians 8,000. About 2,000 Indian emergency commissioned officers have applied for permanent commission.

By the end of that war, the Indian Army had grown to a force of about 2,500,000 men, making it the largest volunteer army in history. The three semi-arid districts of Punjab-Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Attock (Campbellpur), and the two districts of NWFP-Kohat and Mardan supplied most of the recruits for the Second World War. As a result, at the time of partition the Muslims were 36% of the British Army as against 41% of Hindus, despite their having a one to four ratio in population.

After independence, the Kashmir War of 1948 resulted in an increase in the Pakistan Army’s importance. Security against India became the raison d’etre of the new state. The army took part in the national and international decisions of the government. This increased its political influence. The old pattern asserted itself, as the British viceroys were often chosen from the army and the military commander-in-chief sat in with the viceroy’s council as an extraordinary member. 

In January 1951, first native general Ayub Khan replaced General Gracy as commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army. And a conspiracy to overthrow the government by Maj. Gen. Akber Khan was discovered in March 1951, with inquiries conducted under the special supervision of C-in-C General Ayub Khan and Defence Secretary Iskander Mirza.Maj.Gen. Akbar Khan, his wife Naseem, Faiz Ahmad Faiz (editor of the Pakistan Times), Syed Sajjad Zaheer (Secretary, of the Communist Party of Pakistan) and others were tried inside Hyderabad Jail.

In October 1954, Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad brought back the vice regal system, dismissed the central cabinet, dissolved the Constituent Assembly and appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army in his cabinet as Defence Minister, thus giving him a taste of political power and getting him intoxicated by it. Therefore when the next head of state, President Iskandar Mirza, abrogated the constitution and declared martial law in the country in September 1958, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, Ayub Khan, got himself appointed the Chief Martial Law Administrator and replaced the president. 

When anti-Ahmadiya riots broke out in Lahore in 1953, the army was called out, which not only put down the riots but proceeded to clean up the city, paint public buildings, repair roads, pull down unauthorised structures and plant trees, leaving Lahore looking as clean and well-ordered as an army cantonment. This earned them a great deal of popularity, as they had managed to do for the city in a few days what the civilian authority had failed to do in years. Hence, when in 1958, martial law was declared, the public rejoiced at the news. However this time the army did not clear up the mess and go away as was the case in Lahore. Instead they decided to follow the South American pattern, where the army remains in power till it becomes unpopular and is chased out by popular revolt. And a civilian government runs the country till in its turn it makes mess of things and a fresh military takeover is welcomed by the people.

The Pakistan Army which had failed to act at the time of the 1962 Indo-Chinese war, made a belated attempt to take Kashmir in 1965, but was only able to contain the Indian Army during the brief war, with the help of American planes, arms, equipment and training, by betraying their agreement with the Americans to use them only against communist invasion from the north. Therefore the Pakistan Army was cut off from further aid by the unhappy Americans. This resulted later in the loss of the whole of East Pakistan, of over 500 villages and towns in the Sialkot sector and over 1500 in the Tharparkar sector. And over 90,000 Pakistanis surrendered in East Pakistan making it the largest surrender since World War II. An angry crowd burnt down the house of the army chief President Yahya Khan in Peshawar, and all the top generals associated with him were sacked, namely Hamid, Pirzada, Omer, Khudadad, Kayani and Mitha. Later the air force chief Rahim and the newly appointed army chief Gul Hasan were also sacked.

The civilian government appointed as chief of the Pakistan Army a general who was number seven in seniority for habitually exhibiting compliance and obedience, and replaced his close political associates with bureaucrats, because he said that ‘to come into power one needed a special team, but to retain power one needed a special team’. The first to go were the leftists and progressives, Mian Muhammad Qasuri, Mairaj Muhammad Khan, Khursheed Hasan Meer, J A Rahim and Mubashir Hasan. And in came the bureaucrats Aziz Ahmed, Viqar Ahmed (he called him his Deputy Prime Minister), Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Ghulam Jilani Khan and policemen Mian Anwer Ali, Saeed Ahmed Khan, Rao Abdur Rashid and Masud Mehmood. Despite all these precautions, he lost power within six years, and was hanged two years later by the army chief whom he had appointed, and whom he called his ‘monkey general’.

The civilian revenge came eleven years later on 17 August 1988 when the aircraft in which the general was flying was blown out of the air, and for the next eleven years two political parties, one after the other robbed the country. The army again took over on 13 October 1999. This time the army chief was forced to resign by a combination of judiciary and politicians through an election in 2008, leaving the country once again in the hands of the two corrupt political parties.

The Power has changed hands in Pakistan every decade, between army generals and civilian politicians. The country would do much better if a general came into power to clean up the place and left, because the longer he is in power the less afraid are politicians of making a fool of him. An example is the 2005 earthquake. My wife went into the mountains to help people, a politician announced a volunteer group to do the same, and came to her saying that he wanted to invite the general to see the good work that she was doing, but asked if she would allow him to put his uniform on her workers. She said that she would have no objection if he thought that it would benefit the people of the area. General Pervez Musharaf and his entourage landed from the sky by helicopters, and announced from a prepared text various things which pleased everybody but never materialized, save that the next week the politician who had arranged this make-believe was sworn in as a minister of his cabinet.