Army Strategic Force Command
By Lt Gen (R) Ghulam Mustafa
I had been hardly six weeks in my new job as DG, D&E when in early June 1999, I was startled to hear the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on telephone telling me with a chuckle to take over Army Strategic Force Command (ASFC). Before I could mumble something, he signed off probably enjoying himself at my surprise and half-witted response. To him it wouldn’t be obvious that the direct call from the COAS is always a shock particularly when one is a habitual late comer and is fond of sneaking off to enjoy others’ tea break. This was further exacerbated by the fact that I had absolutely no idea about ASFC. I didn’t even know its whereabouts. After recovering somewhat, my first reaction was that someone was pulling a fast one. The only way it could be confirmed was calling the COAS himself. I would look pretty silly if it wasn’t correct so I dropped the idea and called my Staff Officer (SO) instead (always handy when one is confused) and shared with him the episode with the hope that like all good SOs (and he was good, is a General Officer Commanding (GOC) and now dependent on a SO himself) he would have some idea about my latest predicament. Mercifully, he too was equally clueless but did point me towards Military Secretary (MS) Branch who is expected to know about any new unit/formation where officers are being posted (hopefully). MS Branch surprised me; it actually had a vague idea and directed to me to Military Operations (MO) Dte, from where I learned that while I was going through one of my attention lapses; concerned authorities had decided not only to raise ASFC but Strategic Plans Division (SPD) as well. On that if I didn’t hurry, SPD might leave GHQ and take off for greener pastures. By the time I found SPD, it was already packing up from its temporary offices in GHQ and moving to Chaklala to occupy the premises of recently disbanded Inter Services Joint Staff College. I also learned that besides inheriting the dumps, called SPD offices in GHQ, I would have to take over Col Quddus from SPD as my first staff officer. With my posting in as the first ever commander, the foundations of what was to become one of the elite formations of Pakistan army, HQ ASFC, were laid. It was now up to me to get the new formation on ground in the shortest possible time.
Fortunately, besides myself, my PA, driver and Col Quddus, the first to join the new setup, we also got an already raised brigade, 47 Artillery Brigade, located at Sargodha, under HQ ASFC. Like me, these guys in 47 Artillery Brigade also had no idea as to what had happened to all of us in the shape of HQ ASFC. Till then, in different ways we all were following a peaceful military routine. Creation of HQ ASFC changed everything. In the days to follow, as the enormity of the task started to sink, the challenges to be surmounted in its successful accomplishment also started to emerge. Creation of SPD and ASFC were not a flash in the pan. It was the result of a very deliberate study initiated by the COAS immediately after he took over in October 1998. It was his vision and drive which had resulted in adoption of a methodical and systematic approach in the control and management of all the strategic organizations. Creation of HQ ASFC and its under command elements was part of the grand design which besides achieving many other objectives would set in place one of the best command and control systems in the world. He had done his job. It was now up to us to measure up. It was not a run-of-the-mill military assignment where one always has some kind of precedence. We had to create something totally new. It was not merely making of an organogram and filling it up; it was much more. As pioneers, we realized that we had been specially blessed by Allah to have been given this job. This feeling became our driving force.
It goes to the credit of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army that in those early days, when we only had difficulties, increasing by the hour, the men and officers being posted in HQ ASFC and its under command elements never flinched. Every problem, every difficulty and every snub (there were many) was converted into an opportunity to move ahead. We were also very fortunate that we got whole-hearted cooperation from all the strategic organizations which comprised civilians, mostly. The coming together of the leading scientists/engineers/technicians of the country and thorough-bred soldiers (with half-baked knowledge and fully-baked egoes) progressed beautifully and we became part of “One team with one objective” in no time at all.
The raising order of the force was signed by the President of Pakistan on 7 March 2000. On 5 November 2004, it was recognized as a fully operational Corps of Pakistani Army with its own divisions, strategic missiles groups and the supporting units/formations, all newly raised except one. This is only one part of the story of raising of ASFC. Believe me it is a very small one at that. By the grace of Almighty Allah, the rank and file in ASFC have done one hell of a job, cheerfully blundering along a very challenging path. Blunders were mostly mine, but as regards the men and officers they performed outstandingly. Cribbing surely, as it is the birth right of every soldier, but never found wanting. They endured the worst of weather, terrain and very poor working conditions. Tolerated lack of rest and at times food also but continued to push on. They even endured my inadequacies (with tongue in cheek) but continued to overcome every challenge, every wall erected in their path. Some of us did break our heads in our efforts to bring the wall down but with timely stitches and bandages, we learned the easier alternatives too. Today, ASFC, the custodian of land-based strategic assets, is an established force, fully capable of meeting nation’s aspirations as a nuclear power.