structure pakistan armed forces

Written by Mahnoor Najeeb and Maryam Ibrahim 2:13 pm Pakistan Unveiled

The Hierarchical Structure of the Pakistan Armed Forces

An organisation, especially one as huge as the military, functions better when it has structure and procedures in place. This structure includes distinct hierarchies or systems of people organised in a ranked order within each military branch. Mahnoor Najeeb and Maryam Ibrahim set out the structure and ranking of each of the service branches of Pakistan’s military forces.
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About the Author(s)
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Mahnoor Najeeb completed her Bachelor's in Public Policy from NUST. She has a keen interest in global politics and international conflicts.

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Maryam Ibrahim has recently graduated from Lahore College for Women University with a bachelor's in international relations. Her sphere of interest includes the digitalization of international relations, specifically digital diplomacy.


Pakistan’s Army is the sixth largest in the world with regard to active troops. The structure of the Pakistan Armed Forces comprises three formally uniformed services – the Army, Navy, and Air Force that are supported by various constitutionally sanctioned paramilitary forces.

The most significant aspect of Pakistan’s Armed Forces is the Strategic Plans Division Force, a department of the National Command Authority. The Division Force holds responsibilities to maintain and safeguard Pakistan’s tactical and strategic nuclear weapons assets.

The Pakistan Armed Forces are led by the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Chairman leads the team that consists of the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Commandant of Marines, the DG Coast Guards and Strategic Plans Division, and the commanders of the service branches in the paramilitary command.

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Chain of Command

The chain of command is unquestionably one of the most resilient ideas in military organisations. The chain of command has established official authorities and accountability from the top leader to the front-line soldier since Roman times. Despite the size of the fighting formations, it made generating, giving, and obeying orders straightforward. A commissioned officer, for instance, has a higher rank than an enlisted soldier. There is a rank order inside those particular areas as well.

The chain of command is the name given to this system in the armed forces. Orders are being sent within and between military units along a chain of command, which is a line of power and obligation. Orders are communicated down the chain of command from senior military officials to junior military personnel before they are implemented. Similarly to this, requests advance up the chain of command until they are addressed by the person with the power to decide on a certain kind of request.

The degree of authority possessed by a person depends on where they stand in the hierarchy. Respect for authority and this hierarchical structure is one of the military’s guiding principles. Respect should be shown to those in positions of authority since they have earned that status. To question or criticize authority in the military is frowned upon.

Military soldiers expect people in positions of authority to assume control and act decisively, especially when conflict is at hand and such decisions can mean the difference between life and death. Personnel also tend to accept modifications to goals or standards if the leader is forthright and accepts responsibility for the adjustment.

Military Forces


The structure of Pakistan’s Army is divided into two categories: operational and administrative. The operational branch has 11 corps with different Areas of Responsibility (AOR). Administratively, the Army has different regiments.

Operational Structure

Corps (Commanded by a Lieutenant General)
Division (Commanded by a Major General)
Brigade (Commanded by a Brigadier)
Battalion (Commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel)
Company (Commanded by a Major or Captain)
Platoon (Commanded by a lieutenant or a junior commissioned officer (subedar or naib-subedar)
Section (Commanded by a Havaldar)

A corps is typically led by a Lieutenant General and has two to five divisions as well as a corps composite aviation squadron. The Pakistani Army now has 11 Corps. The newest one, the Army Strategic Force Command (ASFC), which is in charge of holding the country’s strategic and nuclear assets, is number eleven. It was formerly a division but was promoted to the rank of corps.


Pakistan has a total of 25 divisions. Every division has a Major General in charge and typically has three brigades. For autonomous operations, each brigade is equipped with infantry, artillery, engineers, communications, and logistics (supply and servicing) support.

Every division, with the exception of those that operate in hilly terrain, has a minimum of one armoured unit; some divisions may even have more, depending on their role. The infantry division is the largest of all ground force combat formations. Usually, a division of this kind would contain three infantry brigades. The Pakistani Army has 19 infantry divisions, 2 mechanised divisions, 2 armoured divisions, and 2 artillery divisions.


Depending on its purpose, a brigade may consist of three or more battalions from various types of forces and is commanded by a Brigadier. An autonomous brigade would primarily consist of an artillery unit, an infantry unit, an armour unit, and logistical support for its operations. Such a brigade has no divisional affiliation and is directly under the command of a corps.


Each battalion, which has 600–900 troops, is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. This varies depending on how well the unit is performing. A battalion is made up of either four companies (in the case of infantry regiments, generally known as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta) or three batteries (in the case of artillery and air defence regiments, generally known as Papa, Quebec, Romeo, and Headquarters Battery), each under the command of a Major and made up of separate subunits known as sections (which are further divisible into platoons and squads).


About 120–150 troops make up a company, which is led by a Major or Captain.


A Lieutenant or a junior commissioned officer with the rank of subedar or naib-subedar, depending on the availability of commissioned officers, leads a platoon, which is in between a company and a section. It has between 30 and 36 troops overall.


The smallest military unit has a size of between 9 and 13 people. It is under the command of a junior commissioned officer.

Administrative Structure

Frontier Force Regiment (FF)  4th Cavalry  1 Engineer  
Punjab Regiment  5th Horse  2 Engineers  
Sindh Regiment  6th Lancers  3 Engineers  
Baloch Regiment  7th Lancers  4 Engineers  
Azad Kashmir Regiment (AK)  8th Cavalry  9 Engineers  
Northern Light Infantry (NLI)9th Horse18 Engineers  
 Guides Cavalry (Frontier Force)  19 Engineers  
 11th Cavalry (Frontier Force)  24 Engineers  
 12th Cavalry (Frontier Force)  26 Engineers (Lahore Cantt)  
 13th Lancers (Spearheads)  313 Assault Engineers (under 1 armoured division)  
 14th Lancers314 Assault Engineers (under 6 armoured division)  
 15th Lancers (Baloch Horse)  25 Mechanised Engineers (under 25 mechanised division)  
 16th Horse (al Mugheerat)  26 Mechanised Engineers (under 26 mechanised division)
 17th Lancers   
 18th Horse   
 19th Lancers   
 20th Lancers (Haideri)   
 21st Horse   
 22nd Cavalry   
 23rd Cavalry (Frontier Force)   
 24th Cavalry (Frontier Force)   
 25th Cavalry (Frontier Force) (Men of Steel)   
 26th Cavalry (Mustangs)   
 27th Cavalry   
 28th Cavalry   
 29th Cavalry   
 30th Cavalry   
 31st Cavalry   
 32nd Cavalry   
 33rd Cavalry   
 34th Lancers   
 37th Cavalry   
 38th Cavalry (Desert Hawks)   
 39th Cavalry   
 40th Horse (Scinde)   
 41st Horse (Frontier Force)   
 42nd Lancers (Punjab Lancers)   
 51st Lancers (Silver Eagles)   
 52nd Cavalry   
 53rd Cavalry   
 54th Cavalry   
 55th Cavalry   
 56th Cavalry   
 57th Lancers   
 58th Cavalry   


The ranks in Pakistan Army are divided into 3 categories: commissioned officers, junior commissioned officers, and non-commissioned officers.

Sepoy (Sepahi) is the lowest rank in the Army. After this starts the chain of non-commissioned officers. The lowest rank in this category is Lance Naik, who is promoted from soldier. After this, the rank is upgraded to that of Naik, and the highest rank in this category is that of Havaldar.

There are three Naiks under one Havaldar and under each Naik, there are 10 soldiers.

Lance Naik

Then, the next category is that of junior commissioned officers. The lowest rank in this category is Naib Subedar. The Naib Subedar is promoted to Subedar and later Major Subedar which is the highest rank in this category.

Naib Subedar
Major Subedar

The last category is commissioned officers which has the greatest number of ranks starting from Second Lieutenant, the lowest rank. The rank of Second Lieutenant is equal to the Midshipman in Pakistan’s Navy and Pilot Officer in Pakistan’s Air Force.

Next comes the rank of Lieutenant, followed by Captain. The rank of Captain is equal to Flight Lieutenant in Pakistan’s Air Force and Lieutenant in Pakistan Navy. The Captain is later promoted to the rank of Major followed by a Lieutenant Colonel who leads a complete battalion and is equal to the rank of Wing Commander in the Pakistan Air Force and Commander in Pakistan’s Navy.

After this, a Lieutenant Colonel is promoted to Colonel which is equivalent to Group Captain in Pakistan Air Force and Captain in Pakistan Navy. A Lieutenant Colonel then may become a one-star general, a Brigadier, who is responsible for one complete brigade that includes three units. A level above Brigadier is the rank of Major General, or a two-star general, who is responsible for a division, with one division consisting of three brigades.

A three-star general, the Lieutenant General, controls the complete army corp, with one corp having two to five divisions. The highest rank in this category would be of a four-star general. Currently, there are two serving Generals in Pakistan; General Syed Asim Munir as the Army Chief and General Sahir Shamshad Mirza as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

The next one is the Rank of Field Marshal but that is not attained by everyone. In the history of Pakistan, there has only been one Field Marshal, General Ayub Khan. A General is honored with this rank if he has won a war by leading armies of one or two countries.

Second Lieutenant
Lieutenant Colonel
Major General
Lieutenant General
Field Marshal

Prominent Personalities

The history of Pakistan’s military is filled with brave and courageous warriors who sacrificed their lives for their country. Among the prominent ones, we see the name of Major Tufail M. Shaheed who lost his life in a military operation with India in 1958. He holds the honour of receiving the highest military award, Nishan-e-Haider.

Next in line is Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed who lost his life during the second war with India. He also had the honor of receiving Nishan-e-Haider. Army personnel have always fought with utmost zeal and patriotism and lost their lives while on duty. Like many other military officials, Major M. Akram Shaheed and Major Shabbir Sharif Shaheed are among those brave warriors who lost their lives during the war of 1971.

Even in the political realm, army chiefs have played their role. The chain started with Major General Iskander Mirza who served as the Governor General of Pakistan from 1955 to 1956 and later as the President from 1956 to 1958. He was succeeded by Field Marshal Ayub Khan who stayed as President from 1958 to 1971. Later, General Zia-ul-Haq took over as the President of Pakistan from 1978 to 1988, and then from 2001 to 2008, Pakistan experienced the tenure of General Pervez Musharaf.

Naval Forces

The Pakistan Navy is the naval branch of Pakistan’s Armed Forces that is responsible for maritime security by implementing national policies through military, diplomatic, and humanitarian activities.


Like the military structure, the structure of the Navy is divided into two components: administrative and operational.


BranchSpecialization and Qualification Badges
Naval OperationsSurface warfare Underwater warfare Electronic Warfare Communication Navigation NBCD
LogisticsLogistics Badge
Judge Advocate General CorpsJAG Badge
Weapons Engineering BranchWEB Branch
AviationNaval Aviator Badge
MedicalMedical Badge
Naval IntelligenceNavy Intelligence Badge
Navy SEALsSSGN Badge
Special BranchIT Badge
Naval SuppliesSupply Badge
MechanicalShip Mechanical Engineering Badge
EducationEducation Badge
Marine Engineering Badge 
MusicMusic Badge
Naval PoliceNaval Police Badge
Marine CorpsMarine Badge
Maritime Security AgencyMSA Badge
Chaplain Service 

Operational Commands in the Pakistan Navy

Operational, Tactical, and Type CommandCommander
Commander Pakistan FleetVice Admiral Owais Ahmed Bilgrami, HI(M), Ops
Commander KarachiRear Admiral Mian Zakirullah Jan, Ops, HI(M)
Commander CoastRear Admiral Javaid Iqbal, HI(M), Ops
Commander Naval Strategic Forces CommandRear Admiral Abdul Samad, HI(M), Ops
Commander LogisticsRear Admiral Abid Hameed, HI(M), Engg
Flag Officer, Sea TrainingRear Admiral Raja Rabnawaz, HI(M), Ops
Commander, Central PunjabRear Admiral Shifaat Ali Khan, SI(M), Ops
Commander, WestRear Admiral Imtiaz Ali, SI(M), Ops
Commander, NorthRear Admiral (Local) Masood Khurshid, SI(M), Ops
Commander, DepotCommodore, Supp –
Commander, Naval AviationCommodore, Ops –
Commander, SubmarinesCommodore, Engg –
Director of Procurement, NavyCommodore, Supp –


The chain of non-commissioned officers starts with the Leading Seamen and ends with the Petty Officer.

Leading Seamen
Petty Officer

The category of junior commissioned officers starts with Chief Petty Officer. After this, the officer is promoted to the position of Fleet Chief Petty Officer, and the highest rank in this category is that of Master Chief Petty Officer.

Chief Petty Officer
Fleet Chief Petty Officer
Master Chief Petty Officer

The ranks of commissioned officers in Pakistan’s Navy start with Midshipman, the lowest rank in the Navy. Pakistan Navy cadets undergo 18 months of training and are called midshipmen. After the completion of the first phase of training, they start another 6 months of training at the sea after which they are elevated to the rank of Sub Lieutenant.

The next rank in line is Lieutenant, who is responsible to lead the crew, followed by Lieutenant Commander responsible for the craft and who serves as the Management Director of the SEAL Teams. Then comes the Commander who ensures control over submarines and warships. Commanders can either serve on naval bases or opt to work with the Defense Ministry.

The Captain is the next rank in the Pakistan Navy. Captains examine bigger vessels and elevated places in shore-based installations. They are also responsible for the well-being of the equipment and the craft. A Commodore is a one-star officer who monitors a flotel of ships and plays an important role on the shore. They also support Rear Admirals in their duties as needed.

The Rear Admiral ensures the safety of the boats and maintains the squadron during warfare. Another prominent position is that of a three-star officer, a Vice Admiral, who controls the boat and the fleet. The last and highest rank in Pakistan’s Navy is that of Admiral who has direct control over all the ships.

Sub Lieutenant
Lieutenant Commander
Rear Admiral
Vice Admiral

Prominent Personalities

Admiral M. Amjad Khan Niazi has been serving as the Chief of the Naval Staff since 7th October 2020. He was commissioned in the Operational Branch in 1985 and has the honor of winning the coveted sword of honor. He has wholeheartedly served Pakistan’s Navy in various capacities ranging from Principal Secretary to Chief of the Naval Staff, head of the F-22P Mission in China, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Training & Evaluation), Director General Naval Intelligence and Chief of Staff (Operations) at Naval Headquarters, Islamabad. There are a handful of other officers too in Pakistan’s Navy who have played pivotal roles during times of war and violence.

Air Forces

Pakistan’s Air Force is regarded as the “powerful defense element of the country’s defense.” According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Pakistan Air Force includes 70,000 active-duty personnel and at least 594 operational air crafts.


HeadquartersCommandsWeapons Production Establishments
Air Headquarters (AHQ), IslamabadNorthern Air Command (NAC), PeshawarPakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra
Central Air Command (CAC), LahoreAir Weapons Complex (AWC), Kamra
Southern Air Command (SAC), Karachi
Air Defense Command (ADC), Rawalpindi
Air Force Strategic Command (AFSC), Islamabad
Flying BasesNon–Flying Bases
PAF Base Mushaf (Sargodha)PAF Base Korangi Creek (Karachi)
PAF Base Bholari (Bholari)PAF Base Malir (Karachi)
PAF Base Masroor (Karachi)PAF Base Lower Topa (Murree)
PAF Base Rafiqui (Shorkot)PAF Base Kallar Kahar (Kallar Kahar)
PAF Base Peshawar (Peshawar)PAF Base Kohat (Kohat)
PAF Base Murid (Chakwal)PAF Base Lahore (Lahore)
PAF Base Samungli (Quetta)PAF Base Sakesar (Sakesar)
PAF Base M.M. Alam (Mianwali)PAF Base Kalabagh (Nathia Gali)
PAF Base Minhas (Kamra)
PAF Base Nur Khan (Rawalpindi)
PAF Base Faisal (Karachi)
PAF Base Risalpur (Pakistan Air Force Academy) (Risalpur)
PAF Base Shahbaz (Jacobabad)


The ranks in Pakistan’s Air Force are again divided into three categories: commissioned officers, junior commissioned officers, and non-commissioned officers.

If we look into non-commissioned officers, then the lowest rank is that of an Aircraftman. Higher up the ladder is the Leading Aircraftman which is equivalent to Grade 8. Next comes the Senior Aircraftman followed by the Junior Technician and later the Corporal Technician. A Corporal Technician can be promoted to the rank of Senior Technician.

Leading Aircraftman
Senior Aircraftman
Junior Technician
Corporal Technician
Senior Technician

In the chain of junior commissioned officers, the rank starts with the Assistant Warrant Officer who later becomes the Warrant Officer and is finally followed by the Chief Warrant Officer.

Assistant Warrant Officer
Warrant Officer
Chief Warrant Officer

The last and the highest category is that of commissioned officers. The first rank is a Pilot Officer which is achieved after professional and military training at Pakistan Air Force Academy Risalpur. After promotion, a Pilot Officer becomes a Flying Officer. Next, he becomes the Flight Lieutenant followed by Squadron Leader, and then to the higher rank of Wing Commander.

The Wing Commander is then elevated to Group Captain. After serving as a Group Captain, the officer is promoted to a one-star officer called Air Commodore, and then possibly to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal, a two-star officer. After this, comes the rank of Air Marshal and then Air Chief Marshal. The last and the highest rank in Pakistan’s Air Force is the Marshal of the Air Force.

Pilot Officer
Flying Officer
Flight Lieutenant
Squadron Leader
Wing Commander
Group Captain
Air Vice Marshal
Air Marshal
Air Chief Marshal

Prominent Personalities

The history of Pakistan’s Air Force is also marked by the actions of gallant officers. In 1959, on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, an Indian Air Force English Electric Canberra was shot down in Rawat by Flight Lieutenant M. N. Butt and Flight Lieutenant M. Yunis.

Apart from this, many officers have represented Pakistan’s Air Force internationally. One such distinguished personality is that of Flight Lieutenant Muhammad Waseem Khan who won the Clarkson Aerobatic Trophy in UK for “All Purpose Instructors’ Course in 1948.  The next year, Flight Lieutenant Fawad Shahid Hussain scored the first position in the “Pilot Attack Instructors’ Course” at Central Gunnery School at Leconfield and later set a Commonwealth record in the air-to-air shooting.

Currently, Zaheer Ahmed Babar Sidhu, the Air Chief Marshal, is the highest ranking officer in the Pakistan Air Force. He has been awarded various awards; the most prestigious among them are Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Military), Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military), Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Military), Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Military) and Turkish Legion of Merit. 

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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