Pakistan Special Service Group

Mandeep Singh Bajwa

V.1 November 18, 2000

Editor's note: Additional information regarding historical background, training, qualification, and uniforms is available at called specialoperations.com. This site can be accessed through www.specialoperations.com/foreign/Pakistan . It also has graphics of the Pakistan Naval SSG including uniform and badges. As we have not yet obtained permission from the website to duplicate some of their material, we request readers to proceed directly to the site. Because there are some differences between information provided on the specialoperations.com website and this article, we have listed the main differences. With all respect to the authors of the specialoperations.com article, who appear to be Pakistani, the information provided by Mr. Bajwa is more accurate when there is a conflict.

Mr. Bajwa writes:

Background and History

The Pakistani Army’s special forces were raised as the Special Service Group in 1956 using the cadre of 19 (Para) Baloch. [Editor's note: Pakistan now calls the Baluch Regiment the Baloch Regiment. The former spelling is the British version, and reflects a slight difference in pronunciation.] Their first CO was Lt. Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Abu Bakr Osman Mitha.

[specialoperations.com says that the SSG consisted of 24 companies at the time it was designated as such. This is an extraordinarily high figure. Mr. Bajwa reports that the SSG had six companies and this is more likely.]

Their initial training and orientation as regards tactics was based on the US Special Forces pattern with whom they co-operated closely in the Cold War years. Later Chinese training, tactics, weapons, and equipment were also introduced.

After a few preliminary operations on the Afghan border, the nascent SSG’s first test came during the 1965 war. Around 100 officers and men were dropped on the night of 6/7 September near the Indian airbases of Adampur, Pathankot and Halwara in an ill-conceived operation to destroy Indian combat aircraft and put the bases out of action. Badly planned, lacking any solid intelligence, and even more badly executed the operation ended in a disaster. The SSG commandos fell easy prey to hastily gathered Indian troops and adventurous civilians. Only a handful made it back to their own country after numerous travails. No Indian planes were damaged or casualties inflicted on Indian troops.

By 1971, the SSG boasted of 3 battalions with one permanently stationed in East Pakistan. Their performance in the 1971 war was much better with 1 Commando Battalion making a spectacular raid on an Indian artillery regiment and disabling several of their guns besides inflicting casualties. 3 Commando Battalion in Bangladesh performed creditably in a normal infantry role. The SSG’s role in the Afghan War was highly commendable and much of the credit for the spectacular successes of the Mujahideen goes to them.

Likewise, they have fought well in Siachen though in one or two instances taking heavy casualties. In the preliminary stages of the 1999 Kargil Operations the SSG performed well, infiltrating relatively deep into Indian territory undetected. Subsequently being used as stock infantry troops to hold posts/defensive positions, they took heavy casualties and suffered the mortification of being ‘denied’ by their own country.

In 1980, an anti-terrorist role was given to Musa Company, which was originally formed in 1970 as a combat diver unit. This company was subsequently trained by British SAS advisers in mid-1981. In 1980 however each battalion was given a diver unit. The battalion in East Pakistan earlier had a frogman platoon with which it was planned by Gen. A.A.K. Niazi (GOC Pakistan Eastern Command) to attack the Indian Farakka Barrage. This emphasis on frogmen, however, means that the Indian Army can expect underwater attacks on its combat bridges in case of a conventional war.

Deployment

At present, there are three Commando battalions, a frogmen company, and an anti-terrorist company. The whole is controlled by a Group HQ commanded by a Brigadier. The battalions normally rotate around one in training and one on operations in

Kashmir/Afghanistan with a third on stand-by. 2 companies are normally deployed on the Siachen Glacier.

[specialoperations.com says two battalions rotate through Cherat and one is divided between "the border" and protection of vital installations like the Tarabela Dam and Pakistan nuclear weapons establishments. Mr. Bajwa's information is far more accurate. Given the situation between India and Pakistan, we can understand why Pakistan sources would prefer to pass lightly over the SSG's combat deployments.]

The SSG also provide Close Protection Teams for the security of the President, Prime Minister, COAS, and nowadays the Chief Executive.

Recruitment and Training

Personnel for the SSG are volunteers from all arms and services and normally serve a tenure of 3-5 years before going back to their parent units. Their training centers are at Attock and Cherat. The SSG’s badge is a commando dagger flanked on either side by a bolt of lightning

The SSG does not have any class composition and all classes are eligible to join. The training is rigorous and the accent is on training soldiers as individual commandos capable of taking independent initiative. The ‘buddy’ system beloved of the US Special Forces and the SAS is encouraged.

The SSG regularly sends students to the US for special warfare and airborne training. The training programs in China are not so well documented however given the closed nature of it’s society and obsession with security. For specialized training specific to Siachen a Snow and High Altitude Warfare School has been established at Khappalu.

Uniforms

Combat uniforms were previously the standard Khaki of the Pakistan Army. From 1972, a new disruptive pattern combat tunic was introduced for the entire Army. This was phased out beginning 1979. The SSG uses the US woodland pattern camouflage combat dress. The ubiquitous symbol of parachute forces, the maroon beret, is worn with a cap badge in a light blue square.

[Other uniform details can be found on the specialoperations.com website]

 

Doctrine

The operational doctrine of the SSG is a mixture of US, Chinese and British SAS tactics and philosophy with a great deal of experience from the Afghan War, Siachen, Kashmir and Kargil thrown in. They are formidable opponents and easily rank as one of the finest special forces in the world. The SSG cut quite a dash at the recent the ceremonial Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad marching past the saluting dais in the double time; a very tiring procedure.

Overseas Operations

The Pakistan Government has also used the SSG as an instrument of influence. The SSG has a presence in a large number of Arab/Muslim countries through its training/advisory teams. Basic training in CI Ops and VIP security is imparted to the armed forces of these countries. In 1986, alarmingly for India, the SSG began large-scale training of the Sri Lankan Commando Regiment. The SSG is also involved in covert operations in Afghanistan and India. Air Marshals have been provided for Pakistan International Airlines.

Organization

Group HQ

Commander: Brigadier

Staff: 5 officers

Three GSO 2s - Operations, Intelligence and Training DAA & QMG – Logistics and Personnel assisted by a Staff Captain (A/Q). An Establishment Officer and an Adminstarion Officer (Finance) (presumably to finance covert operations in other

countries)

 

A HQ company services the Group HQ.

Paratroopers Training School (Peshawar)

3 Officers

23 JCOs (Junior Commissioned Officers are the same as Non Commissioned Officers.)

54 ORs

Akbar Company (Frogman Unit)

4 Officers

4 JCOs

60 ORs

Musa Company (Anti-Terrorist Unit, always on operational stand-by.

3 Officers

4 JCOs

90 ORs

Iqbal Company (Signals Unit)

3 Officers

3 JCOs

100 ORs.

Commando Battalion

Battalion HQ

CO

2IC

Adjutant

Intelligence Officer

HQ and clerical staff

HQ Company (1 Officer, 1 JCO, 59 Ors)

Signal Platoon

MT Platoon

Administrative Platoon

Each battalion has 4 - 5 Commando Companies

Company HQ

1 Officer

1 JCO

21 ORs

3 Platoons, each:

1 Officer

1 JCO

43 Ors

Platoons are large because they conduct independent operations

Company supporting weapons

18 x MGs

3 x RPG-7s

3 x 60mm Mors

1 x 106mm RCL

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