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Revamped army museum exhibits history of warfare, arms in subcontinent

Updated February 21, 2016

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A scene at the command post at Wagah Border, during the 1965 war. A commander passes out an order for the formation of soliders to subedars and other junior officers. The exhibit includes lighting and sound effects to recreate the atmosphere of a war zone. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad
A scene at the command post at Wagah Border, during the 1965 war. A commander passes out an order for the formation of soliders to subedars and other junior officers. The exhibit includes lighting and sound effects to recreate the atmosphere of a war zone. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad

Housed in the colonial-era barracks of the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ), the Pakistan Army Museum is a must-see for weaponry and war history enthusiasts.

The museum holds within it arms and ammunition from the Mughal era, all the way to modern weapons. It was first set up in 1961, in a majestic building adjacent to GHQ on Iftikhar Janjua Road.

Fighter planes and helicopters used during the 1965 war are displayed in the museum’s courtyard.
Fighter planes and helicopters used during the 1965 war are displayed in the museum’s courtyard.

The new museum building offers detailed history of the evolution of the Pakistan Army; the wars fought between India and Pakistan from 1947 in Kashmir to 1999 in Kargil, and the army’s role in the war on terrorism.

A French-crafted suit of armour worn by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh of Punjab. The Mughal-era shield, helmet and rifle were used 400 years ago.
A French-crafted suit of armour worn by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh of Punjab. The Mughal-era shield, helmet and rifle were used 400 years ago.

A gallery has been devoted to the global war on terrorism and the military’s operations in the tribal areas on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The museum has a vast collection of original relics, books, journals and documents, photographs and audiovisual materials.

The Siachen gallery depicts life for soldiers at the Siachen post. Soldiers use igloos and ice caves to rest at night.
The Siachen gallery depicts life for soldiers at the Siachen post. Soldiers use igloos and ice caves to rest at night.

“The new building was constructed between 2009-2013, and we wanted to give people the opportunity to understand their history and the Pakistan Army’s work in war and peace,” museum director Brig Adnan Saleem told Dawn.

The pistol used to assassinate Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan in Company Bagh (later christened Liaquat Bagh) in Rawalpindi on Oct 16, 1951. The pistol and the FIR (No.664) lodged at the City police station on the incident are both exhibited at the museum.
The pistol used to assassinate Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan in Company Bagh (later christened Liaquat Bagh) in Rawalpindi on Oct 16, 1951. The pistol and the FIR (No.664) lodged at the City police station on the incident are both exhibited at the museum.

The entrance of the building is decorated with a statue of sepoy Khudad Khan, a Victoria Cross recipient who was the first Muslim in the region to receive an award for serving in the British Army during World War I. Pictures of Quaid-i-Azam and a timeline of presidents, prime ministers and chiefs of army staff welcome visitors as they enter the building. Former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s picture is displayed in the gallery devoted to the Armoured Corps, as the first civilian to become the colonel in chief of the Armoured Corps of the Pakistan Army.

The sword of Tipu Sultan was presented by residents of East Pakistan to former president Ayub Khan at the Ramna Line Club in Dhaka in October 1965.
The sword of Tipu Sultan was presented by residents of East Pakistan to former president Ayub Khan at the Ramna Line Club in Dhaka in October 1965.

The museum is divided into various galleries. The Hurriyat Gallery is dedicated to fighters who travelled from Fata to Kashmir to fight in the 1947 Indo-Pak war on Kashmir. Other galleries are devoted to the 1965 and 1971 wars.

A soldier wearing the ward dress and using a machine gun in the museum’s Special Service Group gallery. / In 1965, Pakistani troops captured the Khem Karan Railway Station in the Amritsar district. The troops brought back the hall clock installed at the station to commemorate the victory. The clock was made in London, United Kingdom in 1897.
A soldier wearing the ward dress and using a machine gun in the museum’s Special Service Group gallery. / In 1965, Pakistani troops captured the Khem Karan Railway Station in the Amritsar district. The troops brought back the hall clock installed at the station to commemorate the victory. The clock was made in London, United Kingdom in 1897.

One can also find vehicles used by the Indian forces that were captured by the army during war, such as the Willy Jeep belonging to Maj Gen Narianjan Parchad which was captured during the 1965 war. A gallery devoted to Siachen explains the challenges of serving at the highest military post in the world, and the Special Service Group gallery highlights the difficulties of soldiers trained in guerrilla warfare.

A particularly interesting museum exhibit displays the evolution of arms and ammunition, and holds historical relics such as Tipu Sultan’s sword and Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s suit of armour.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2016