With a total manpower of approximately 70,000the task of the Frontier Corps is to help local law enforcement in the maintenance of law and order, and to carry out border patrol and anti-smuggling operations.Recently units of the Frontier Corps have been used in military operations against insurgents in Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The Frontier Corps should not be confused with theFrontier Constabularyor theFrontier Force Regiment. The Frontier Constabulary is a federal paramilitary police force, mostly recruited from and operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but also operating inPunjabprovince. Since July 2002, the constabulary and the FC NWFP are being gradually merged. The Frontier Force Regiment is an infantry regiment of thePakistan Armyformed in 1956 from the amalgamation of three older regiments: the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, the 13th Frontier Force Rifles and the Pathan Regiment.
The Frontier Corps was created in 1907 byLord Curzon, theviceroy of British India, in order to organize seven militia and scout units in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan: the Khyber Rifles, the Zhob Militia, the Kurram Militia, the Tochi Scouts, the Chagai Militia, the South Waziristan Scouts and the Chitral Scouts.
The Frontier Corps was led by an “Inspecting Officer” who was a British officer of the rank oflieutenant colonel. In 1943 the Inspecting Officer was upgraded to an Inspector General (an officer with the rank ofbrigadier), and the corps was expanded with new units (the Second Mahsud Scouts were raised in 1944 and the Pishin Scouts in 1946).
Afterindependencein 1947, Pakistan expanded the corps further by creating a number of new units, including the Thal Scouts, the Northern Scouts, the Bajaur Scouts, the Karakoram Scouts, the Kalat Scouts, the Dir Scouts and the Kohistan Scouts. British officers continued to serve in the Frontier Corps up to the early 1950s. The corps was split into two major subdivisions with FC Balochistan incorporating the Zhob Militia, the Sibi Scouts, the Kalat Scouts, the Makran Militia, the Kharan Rifles, the Pishin Scouts, the Chaghai Militia and the First Mahsud Scouts.In 1975, three of the units (theGilgit Scouts, the Karakoram Scouts and the Northern Scouts) were merged to form a new paramilitary force called theNorthern Light Infantry, which is now a full infantry regiment of the Pakistan Army.
In the mid-1970s, the Pakistani government used FC Balochistan to counter the insurgency in Balochistan and the force is unpopular among some of the local population who associate them with human rights violations and heavy- handed operations. To improve the corps image, it has been involved in construction of schools and hospitals, although as of late 2004, corps installations in the province were routinely attacked by insurgents.
In the late 1990s, the Frontier Corps played an important role in eliminating opium poppy cultivation fromDir Districtin Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In 2007, after the collapse of truce agreements between the Pakistani government and local militants, the Frontier Corps, teamed with regular Pakistani military units, conducted incursions into tribal areas controlled by the militants. The effort produced a series of bloody and clumsy confrontations.On August 30, about 250 Pakistani troops, mostly from the Frontier Corps, surrendered to militants without a fight. In early November, most were released in exchange for 25 militants held by the Pakistan Army.
There is a widespread consensus among United States government military and intelligence experts that the Frontier Corps are the best potential military units against the Islamist militants because its troops are locally recruited, know local languages and understand local cultures. The United States provided more than US$7 billion in military aid to Pakistan from 2002 to 2007, most of which was used to equip the Frontier Corps because it is in the frontline of the fight against the Islamist insurgents. From late 2007, the Pakistani government intended to expand the corps to 100,000 and use it more in fighting Islamist militants, particularly Al-Qaeda, after extensive consultations with the U.S. government and an agreement to start a multi-year effort to bolster it including the establishment of a counterinsurgency training centre.The new US Obama policy for Pakistan is seen as a clear victory for the Pakistan Army lobby in the US. The $1.5billion a year aid recently announced with no strings attached will go a long way in seeing that the Frontier Corps stay at the height of their professional abilities due to new equipment and training. The Corps has also fired occasionally on the U.S.-assisted Afghan Army."
The senior command posts of the Frontier Corps are filled by officers seconded from the Pakistan Army for two to three years, although few look forward to these assignments from a professional and career point of view.The rank and file are recruited locally, receiving tough and rigorous training but they are seldom promoted to command positions. The equipment of the Frontier Corps includes G3 rifles, AK-47s, RPG 7, light machine guns, short range artillery and mortars as well as aviation support and APCs and tanks. The Scouts Training Academy, Mirali inNorth Waziristanis the primary training institution. The Frontier Corps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is headquartered inBala Hisar Fortin Peshawar.
The Frontier Corps in Balochistan is headquartered in Quetta and is led by Major General Salim Nawaz. FC Balochistan is only partly made up of troops from the region it patrols.
The units of the Frontier Corps are (with founding date):
A Turi Subedar of Kurram Militia. Watercolour by AC Lovett, 1910.