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Northern Light Infantry
Active 1971 - present
Country Pakistan
Branch  Pakistan Army
Type Light Infantry
Size 58 battalions
Regimental Centre Bunji
Colors Green
Engagements Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
Pak-Indo War 1965
Pak-Indo War 1971
Siachen Conflict
Kargil War
Commanders
Colonel Commandant of the NLI Regiment Lt Gen Mohsin Kamal

The Northern Light Infantry (reporting name: NLI) is a light infantry regiment in the Pakistan Army, based and currently headquartered in Gilgit, the capital of Gilgit–Baltistan. Along with many unified armed forces presence in the Northern Areas, the NLI has the primary ground operations responsibility of protecting the strategically important northern areas of Pakistan.

The majority of this regiment's personnel come from native Gilgitis, Baltis, Brushos, Wakhis and Khowars. It was formed in 1971 with the amalgamation of the Northern Scouts along with its Scout wings: the Karakoram Scouts, Northern Scouts and Gilgit Scouts. The Northern Light Infantry was made a regular regiment of the Pakistan army after its performance in the Kargil War in 1999; prior to this it was a paramilitary force.

The Northern Light Infantry (NLI) Regiment is based in northern Pakistan. Today the NLI Reget consists of 15x Reg units. The unit is not dominated by major ethnic groups like the Pashtuns or Punjabs and instead is comprised by a mix of men from the small tribes of the Kashmir region. The NLI sepoys are drawn from eight major ethnic groups: the Baltees, Shins, Yashkuns, Mughals, Kashmiris, Pathans, Ladakis and Turks who speak the dialects of Balti, Shina, Brushaki, Khawer, Wakhi, Turki, Pushto, Urdu and Persian. Of the NLI sepoys, 49 per cent are Shias and 18 per cent Sunnis, while the Ismailees and Noor Bakhshis make up 23 and 10 per cent respectively.Fifty-five per cent of the sepoys come from Gilgit while 35 per cent hail from Baltistan.

The NLI is deployed extensively in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir under the Force Commander Northern Areas (FCNA) and forms the bulk of the battalions under the Minimarg-based 80 Infantry Brigade, the Skardu-based 62 Infantry Brigade and the 323 Infantry Brigade at Siachen.

The Northern Light Infantry Regiment is based in Skardu, which is a small city captured from Indian control during the 1947-48 War. The city is still close to the border. In 1993, the NLI battalions were organised into regular battalions of the Pakistan Army with the Regimental Centre at Bunji near Gilgit. The Northern Light Infantry Regiment was formed in 1971 when several Scout units—some of which had British-era origins and others which were more recent—were consolidated. Among these, the Gilgit Scouts fought with distinction against India during the 1947 war. In the tradition of the scout units, the NLI originally functioned as a local government-controlled militia meant to maintain order in remote areas.

In 1869, Gilgit was annexed to Kashmir State. Gilgit Agency was re-established in 1889. In 1889 a force with the name of the Gilgit Levies was raised under the command of Colonel Algernon Durand in order to establish better writ of Government. The force, in 1891, fought the battle of Nilt against Hunza. In 1913 Major JC Bridges reorganized the force on a company basis and the force was renamedt as the Gilgit Scouts. When the Gilgit scouts were raised, its strength was 582. Recruitment in the Gilgit scouts was based on the recommendation of the Mirs and Rajas of the area. Close relatives of both Mirs and Rajas on occasion were given direct Viceroy's Commissions in the corps of Gilgit Scouts.

In 1947 the Gilgit Scouts reverted to their original duties of internal security under the Pakistani Political Agent for Northern Areas. 582 men of the Gilgit Scouts were placed under the command of Major Muhammad Tufail Shaheed (Nishan-e-Haider).

On partition, the Gilgit agency was handed over to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir by the British government. Brigadier Ghansara Singh arrived at Gilgit to implement the charge, as Governor. Subsequently Major General H L Scott the chief of military staff of Kashmir joined him. The troops of the Gilgit Scouts, being 100% Muslim, were in favour of accession to Pakistan. On 31 October 1947, in the afternoon, Honorary Captain Muhammad Baber Khan called a meeting of the Junior Commissioned Officers of the Gilgit Scouts in their mess, where it was unanimously decided to over throw the Dogra rule.

The governor surrendered on 1 November 1947. The Muslim company of the 6 Jammu Kahmir Infantry battalion, coming to Gilgit from Bunji under the command of Captain Hassan Khan, also joined the Scouts. The Scouts attacked and destroyed a Dogra check post and burnt the Partab Bridge. The Sikh and Dogra elements of the Kashmiri forces deserted and were later captured. 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) were thus liberated from the Dogra Raj. The force was then placed under the command of Major Muhammad Tufail Shaheed (Nishan-i-Haider), Honorary Captain Muhammad Baber Khan of 1st Northern Light Infantry Regiment, who played a vital role in the war of liberation (from the Dogra Raj) in 1947.

Gilgit scouts were the first battalion in 1948 to capture Kargil and Batalik, where they were awarded the motto of Victors. Honorary Captain Muhammad Baber Khan took part in liberation war 1947/48. The remaining personnel of the expanded Corps were designated as the Corps of Northern Scouts in November 1949.

The northern scouts were bifurcated on 1 January 1964, and Karakoram scouts were raised with its Head Quarters at Skardu. For centralization of administrative and operational control, the entire force was re-organized into 10 infantry units, 3 mountain batteries and a regimental centre with effect from 1 November 1975. Gilgit scouts were converted into 1st and 2nd Northern Light Infantry Battalion.

In 1985, four battalions were raised for deployment in the Siachen Glacier. Siachen border is the world’s highest battlefield. 1 Northern Light Infantry Battalion has the unique honor of being the first unit to defend Gyong and Gyari sectors. Battalion was ordered to move to Siachen in the first week of April 1984 from Gilgit under command Lieutenant Colonel Shuja Ullah Tarrar Tamgha-i- Basalat. The unit was involved in a successful combat with weather, terrain and the real enemy. 1 Northern Light Infantry Battalion did dumping of ammonition and ration and complete defence construction. 1st Northern Light Infantry Regiment remained involved in acts of gallantry while its tenure in Azad Kashmir. A number of successful fire raids were carried out on enemy.

The regiment's soldiers are drawn from small tribes in mountainous areas and are less prone to altitude sickness and cold temperatures that characterize mountain warfare. The unit was therefore chosen to fight against Indian forces in the 1999 Kargil War, which took place in the mountains of Kashmir. Small NLI infantry units slipped past Indian forces at the Line of Control and seized strategically important high points from which they later attacked the Indians. At that time the NLI was a 14-battalion-strong force. Three more battalions—the 15, 16 and 17 NLI—were being raised. Of these, the 3, 4, 5 and 7 battalions took part in the intrusion across the Batalik-Chorbatla-Turtuk sectors. Elements of the 12 NLI occupied Tiger Hill and the Mushkoh Valley while the 6 and 11 NLI were spread across the Drass-Tololing-Kaksar sectors.

By one account the execution of the whole operation was entrusted to 62 Infantry Brigade at Skardu with 82 Brigade at Minimarg, 32 Brigade at Kel serving as coordinators. By another account the four infantry battalions were

   3 NLI Battalion (ex 323 Infantry Brigade) at Dansam
   4 NLI Battalion (FCNA Reserve) at Gilgit
   5 NLI Battalion (ex 82 Infantry Brigade) at Minimarg
   6 NLI Battalion (ex 62 Infantry Brigade) at Skardu

Gilgit headquarters of the Forces Command Northern Area was assigned the role of supervising the entire operation. The NLI experienced intense combat, during the conflict, the NLI earned two Nishan-e-Haiders, Pakistan's highest military decoration. Both Nishan-e- Haiders are designated to 12 NLI Regiment. 12 NLI fought bravely during Kargil war. As a result the 12 NLI Regiment's Capt Kernal Sher Khan and Havaldar Lalak Jan were awarded Nishan e Haiders. For achieving two Nisha-e-Haiders the 12 NLI Regiment has been awarded with Unit Moto(slogan) of HAIDERAN. Most of the officers who led the NLI battalions in Kargil were from other regiments and included Punjabis, Mohajirs and Pathans. After outstanding performance in the Kargil conflict of 1999, the entire Northern Light Infantry Regiment was given the status of regular infantry. The NLI Regiment was promoted from paramilitary force to regular Army regiment in recognition of its good battlefield performance.12 NLI Regiment was the first Unit to be given the status of regular infantry.

On April 30, 2008, Lieutenant General Mohsin Kamal was made Colonel Commandant of the Northern Light Infantry Regiment.

The current colonel commandant of the Northern Light Infantry Regiment is Lt General Mohsin Kamal, who is the current commander, X Corps, Rawalpindi and former commander Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA), Gilgit. He was installed on 30 April 2008 by the former colonel commandant Lt General Safdar Hussain, former commander XI Corps, Peshawar.[1]

In April 2012, at least 150 soldiers from the Northern Light Infantry were buried under an avalanche which struck their base close to the Siachen Glacier.

References[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/.

  1. "Kamal new NLI colonel commandant" ISPR Release, 30 April 2008

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