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Northern Light Infantry

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 regiment draws its recruits from small tribes in mountainous areas and therefore they are less prone to altitude sickness and cold temperatures that characterize the mountain warfare.[1]

Northern Light Infantry
Badge of Northern Light Infantry.png
Regimental cap badge
Active1975 – present
Branch Pakistan Army
TypeLight Infantry
RoleMountain Warfare
Size16 battalions
Regimental CentreBunji, Pakistan
EngagementsIndo-Pakistani War of 1947
Pak-Indo War 1965
Pak-Indo War 1971
Siachen Conflict
Kargil War
Colonel Commandant of the NLI RegimentLt Gen Anwar Ali Haider
COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa

Northern Light Infantry is also known to have assisted the Afghan Mujahaddin during the Soviet-Afghan war.[2]


The Northern Light Infantry has its origins in the Gilgit Scouts raised by British India for defending the Jammu and Kashmir's northern frontier. The Gilgit Scouts, along with the rebels of the Jammu and Kashmir State Forces, fought the northern front of the First Kashmir War in 1948, conquering Skardu, Kargil and Batalik (the latter two recovered by the Indian Army in subsequent operations). In 1949, the Gilgit Scouts were split into two forces, with the wing under the original name limited to internal security duties, and the other wing, named Northern Scouts, designated for external defence. In 1964, the Northern Scouts were further bifurcated with the separation of Karakoram Scouts based in Skardu. All three forces were brought together again in 1975, under the banner of Northern Light Infantry. The infantry regiment was designated as a full infantry regiment of the Pakistan Army in 1999, after the Kargil War.[3][4][5]

A new civil armed force was created again in 2003 under the name Gilgit Baltistan Scouts to take the place of the old Gilgit Scouts.[4]

Status and OperationsEdit

Originally the Northern Light Infantry was founded as a paramilitary force of Pakistan, at par with Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior and commanded by regular Pakistan Army officers. In 1967 and 1970, two Battalions of the NLI were airlifted and deployed to Sindh and Karachi for internal security duties, riot control and aid of civil authority during election related violence. This earned them a commendation from Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

By 1998 the NLI consisted of 20 Battalions commanded by a Major General of the Pakistan Army with the designation of Inspector General of the NLI, whose office was the Inspectorate General of NLI reporting to the GOC, X Corps as well as the Minister of Interior.

Siachen GlacierEdit

During the Siachen conflict the 1st Battalion NLI performed defense and support work.[1][6]

Kargil WarEdit

For the 1999 Kargil operation, it was reported that Pakistan army had launched forces exclusively from the Northern Light Infantry. These included 5, 6, 8 and 12 NLI battalions in full strength and elements of 3, 4, 7 and 11 NLI with the Chitral and Bajaur Scouts employed for logistic support.[1]

Since the Northern Light Infantry recruits are less prone to altitude sickness and cold temperatures, they were chosen to fight against Indian armed forces in Kargil war. Small infantry units belonging to Northern Light Infantry, slipped pass through Indian armed forces and seized strategic and important high points. Later, the infantry units used these strategic and important height points to launch attacks on Indian soldiers.[1]

After the Kargil War and in recognition of their outstanding performance in the Kargil conflict, the entire regiment was amalgamated into the Infantry Corps of the Pakistan Army with the status of a regular infantry regiment, awarded the Presidential Colours. Previously, the Northern Light Infantry regiment was a paramilitary force. After the Kargil war, it was promoted to regular army regiment.[1]


  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website

  1. ^ a b c d e "Northern Light Infantry". Global Security. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  2. ^ Murphy, Eamon (2013), The Making of Terrorism in Pakistan: Historical and Social Roots of Extremism, Routledge, pp. 127–, ISBN 978-0-415-56526-4
  3. ^ Northern Light Infantry Regiment (NLI), Pakistan Army, retrieved 25 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b History of Gilgit Baltistan Scouts, Gilgit Baltistan Scouts, retrieved 6 April 2018.
  5. ^ Snedden, Christopher (2015), Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris, Oxford University Press, p. 255, ISBN 978-1-84904-342-7
  6. ^ "Northern Light Infantry". Pakistan Army Website. Retrieved 20 June 2017.

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