The US has refused to compensate Pakistan for breach of the country’s airspace by its military aircraft, according to Defense Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Asif Yaseen Malik.
During a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday, Malik said the US refused to pay Rs72.4 million it owed to Pakistan, maintaining that military aircraft belonged to the state and were, as such, exempted from airspace navigation charges as per international norms. He added that Washington similarly did not charge Pakistan’s C-130 aircraft for using US airspace on several occasions.
The director general (DG) audit works also informed the meeting that the US Air Force (USAF) and certain other airlines were not paying operational and licence dues for the 2003-2004 period to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Talking to The Express Tribune, defence analyst Air Commodore (retd) Sajjad Haider said that foreign forces’ aircraft are not charged for using a country’s airspace only when a mission has been mutually agreed upon, such as joint air exercises. In this case, however, the USAF must pay for using Pakistani airspace since Islamabad did not authorise their operations, he added.
According to auditors, following a Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) meeting in May this year, CAA was directed to take up USAF’s unpaid dues with the finance ministry. Later in July, PAC also asked the defence secretary to pursue the matter through the foreign office and invoke the bilateral agreement for recovering the outstanding dues.
So far, there has been no development in the matter, according to the DG audit. The PAC downplayed the issue in Wednesday’s meeting and asked the DG audit to ‘move on’.
Disposal of PIA aircraft
Meanwhile, auditors also questioned a six-year-old deal for the disposal of Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) Airbus A300-B4 aircraft.
“The deal gives undue benefits to the buyer, Turkish Airlines,” said Tanvir Bukhari, the Additional Auditor General of Pakistan. The deal, in its original incarnation, stipulated that PIA hand over the aircraft in their then existing condition. However, PIA restored the aircraft’s airworthiness before handing them to Turkish Airlines, Bukhari added.
The commercial audit and evaluation DG also questioned the aircraft’s replacement in the PIA fleet. He said the Airbus A300-B4 aircraft were disposed of on account of being 25-years-old, but the Airbus A310 aircraft the airline purchased as their replacement were 12 to 15 years old as well.
Despite repeated questions by PAC member Yasmeen Rehman, both PIA officials and the defence secretary failed to share the actual prices the A300-B4 aircraft were sold at and the A310s were leased for.
The PAC referred its objections back to the DAC for verification of facts.
The PAC also ordered all perks available to former PIA managing directors be withdrawn. The committee also directed the defence ministry to recover billions of rupees wasted in the misuse of land allotted to the military for defence purposes.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2012.