According to a WikiLeaks cable, Pakistan’s airmen were being radicalised by extremists and were sabotaging Pakistani F-16s deployed for security operations along the Afghan border, NDTV reported on Friday.
The cable sent on March 2006 from the US embassy to Washington, quotes then Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Operations Air Vice Marshal Khalid Chaudhry as saying that the airmen, most of whom came from rural villages, were being radicalised by extremist clerics.
The cable quotes Chaudhry as saying, “You can’t imagine what a hard time we have trying to get them to trim their beards.”
The cable also reveals that Chaudhry claimed “to receive monthly reports of acts of petty sabotage, which he interpreted as an effort by extremists amongst the enlisted ranks to prevent PAF aircraft from being deployed in support of security operations in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) along the Afghan border.”
According to NDTV, Chaudhry was briefing visiting US officials at the Pakistan Air Force Headquarters and impressing upon them the need to ensure “the F-16 deal has enough sweeteners to appeal to the public – a complete squadron of new F-16s, with JDAM and night-vision capability – but not to offer the PAF things that it cannot afford.”
The cable quotes Chaudhry as telling the delegation, “off the record”, that PAF aircraft were regularly called to provide air support to military and security forces when they get into tight spots in Fata … “, adding that the Army brass and the ground forces commanders would deny it.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2011.