In blatant disregard to foreign policy terms approved by parliament this year, Pakistan has secretly allowed US-led Nato forces to use its airspace for transporting lethal supplies to Afghanistan, official sources revealed.
It is not clear when the permission was granted but it is believed to be a stop gap arrangement between Pakistan and the United States till they finalise a deal on the resumption of vital land routes for foreign forces in Afghanistan.
But the move is likely to spark a strong public backlash in view of parliament’s resolutions which state that Pakistan’s territory, including its airspace, shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan.
A credible source told The Express Tribune that the foreign office and the defence ministry were at odds with each other over allowing Nato planes to carry weapons.
The foreign office opposed the decision considering it a violation of parliament’s resolutions. However, it eventually started issuing non-objection certificates (NoCs) to such planes after pressure from defense authorities.
According to the rules, the foreign office forwards NoCs to the Pakistan Air Force, which then allows the aircraft to fly over Pakistan.
However, a senior ministry official denied the foreign office had any part in granting such permission. The official said the role of the foreign office was that of a ‘post office’ in this case and it was the defense ministry and other concerned authorities, which were supposed to determine and grant permission for any planes carrying weapons.
When approached, foreign ministry spokesperson Moazam Ali Khan insisted that all decisions were being taken in line with the resolution of parliament.
“You have to ask this question from the Ministry of Defense,” he replied, when asked if Pakistan had permitted Nato to use its air corridor for transportation of weapons.
However, when contacted, the defense ministry threw the ball in the military’s court, which also refused to comment over the issue, saying it was the prerogative of the government.
Reluctance from the concerned authorities to publically speak on the subject is thought to be linked to the fact that none of the departments wants to take responsibility of allowing lethal supplies via air.
The US, which has voiced frustration over the continued blockade of land routes, would not speak directly on the controversy.
A US embassy spokesperson refused to confirm or deny the development. “We continue to work with the government of Pakistan to resolve the political questions related to the Lines of Communication through Pakistan to supply US/Nato/Isaf forces in Afghanistan,” Mark Sroh told The Express Tribune, while dodging questions regarding the supply of weapons through air.
Pakistan and the US are currently negotiating a new agreement to reopen land routes. However, talks are deadlocked over the issue of an apology, which Islamabad has been demanding by the US over last year’s Nato cross border raid in Salala that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead.
Earlier this year, Pakistan confirmed that it allowed Nato planes carrying non-lethal supplies to use its air space. But Islamabad has never publically acknowledged that it also granted permission for transportation of weapons.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2012.
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