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Pakistan secretly allowing lethal Nato supply via air

Afzal Khan / 2 July 2012

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, daily Express Tribune reported on Sunday.

The gesture was termed a blatant disregard of foreign policy terms approved by parliament this year. 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 defence 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 defence ministry and other concerned authorities, which were supposed to determine and grant permission.

Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam 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 Defence,” he replied, when asked if Pakistan had permitted Nato to use its airspace to transport weapons.

The Defence Ministry threw the ball in the military’s court, which too refused to comment on the issue, saying it was the prerogative of the government.

The reluctance of authorities to publicly speak on the subject is thought to be linked to the fact that none of the departments wants to take responsibility for allowing lethal supplies to be transported through Pakistani airspace.

The supply routes were shut by Pakistan in November last year after a cross-border Nato air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The US, which has expressed frustration over the blockade, did not speak on the controversy.

A US embassy spokesman refused to confirm or deny the development. “We continue to work with the government of Pakistan to resolve political questions related to the lines of communication through Pakistan to supply US-Nato-ISAF forces in Afghanistan,” its spokesman Mark Stroh said. Pakistan and the US are currently negotiating a new agreement to reopen the land routes.

However, talks are deadlocked over the issue of an apology demanded by Pakistan from the US for last year’s air strike.

Earlier this year, Pakistan confirmed that it had allowed Nato planes carrying non-lethal supplies to use its airspace.- news@khaleejtimes.com

with input from PTI

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