Pak secretly allowing lethal NATO supplies via air

Pakistan and the US are currently negotiating a new agreement to reopen the land routes.

Islamabad: Pakistan has secretly allowed US-led NATO forces to use its airspace to transport lethal supplies to Afghanistan while disregarding a resolution approved by Parliament that set conditions for the movement of supplies, a media report said on Sunday.

It was not clear when permission was granted for transporting the lethal supplies but the arrangement is believed to be a stop gap one between Pakistan and the US till they finalise a deal on reopening land routes to Afghanistan, official sources were quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.

The move could trigger a strong public backlash in view of the resolution passed by a joint session of Parliament that states Pakistan`s territory, including its airspace, will not be used to transport arms and ammunition to Afghanistan, the report said.

The Foreign Office and the Defence Ministry were at odds over allowing NATO planes to carry weapons, a source was quoted as saying by the daily.

The Foreign Office opposed the decision, considering it a violation of the parliamentary resolution.

However, it started issuing non-objection certificates to such planes after pressure from defence authorities, the report said.

According to rules, the Foreign Office forwards the non-objection certificates to the Pakistan Air Force, which allows the aircraft to fly over Pakistan.

However, an unnamed senior Foreign Ministry official denied the Foreign Office had any part in granting the permission.

The official said the Foreign Office`s role was that of a "post office" and it was the Defence Ministry and concerned authorities that are supposed to determine and grant permission for planes carrying weapons.

Foreign Office spokesperson 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.


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