Pakistan has secretly allowed NATO to use its airspace to channel lethal supplies to Afghanistan, a newspaper reported officials as saying on Sunday.
Pakistan blocked land routes used to transport NATO supplies on November 2011, after coalition helicopters and fighter jets allegedly killed 24 Pakistani troops at two posts along a mountainous frontier that serves as a safe haven for militants.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States have since soured with Pakistan insisting the United States issue an apology for the attack, which the U.S. has yet to offer.
A report in the Express Tribune newspaper about Pakistan allowing the use of its airspace to NATO, however, do not indicate when the decision was made.
Pakistan’s government bodies are divided on whether Islamabad has allowed NATO planes to carry weapons to Afghanistan. A credible source told Express Tribune that the foreign office and the defense ministry were at odds with each other over the issue.
The foreign office sees the decision as a violation of parliament’s resolutions, but it reportedly issued non-objection certificates (NOCs) to NATO planes, succumbing to pressure from defense authorities.
As per the country’s rules, the foreign office forwards NOCs to Pakistan Air Force, which then allows the aircraft to fly in its national airspace.
However, a senior official from the foreign office denied that his ministry had any role in granting permission. The official said the role of the foreign office was merely that of a ‘post office’ in this case, and said that it was the defense ministry and other concerned authorities who were responsible for determining and granting permission to any planes carrying weapons to use Pakistani airspace.
When the newspaper asked foreign ministry spokesperson Moazam Ali Khan about his ministry’s role, he 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 added.
The defense ministry denied responsibility and blamed the onus on the military’s court, which also refused to comment over the issue, saying it was the prerogative of the government.
The U.S. which has been frustrated over the continued blockade of land routes for NATO vehicles, would not speak directly on the controversy when approached by the newspaper.
Allowing NATO’s supplies to go through Pakistan is believed to be a stop gap arrangement between the two countries, till they finalize a deal on the resumption of land routes for foreign forces in Afghanistan.
News of Pakistan allowing cargo via planes passing through its airspace is likely to spark a strong public backlash in view of parliament’s resolutions.