F16 fighters (Pakistan Air Force) but are PAF also linked to US drone strikes? (image Wikimedia, Commons)
A letter received by the author earlier this year may shed some light on the strange case of officers allegedly being penalized after seeking to take early retirement from the Pakistan Air Force and refusing their requests. There appears to be more to these cases than first meets the eye.
Back in June, DAWN media announced that “within a span of three weeks, three air force officers have gone to the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking premature early retirement from Pakistan Air Force (PAF), citing different reasons.”
Squadron Leader Akhtar Abbas sought to retire on medical and compassionate grounds and go abroad with his wife but his request for early retirement was turned down by PAF authorities leading to his detention soon after filing his petition on May 14th 2014. Two other petitions were then filed, one on May 26th from the father of Squadron Leader Shahzeb Mehmood for the early retirement of his son who was also allegedly detained. Then another petition was filed on June 2, from Squadron Leader Malik Masood Anwar who complained of being penalized by his employers.
Squadron leader Abbas alleged discrimination naming others within the airforce that had been granted early retirement. Discrimination was denied by PAF.
Although the DAWN article did not go into specific detail there were suggestions that at least one of the officers Squadron Leader Anwar may have been reluctant to carry out certain duties,
“his petition said he was posted at PAF base Mushaf, Sargodha, when he was sent “to another outfit which was employed on military operations at homeland/home soil, during 2007.
The petitioner due to his belief and understanding did not participate in these operations and kept himself away from such duty”
It appears that PAF spokesman commodore Tariq Mehmood declined to comment on the specifics of these duties thus adding more mystery to the cases.
Could Squadron Leader Anwar declining to participate in certain operations be related to drone policy?
US drones operating over Pakistan have long been an issue of contention due to civilian casualties with accusations on the one hand that America is violating Pakistan sovereignty and airspace whilst on the other hand there have been allegations that Pakistan secretly co-operates and assists the US.
In 2013 CNN reported that “ex-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged his government secretly signed off on U.S. drone strikes, the first time a top past or present Pakistani official has admitted publicly to such a deal.” CCN went further to bring light to previously alleged clandestine operations by stating the following,
“in a cable sent in August 2008 and later posted online by Wikileaks, then US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson mentioned a discussion about drones during a meeting that also involved interior minister Rehman Malik and then-Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Malik suggested we hold off alleged Predator attacks until after the Bajaur operation,” Patterson wrote. “The PM brushed aside Rehman’s remarks and said, ‘I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.’ “
US drone strikes on Pakistan are now well documented but could Pakistan have played a more active role providing intelligence as opposed to simply turning a blind eye to drone strikes? I had been made aware of earlier allegations that US may receive help on the ground using lazers to guide drones to target but due to press denied access to the drone hit Federally Administered Tribal Areas, it is difficult to talk to those in the vicinity.
The following letter was received (author wishes to remain anonymous) regarding Sqn Ldr Akhtar Abbsas which alleges PAF may have more direct involvement in drones than previously thought:-
Allegations that Abbas case may be linked to drone policy (Pakistan, US)
Kindly highlight Sqn Ldr Akhtar Abbas case in British Media.
Why, because Pak Air Force is directly related to Drone Policy. Pak Air Chief is ever ready to bomb Waziristan in order to throw a spanner in peace process. However his F-16 are rusting when it comes to Abbotabbad or Drone issue.
If provided lawful protection, such young and honest officers can provide valuable input to stance against Drones/peace process as whistle blower to past 10 years genocide through drone attacks and bombing campaigns on Waziristan.
One of my old day friends who was in Pak Air Force as Air Defense Officer said in private gathering that Drone Attacks were monitored jointly by PAF Air Defense Officers along with American from US Embassy in Islamabad.
While the intelligence input for Drone was provided by CTC (Counter Terrorism Cell) in ISI. This cell headed by a Major General and was directly funded by US and it was not answerable to none even in ISI and Army.
For taking his case to media and court first Sqn Akhtar Abbas was posted to some remote location as punishment and now he has been arrested for no crime.
Sqn Ldr Akhtar Abbas cell number is + …………
We know PAF have an active role in the bombing of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where jets and helicopter gunships are used and there have been questions over alleged killing of civilians discussed in previous articles. However last week in Geneva for the first time the Human Rights Council formally discussed the issue of armed drones over countries including Pakistan in violation of international human rights law as well as the UN Charter and condemned arbitrary killings. Representatives from 21 countries attended the conference.
Russia TV reports a statement given by Pakistan’s Foreign Office recently which condemned the latest drone strike, claiming,
“with the decisive action being taken against terrorist elements in North Waziristan, (referring to miliary operation Zarb -e-Asb, launched in June) there is no need for such strikes…… we, therefore, urge US for a cessation of such strikes”
Express Tribune highlighted Shahzad Akbar, Legal Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights who noted that “a state could not use deadly force merely because capture (of militants) was not feasible; the individual in question must pose an imminent threat to human life.” He said,
“the experience in Pakistan showed that this simply was not the case. The obligation was not upon individuals to prove they posed no threat but the obligation was upon the State firing armed drones to show that their use of force was necessary”
Given the recent ethical and legal debates on drones, it is important to establish what exactly is the role of Pakistan in relation to the US and drones. Too much has already been swept under the carpet and if PAF does have a more active role which may be causing internal friction for officers surely they must be addressed. Dilema and possible dissent within armed forces cannot be good for the security of the country.
According to DAWN, Squadron Ldr Abbas now faces a series of charges,
“Mr Abbas was being tried by a Field General Court Martial for various charges, including a charge under Section 65 of the PAF Act, entitled ‘An Act Prejudical To Good Order And Air Force Discipline’.
His crime is that he ‘while being in the service of PAF, filed a writ petition against the federation of Pakistan and chief of air staff in the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench’”
Abbas is fighting back by filing the following charges with Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court by
“seeking contempt of court proceedings against the defence secretary and the air force, alleging that they were treating him as an offender for seeking a judicial remedy”
It remains to be seen how much will come out in the public domain and whether disgruntled employees may reveal a lot more than was bargained for regarding the actions of Pakistan’s Air Force.
“Double standards: US condemns use of drones as US strikes Pakistan once again”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.