Pakistan Air Force: Could “retirement” and detention cases have a link to drone policy?


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”.

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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8 Responses to Pakistan Air Force: Could “retirement” and detention cases have a link to drone policy?

  1. truth lover says:

    The article appears to have written in haste and an attempt to link two non related issues. Problem with sqn ldr akhtar was purely based on organization’s inability to respond his requests for early resignation. As per policy an officer cannot ask for resignation till he completes 10 yrs of service. Resignation means that officer will forego all post retirement benefits. However in akhtar’s case, he has served for 12 years and according to policy, he could apply for release which allow 75% post retirement benefits. He failed to get either resignation or release contrary to some other cases where officers got full benefits after 20 yrs despite written policy. Injustice , nepotism and favouritism are normal ingredients of a third world country and pakistan is no exception. Human rights appears to be a far off proposition . But at least drone and resignation issue must be kept separate.

    • Thank-you for your comment, you are entitled to your opinion but it isn’t just Sqd Ldr Akhtar… Conversations I had, some persons very clearly felt that they were being penalized and were fed up of Pakistan alleged involvement in drone strikes… what is being said in public and what is actually happening on the ground. People feel loyalty is divided and are struggling with this and stated that THEY FELT the 2 issues are inter- related.

  2. Faqir Ipi says:

    @ Truth Lover

    The truth is that here in Pakistan some bloods are cheaper and even free to be shed without any one even taking any notice of it some may even justify and earn dollars. where as on the other hand some are so precious that even a couple of hours of electric load shedding/generators/AC is considered as death to Pakistan.

    The fact is that half of the country mostly west of indus is burning for one or the other reason. The greed for more and more money has taken over the senses of people who are enjoying the luxurious life in this country like the colonials would do,

    Colonials still were better for granting the locals at least a second rate citizenship and would kill you only if you challenge his imperialism. __With no evident appropriate measures in sight, people like me should be cursed for showing the true picture until they themselves get the heat. A realization too late is only a repent.

    • It seems so many can be bought and it brings into question, who are the real traitors to the Pakistani people. Every day I see that citizens are killed for speaking out and they seem to be getting younger. There are few efforts to address issues that arise… the answer to some is to obliterate those that dare to ask questions. East Germany used to behave in that way until the citizens said enough is enough and tore the wall… you cant oppress people for ever.

  3. Faqir Ipi says:

    @ Truth Lover

    The problem is with Truth, There is YOUR TRUTH, MY TRUTH and THE TRUTH.

    “If the idea of using F-16s or Drones on Jhang, Lahore or other terrorist infested areas in Punjab seems repulsive to you. Then for a moment wear that green hat of patriotism, and think about the Pakistani civilians of Waziristan. Yes, there are terrorists hiding amongst them, but that doesn’t mean you flatten their homes from the safety of an F-16 or Drones. You get boots on the ground and make sure that they get the job done with minimum collateral damage. You don’t give them a clean chit just because they are holding guns. The problem with fear induced patriotism is that while it seems normal for those who are not paying the cost for it, it seems out-rightly ridiculous to those, who are bearing the brunt of its consequences. It is really difficult to chant Pakistan Zindabad when the state that housed their strategic assets in your homes, is now simply destroying your homes because it says it wants to get rid of those very strategic assets. And you are not even sure whether it means the latter either.”

    I hope this explain Miss Carol Anne Grayson efforts.

    “If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”~~Emile Zola

    • Flattening homes is in fact “collective punishment” and a press release recently with regard to this in Gaza viewed such actions as a “war crime”. Pakistan has internal conflict fuelled by greed, corruption and strong outside influence of the US and people wonder why there is insurgency! The IDPs protesting recently were furious at losing members of their community and all they had worked for. Its easy to support drones and jets knowing you have the security of a home and not affected. This two faced stance on drones is an insult to the intelligence of the Pakistani people, time to come clean. Those supporting drones should ask this question… does America drone the white Christian alleged right-wing “terrorists” on its own American soil? The answer is no …only Muslims… I asked the public to name me 3 white drone victims… no -one could! It is very clear now that there are divisions within the armed services as we saw at Mehran, at the Karachi dockland attack, in the army and in PAF. I agree we are coming to a time when pressure is mounting and once the lid blows there will be no containing this!

  4. Akhtar Abbas says:

    Thank you for posting out my case. I am Squadron Leader Akhtar Abbas and my case had nothing to do with drone policy. As a matter of fact, all the cases were purely personal in nature and involved personal ambitions and life choices. The opinion spectrum in Pakistan regarding these issues is diverse, some support these while most oppose. However very few actually understand the dynamics of the Drone attacks and how they go.

    • Thank-you for your response. Its often difficult to verify a person is who they claim to be on this medium so I hope I am responding to the relevant person. Do you have a link to any more recent press coverage of your case and how it has been resolved, if it has been resolved? I spoke to several people at the time of writing and some could not speak their true thoughts along with their own names at the time due to pressure from above. Drones are of course an extremely sensitive subject which have sadly incited violence in the form of retaliation attacks after each strike. Insurgents make this very clear through their press releases which do not always make it to mainstream media.

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