ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s bid to purchase eight F-16 fighter jets from the United States seems to have failed following a row over finance, a report in the Dawn newspaper reported on Saturday.
The Pakistan government was required to provide the “letter of acceptance” for purchase of the jets by May 24, but a diplomatic source revealed that the document was not issued, which led to the expiry of the offer, it said.
“Pakistan decided not to fully fund the case with national funds, so the terms of sale have now expired,” the paper quoted a source as saying.
Initially, the $699 million deal for eight F-16C/D Block-52 multirole fighters (two C and six D models), was to be partially financed through the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme but Congress disallowed subsidising the sale over concerns that Pakistan had not done enough to end the Haqqani network’s sanctuaries on its soil as well as fears about Islamabad’s nuclear programme, particularly tactical weapons and the intermediate range Shaheen III missile.
Pakistan, which was expecting to get the fighters at the subsidised rate of $270 million, was subsequently asked by the US administration to make the full payment for the eight jets from its national resources. This was not acceptable to Pakistani authorities, who remained adamant that the offer must come without any preconditions.
The aircraft were required by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) for counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations.
It was unclear why Pakistan missed the opportunity despite pressing requirement for the jets, although it had originally desired to acquire 18 F-16s, the paper said.
The report also speculated that some quarters believe providing the letter of acceptance would have kept the window open for renegotiating the financing arrangement at a later stage. Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani, talking to Dawn via phone from Washington, said “a dead-end has not been reached as yet”.