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Pakistan seeks new US deal for anti-narcotics operations after returning 9 choppers

Dawn quoted diplomatic sources as saying it should not be difficult for Pakistan to renegotiate a new deal for helicopters as officials of both countries acknowledge a direct link between narcotics and terror financing.

world Updated: Oct 31, 2017 19:03 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Chopper deal,helicopters,US-Pakistan relations
Pakistan returned on Monday the remaining five of the nine helicopters it had received from the US almost 15 years ago. (File for representation)

Pakistan is trying to acquire an unspecified number of helicopters from the US for anti-narcotics operations after returning nine Huey II helicopters it had acquired in 2002, a newspaper reported on Monday.

Islamabad returned five of the nine helicopters, which it received almost 15 years ago for operations in Balochistan and the tribal areas, on Monday. The interior ministry, which was using the aircraft, returned four helicopters on October 15, the Dawn newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

Pakistan received a total of 12 aircraft – the nine helicopters and three fixed-wing Cessna airplanes – from the US for the anti-narcotics operations under a renewable agreement. After the expiry of the agreement, Pakistan had the option to return the aircraft or buy them.

Though the US urged Pakistan to “nationalise” the helicopters after the agreement expired, the interior ministry decided to return them. The ministry, however, purchased the three Cessna airplanes, the report said.

The US has made “redirection” arrangements – for selling the helicopters to a third party – and Pakistan cannot buy them. Instead, Pakistan will have to negotiate a fresh deal.

Since the area covered by the anti-narcotics operations is also used by militants for carrying out operations along the Afghanistan border, the aircraft reported their activities as well.

The primary purpose of the aircraft, however, was to monitor smuggling of narcotics as the region is linked to a major drug route.

The Dawn quoted diplomatic sources as saying it would not be difficult to negotiate a fresh deal as American and Pakistani officials acknowledge a direct link between narcotics and terror financing.

Pakistan renewed its interest in acquiring the helicopters after a recent change of leadership in the interior ministry. The decision to return the helicopters was taken by the former interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, while the incumbent, Ahsan Iqbal, concluded the ministry needs them to monitor the drug route.

During his visit to Washington earlier this month, Iqbal advised the Pakistan embassy to negotiate a fresh deal with the US for acquiring helicopters for the ministry.

First Published: Oct 31, 2017 15:18 IST