ISLAMABAD — After returning nine military choppers it received in 2002, Pakistan is seeking a new deal with the U.S. to acquire an unspecified number of helicopters for anti-narcotics operations, a media report said Oct. 31.
Pakistan Oct. 31 returned five of the nine Huey II helicopters it had received almost 15 years ago. The Ministry of Interior, which was using the aircraft, had returned four of the nine rotary-wing helicopters Oct. 15.
Pakistan had received a total of 12 aircraft, including three fixed-wing Cessna airplanes, from the U.S. for anti-narcotic operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan, the Dawn reported.
Since the area is also used by militants to conduct operations along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the aircraft reported their activities, when observed, as well, the daily said.
The primary purpose of the aircraft, however, was to monitor the smuggling of narcotics as the region is connected to a major drug-trafficking route.
The aircraft were acquired under a renewable agreement and upon the expiration of that agreement, Pakistan had the option to either buy or return the aircraft.
Although the U.S. urged Pakistan to "nationalize" the helicopters after the agreement expired, the Ministry of Interior decided to return them.
The ministry, however, purchased the three Cessna airplanes that came with the choppers.
The U.S. officials who received the five returned aircraft Oct. 30 have made "redirection" arrangements and have sold the helicopters to a third party so that Pakistan cannot re-buy them. Instead, Pakistan will have to renegotiate a fresh deal.
Diplomatic sources were quoted by the Dawn as saying negotiating a fresh deal should not be difficult as both U.S. and Pakistani officials acknowledge a direct link between narcotics and terrorism financing and Washington believes that stopping the drug-trade in this region will also help reduce terrorism.
Pakistan renewed its interest in acquiring the choppers after the recent change of leadership in the Ministry of Interior.
The decision to return the helicopters was taken by former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, while Ahsan Iqbal, the new minister, concluded that the ministry needs them to monitor the drug route, which is also used by the militants.
During his visit to Washington earlier this month, Iqbal advised the embassy to negotiate a fresh deal with the U.S. to acquire helicopters for his ministry.