Airblue Crash: Defence Ministry refuses to submit report to NA committee

Defence Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar said that the government had given a four-page detail of defence expenditures instead of a one- liner.

ISLAMABAD: The Defence Ministry refused to submit the inquiry report into the Air Blue crash accident to the National Assembly’s (NA) Standing Committee on Human Rights, on Wednesday.

Ministry officials briefed the standing committee about the investigations’ progress and admitted that they have all facts and figures regarding the accident but are not authorized to forward information to the committee, citing some legal issues which will be resolved soon, after which the report will be forwarded to Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and made public afterwards.

The NA Committee, however, expressed its reservations on the non- payment of compensation to the crash affectees and directed it to be paid within four months.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar had said that officials know the reason behind the Air Blue crash in 2010, but details could not be made public at this time.

Speaking during a press briefing, Mukhtar also said that some important details regarding the attack on the PNS Mehran base had been uncovered, but these too could not be made public at this time.

These details have however been shared with the national assembly standing committee on defence in private.

Relations with the US

The Defence Minister said that Pakistan is reviewing its relations with the US on the war on terror.

During a meeting of the national assembly standing committee on defence, Mukhtar said Pakistan is spending its own money in the war on terror as the coalition support funds are halted.

He further said that losses continue to mount for Pakistan, in human and financial terms.

The defence minister denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of Mullah Omar and said that after the Bin Laden raid, even if he were here, he would have fled Pakistan.

Pakistan was expecting $500 million (Rs43 billion) in the last tranche of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which was set up by the US Congress after the 9/11 attacks to reimburse allies for costs in supporting the US-led war on militancy. On April 25, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh had announced after a visit to the US that the Obama administration was “firmly committed” to releasing at least $500 to $600 million by June 30.

A finance ministry official said that the US Congress is yet to clear the transaction.

US bases in Pakistan

Mukhtar said that Pakistan told the United States to leave Shamsi air base reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone attacks.

“We have told them (US officials) to leave the air base,” national news agency APP quoted Mukhtar as telling a group of journalists in his office.

The air strip is 900 kilometres southwest of the capital Islamabad in Baluchistan province.

A US embassy spokeswoman told AFP there were no US military personnel at the Shamsi base.

CNN reported in April that US military personnel had left the base, said to be a key hub for American drone operations, in the fallout over public killings by a CIA contractor in Lahore and his subsequent detention.

Reports said operations at the base, which Washington has not publicly acknowledged, were conducted with tacit Pakistani military consent.

Mukhtar also denied the presence of American troops at Ghazi base in Tarbela, stating that it is being operated by Pakistan.

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