Washington, Oct 31 (IANS): Pakistan is trying to reacquire an unspecified number of helicopters from the US for anti-narcotics operations after returning nine Huey II helicopters it had acquired in 2002, the media reported.
Pakistan returned on Monday the remaining five of the nine helicopters it had received from the US almost 15 years ago. The Interior Ministry had earlier given back four of these rotary-wing helicopters on October 15, Dawn online reported.
Islamabad had received a total of 12 aircraft, including three fixed-wing Cessna airplanes, from Washington for anti-narcotics operations in Federally Administered tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan. The aircraft were acquired under a renewable agreement and after the expiry of that agreement, Pakistan had the option to either return the aircraft or buy them.
Although Washington urged Islamabad to "nationalise" the helicopters after the agreement expired, the Interior Ministry decided to return them, instead of buying them for continued use. The Ministry, however, purchased the three Cessna airplanes that came with the choppers.
The Americans, who received the remaining five aircraft on Monday, had already made "redirection" arrangements -- selling it to a third party -- so Pakistan cannot re-buy those helicopters. Instead, Islamabad will have to renegotiate a fresh deal, the report said.
Dawn quoted diplomatic sources as saying that it should not be difficult for Pakistan to renegotiate a deal as officials of both countries acknowledge a direct link between narcotics and terrorism financing. "Washington believes that stopping drug-trade in this region will also help reduce terrorism," the daily quoted sources as saying.
Pakistan renewed its interest in acquiring the choppers after the recent change of leadership in the Interior Ministry. The decision to return the helicopters was taken by former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.