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National

May 23, 2018

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Arms smuggling to Yemeni rebels by Pak firm not proved

ISLAMABAD: An inquiry into the alleged arms export to Yemeni rebels by a Pakistani arms firm has been closed as no evidence could be found into the matter, The News has learnt.

The inquiry which was launched on the complaint of the United States has been closed on the condition that if any reliable evidence came on record later, the matter would be investigated again.

Sources, privy to the developments, told The News that in March 2017 the US accused a Pakistani arms firm located in Lahore of exporting weapons to Yemeni rebels. During his meeting with the officials of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, a US Embassy official on a non-paper (unsigned paper) had communicated the Pakistani officials that as per their information, a Pakistan firm was seeking to import over a thousand AK-105 (5.45X39mm) assault rifles from Russian firm ‘Kalashnikov Concerns’ and The Tula Cartridge in October 2016 .

He claimed that those arms and ammunition were meant for export to Djibouti for further smuggling to Yemen and the company was acting as a representative for a Yemeni-based smuggler as the firm has been associated with him in the past.

“We oppose such transfers, as we believe they will only serve to further destabilise the region and contribute to ongoing regional violence,” the official had observed. The US official warned the Pakistani side that shipping those weapons and ammunition to designated entities in Yemen would violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015) which imposes an arms embargo on Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, two military commanders, former president Saleh and his son and those acting on their behalf or at their direction in Yemen.

“The US Department of the Treasury’s office of Foreign Assets Control on July 16, 2014 designated under executive order 13661 the Kalashnikov Concerns for operating in the arms or related material sector in the Russian Federation,” he further pointed out.

The US official further made it clear that by procuring weapons from Kalashnikov Concerns, Pakistani entities made themselves potentially subject to sanctions for material support to an entity sanctioned under the Executive Order 13661.

“We ask you to immediately investigate this activity and ensure that Houthi forces, forces loyal to Saleh, or their affiliates don’t receive these weapons, ammunition or any other lethal military equipment,” the US official asserted.

Owing to sensitivity of the matter, the Foreign Secretary called an urgent meeting in later part of March 2017 and discussed the issue with the relevant authorities and other stakeholders concerned.

The secretary drew attention that involvement of a Pakistani entity/firm in any violation of the Security Council Resolution would entail serious consequences in terms of country’s image internationally as well as impact to its relations with other countries of the region.

The secretary ordered a thorough probe into the issue and sought a report. Similarly, the secretary also asked for measures to prevent any activity, if taking place, in violation of country’s international obligation.

A copy of the outcome of the meeting was also forwarded to Secretary Ministry of Defence Production Lt General Syed Muhammad Owais, Secretary Ministry of Interior Arif Ahmed Khan, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt General Naveed Mukhtar and PSO to Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) Brig Muhammad Aqeel.

According to sources, the probe, conducted by a subordinate department of the Ministry of Interior has concluded that after the examination of stock/sale register of the accused arms firm it doesn’t show the entry of alleged weapons or any such dealing.

Furthermore, the inquiry, which expanded over a year, concluded that the banking analysis of all the accounts of the accused persons, analysis of their travel history, forensic analysis of laptop, emails, etc and interrogation of staff and neighbours of the company was done but no tangible evidence was surfaced.

The inquiry further observed that the arms company has been working since 1986. Owner's son has a separate arms company and almost every year visits Germany for international weapon exhibition where he interacted with one Andray, sales officer of Kalashnikov Concern.

The past record of son's arms compnay, the report stated, he had purchased from the Kalashnikov Concern fifty 223 bore rifles while following all the legal formalities. The report also highlighted that the investigators wrote several times to their higher authorities for arranging a meeting with the US official(s) concerned to get more information and record for finalisation of the matter but no such meeting could take place.

When contacted, the company's owner said their claim of innocence has been proved during the probe. He said throughout the probe they cooperated with the investigators as they had nothing to hide. “We have been dealing in very transparent manner since we started this business [of arms dealing] in Lahore.”

He, however, didn’t answer to a query whether his son’s arm company has had any dealings or business relations with the Kalashnikov Concern or not. Spokesman for the Interior Ministry Yasir Shakil was not available for comments despite several efforts.

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