ISLAMABAD: Former vice chief of the air staff Air Marshal Shahid Latif, who had signed the agreement of latest 18 F-16 Block-52 purchased by Pakistan from Washington in 2008, has categorically said that no India-specific condition was attached in this defence deal.
Talking to The News, the retired air marshal said he had signed this agreement on behalf of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) as deputy chief of air staff (operations). He explained that Pakistan can use the F-16 jets for its defence against any country, including India.
Although, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor has already clarified that Pakistan did not use the F-16 aircraft in the recent air conflict between Pakistan and India, Washington said it was trying to find out if Pakistan used US-built F-16 jets to down two Indian warplanes, potentially in violation of US agreements.
The US embassy in Islamabad was also quoted by the media to have said on Sunday last, “We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information. We take all allegations of misuse of defence articles very seriously.”
The former vice air chief, however, strongly rejected that any such condition was attached in the F-16 deal between Pakistan and the US. He wondered if Pakistan was bound not to use these F-16s against India, then why the country would have purchased it. “We did not need a toy,” he said, adding that Pakistan can use F-16s for its defence against any country, including India.
Pakistan and India both carried out aerial bombing missions last week, including a clash on Wednesday last that saw two Indian jets shot down and an Indian Air Force pilot captured in an incident that alarmed global powers and sparked fears of a war.
India had claimed to have shot down a F-16 Pakistani fighter jet, but Pakistan’s military spokesman denied the Indian claim that India had hit any of Pakistani fighter jets. He instead had disclosed that the PAF had not even used F-16 jets in the latest conflict. Later, however, experts in India also questioned the Indian government and its media’s claim that a Pakistani F-16 was hit by the Indian Air Force.
The report added that speaking at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, DC on Monday, Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed Khan said that he was not aware of any request from the US about the alleged use of F-16s. "On F-16, I don't know, India has been alleging so many other things. We don't get into every single one of them. I am not aware of request from the US side about the F-16," he said.
The CNN report claimed that as part of the purchasing agreement, the US puts certain restrictions on how its military equipment can be used. “It is unclear what restrictions were placed on the use of Pakistan's F-16 jets,” said the CNN report which was unsure about any condition involved.
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