Paper Claims Not Everything In Air Force Is So White

Whistleblowing document claims the institution is beset with nepotism and incompetency, with a deep and pervasive malaise setting in. The claims, though, could not be independently verified

Paper Claims Not Everything In Air Force Is So White

Pakistan's premier military wing, the Air Force, has come under the spotlight after a white paper emerged online which claimed massive corruption with tales of nepotism and incompetence, with fingers being pointed at the alleged involvement of the head of the institution and beyond, including at some retired officers of another military wing and even some within the incumbent caretaker civilian setup.

The white paper appeared on the "Khamosh Mujahid" blog. The blog has only two entries: the white paper and an account of the November 4 attack on the airbase in Mianwali.

The intention of the white paper was described by its anonymous author as to "inform the government and general public" about how the premier defence institution was being damaged from within due to corruption, utter disregard for merit, nepotism and incompetency.

The paper contended that Operation "Swift Retort" when the PAF orchestrated a decisive response to an incursion into Pakistani territory by the Indian air force 24 hours prior to mount punitive strikes in February 2019, had shattered the Indian dream of "emulating Israeli paradigm in Sub-continent".

However, it then delves into the conspiracy theory that a "foreign hand, with deep penetration in the inner sanctum of strategic decision-making in Pakistan, would leave no stone unturned to foil any future "Swift retort" style action

In this regard, the author claims that when the opportunity to appoint a new air chief came up in 2021, the "most incompetent and corrupt leader was appointed".

The paper noted that it only highlights the tip of the iceberg, with a thorough investigation needed to uncover its full extent. The unidentified author offers to come forward in any court of law to defend the allegations.

The paper, which were posted last week but only gained traction this week, claimed that the incumbent Air Chief Marshall Zaheer Ahmed Baber had joined the force under dubious circumstances with the allegation that merit was not fully met. He also went on to graduate from basic training at the bottom of his class.

It claimed that the officer went on to become a pilot and was promoted over the years despite lacking the requisite flying hours with an alleged "phobia" of flying and undertaking high-risk manoeuvres. The only reason he got as far as he did was because of "manipulation, connections, sycophancy, and loopholes in the system", it claimed.

It further claims the officer had close ties with former Chief of Army Staff General (retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa and former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Lt Gen (retired) Faiz Hameed, who paved the way for his appointment as the head of the Air Force.

Moreover, the blog alleged that since taking over as the head of the Pakistan Air Force, his focus has solely been on finding ways to enrich himself while abusing other resources for family and friends.

It claimed that billions in public funds were siphoned ahead of the chief's impending retirement in 2024. Some of these public funds were used to purchase large swathes of agricultural land in Chakwal.

Reports that a senior officer of the force had purchased a house in the prime area of Sector F-7/3 in Islamabad were already public knowledge, as was a controversy over land under use by a government school. The matter had kicked up quite a storm with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in 2020. The air force and civil officers had denied high handedness or coercion from the military in that matter.

However, the officer involved in that case is not the one in the hot seat at the moment. The incumbent, the white paper claims, purchased three homes in the federal capital over his past two postings. One property remains under construction, while the other is being renovated using public funds.

The white paper alleges the air chief struck deals for "useless" equipment for the force with little operational use and that its main purpose was to earn kickbacks. These purchases include VIP aircraft and drones. Some of these kickbacks were received in Pakistan, while the remaining were received in accounts held abroad. The aircraft were allegedly used by the chief and his family, particularly when travelling abroad. He was accused of taking "imprest money" while on these tours, allegedly siphoning off around $75 million to offshore accounts, including in Turkey and the UAE.

It was alleged that the officer's brother acts as his frontman, making all the deals. Meanwhile, within the force, the officer was accused of conducting fake audits and corruption inquiries to communicate his tough stance on corruption. His brother and his family have allegedly been allowed to reside in an official residence while a residence reserved for a lower ranking official is also used.

In addition to purchasing houses and renovating them, resorts have been built at tourist spots in the northern areas. At the same time, rooms have been designated in PAF messes for use by his family and friends.

To allegedly support his brother's political career, he opted to expand the force's footprint in Kharian, a location deemed devoid of strategic value for the Air Force, given its proximity to the border with India. Despite that, a campus of Air University, a National Aerospace Science and Technology Park (NASTP) and a hospital have been built there.

With NASTP deemed a "pet project", the officer is accused of trying to use it as an umbrella organisation to control the research and development arms of the force.

The paper alleged that the officer had caused delays in completing and maintaining strategic programmes such as finalising Block 3 of the JF-17 Thunder and the F-16 Falcon. 

The paper accused the officer of lobbying for an extension as well.

He was accused of using staff at NASTP to spy on other officers in order to keep them quiet.

It alleged that he has proceeded to appoint like-minded individuals to key posts while forcing out deserving officers. The decision to retain officers beyond their authorised service age limits has created a promotion blockade and resentment in the force.

The situation is so bad that two senior officers have not been assigned portfolios and are sitting at home, it claimed.

In a separate post, the whistle-blower claimed that contrary to the claims of the Air Force and the military, at least 30 trainer aircraft of different types were damaged in the November 4 attack.