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Is Pakistan Air Force set to join Erdogan’s shadowy private army?

Ihsan Mustafa Yurdakul, Turkey's Ambassador to Pakistan, with Pakistan Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu on May 7 (Image courtesy: Twitter/Pakistan Air Force)

The Pakistani Air Force (PAF) has agreed to join a shadowy Turkish paramilitary group accused by the United Nations of deploying fighters, including children, from Syrian armed groups to take part in military operations in Libya, a Stockholm-based Nordic Research and Monitoring Network has revealed.

Nordic Monitor has reported that the PAF's policy think tank, the Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), has become a partner of the Islamic Union Congress (IUC). But there are wheels- within- wheels. IUC in turn part of the broader Association of Justice Defenders Strategic Studies Center (ASSAM)–itself a front organisation run by private military contractor SADAT, which many believe is a de facto paramilitary force loyal to the Islamist president of Turkey. SADAT is owned by retired general Adnan Tanrıverdi, who is a former chief military aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Interestingly, the cooperation between the two pro-government organisations that operate in the military area occurred at the same time that Turkey and Pakistan were rumoured to be cooperating in the joint manufacture of fighter jets. Military experts also claim that Turkey may join the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet project that Pakistan has been developing with China," the website reported.


Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at Cankaya Presidential Palace on May 19 (Image courtesy: Twitter/Turkish Presidency)

It further added that the announcement of CASS’s involvement in the SADAT event came shortly after a meeting between Pakistani Air Force Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan and the ASSAM delegation in İstanbul on January 15, 2021, during a four-day official visit to Turkey.

"Briefed on ASSAM’s capabilities, Khan offered to have CASS work with the ASSAM delegation on joint projects. ASSAM posted a tweet regarding the meeting with Khan, saying, “ASSAM is taking firm steps forward to become a worldwide strategic organization.” According to Tanrıverdi, the request for the meeting was made by Khan, who he claimed was aware of the work of ASSAM," said Nordic Monitor.

CASS is a think tank operating from Islamabad. "CASS would want to specialize in the aerospace domain because it is a key driver behind globalization, national security and economic development. It contributes to a country's integration into the global economy," the centre mentions on its website.

Retired Pakistani Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat is the current president of CASS while Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Jalil Abbas Jilani, is the director responsible for foreign policy, and retired Air Vice Marshal Faheem Ullah Malik is the director dealing with international relations and international security.

The United Nations had last year revealed how the Turkish government used its paramilitary contractor SADAT in Libya and requested further explanation from Turkish authorities in a letter signed by a group of senior rapporteurs.

“Turkish authorities allegedly contracted private military and security companies to facilitate the selection as well as the preparation of official and contractual documentation for the fighters, apparently in coordination with the Turkish security services. One of the companies cited in this context was Sadat International Defence Consultancy [SADAT],” the letter said. The rapporteurs also claimed that according to the available information, SADAT contributed to the recruitment of children under 18 years of age to take part in an armed conflict.

Turkey Pakistan

In January, the then Pakistan Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, was in Turkey on a 4-day official visit. He held meetings with the senior Military leadership of Turkey, including Hulusi Akar, the current Turkish Minister of Defense and the current Commander of the Turkish Air Force, General Hasan Kucukakyuz

Earlier this month, when Turkish Ambassador to Islamabad, Ihsan Mustafa Yurdakul had called on Pakistan's Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidh. The PAF boss had described Turkey as "one of the few countries that had always unequivocally supported Pakistan".

Sidhu also said that Air Forces of both the countries would continue mutual cooperation in every field.  

Last year, when Turkey was facing a massive shortage of trained pilots after the US had halted delivery of F-35 fighter jet program materials and related equipment to the country, the Imran Khan government had stepped in by sending help through Pakistan Air Force.

The Pakistan PM has for long been trying to prove that people of Pakistan have a Turkish lineage and that "enemies of Turkey are enemies of Pakistan and friends of Turkey are the friends of Pakistan."  


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