Musharraf accused of taking kickbacks in aircraft deal

April 23rd, 2009 - 7:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez Musharraf Islamabad, April 23 (IANS) Former president Pervez Musharraf has been accused of accepting kickbacks in a $1.2 billion deal for six surveillance aircraft that eventually saw the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) acquiring two incompatible systems.
The contract, signed in June 2006, was originally meant for acquiring six Saab-2000 airborne early warning and control systems (AEWCS) and one Saab-2000 in a VIP configuration.

However, according to former PAF chief Air Chief Marshal Saadat Kaleem, Musharraf exerted pressure on the air force to instead buy only four Swedish systems and two from China for $250 million.

Kaleem told The News he had vigorously resisted the move much to Musharraf’s annoyance but the modification was effected after he retired in March 2006.

“It was done with malafide intentions,” he maintained.

Kaleem said such was his resistance that Musharraf once snapped at him: “What is the problem with you?”

He explained that the Swedish system was built around an electronically scanned antenna while the Chinese system had a rotating dome antenna. Not only was the Swedish system far superior, but the two systems were incompatible, as a result of which they had been acquired was not served.

According to Kaleem, Musharraf wanted to give a $250m contract to a Chinese company for “strategic relations”, to which he pointed out that the PAF had already inked deals worth $6-7 billion with Chinese firms and an additional one would not make much of a difference.

Kaleem said he had also argued that even if the Chinese system were given free of cost, it would be a burden on the PAF because it would have to create a separate team of pilots and technicians to operate it.

The News also said that one of its sources had told it that Kaleem favoured the Swedish company for extraneous reasons but he flatly denied this.

At the same time, he admitted that the Saab office in Islamabad was housed in his house, which he had rented out to the company at $5,000 a month after his retirement.

Kaleem also pointed out that another house in his neighbourhood had been rented out to a foreigner at $4,500 per month.

The source told The News that the Swedish company had offered Kaleem a lucrative job after his retirement but the PAF had refused him permission to accept this.

On his part, Kaleem expressed ignorance of this.

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