US contractors purchased arms from Pakistan for Ukraine: report 


WEBDESK: In a recent interview with an international news organisation, Interim Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar denied the sale of Pakistani arms to Kyiv and attributed their presence in Ukraine to the black market. However, a new report claims that the arms might have ended up in Ukraine through legal channels.

In a video report released today, a Pakistani digital media platform Soch Videos has shared the trail of legal sales based on open-source data, revealing a significant surge in the export of Pakistan ammunition not to Ukraine but to American defence contractors who in turn sold them to the US government. The arms eventually ended up in Ukraine as part of the US’s Ukraine Special Assistance Initiative.

Even before Kakar, Pakistan’s former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto had categorically denied the supply of Pakistani weapons to Ukraine. “We find it regrettable that certain media outlets have tried to publish unfounded reports alleging military supply to Ukraine,” he had said.

The sentiment was also shared by the Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Baloch, albeit with a caveat – “any official exports would have listed the end user and purpose of purchase.”

The report shows an unprecedented surge in the State Bank’s trade data for weapons exports starting in the latter half of 2022.

The verifiable data available on the SBP website shows that between fiscal year 2004/05 and fiscal year 2021/22, Pakistan’s total arms exports amounted to $423m. However, between July 2022 and June 2023, arms exports recorded by the SBP were over $460m. This means that Pakistan has exported more arms since the beginning of the war in Ukraine than it had in the 18 years prior to it.

In fiscal year 2022, Pakistan exported about $13m of weapons. In the month of February 2022, when the war in Ukraine began, Pakistan’s arms exports were $509k, rising to $1.1m by April. By August 2022, it shot up to $30m for the month and by January 2023, arms exports stood at almost $75m. The exports are almost entirely made to the United States.

In fiscal year 2023, the exports figures for arms and ammunition rose to a staggering $350m that primarily falls under two HS codes. The first code is HS 9306 for explosives and explosive ammunition such as artillery shells, and the second is HS 9302 for firearms and ammunition such as handguns and bullets as per Federal Board of Revenue definitions.

The report cites a June 2022 Washington Post piece that claimed Russia was using around 60,000 artillery shells a day while the Ukrainians required 6,000 shells a day just to defend themselves.

According to Soch, to overcome the gap, the United States turned to various countries to fill the gap in supply and reached out to them either directly or via American military contractors to buy arms and ammunition for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. Citing publicly available procurement data published by the United States Federal Procurement Data System, the report tallies the numbers with that of the SBP data to find out that two American military contractors sold a total of $364m worth of 155-millimetre artillery shells to the US government with their country of origin being Pakistan – the contractors being Global military products and Northrop Grumman, according to the report.

The report also cites the United States Under Secretary of Defence’s office of acquisition and sustainment website that shared a press release listing contracts awarded under the US’s Ukraine Special Assistance Initiative which can be linked to the purchases.

Another US government website which contains data about contracts awarded by different agencies and the source of funds for those contracts suggest that these contracts were awarded under a larger parent contract for ammunition worth a total of $750m.

In addition to buying arms from Pakistan, these two companies have also purchased similar munitions from countries such as Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Romania, as a part of the larger indefinite delivery vehicle contracts as per the report.

Munitions originating from these countries were then sold to the US Government under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and the US government subsequently supplied them to Ukraine.

According to a report published in The Express Tribune in October 2022, “Pakistan maintained a delicate balance on the brewing conflict. While Islamabad expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, it stopped short of condemning Russia.” It quotes the then spokesperson of the FO as saying that Pakistan did not want to be a part of any ‘bloc politics’ in the world and that its stance on Ukraine was based on principles.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has also warmed up to trade ties with Russia and has already made a small crude import of Russian oil. Reports suggest that it is eyeing a ‘deeper discount’ on oil after the last import proved uneconomical.

Pakistan’s wheat imports from Russia have also surged more than eightfold due to disruptions in supply from Ukraine. In the first eight months of the agricultural 2022–23 marketing year, Pakistan, the fifth-most populous country in the world, became the fifth-largest importer of Russian wheat, according to S&P Global.

As with any sovereign country, Pakistan might be trying to tread a more neutral path, but it remains unclear as to why exports worth hundreds of millions of dollars are not celebrated in times of economic turmoil instead of issuing denials.

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