ISLAMABAD: Two companies supplying helicopters to the army have been blacklisted for allegedly leaking sensitive information to the United States.
The companies — Aerotron Private Ltd and Aerotron FZE (AF) — which had been supplying Bell and Sikorsky helicopters to the army for over 38 years were blacklisted on May 26 last year because of security reasons.
The companies had challenged the ban in the Islamabad High Court in September last year. At the request of the military authorities, the IHC had held the proceedings in camera and recently reserved its judgment.
In a joint reply submitted to the court through their counsel Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, the respondents — chief of general staff, director general of the Military Intelligence, general officer commanding and director general of procurement (army) — alleged that the companies had “passed on to an unauthorised person classified information pertaining to the Pakistan Army”.
The sensitive information had been provided to the US Office of Defence Representative in Pakistan by Azhar Wali Mohammad and Fahad Azhar. It said: “The petitioners (companies) had no reason to pass on that information to the US office.”
The reply claimed that during a meeting with senior officials of the MI in Rawalpindi in Sept 2011, the companies’ owners admitted that they had passed on the information but insisted that it was not classified. According to them, it was available in the media and was essential for business purposes. “If the petitioners are concerned about their fundamental rights and wanted their enforcement under the constitution of Pakistan, they should also be cognizant of their duty to remain loyal to the state under the provision of the same constitution,” the reply argued.
The petitioners had challenged the May 26, 2012 letter by the director general procurement, informing them that their companies had been barred from any business deal with the army and defence organisations because of security reasons.
They said their principal, Bell Helicopters Supply Centre in the Netherlands, had been informed on May 9. The army told the centre that it had severed its ties with the Aerotron companies on Oct 14, 2011, and requested it to stop communications with the companies and their representatives.
During the hearing, the petitioners’ counsel, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, said that after the ban the companies served legal notice on the respondents but they neither responded nor pointed out any illegality on part of the petitioners.
He argued that the reference to security concerns in the May 9 letter to the Bell Helicopters Supply Centre was ambiguous and insufficient to constitute a valid reason as required by law. Also it was written without informing or providing the companies an opportunity to show cause and being heard to rebut any alleged ground for the purported decision of blacklisting.
“The executive and public functionaries under the constitution cannot take any unilateral decision or pass an adverse order without hearing the accused party,” the counsel argued.