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AMMO ERRANDS: Pak fishing in Ukraine’s troubled waters

Desperate for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan has for the past several months been stepping up supplies of huge quantities of ammunition to a distant Ukraine where a war has been raging for the past year

The quid pro quo is clear. The Western media is largely silent on this since Pakistan is running errands for the US and Europe that are supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion. Awaiting IMF money that is yet to arrive, Islamabad has issued bland denials of the reports emanating from different sources but not refuting them totally and forcefully.

Its Foreign Office on February 17, 2023, merely called such reports “not accurate”, claiming that it believes in a “policy of non-interference”. The spokesperson cited Pakistan’s past role that it maintains a policy of non-interference in military conflicts.”

Ukraine war. (photo:Instagram/zelenskiy)

However, nothing can be further from the truth. Pakistan was part of the ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan in the 1980s and again, in the United States-led “global war on terror” in its western neighbourhood during 2001-2021.

“Reports claiming that Pakistan was providing ammunition to Ukraine have regularly surfaced in the media since the middle of the last year, but it is rare for Islamabad to have officially denied such involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper observed along with spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch’s denial.

“Pakistan only exports defence stores to other states based on strong end-use and no re-transfer assurances. And this is the case of Pakistan’s position in the Ukraine-Russia conflict,” she maintained. Pakistan has clearly chosen its side in the conflict. It is going with the West (the US dominates the IMF), ignoring Russian overtures for supplies of defence equipment, including over 10,000 rockets, and more urgently, concessional oil. Pakistan had sought a 30 to 40 per cent concession on Russian oil supplies trying to emulate beneficiaries China and India. The Pakistani media has now gone silent on this. Moscow has thwarted West[1]sponsored efforts to get private Russian oil dealers to sell oil cheaper to Pakistan.

The role of China, a critical supporter-cum-beneficiary of Russia’s war in Ukraine, remains unclear. It has not rushed with money to Pakistan, its biggest Asian ally. A Chinese bank will lend USD 700 million but on interest.

Foreign Policy journal (January 10, 2023) said Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) readied 159 containers of 155mm artillery shells, M4A2 propelling bag charges, M82 primers, and PDM fuses to Ukraine. Supplies have since been stepped up.

Huge quantities of ammunition supplies are being done by the land route, via the Gdansk port in Poland, and Germany’s Emden port is ready to step up supplies. Ammunition-starved Ukraine uses an estimated 10,000 rounds daily to thwart Russian advances on its territory.

A further report on February 11, 2023, said that Islamabad-based arms supplier DMI Associates is working in collaboration with defence firms in Eastern Europe for transferring orders placed by the Ukrainian military. In return, Ukraine promised Pakistan assistance to upgrade its Mi-17 helicopters.

France 24 reported that “run-down ammunition supplies are one of Kyiv’s most pressing concerns, with Ukraine and its partners resorting to far-flung countries like South Korea and Pakistan as sources of artillery munitions”.

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky with the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel(

The supplies by air began much earlier. Since August 6, 2022, multiple flight-tracking websites have revealed that the British Royal Air Force has been flying frequent sorties of C-17 Globemaster heavy lift aircraft from Romania to the Nur Khan airbase in Chaklala, Rawalpindi.

The military assistance that Pakistan may receive includes Ukrainian expertise to upgrade its Mi-17 helicopters. Pakistan has had deep military and industrial ties with Ukraine in the past. The two countries have shared a close relationship in the defence sector since Ukraine gained independence by breaking away from the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1991.

Ukraine sold weapons and military equipment worth nearly $1.6 billion to Pakistan between 1991 and 2020. These include more than 320 T-80UD tanks along with a fully formed ecosystem for their maintenance usage, ammunition and spare parts. Credible reports indicate that Pakistan has also clinched a deal worth $85.6 million with Ukraine for the repair and maintenance of its fleet of T[1]80UD tanks. By all accounts so far, it is a win-win situation for Pakistan, whatever its turmoil on the political and economic fronts.

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