"An agreement in this regard is expected within a week while the operation will begin by the middle of February," Air Marshal (retd) Aliuddin, Director General CAA, said in an interview in his office on Tuesday.
Experts said after the withdrawal of facilities at Jacobabad and Pasni airports, the permission to use Karachi will compensate for the setback to the US operations. "It is expected that 400 to 600 troops of 11 nations, that are part of the peace-keeping forces in Afghanistan, will be using Karachi Airport. These troops will not be stationed on a permanent basis but will be in the transit phase," the DG CAA said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Director General CAA Arshad Rashid Sethi that the use of Karachi Airport by the peace-keeping forces would help in bailing out the CAA from a financial crunch. The operations would not fully compensate the losses incurred by the CAA from the recent Afghan situation, he added.
However, the CAA has entered into the deal not only to create goodwill for Pakistan but it has its commercial interests in view as well. "The CAA has acted on purely commercial basis. We have nothing to do with the military aims of the peace-keeping forces," Sethi said.
To make the necessary arrangements, a 25-member team of US and allies experts visited the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport, Karachi Port Trust and Port Qasim on Thursday last and reviewed other facilities of communications and lodging.
According to DG CAA Air Marshal (retd) Aliuddin, the peace-keeping forces earlier wanted to operate from Islamabad or Peshawar but the CAA rejected the proposal as both of the airports are used jointly by Pakistan Air Force and civilian aviation, and there is not enough space available on the civilian side for any large-scale operation.
As per the initial estimates, 10 to 12 heavy C-130 type aircraft and two to three big 747 or Jumbo planes would operate through Karachi Airport daily, he said, adding that the CAA would charge normal commercial rates but it was not certain how long these forces would use the facilities at Karachi Airport. "However, the shortest estimated period is six months," Aliuddin said.
"As there is no fixed time, we will charge them on a daily basis," he said. "All the facilities will be used for military purpose and not for trade or business," he clarified.
The Karachi Airport will be used as the warehouse and transit staging point. Shipments in the big aircraft will be unloaded here and reloaded for Kabul or other airports in Pakistan especially for destinations in northern parts of Afghanistan. From there, these consignments will be sent inside Afghanistan by road.
For putting up US and allied troops, while in transit, the 25-member team reviewed the facilities at Hotel Airport Inn and Hotel Midway House. The CAA also offered to build extra platforms within the airport limits for the camping of troops.
According to sources, the delegation has selected Hotel Airport Inn for their immediate requirements. However, they also expressed interest in the renovation of Hotel Midway House, sources said.
"So far, US and allies have not paid a single penny to CAA for the use of airports and air facilities in Jacobabad and Pasni, both jointly owned by PAF and CAA," said DDG Sethi. "The US forces are using the PAF portion, that is why CAA has not charged them," he added.
Meanwhile, the 25-member advance inspection team was split into several teams to review the facilities, high-placed sources in the CAA disclosed to The News. The government gave the team a high-level protocol. Besides the additional secretary defence, Air Vice-Marshal and Rear Admiral level officers of Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy escorted the delegation. One group visited the installations at Karachi Port and Port Qasim while high officials of National Logistic Cell and Pakistan Railways also briefed them.
A part of the delegation reviewed the medical facilities at PNS Shifa, Al-Shifa Hospital at Karachi airport and other hospitals of PIA and CAA. The biggest group of the delegation reviewed every inch of Karachi airport and selected the old terminal building for its operations. To prepare the feasibility reports, they filmed and shot snaps of every part of the runway and building.
The team selected Bay-65 for the parking of their aircraft. About 20 aircraft could be park there at a time. They were very impressed with the night parking facilities. The team also saw the engineering facilities at PIA engineering complex. It suggested several changes in the terminal building as per its requirement which was accepted by the CAA authorities, the sources revealed.