#EXCLUSIVE How Pakistan Airforce is being destroyed by its chief, Zaheer Ahmed Baber

Written by a Pakistan airforce whistleblower

This White Paper is intended to inform the Government & general public about how Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, the Chief of Air staff Pakistan Airforce (CAS), is damaging the premier defense institution of Pakistan through his corruption, utter disregard of merit, nepotism and incompetency. The information covers only some of the salient facts intended to highlight a deep and pervasive malaise that has set in this most critical institution for Pakistan’s national security. The author takes full responsibility for stated facts, and if challenged, can come forward in any court of law to defend the contents.

Background

However critical one may be of the armed forces of Pakistan, there is a general consensus amongst both experts and lay public that one branch of it, namely, the Pakistan Air Force has always given a good account of itself. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is the only world class institution that Pakistan has produced in its chequered history. This fact is not only borne out in all the previous wars but most brilliantly and indisputably during operation Swift Retort in 2019, the last time Pakistan and Indian Air forces locked horns, after the war of 1971. During that fateful day on Feb 27, 2019, PAF enabled Pakistan to establish its conventional deterrence and prevented India from setting a new norm of launching punitive air strikes against Pakistan at will with impunity. Indian dream of emulating Israeli paradigm in Sub-continent was shattered by PAF with a brilliant riposte in less than 24 hours. In that aerial conflict, incidentally the only one in the annals of Airwar in which both sides used BVR weapons and AWACS platforms, PAF completely dominated the skies. India’s resort, in the aftermath, to the threat of escalation by using Brahamos rather than sustaining air operations which it initiated on 26th, was as clear an admission of aerial defeat as one could get.

Given this background, it was very much on the cards that the enemies of Pakistan would target PAF to undermine its fighting potential. If they cannot beat it in the arena, they can sap its strength through other machinations. One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that a “foreign hand”, with deep penetration in the inner sanctum of strategic decision-making in Pakistan, would leave no stone unturned to forestall any future “Swift retort”.

In an organization whose main strength is the elan of its human capital, and an ethos of aggressive command, what better way to kickstart a process of decline than by starting from the top. They got their opportunity in 2021 when PAF was to get its new chief. The most incompetent, and corrupt leader was appointed for this cutting-edge fighting organization, and what followed ever since has been nothing but the tragic consequences of that fateful decision.

We cannot sit idly as this most vital institution of Pakistan defense is rotting from within. This white paper is an attempt to highlight and bring to the attention of the public and relevant authorities the stupendous, and almost irreversible damage being done to PAF by its current Chief, Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu.

The information highlights salient facts regarding the damage that is being done to PAF by its current chief. What is highlighted here is just the tip of the iceberg, and is most typical of the general state of affairs in the institution.  Any thorough investigation would reveal a lot more along similar lines. The author takes full responsibility of stated facts and if challenged,
can come forward in any court of law to defend the contents.

Facts

Zaheer Ahmed Baber joined the PAF in 1985 (with references due to poor academic record) and graduated in 1986 at the bottom of his course. Throughout his career he remained a low performer in every professional course and assignment. It is well known in PAF community that Baber Sidhu was not worthy of promotion beyond the rank of Wing Commander as he had not even accumulated the requisite flying hours. For example, by comparison, his contemporaries have flying hours on just one type of aircraft equal to his lifetime grand total. Both his lack of medical fitness and phobia of fighter flying have contributed to such below-par flying hours. This is the reason he faked his position in 23rd march fly past of 2021 as he could not take the stress of maneuvering.

Lacking any professional merit and credentials, Baber Sidhu used manipulation, connections, sycophancy, and loopholes in the system to advance his career. Using his connections, particularly with General Bajwa (Jat connection) and Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed (retd), he managed his way to the top. Imagine, a person shy of flying combat aircraft, shy of public speaking, and a low average grader in the most prestigious Combat Commanders Course (the benchmark for pilots), is now leading Pakistan Air Force!

Since becoming the CAS, Baber Sidhu’s only priority has been to find ways of looting the public exchequer and abusing PAF’s resources for his personal, family, extended family, and friends’ enjoyment. The Chinese proverb that fish rots from the head is an apt description of what is happening to the PAF.

As incompetency, corruption, and favoritism are running rife at the top the fighting ethos, culture and institutions of PAF built over decades are in a serious state of jeopardy. It is not possible to go into the details of all his nefarious actions, but some of his “exploits” since coming to power are listed below and can be easily verified by an impartial commission or JIT.

Baber Sidhu has converted a huge amount from Govt official Funds given in the budget, amounting to billions, to illegal funds (hidden and Black money) for his personal use. He is likely to take large amount with him prior to retirement in 2024.

He has purchased large area of agricultural land by using black money. He is now planning to reward his accomplices by awarding them this illegally acquired land so that they keep quiet about his exploits. In this process he himself is going to take away a prime, huge sized piece of agricultural land in Chakwal.

He has 03 houses in Islamabad; he initially purchased one after becoming AVM (Air Vice Marshal) and remaining two has been bought in his current appointment. His house in F-7 Islamabad is being built and another one is being renovated by using black money. He has also forcibly occupied extra land besides both his houses in F-7 using the authority of his office. CDA is helpless and unable to do anything.

In order to get kickbacks Baber Sidhu has used PAF funds to purchase costly equipment of no operational use for the Air Force. Examples include, the procurement of useless VIP aircraft i.e. King Air, Beach craft, Airbus, Global-6000, various UAVs etc. In these deals, he has taken heavy kickbacks in Pakistan and abroad. He uses specific companies for this purpose and his brothers manage his dirty deals at the backend so that he appears clean. He conducts bogus and fake Audit / Inquiries on corruption in PAF to pose and show his fake face to the general public & PAF personnel, whereas NO substantial action has been taken on any inquiry despite clear evidence and attribution of blames. Few examples of ALREADY CONCLUDED INQUIRIES with zero accountability are; delay in JF-17 Block 3 strategic programme, corruption in Engineering / Support Branches and Project Falcon.

Baber Sidhu is the only Chief in the history of PAF who uses special PAF aircraft for visits to foreign countries along with his entire family. He insidiously uses his foreign trips on PAF aircraft to smuggle foreign currency to offshore accounts in the names of his family members (this can be easily verified). He also takes a large sum of foreign currency as “IMPREST MONEY” for his foreign tours and utilizes this money for his personal use. In this way, Baber Sidhu has siphoned off almost US $75.00 million dollars to offshore accounts. It is for this specific reason that he travels to foreign countries in exclusive PAF aircraft with his family. Particularly, a lot of foreign currency has been laundered to accounts in Turkey and UAE.

Baber Sidhu has purchased a large number of Luxury vehicles from Black money, and then made many of these available for personal use for his family / friends at Kharian and Gujrat. He has plans to take a good number of these vehicles with him after retirement as these are unaccounted and non-traceable vehicles having been purchased out of black money.  He is obsessed with VIP vehicles and controls them directly even those which are authorized to be used by senior officers at AHQ.

He has kept a VIP house (PSO-7 at Islamabad E9 Air Headquarter) designated for use by AVM or above rank officer for himself, in addition to his official residence, which is used by his brother and other family members for the last 2½ years. All the expenses are free and given from Govt money. These days he is spending a huge amount of money on the renovation and extension of this house as his post-retirement abode.

He has done useless VVIP renovations at the Hospital in Islamabad, CAS Houses across multiple PAF sites, built resorts in Northern areas i.e. Shangri-La, designated VVIP rooms at all PAF messes specifically for use by his family members and friends. His family and friends also illegally use C130 and VIP aircraft. He has a special focus on his brother’s political future who resides in Kharian. He is building an Air University, NASTP complex and medical hospital there to gain political mileage for his brother. It is difficult to understand by anyone with knowledge in these matters the significance and relevance of Kharian for PAF. He is very clever and plays dual game in political circles by promoting his brothers for different political parties by abusing his public office and trust.

Baber Sidhu with almost zero professional credentials and below average career in the PAF, nevertheless is trying to build a sham legacy through showy projects. He has even twisted a perfectly valid concept of indigenization and self-reliance to an exercise in self-aggrandizement and for ulterior motives. The case in point is Baber Sidhu’s pet project, the National Aerospace Science and Technology Park (NASTP). Leaving aside the feasibility of such a project, given the country’s educational and technological prowess, he has even ignored the Air Staff advice in going about it in a reckless fashion, throwing money, billions of rupees, in building a huge infrastructure in multiple cities, with no practical vision on how to capitalize on the investment. There is no road map of development and the project is likely to fall apart in the near future having wasted huge sums of public money already. This is criminal and he is hiding behind the fact that no audit is ever likely to take place to hold him accountable for such a massive waste of public exchequer. The irony is that the proven and real capacity which Pakistan has acquired, for example, JF-17, is put on a back burner as the criminal delay of JF-17 block 3 demonstrated for this pie in the sky unrealistic project.
As a man with a guilty conscience and lot to hide, like some mafia boss,  Baber Sidhu is using many of the engineers temporarily employed in NASTP to carry out surveillance of his Air Staff by intruding in their personal lives (recording phone calls, make videos, track movements etc). He uses such tactics to keep Air Staff quiet about his own malpractices. He is misleading the Govt on NASTP by wrongly projecting it as a success. NASTP is his post-retirement settlement plan to remain relevant and continue robbing the Govt; for this, he is putting his confidants in the required places and is cleverly making efforts to merge PAC, KAMRA and AWC in NASTP; something which will destroy all these PAF institutions, built over years, for good. PAC Kamra is a part and parcel of the Defense Production Division supporting all the Armed Forces with secondments from Army/Navy as well; therefore, its merger with NASTP is beyond the comprehension of everyone at PAC. Baber Sidhu has also merged PAF Engineering Depots with NASTP and the routine work done by these depots is being wrongly projected as NASTP achievements. In order to get support for his ill-intended ideas he vehemently backed the appointment of Air Marshal (Retd) Farhat Hussain as Aviation Advisor to PM in the interim setup. AIR MARSHAL (RETD) FARHAT IS A KNOWN CORRUPT OFFICER WITH A VERY DARK PAST IN THE PAF. His exploits of plundering service funds and resources during his tenure as Chief Project Director JF-17 Program and Chairman Kamra Complex are well known to senior people and a shame/disgrace for the PAF. What a pity that we have such men advising the government on sensitive matters!

Baber Sidhu having the syndrome of an insecure person knowing full well how undeservedly he has acquired his position, has surrounded himself with like-minded people who implement his poorly conceived policies which are not even debated in the Air Headquarters with Air Staff. Most serious is the major change in the training of pilots / engineers at PAF Academy Risalpur. He is trying to forcibly implement a foreign training system at the Academy without due diligence and discussions on the merits of such a system. No one in the Air Staff except his accomplices is convinced on the new training system but are unable to stop him. He has also reverted many good policies of his predecessors; to name few he has no focus on CASS, rather he has placed his favorites to stall the project, he has stopped the development of Airmen Academy at Korangi, CENTAIC is stagnant, etc.

Most critically, throughout his tenure he has had no focus on ACE (Air power center of Excellence), the combat hub of PAF. It must be noted that it is ACE that played the pivotal role in PAF’s response to Indian aggression during the operation Swift Retort. While he completely ignored this elite PAF institution – the nursery of its combat leaders- not even appearing in the graduation of CCS during his tenure, in the final months of his command he used a foreign exercise held at ACE for self projection and pivoting for his extension ambitions.  He projected it as one-of-a-kind exercise, whereas, these are routine exercises and have been going on in the PAF for almost two decades now. Everyone in PAF is clear that the recently conducted exercise was a SELF PROJECTION ACTIVITY, and Baber Sidhu during his participation in this exercise was only focused on convincing the Army Chief about the usefulness of NASTP. Even during his speech, he focused more on NASTP rather than the operational dividends of foreign exercise. Baber Sidhu’s only focus these days is to convince the Army Chief and the interim Govt that for the sake of NASTP his continuation as CAS is necessary and therefore his tenure must be extended. It is widely circulating in PAF circles that he is lobbying and also APPROACHED MINISTRY OF DEFENSE THAT THE INTERIM GOVT IS CONSTITUTIONALLY NOT EMPOWERED TO APPOINT A NEW AIR CHIEF AND HENCE HIS EXTENSION IN OFFICE.

He has no vision of his own therefore he does not go to any War college or academic institution or operational area, rather it is alarming that he has not addressed the PAF personnel for long and has not spelled out any vision (other than NASTP) for PAF.

Baber Sidhu having demonstrated no merit throughout his life has been giving preference to low merit people in promotions, especially in the senior cadres. He is very venomous and vindictive and holds a personal grudge against those who differ with him on professional and technical grounds. Personal loyalty and favoritism are his guiding lights in all important appointments. Not surprisingly, he has been given the title of “MERIT KILLER” in the PAF. In the recent past he has made unparalleled decisions in retiring men of honor and dignity well poised to lead the Air Force in the future while retaining low merit, old age and medically unfit Air Staff to serve his purpose. A few examples include the retention of multiple times superseded Air Staff against all military norms. Examples of superseded Air Staff include AVM Nadeem Sabir (adjusted in JSHQ setup), AVM Imtiaz Sattar (no appointment, passing time at home), AVM Imran Majid (AOC PAF Airmen Academy Korangi), AVM Nadeem Akhtar (Chairman Kamra). Retention of Air Staff blamed for financial corruption/fraud in various inquiries and their placement at important posts is a norm these days to get favors from them and, in some cases, to please highly placed Govt officials. Examples of corrupt Air Staff include AVM Zafar Aslam and AVM Nadeem Sabir who have been directly blamed in financial inquiries. Furthermore, AVM Zafar Aslam has been spared by Baber Sidhu and placed at a key appointment of DG Welfare & Rehab who controls a large amount of PAF non-public funds. Under CAS’s direction, AVM Zafar is BUILDING A COMMERCIAL PLAZA IN FAZAIA-I on the private plot of Baber Sidhu UTILIZING Fazaia Housing funds.

Another transgression is the promotion of AVM Imran Qadir (two times superseded officer promoted to AVM which is unprecedented in PAF’s history). Recently, he has created more history and was promoted multiple times superseded and a totally incompetent officer i.e. Air Commodore Liaquatullah of NASTP to the rank of AVM without holding a promotion board. His actual plan is to systematically erase at least two generations of honest and upright senior Air Staff before his own retirement to ensure no one with knowledge and professional courage is left to report or correct his corruption.

Baber Sidhu appointed his confidant AVM Shakeel Ghazanfar as his DG Air Intelligence after assuming office in 2021. His only job is to do shameful acts like intruding in the lives of Air Staff by monitoring their daily moves, phones, and bug their transports / homes. Moreover, the entire Intelligence setup of PAF has been working for the personal chores of Baber Sidhu and his friends. Air Intelligence has been specifically tasked to facilitate the corrupt practices of his elder brother by monitoring and persuading different civilian personnel. Over time, AVM Shakeel by virtue of his knowledge about the corrupt practices of Baber Sidhu has become very powerful. AVM Shakeel showed his muscle with Baber Sidhu by getting his brother (Air Cdre retd Shaheen Ghazanfar) a full pardon and getting his dismissal from service on corruption converted to a normal retirement with all benefits restored. This is unprecedented in PAF history that a convicted person punished for proven corruption was pardoned and benefits restored. This action has been taken by Baber Sidhu under the duress of AVM Shakeel.

Baber Sidhu in violation of PAF Act is retaining in service three-star officers beyond the authorized age limit of 57 years. This has created a very serious promotion blockade. He is doing all this to favor his cronies. Examples are Air Marshal Hamid Rasheed Randhawa who completed his 57 years age in May, 2023, and has been appointed as VCAS in October, 2023, Air Marshal Zulfiqar has completed his 57 years age in August, 2023 but still serving, likewise Air Marshal Marwat has completed his 57 years age in September, 2023 but is also serving. On the other hand, Air Marshal Amir Masood who was young and deserving candidate for VCAS appointment was retired at the age of 56 just because he used to speak his min in the Air Board meetings. Additionally, he is giving very short extensions (2-6 months) to the Air Staff without any rationale. This has completely paralyzed the working of Air Headquarters.

It is unprecedented in PAFs history that serving Air Marshals/ AVMs have no appointments and have to forcibly stay at home. Examples are Air Marshal Tariq Zia and AVM Imtiaz Sattar. Whereas the cronies of Air Chief have been given dual offices i.e. AVM Ehsan (DCAS Personnel & Commander AFSC).

Conclusion

It is no exaggeration that over the years PAF has proved that it deserves the sobriquet, the pride of Pakistan. It has always given a good account of itself in every conflict. Impartial foreign commentators and experts have rightly regarded it as a world-class, tactical Air Force, with very high professional standards. It is indeed the tip of the sword of Pakistan’s defense. It is our duty to protect this tip of the sword of Pakistan from rusting because of inept and corrupt leadership. This has become all the more urgent because India has set the precedent of using air power under the nuclear umbrella during Balakot strike. It is now an instrument of choice to achieve quick tactical dividends without endangering a full-scale confrontation. The stakes cannot be higher.  The time to act is Now, before it is too late. We all know what happened, in our recent past, when an undeserving man was given a promotion to a service chief and then, to add insult to an injury, an extension. The nation is still paying the price for that mistake. Zaheer Ahmed Baber, who did not deserve to go beyond the rank of Wing commander, must be held accountable for his actions, and prevented from further destroying the PAF. Most importantly, he should be prevented at all costs from achieving his now very obvious ambition of getting an extension. Enough is enough!

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