The United States has warned its air carriers to avoid the Pakistani airspace because of “extremist or militant activity”, PTI reported on Thursday.
“Exercise caution during flight operations,” a notice to airmen, or a NOTAM, issued by Federal Aviation Administration on December 30, 2019, said. “There is a risk to US civil aviation operating in the territory and airspace of Pakistan due to extremist/militant activity.”
The aviation regulator said the advisory will be re-evaluated on January 1 next year.
There continues to be a risk to US civil aviation sector from attacks against airports and aircraft in Pakistan, particularly for aircraft on the ground and those operating at low altitudes, the Federal Aviation Administration said. “The ongoing presence of extremist/militant elements operating in Pakistan poses a continued risk to US civil aviation from small-arms fire, complex attacks against airports, indirect weapons fire, and anti-aircraft fire, any of which could occur with little or no warning,” the NOTAM added.
The advisory also referred to the tensions between India and Pakistan after the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and split the state into Union territories. “In addition to the extremist/militant threat to US civil aviation operations in the territory and airspace of Pakistan, there may be flight disruptions and airspace closures implemented due to clashes in the Kashmir Region with little or no warning,” it said.
Besides this, the NOTAM advisory mentioned the Balakot airstrikes, when the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit killed 40 security personnel in Pulwama on February 14 last year and India retaliated by targeting a Jaish camp.
“India and Pakistan employ a variety of advanced air-to-air fighter aircraft and surface-to-air missile systems capable of targeting aircraft up to and beyond overflight altitudes typically used by civil aircraft,” it said. The advisory, however, said that both India and Pakistan have “no intent to target civil aviation”, but warned that “if military operations were to resume, such operations could present an inadvertent risk to the US civil aviation.”
It cited the presence of extremist groups in Pakistan. “Between 2014 and 2019, extremist/militant groups operating in Pakistan have demonstrated their ongoing capability and intent to target civil aviation through multiple attacks on aviation infrastructure, including airports,” the advisory said.