NA told to explain officers’ presence in TIA to ‘welcome stars’

Kathmandu, May 16

The Nepali Army has come under fire after its senior officers, including Brig Gen Samir Shahi, turned up at the airport in uniform to welcome Bollywood actresses Sonakshi Sinha and Malaika Arora Khan on Friday.

The Ministry of Defence was forced to seek clarification from the Nepali Army after the national force drew flak from the mainstream media, as well as on social networking sites.

Veteran actor Rajesh Hamal said he used to consider the Nepali Army as the pride of the nation but his faith was shattered in the national force after NA officers reached the airport in uniform to receive foreign artistes.

However, the Nepali Army claimed today that its officers were present at Tribhuvan International Airport in uniform for security reasons when Bollywood artistes arrived there.

Issuing a statement, the Directorate of Public Relations of the Nepali Army stated, “The presence of its TIA-based Engineering Directorate officers at the airport during the arrival of important personalities has been a tradition so as to avert any untoward incident.”

The NA claimed that its personnel were present in uniform to “monitor security management”.

Sinha and Khan arrived here to perform in a charity function, organised by the Nepali Army Wives Association, headed by the wife of Chief of Army Staff Gen Rajendra Chhetri. The event, named Amarpanchhi, was held on Saturday to collect funds for the benefit of last year’s earthquake survivors.

The artistes, who had come to take part in Amarpanchhi, were welcomed by representatives of NAWA and its event management side, the NA stated.

Stating that its attention was drawn to media reports about the event, the NA expressed gratitude towards the reports carried with the intent of reminding about NA’s professional ethics, institutional interests as well as an advice that it should not fall into controversy.

Ministry of Defence on Sunday asked the army to explain why NA officers, including Brig Shahi, turned up at the airport to welcome foreign artistes and opened the airport’s VIP lounge for them without taking prior permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A source told The Himalayan Times that the Nepali Army Headquarters had dispatched a response to its line ministry, MoD, claiming that the presence of Brig Shahi, whose office is located in TIA, was ‘not planned, but a coincidence’.

NA spokesperson Brig Tara Bahadur Karki, however, said he was unaware if the army had responded to the ministry today itself.

“Since we have been asked to explain, we will do so in an appropriate way,” he added.

Defence Secretary Mohan Prasad Dahal said he was yet to get the clarification from the army but hoped he would get it by tomorrow.