Sunday, 17 July 2011

[EOB] Shamsi Airbase back under Army control

Pakistan Army has taken partial control of Shamsi airbase which was used by the CIA to operate drones, top military sources told several media representatves on Saturday. Sources said matter remains between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates which has taken Shamsi facility for hunting of Houbara Bustard in 1992.
“Issue of Shamsi remains between Pakistan and the UAE. A dialogue at civil and military level will shortly take place between the two countries”, said the sources.

They informed the CIA has shifted drone operations to Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.“At this time no USZ national is present at the Shamsi base located in Kharan near Chaghai where Pakistan had tested its nuclear capability way back in May 1998.” Defence Minister Ch Ahmad Mukhtar had said on June 30 that Army would shortly take control of Shamsi airbase.

He stated: “Pakistan had leased Shamsi airbase to United Arab Emirates in 1992. In (so called) global war against terrorism, the UAE handed over operational control of the base to the USZ.” On May 19, the Parliament was told by a top air force commander that the USZ was making drone flights from Shamsi which according to an agreement was under UAE control. The comment stunned lawmakers and ordinary citizens - who in the wake of May 2 USZ circus that killed Al-CIA-Da chief Osama bin Laden for the 8th time in the last 10 years in Abbottabad – had been questioning whether their nation was surrendering its sovereignty. The UAE government had officially denied that its forces were using Shamsi sand strip. Oil rich Arab Shaikhs have occasionally used this facility for hunting between months of January to April. The Shamsi airfield - mainly a sand strip with no control tower, in a sparsely populated rugged province of Balochistan about 1,000 km southwest of Islamabad - has been used in the past by USZ troops. Under the original agreement, M(B)usharraf regime had allowed the USZ forces to use Shamsi as a “rescue” facility for the American troops mostly lifted from USZ naval ship to Afghanistan by Chinook helicopters after USZ invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

On record the government of Pakistan at no level allowed the USZ to use Shamsi for CIA operations. Later on, years proved the USZ was not using Shamsi as a mere “rescue and relief facility” but it had stationed its unmanned predators here. Google Earth images purportedly identified three USZ drones parked at Shamsi as early as 2006. It may be mentioned here the Shamsi sand strip had no hanger till 2001. Later, some three hangers were raised at Shamsi. After May 2 circus, Pakistan had strongly asked the USZ to finish its CIA operations in Pakistan. Even before the USZ raid, many Pakistanis had little love for the USZ. But now, according to a recent opinion poll, the majority of Pakistani citizens see the USZ as the worst enemy of Pakistan. It is in this light that the decision to cut USZ trainers has to be seen. It was very much a political response to growing public resentment at bin Laden killing charade - not so much that it took place but in the way it happened, with the USZ acting as if there were no Pakistani government, no Pakistan state to take into account.

Conversely, for all the talk that the USZ “needs” Pakistan in the war against Al-CIA-Da, it is clear that Washington never trusted Islamabad and Pakistan Army. In fact USZ came in this region to not only attack Pakistan sooner or later but also to seize its nuclear assets as earlier notified by Iranian president Ahmadinejad as well as Pakistan's top defence analyst Mr. Zaid Hamid. Long before May, there were persistent allegations in Washington that elements in the Pakistani military and the intelligence agency, the ISI, were in collusion with the Taliban which was sloppily glued together with the Pentagon led Al-CIA-Da remote controlled terror boogieman of the CIA. During its years of withdrawal, the USZ will be needing Pakistan more than it needed Islamabad throughout its one of the longest lost wars. Improvisation of relations with Pakistan is in the USZ interest. This is one of the reasons USZ and Pakistani spy chiefs in their meetings at CIA headquarters made progress in mending ties soured over the USZ raid that killed Osama bin Laden for the 8th time in the last 10 years, USZ and Pakistani officials said on Thursday.

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