ISLAMABAD, Nov 24: The Commander of Nato disaster relief team in Pakistan, Air Commodore Andrew Walton, has said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has no plans to establish permanent bases in Pakistan.
Speaking at a press conference here on Thursday, he said it was a democratic right of political parties to criticize presence of foreign troops in a sovereign country but the Nato team had come here on the invitation of Pakistan.
He rejected the impression that US occupation forces were operating in Pakistan in the garb of the Nato team.
He said the impression being created by certain quarters that the Nato forces were here to contain China had no basis at all, and ruled out the possibility of Nato setting up an observatory in Pakistan.
“These are all rumours. We have no long-term intentions. We will go back after the short-term relief mission is over,” he said.
He said the Nato team was delivering relief to the victims of the earthquake at the request of the government of Pakistan and added that Nato had not received any request from Pakistan to stay beyond the mandate of 90 days.
However, he added: “If such a request is made, the Nato council will make a decision after consulting the relevant Pakistani authorities.”
He said there were around 1,000 Nato troops engaged in the relief operation in Pakistan. Giving a break-up, he said, the troops included 600 engineers, 150 paramedics, 100 logisticians, 80 headquarters staff and 50 air crews servicing helicopters.
He said the Operation Winter Race was an initiative of the government of Pakistan, adding that the Nato troops were extending maximum possible cooperation to meet the targets of the operation.
He said the number of vulnerable people on high altitudes was estimated to be around 35,000 and so far shelter hade been made available to 29,000 of them.
Answering a question, he said the Nato troops had no security threat in Pakistan. “We do not feel threatened by any group,” he said.
Asked if the NATO team was facing any problem due to lack of experience in relief activities, he said Nato had provided relief assistance when Katrina hit the United States.
He said the engineering activities of the Nato team included water supply, construction of shelters, schools, hospitals and roads and debris removal.