ISLAMABAD, June 29: Pakistan has asked the United States to withdraw its forces from the Shamsi airbase. It will be vacated soon, while the Ghazi airbase has already been handed over to the Pakistan Air Force.
This was stated here on Wednesday by Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar. Talking to a group of journalists, he said the Americans had started moving equipment and materials from the Shamsi airbase which had been leased to the UAE. The Ghazi airbase located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has already been vacated.
The Shamsi airbase in Balochistan has been used by the Americans for supplies to ISAF forces in Afghanistan and for launching drone attacks in tribal areas.
(According to AFP, a US embassy spokeswoman said there were no US military personnel at the Shamsi base.)
A defence ministry official told Dawn that the government had decided to get the base vacated because of a significant reduction in the flow of US funds and the growing trust deficit between the two countries.
The defence minister admitted that trust deficit had grown significantly, especially after the May 2 US Abbottabad raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.
“One year ago they (Americans) thought differently; now they are not recognising the sacrifices and cooperation of the Pakistanis,” he said.
About the Abbottabad operation, he said: “They (Americans) have demoralised the whole nation only to kill one man.”
Chaudhry Mukhtar said the policy on war on terror needed to be revised because of the rising cost of military operations against militants on the western border and also because the US might further delay or reduce financial support for Pakistan. “Although the eastern border is currently quiet and tensions are at the border with Afghanistan, we need deterrent at the east and ISAF can take care of the western side,” he said.
The minister said the country was facing serious social impact of the war. He said that 3,000 youths who had been trained by terrorists were in the custody of armed forces, but the serious issue was their prosecution.
The youths have been arrested during military operations in Swat and other areas.
“We are still not clear which courts will hear their cases,” the minister said. He accused the US of not cooperating with Pakistan in plans to rehabilitate these youths, envisaged after the first Afghan war and the post-9/11 war.
Chaudhry Mukhtar said the trust deficit could be reduced if both Pakistan and the US took the matter seriously. “It cannot be done unilaterally.”
He said that negotiations should be held with saner elements on both sides of the border to bring peace to the region. “We will have to sit on the table to end the war and the US also has to do that. If the US wants peace with good Taliban they will have to talk in a room and not engage at mountain tops.”
Chaudhry Mukhtar claimed that the US had not even given Pakistan the required quantity of equipment, including the military hardware, while the quality of equipment supplied was also not up to the mark.
“Even the helicopters they (Americans) have supplied have not been A-class equipment which was promised at various stages of negotiations; and not to speak of their number,” he said.
However, he said, the US had agreed to provide three P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft. Pakistan lost three such aircraft; two were destroyed during a terrorist attack on the PNS Mehran in Karachi and another plunged into sea.
Answering a question, the minister said that widows and children of Osama bin Laden would be repatriated to their home countries in 10 days. “One of his (Osama) wives will go to Yemen and others to their native countries.” However, he added, the government had not received any formal request from any foreign country for their return.
Chaudhry Mukhtar rejected the US claim that Mulla Omar is in Pakistan. “First of all, it is absurd to say that Mullah Omer could have taken refuge in Pakistan, but still it is obvious that he would have left Pakistan after Bin Laden’s killing.”