KARACHI, Sept 23: Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar has rejected US allegations regarding Pakistan's support for the Haqqani network as baseless and said if America has any such information it should share the intelligence with Pakistan so that the authorities can take action on it.

“Had there been support for the militants, our army general would not have suffered a gunshot wound in an attack on his chopper in Swat earlier this week,” said the defence minister while replying to a question after witnessing a sky marshal display by air guards at the Airports Security Force firing range on Friday.

Recalling that the country has made great sacrifice in the war against militancy, Mr Mukhtar said the allegations levelled against Pakistan were contrary to the facts on the ground.

There was wariness in his tone when Mr Mukhtar said that blaming each other would not help.

“We can only work together if we respect and trust each other. There is no other way, nothing else will work.”

Admiral Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, had made the accusations that Pakistan's spy agency backed recent militant attacks in Afghanistan at a time when US-Pakistan ties had just begun to get better from the hostility caused by an undeclared raid by US forces in Abottabad that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

When asked about the possibility of similar clandestine operations by the US inside Pakistan in future, the minister said that Pakistan was a sovereign state and could not be bullied.

Mehran attack probe

Regarding the progress made so far in the inquiry into the terrorists attack on the Mehran naval airbase, Mr Mukhtar said it was about to complete very soon.

“Rest assured that none of those found responsible for the brazen assault will go unpunished as soon as the inquiry is completed,” he added.

Only last month media reports quoted a navy official as saying that three senior Pakistan Navy officers were facing court martial in connection with the attack on the naval air base on May 23.

In reply to a question about the security of the Peshawar airport, the defence minister said that there were reports about the threats to the funnel area of that airport but security had been improved and “now it is fully protected as are other airports in the country”.

He added that steps had been taken to enhance efficiency of ASF personnel. He announced a raise in salaries of ASF officers and staff while addressing the officers and personnel of the force as a chief guest at an award ceremony later during the day.

“We know that you are dealing with unidentified targets very effectively for which we have decided to bring your salaries on a par with those of the motorway police,” he said. The raise would be effective from the month of October, he added.

In his welcome address, Director-General of Airports Security Force Brigadier Mohammad Azam said that the visit of Defence Minister Chaudhry Mukhtar Ahmed, Defence Secretary Lt. Gen (retd) Athar Ali Shah and other high-ups showed their keen interest in bringing the ASF to the level of perfection. He said that ASF was well aware of the modern day challenges and had thwarted many plans of terrorists on many occasions in recent past.

Earlier, awards were given to nearly a dozen personnel, including a few officials who recovered deadly weapons, hand grenade and heroin during screening of passengers' luggage on different occasions, on their exemplary performance.

At the end, the ASF DG gave a souvenir to the defence minister.


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