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Pakistan tells US to leave `drone attack base`

June 30, 2011


RAWALPINDI: Pakistan on Wednesday told the United States to leave a remote desert air base reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone attacks.

“We have told them (US officials) to leave the Shamsi Airbase,” Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said while talking to journalists here. His remarks are the latest indication of Pakistan attempting to limit US activities since a clandestine American military raid killed Osama bin Laden.

The minister reiterated that the trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States has increased after the Abbottabad raid of May 2, especially because the US has withheld payments to the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).

He said it was not only Pakistan that was not been taken into confidence by the United States before the raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout but key ally United Kingdom was also kept in the dark. He said the United States has sought some time to shift its equipment from the Shamsi Airbase.

Mukhtar said Pakistan is not in a position to enter into a war with America but Islamabad will have a review afresh its relationship with Washington. He said Pakistan was fighting the war against terror using meager resources since the US had stopped payment of CSF. He said it would be difficult for Pakistan to continue the war for long as it had already suffered immensely in economic and human terms. He urged the international community not to neglect the country’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism.

Mukhtar said Senator John Kerry was the first American leader to visit Pakistan after the May 2 attack and had assured Pakistan that there was no danger to Pakistani nuclear assets from the United States. The minister categorically stated that nuclear assets were completely secure and there is no danger to them from any side.

Mukhtar said America has agreed to provide two P3C Orion aircraft in place of those destroyed by terrorists during the PNS Mehran attack. However, he reiterated that Pakistan would have to stand on its own feet and couldn’t depend on others for its economic and defence needs.

When asked about extensions given to the army chief and director general ISI, the minister said that no one, including Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Ahmed Shujja Pasha, were indispensable for Pakistan, adding that, the country’s civilian and military leadership were working to change Pakistan’s defence policy in light of the current situation.

He pointed out that Shuja Pasha had himself offered to resign at the joint session of the parliament but parliament had asked him to continue. To a question about Pakistan’s defence requirements, Mukhtar said Pakistan had planned for defence needs up to 2025 and the requirements of the defence forces would be met. He said there is no danger of aggression to Pakistan from its eastern border and the country was capable of deterring any aggression.

To another question, the minister said he was not aware of the whereabouts of Taliban leader Mullah Omer but said that even if Omar had been hiding somewhere in Pakistan, he might have fled to Afghanistan after the May 2 US operation.

The minister said the widows and children of Osama bin Laden were in the government’s custody and would be sent to the country of their choice as early as possible. The minister conceded that the morale of the Pakistani nation was badly bruised after the May 2 attack.

To a question regarding Pak-Russia defence cooperation, he said, this would depend on the results of the forthcoming presidential elections in Russia. He claimed that Russia wanted better relations with Pakistan.

About the Gwadar port, Mukhtar clarified that the prime minister had asked the Chinese leadership to help in making the port functional and the Chinese side had responded that they would take the responsibility after the completion of Pakistan’s contract with Singapore.

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