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Pak`s Shahbaz air base `controlled` by US: Health Secretary

Last Updated: Thursday, August 19, 2010 - 18:15

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Shahbaz air force base
in southern Sindh province, which is home to the country`s
newest F-16 jets, is "controlled by the US", a senior official
has said, triggering a denial from America which described the
remarks as "completely false."

Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari made the stunning
claim about the Shahbaz airbase in Jacobabad area during an
appearance before the Standing Committee on Health of the
Senate or upper house of Parliament yesterday.
Lashari said the relief operations in flood-hit areas of
Jacobabad could not be conducted from the airbase because of
this reason.

"Health relief operations are not possible in the
flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is with
the United States," he said answering a question from a member
of the committee.

There have been unconfirmed reports in the past that the
Shahbaz airbase is used by the US to operate drones which have
been targeting militants in Pakistan`s restive tribal belt
bordering Afghanistan.

Senator Semeen Yusuf Siddiqui, a member of the Senate
panel, was quoted by the media as saying, "It is very
unfortunate that Americans can launch a drone attack from
Shahbaz airbase but the government is helpless even in using
the country`s base for relief operations."

She questioned why the Health Minister had failed to
report the matter to the Pakistan Army.
However, the US embassy denied that Shahbaz airbase was
controlled by American authorities.

"These allegations are completely false. Shahbaz airbase
in Jacobabad is a Pakistan Air Force base, commanded and
operated by PAF forces," the embassy`s spokesman said in a

The Shahbaz airbase is home to Pakistan`s newest
F-16 Block 52 jets that were delivered by the US this summer,
the spokesman said.

"PAF personnel maintain high security standards there
to ensure that the technologically advanced aircraft can be
securely maintained and operated from the base," he said.

On August 18, at the request of the Pakistan government,
C-130 aircraft of the US Air Force flew to Shahbaz airbase
from the PAF base in Rawalpindi to ferry urgently needed
relief supplies for Jacobobad, the spokesman said.

He contended that "misinformation during times of
disaster can hurt relief efforts."

The US has emerged as one of the main contributors of
funding and relief materials for the millions of victims of
the floods across Pakistan in a bid to counter rising
anti-American sentiments in the country.


First Published: Thursday, August 19, 2010 - 18:15
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