`Who owns Pakistan?`

The idea of Pakistan soil being leased out to foreign operators is not new.

Updated: May 15, 2011, 12:58 PM IST

Islamabad: "Who owns Pakistan?", asked a leading daily as it noted that an airbase in Balochistan was operationally controlled by a foreign country since the 1990s, an admission made in Parliament on Friday.

An editorial in the Dawn on Sunday bluntly asked: "Who owns Pakistan?". It said that the people should be taken into confidence as "shady deals serve no purpose but to raise suspicions”.

"Successive administrations have evoked the idea of the country`s sovereignty, loudly decrying perceived transgressions...(but) on Friday, Parliament was informed by the deputy chief of air staff that Balochistan`s Shamsi airbase has been operationally controlled by the UAE since the 1990s."

"No doubt it was the sheer enormity of the Osama bin Laden debacle that forced the military to make this admission; otherwise, it is unlikely that the citizenry or its representatives would ever have known."

Osama was gunned down on May 02 by US commandos who stormed his hideout in Abbottabad city.

The editorial said that the idea of Pakistani soil being leased out to foreign operators is not new.

Last year, a senior Health Ministry official said, "Flood relief operations in Jacobabad were not possible because the only airbase was under use of the Americans. For some time there were suspicions that floodwaters had been diverted to save the Shahbaz airbase."

"Similarly, in 2009, there were reports that the federal Investment Ministry had given the green signal to the federal Food and Agriculture Ministry to offer Arab countries about one million acres in Sindh on lease for cultivation. This plan reportedly failed on account of the worsening security situation."

It went on to ask that "where, then, does that leave the country`s sovereignty?"

"There can be reasonable grounds to put land under the operational use of a foreign power, such as political expediency or earning. If so, the administration ought to take the citizenry into confidence. Shady deals serve no purpose but to raise suspicions."