Opposition in NA asks govt to explain US claims of airspace use

PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal demands explanation; FM Qureshi to give policy statement


Our Correspondent May 24, 2021
A US airman guides a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it taxis to the runway at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan March 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD:

Opposition in the National Assembly demanded of the government to give explanation to the house about claims made by a senior Pentagon official that Pakistan had allowed the US military to use the country’s airspace to support its presence in Afghanistan.

The issue was raised by Ahsan Iqbal of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) following statements of Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific security affairs David F Helvey to the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee last week.

State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan responded to the opposition lawmaker’s statement, saying that Pakistan was playing a role for peace in Afghanistan and that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would deliver the policy statement in the house.

Also read: US pulls out of major Kandahar base in southern Afghanistan

US President Joe Biden announced on April 14 that all US troops would be out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

Last week, Helvey and Marine Corps Brig-Gen Matthew G Trollinger briefed the US lawmakers committee on the situation in Afghanistan, the retrograde movement of US forces from Afghanistan and the future relationship with the government in Kabul.

While the US will not have troops based in Afghanistan, it would “maintain counterterrorism capabilities in the region sufficient to ensure that Afghanistan cannot again become a safe haven for terrorists who threaten our security,” Helvey told the committee.

“In coordination with our Afghan and international partners, we’re working to reposition our counterterrorism capabilities, including by retaining assets in the region to prevent the emergence of a terrorist threat against the United States homeland from Afghanistan,” he added.

Also read: Pak, US NSAs meet in Geneva for crucial talks

When asked by the committee members to outline Pakistan’s position in Afghanistan’s future, the Pentagon official said: “We will continue our conversations with Pakistan because their support and contribution to the future of Afghanistan, to future peace in Afghanistan, is going to be critical.”

In the National Assembly session, Ahsan Iqbal referred to the media reports about the US claims and sought a clarification from the government. Parliamentary Affairs State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan replied that the foreign minister would give a policy statement on the matter.

Later, the Foreign Office issued a statement saying that there was no US military or airbase in Pakistan; nor was any such proposal envisaged. “Any speculation on this account was baseless and irresponsible and should be avoided,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafiz Chaudhri said.

“Pakistan and the US have a framework of cooperation in terms of Air Lines of Communication (ALOC) and Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) in place since 2001. No new agreement has been made in this regard,” the spokesperson added.

(WITH INPUT FROM NEWS DESK)

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