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ISLAMABAD: Despite denial from the Foreign Office, the opposition political parties, on Tuesday, demanded the government to further clarify its position over a top US official’s statement that Pakistan would continue to provide air and ground access for Afghanistan operations and rumours that the country would give a military base to the US.

The demand came after the Foreign Office out rightly rejected reports about presence of a US military or airbase inside Pakistan, saying “such baseless and irresponsible speculations must be avoided”.

In response to the clarification issued by the Foreign Office, senior PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique told reporters that the FO’s explanation about the US airbases is not satisfactory.

He said that Pakistan-US Air-Ground Communication Agreement must have been signed in 2001, adding the authorities must explain the terms of the agreement.

He also sought an explanation as to when implementation on the agreement was halted.

“If there’s no new agreement between the two sides when was the previous one renewed and who signed it,” he questioned.

He also asked the government why the matter was not discussed in the cabinet and the National Assembly, adding, an explanation should be presented in the parliament on the issue related to national security.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq warned the government against allowing the US army to use military bases in Pakistan, asking Prime Minister Imran Khan to clarify the statement of the US administration claiming that Islamabad has allowed Washington to use its military bases and air space.

He expressed concern that if the PTI government repeated the blunder committed by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, it would invite more dangers and catastrophes for the country.

He warned that Pakistanis had already paid a heavy price of getting involved in others’ war in the shape of over 80,000 innocent lives and infrastructure damage of over $100 billion.

He cautioned the government against repeating that grave blunder, especially under the prevailing precarious security situation in the region, saying Pakistanis would never allow Washington any more access to use its military bases and air space at any cost.

Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Affairs David F Helvey told the US lawmakers during a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pakistan would continue to provide air and ground access to the US.

He was responding to a question from Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, about his “assessment of Pakistan” and its intelligence agencies and the role expected by both in the future.

“Pakistan has played an important role in Afghanistan. They supported the Afghan peace process. Pakistan also has allowed us to have overflight and access to be able to support our military presence in Afghanistan,” Helvey said.

He said the US will continue its conversation with Pakistan because of its support and contribution to the future of Afghanistan.

In response to another question by Senator Manchin about how the US administration would ensure that terrorists do not return to Afghanistan, Helvey said: “We will have to work with our local and regional partners, and we want to continue developing those capabilities and those partnerships to be able to ensure that we have the right of framework to address the threats.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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