By: Ghalib Sultan
A video on Youtube, containing an interview of Faryaal Gauhar in which she describes the breach of an Indus River levee meant to divert floodwaters from a nearby military base, raises a lot of questions regarding the US-Pakistan alliance in the War on Terror, and how it affects the people of Pakistan in particular. The subtext of the video on Youtube claims that “the contractor who built the base says this is where drones are housed before being automated”.
After listening to what Faryaal Gauhar had to say, I read some comments and insight provided by Mr. Usman Tarar, who is a civil engineer and had been associated with the rehabilitation and upgradation of Shahbaz Airbase for two years. I am taking liberties with his comments and opinions – available on a social networking website – to investigate the truth about the claims and allegations made by Faryaal Gauhar.
This is what he has to say:
Flights and Housing of Drones at Shahbaz Airbase has been repeatedly claimed by the media over the last few years but there hasn’t been a single evidence provided by the media that could prove it… I am trying to paint a true picture and my assertion stems from my 2 years’ involvement (as a civil engineer) on the rehabilitation and upgradation project of Shahbaz Airbase being carried out by 8 different renowned contracting firms of Pakistan and I have been associated with 2 of these firms on this project…
This propaganda is a heap of rubbish… and for those who would question as to why is upgradation being done, it being done to house and operate the latest F-16 fleet (Block-C and Block-D) and their allied technology that has recently been given to PAF by the US and was well-covered in the media few months ago. I hope my above elaboration by virtue of my “DIRECT” involvement on the Shahbaz Airbase project during last 2 years is sufficient to clarify the real situation which is not known to the masses.
Shahbaz Airbase is not a no-go area! It is situated just next to the most populated slums of the city and every aircraft leaving or entering the base can easily be spotted even with a naked eye. I have been to that place myself repeatedly to negate this rubbish about Drones at Shahbaz Airbase. It is merely a political and media stunt… and the base is being run by PAF, not the American. Seeing is believing.
A counter-argument runs as follows:
Drones fly from Shamsi airbase in Baluchistan while Shahbaz airbase used to be in US control but now Americans have left… Yes, there are a few American technicians as US demanded that the new F-16 C/D Block 52s be kept away from Chinese technicians. It was an American demand that these F-16s be kept at Shahbaz airbase Jacobabad as in 1980s once when Chinese air chief visited some airbase…as a matter of courtesy he was shown F-16 A/B which were new at the time…and he sat in the cockpit and started measuring the width of the control screen etc with his hands…thus the American technicians present there protested at this…that was one of the main reason that US demanded that F-16 C/Ds be kept at one airbase where no other Chinese aircraft could be stationed…
To which Mr. Tarar replied:
I missed out the US Technicians part deliberately to avoid unnecessary details. Thanks for completing the picture. This clearly shows that our media and parliamentarians in opposition (not to praise the government either, of course) create a fuss about nothing to keep the nation distracted !!! I am unaware of the Shamsi Airbase story because I have not been associated with it.
So: what is the truth about Shahbaz Airbase, or Shamsi Airbase, or Pakistan’s agreements with US or NATO about using Pakistan’s military installations, or of the impact that any such agreement had during the floods, or how relief and rehabilitation activities were affected due to the US or its military personnel “occupying” a Pakistan airbase in Baluchistan? The truth is that nobody knows, and we may never know.
What can be said with certainty is this:
It seems that, sadly and pathetically, even natural disasters and Pakistanis afflicted by catastrophes are just tools and pawns for the politicians and their political statements. Why would Faryaal Gauhar – a so-called politician without any constituency and without the backing of any real political party – blatantly lie to the world? Why would she want to impact US-Pakistan relations in such a way? Even after both countries are trying very hard to understand each other and see eye to eye, even after US troops – who are otherwise unwelcome in Pakistani territory – have contributed massively in terms of efforts as well as tangible support of aid goods to the Pakistani people who suffered because of the floods, even after the US has listened to almost all of Pakistan’s concerns and grievances regarding Afghanistan (including Indian involvement and including the fact that the war can be ended through negotiations and not through military means)?
Even if we don’t know the truth about our country’s military secrets, we should ask Faryaal Gauhar why she is lying, and why she is misusing the suffering of the Pakistani people – whether for her benefit, or for someone else’s, or even for the heck of it.
There is no problem with having vested interests; but one should not lie in order to pursue one’s vested interests, and one should not make mileage out of the plight and suffering of innocent people – who have nothing to do with international geopolitics, or the war on terror – so as to realize these vested interests.
I hope Faryaal Gauhar realizes that the people of Pakistan are not stupid, not anymore at least.