Shamsi Air Base is deep within Balochistan in Pakistan’s western frontier regions. Shamsi Air Base has been and is being used by the United States for launching its ‘drone operations’ against Al Qaeda and Taliban elements ensconced in Pakistani areas bordering Afghanistan from where they have been launching attacks against US Forces.
In the last few days one is being treated to the spectacle where the Pakistani Defense Minister ostensibly under directions from the Pakistan Army Chief has been making public statements that Pakistan had asked the United States to halt drone strikes from there and that the United States vacate the Shamsi Air Base. The United States has refused to vacate Shamsi Air Base and therein lay, a double deception inflicted by the Pakistan Army on its own people.
Media reports and web-sites in Pakistan reveal that the United States is technically right as the Shamsi Air Base stands leased out to the United Arab Emirates a long time back and apparently the United States is making use of the Air Base with kind courtesy of the UAE and the tacit permissiveness of Pakistan. Hence it is only the UAE technically which can request the United States to cease drone strikes from the Shamsi Air Base.
Earlier Wikileaks reports attributed to the US Ambassador in Pakistan indicated that the present Pakistan Army Chief, General Kayani had in discussions indicated that the United States keep continuing its drone operations in the war against the militants’ hideouts in Pakistan’s frontier regions.
So there we have two sets of deceptions being inflicted upon the Pakistani peoples. The first being that the Pakistani peoples are being led to believe by the public posturing of its Army Chief that he is very much against US drone strikes in Pakistan’s frontier regions and that too from Pakistani territory using Pakistani Air Bases. Further to show that the Pakistani Army Chief can stand up to the United States on the issue, public statements are issued giving directions to the United States to vacate Pakistani Air Base fully well knowing that the Pakistan Army can do pretty little against the United States in case it refuses to do so.
The second major deception is that the fact has been hidden for long from the Pakistani peoples is that the Shamsi Air Base had been leased out by Pakistan to some Gulf potentates and that they had further sub-let it to the United States.
Obviously, even if that be so, the question that arises is that whether Pakistan and the Pakistan Army responsible for the security of such a volatile area as Balochistan were all not privy to the arrangements and the use by the United States of the Shamsi Air Base all along. Of course the Pakistan Army was fully aware of all that had taken place and was a party to it. What the Pakistan Army is now trying to demonstrate to the people of Pakistan is that it is in control of the situation and is in a position to order the United States to vacate the Shamsi Air Base.
With the United States refusing to vacate the Shamsi Air Base, the Pakistan Army stands caught up inextricably in its double-deception deceit from which there are no easy ways out. This is yet another major irritant in US-Pak relations which can sour relations between the erstwhile strategic partners.