|Posted by vosbboorg on December 14, 2011 at 10:55 AM|
Last updated: 48 mins ago
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Headlines: Institutions working within constitutional ambit: GilaniShamsi airbaseFrom the Newspaper | Editorial | Yesterday
A PICTURE may be worth a thousand words but the story it tells isn`t always what is hoped for. With the American presence at the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan coming to an end, security authorities have allowed cameras to record the American evacuation and the return of Pakistani soldiers to the base. The idea of doing so was clearly to suggest that Pakistan had stood up to the American superpower and prevailed in a stand-off over control of the base. But it is an odd way to try and project the strength of the Pakistani state. In fact, the images of Pakistani soldiers taking guard around Shamsi as an American plane prepares to depart ought to raise an awkward question: how did Pakistan manage to lose control of the airbase in the first place? What has been projected as a moment of triumph is really masking years of embarrassing half-truths and misinformation.
Shamsi is an airbase deep inside Pakistani territory. It was built in the early 1990s by the UAE ruler to facilitate the hunting of the endangered and protected houbara bustard. After 9/11 and the arrival of American forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, the base somehow came under the control of American personnel via an opaque trilateral deal. Earlier this year Pakistani officials claimed that because Shamsi had been leased to/belonged to the UAE, Pakistan couldn`t evict the Americans from the base. Now, having finally managed to get the Americans to leave, Pakistan`s security authorities are trying to paint it as a victory. The Americans were portrayed as `reluctant` to leave the Shamsi airbase. Could their reluctance really have been rooted in some kind of legally binding understanding that neither the US nor the Pakistani state wanted to make public? The root of the problem is that once a matter is deemed to be related to `national security` a wall of secrecy is erected around it and no one other than a select and privileged few has a right to ask questions or get answers about the matter.