ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that the Pakistan Army will stand by the government’s decision of refusing to hand over Pakistan’s air bases to the United States for counter terrorism operations in Afghanistan.
Gen Bajwa made these comments after an eight-hour long of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security that was attended by lawmakers from the government and opposition benches. The prime minister, however, was conspicuous by his absence from the meeting.
During the meeting, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed briefed the lawmakers on the situation in Afghanistan and Kashmir. According to a statement that was issued after the meeting, Pakistan played a highly positive and responsible role in the Afghan peace process.
“Pakistan’s efforts paved the way for dialogue between Afghan factions and warring groups,” the meeting was told. It was also said that Pakistan brought the Taliban and the US government to the table for peace.
Pakistan would welcome a government that would be true representative of the Afghan people, the meeting was informed. “Pakistan’s territory is not being used in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan […] and we hope that Afghanistan’s land is not used against Pakistan,” the DG ISI had said during the session.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said on multiple occasions that Pakistan will not provide bases to the US. On June 19, in an interview with Jonathan Swan of HBO Axios, the premier reiterated Pakistan’s stance on the use of military bases and categorically stated that Islamabad would not allow it.
US-PAKISTAN TALKS REGARDING BASES:
However, the US is in talks with Pakistan and other regional countries for cooperation in future operations in the war-torn country to keep a check on militancy, as per a report in the New York Times. In the first week of June, the NYT claimed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is “seeking ways to maintain its intelligence-gathering, war-fighting and counterterrorism operations in the country”.
The report focused on Pakistan, saying “the CIA used a base there for years to launch drone strikes against militants in the country’s western mountains, but was kicked out of the facility in 2011, when US relations with Pakistan unraveled. “Any deal now would have to work around the uncomfortable reality that Pakistan’s government has long supported the Taliban.”
The Times article stated that discussions are ongoing over the use of Pakistan for more bases: “In discussions between American and Pakistani officials, the Pakistanis have demanded a variety of restrictions in exchange for the use of a base in the country, and they have effectively required that they sign off on any targets that either the CIA or the military would want to hit inside Afghanistan, according to three Americans familiar with the discussions.”