|Karachi opens door to US
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
and Masood Anwar
KARACHI - Having teamed
up with the US to help eliminate Taliban rule in
Afghanistan, Pakistan is once again proving its
worth in the "war on terror", this time in
Washington's quest against Iran.
Hersh of the New Yorker has reported that since at
least last summer, US teams have penetrated
eastern Iran, reportedly with Pakistan's help, to
hunt for secret nuclear and chemical weapons sites
and other targets in the hardline Islamic country,
which features prominently on the Bush
administration's "axis of evil", along with now
"liberated" Iraq and North Korea.
Exclusive information gathered by Asia
Times Online shows that Pakistan has provided
extensive facilities to special United Kingdom and
US units to train them in commando operations in
Pakistan's port city of Karachi, which in many
ways resembles the Iranian towns of Tehran,
Shiraz, Isphan and other urban centers. Special
forces from the US and Britain have staged
unannounced exercises in Karachi. With its maze of
high rises, communication networks and the
division of the city (Sher-i-Bala and
Sher-i-Payien), Tehran and Karachi are very
"Pakistan's support to the US
against Iran is logical as Iran did not hesitate
to hand over all evidence of Pakistan helping Iran
in developing nuclear technology to the
international agency [International Atomic Energy
Agency]," commented one analyst.
the exercises, the troops got to know different
localities, residential areas, roads and exit
points of the city, including railway and bus
stations and the airport. For the exercises, the
troops were provided with detailed maps of
Karachi, including important buildings. The
exercises, which started several weeks ago, ended
on January 17, highly informed sources revealed to
Asia Times Online. The troops were barracked at
Malir Cant, the cantonment area of the Pakistan
army adjacent to Karachi airport.
11, the troops conducted anti-hijacking exercises
on a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)
aircraft at an isolated yard several kilometers
from the main terminal and runway, although they
were provided with detailed maps of the airport.
While confirming the exercises, a
spokesman of the Inter-Services Public Relations
(ISPR), Colonel Tahir Idrees Malik, said they were
anti-terrorist drills. He said it was an honor for
Pakistan to be able to give training "to these
friendly countries". When asked why Karachi had
been chosen, and why the troops did not do the
drills in their own countries, he said exercises
always took place where action was expected.
He refused to mention the names of the
countries participating in the exercises, and
repeatedly said that they were simply meant as
preparation for anti-terrorist activities. He also
confirmed the anti-hijacking exercises took place
on a A-300 PIA aircraft, saying they were part of
a long program for troops which included railway
and bus stations. Any crowded place could be a
target for terrorists, Idrees said.
is the first time in the history of Pakistan that
armed forces, including the Pakistan army, have
been known to stage exercises in city areas.
Traditionally, they exercise in areas resembling
the borders, including deserts and mountains, to
prepare for assaults from forces such as India's.
Pakistan has fought three wars with India.
Asia Times Online sources maintain that
for practical reasons it is difficult to accept
the ISPR official's statement that the drills were
meant for anti-terror activity in Karachi or in
Pakistan. Karachi has been an exit point for
Arab-Afghans to their countries of origin in the
past, and almost all of the top al-Qaeda operators
arrested were captured in or around Karachi, and
their network effectively destroyed. Now, official
handouts from the government of Pakistan or the US
maintain that other al-Qaeda figures are likely to
be moving around the Pakistan-Afghanistan border
areas, while others have been tracked to the
northern Punjab or North West Frontier Province.
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau
Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Masood Anwar is a senior
reporter of The News International based in
Karachi, and an expert on aviation affairs.
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