A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Minister tasked with saving US airbase at the cost of the displacement of thousands
Mr. Ejaz Jakhrani, the Minister of Sports, while explaining the situation to the media said that if the water was not diverted the Shahbaz Airbase would have been inundated. Mr. Jakhrani himself was present along with the district coordination officer of the Jacobabad district, district police officer and other officials when the breach was made. It is reported in the media that Mr. Jakhrani was assigned to protect the air base by officials at the Pakistan army’s headquarter as he was elected from Jacobabad district.
A former prime minister, Mr. Mir Zafar Ullah Khan Jamali said that in order to save Shahbaz Air Base, Jamali bypass was demolished and the town of Dera Allahyar was drowned. Mr. Jamali said that if the airbase was so important, then what priority might be given to the citizens. He blamed minister Jakhrani, DPO and DCO Jacobabad for deliberately diverting the course of the floodwaters towards Balochistan.
In the meantime, during the discussion in the standing committee of the Senate the federal secretary of health has revealed that health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is under the control of the US Air Force. The coordinator of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre, Dr Jahanzeb Aurakzai, told the committee that foreign health teams could not start relief operations in remote areas because there are no airstrips close to several areas, including Jacobabad.
The electronic media has also reported that since 2001 the government of Pakistan, during the regime of general Musharraf, turned over Shahbaz Airport to US forces fighting against terrorism on a lease so it the responsibility of the government and the Pakistan armed forces to protect the agreement done in favour of US forces. The discussions in the media have also pointed out that the presence of army soldiers during the breach of Jamali bypass is a clear indication that the Pakistan army has been ordered to save the airbase from the floodwaters.
The federal minister and former prime minister have not retracted their statements that the floodwater was intentionally diverted to Dera Allahyar, Balochistan to save the air base.
There is rough estimation by the media about the displacement of 800,000 people by the divergence of the waters to the poorer areas. Over 150,000 people have been evacuated from Dera Allahyar and other areas. 350,000 people of Jafferabad district have been shifted to Dera Murad Jamali, Sibi and Quetta, parts of Balochistan, and over 300,000 people had earlier moved to Dera Murad Jamali and Sibi from the Sindh province particularly from Jacobabad.
There can be no doubt that the presence of the Pakistan army personnel at the breach of Jamali bypass indicates the fact that this was an intentional breach. This must be investigated along in order to ascertain who gave the orders. Those giving the orders must be prosecuted. The government of Pakistan must also probe the allegations of deliberate breaches; not only in the incident involving Shahbaz airbase but also those reported earlier where the agricultural lands belonging to senior ministers was protected from the floodwaters also by intentional breaches.
It is a gross contradiction that the United States of America is now one of the biggest donors of relief to Pakistan and it is therefore unacceptable that they are allegedly refusing permission to use Shahbaz airbase for the distribution of that relief.