US using Lahore's military zone to expand covert presence in Pakistan

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Lahore, Mar. 16 (ANI): Undercover US agents have been using Lahore's military zone to expand their covert presence inside Pakistan over the last three years, The Nation reports.

Last year, Pakistanis were stunned to watch several incidents where US citizens were caught by the Military Police at checkpoints leading up to the city's military zone known as the Cantt.

Most of the time, these Americans refused to say what business took them to the military area.

These US nationals also refused to allow the police to check their vehicles, which is a standard procedure that all Pakistanis undergo considering the terrorist attacks.

On a couple of occasions, US vehicles whose drivers refused to cooperate with the military police caused long queues at checkpoints. Military Police officers impounded these vehicles.

This led to US officials complaining to their media that Pakistan was 'harassing' US diplomats.

But the truth is the Americans have covertly maintained an outpost of several houses in a gated community right in the heart of the city's military zone.

This zone is so sensitive that a half-constructed Sheraton Hotel lies abandoned on one of Cantt's main streets because the Pakistani military complained that the new hotel's upper floors provided an easy view of the residence of the commander of the Pakistan Army Corp that guards Pakistan's northeastern border with India.

According to The Nation and the web site pakistankakhudahafiz.wordpress.com, the houses are located in the elite Sarwar Colony.

Most of the residents of this colony are senior retired Pakistani military officers. A handful of them have apparently leased out their homes to the Americans at exorbitant rates that far exceed the normal level of leased property rates in the Colony, according to a fascinating expose published by The Nation.

The US Embassy in Islamabad under the incumbent Ambassador has been instrumental in pushing for an expanded role for private US defense contractors in Pakistan over the past two years.

Many Pakistanis feel that such penetration of Pakistan by foreign countries is detrimental to national security and has unnecessarily exposed the country to outsiders pursuing interests that may not match theirs.

US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson has sent a letter to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi complaining about The Nation's report on the American presence in Cantt, Lahore.

She made a veiled threat that Pak-US relations would suffer if those Americans became targets for a terror attack. The letter was leaked to the Dawn newspaper.

Her letter is acknowledgment on her part that the security of US diplomats in Pakistan is the responsibility of the Government of Pakistan. (ANI)

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