ISPR denies reports of airport in Swat being handed over to US troops

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Mingora, Oct 5 (ANI): People of Swat district have expressed grave concern at unconfirmed reports that the United States and NATO intend to permanently stay in Swat, on the pretext of building a warehouse there to store relief goods for the flood victims at the Saidu Sharif Airport in Kanju.

However, Pakistan's Inter Services Pubilc Relations (ISPR) has strongly denied the rumours, and the possibility that locals would be displaced from their houses to allow the expansion of the airport to accommodate the US and other foreign troops arriving in the area in the near future, The News reported.

Noted social and political figures in the area said that they would never allow foreigners to occupy their native land and turn it into another Afghanistan.

Former provincial minister and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader Hussain Ahmad Kanju said that any decision to hand over the airport to foreigners would have far-reaching consequences, adding that the Swat locals would never allow any such step taken in connivance with the Pakistan government.

Sher Khan, President of the anti-militants Kabal Peace Jirga said, "We are ready to provide support to our own Army to acquire land required for the expansion of the Saidu Sharif Airport. But we don't want to do so for the sake of Americans."

"The people of Swat don't need any assistance from the US if it was given with the objective to take hold of our land and eventually occupy our motherland," he stressed, adding, "Earlier, the militants destroyed our area and then the floods played havoc with Swat. The whole Malakand region would plunge into violence if the US and NATO troops were deployed in Swat."

Idrees Khan, who is leading the pro-government Kabal Defence Committee, warned that if the rumours were true, the people in Swat would be compelled to launch a protest movement against aid distribution through foreigners.

"We have strong reservations over the role of the US as its policies have brought instability in the region and triggered violence," he added.

Senior nationalist leader Afzal Khan Lala said that one could never expect such a decision from the Pakistan Army to hand over strategic facilities to foreigners, adding that he felt it was no more than a rumour that the Swat airport would be handed over to the Americans or any other foreign force.

Pakistan People's Party-Sherpao (PPP-S), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Deputy Secretary- Fazal Rahman Nono- said the government had the capacity to provide relief to its people, and that there was no need for foreigners to be permanently deployed for the purpose in Swat or anywhere else. (ANI)

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