Shamsi Air Base under UAE control

Islamabad: A Pakistani airbase long suspected of being the site from which US drones are launched is under the control of the UAE, according to information that emerged during an in-camera briefing of parliament on the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Numerous reports have said that US drones are based at the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province.

During yesterday`s joint session of both the houses of parliament to discuss the killing of bin Laden, Pakistan Air Force officials reportedly said that the base was controlled by UAE.

The UAE funded and constructed the Shamsi airbase, deputy air chief Air Marshal Muhammad Hassan told lawmakers in response to questions, media reports said.

Since the 1990s, the airbase has been under the control of the UAE, which handed it over to the US.

The land belonged to the government and could be taken back whenever the government wanted, Hassan was quoted as saying.

He said drones used for surveillance took off from Shamsi while those used to carry out missile strikes took off from Afghanistan.

The officials further said the air force could shoot down the US drones if the government ordered them to do so.

It could not be ascertained exactly who made these remarks as media reports attributed them to both Air Marshal Hassan and air force chief Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman.

A resolution adopted at the end of the marathon joint session warned that Pakistan would consider cutting off transit access for supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan if the US continued drone strikes in the country`s tribal belt.