ISLAMABAD - The US confirmed on Thursday that it is funding the construction of a Customs Tactical Command and Operations Centre at the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, but claims that no US military or other USG personnel will be involved in the actual construction, operation, or staffing of the centre, “which will be exclusively owned and operated by the Government of Pakistan”.

A statement issued by the US Embassy says: At the request of the Government of Pakistan, specifically the Pakistani Customs Drug Enforcement Cell, Karachi, the US Department of Defence is funding the construction of a ‘Customs Tactical Command and Operations Centre’ based at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi.

The Embassy’s point of view is in conflict with the statement made by the Defence Secretary before a parliamentary committee, in which he had denied the existence of any such project.

He had emphatically stated that no permission had been granted to anyone to go for the project, which was first pointed out by the media.

The US Embassy statement said: “Our joint goal is to support the fight against narcotics smuggling. This project, in accordance with the Government of Pakistan’s requested specifications, consists of the design and construction of two new buildings for the Pakistani Customs’ Drug Enforcement Cell: 1) an administrative building that will serve as an operations centre for Pakistani Customs personnel to exchange information concerning drug smuggling activity and; 2) six guard posts to help screen airport cargo at the airport tarmac entrance gates.

“The US Army Corps of Engineers’ recently announced an intent to solicit a Request for Proposals for the project using the US Government Federal Business Opportunities website. Private construction firms or joint ventures working in this region, including Pakistani companies, are eligible to submit proposals. We anticipate that the formal Request for Proposals will be issued this spring. The award for the project, which will be offered to an eligible private construction firm or a joint venture, is expected this summer, and our hope is that the project will be completed in the summer of 2014.”

“The US Army Corps of Engineers’ only role is to oversee the award of the contract for the project to a private construction firm and supervise its implementation. No US military or other USG personnel will be involved in the actual construction, operation, or staffing of this centre, which will be exclusively owned and operated by the Government of Pakistan. “This project will enable the Government of Pakistan to coordinate rapid response to narcotics and contraband smuggling and is a tangible representation of the joint United States-Pakistan commitment to address this important issue.”