According to a report published in the Pakistani English press, based on the US Army Corps of Engineers’ website announcement, the corps has been granted permission to raise a two-storey building complex at the Jinnah International Airport of Karachi to check the smuggling of narcotics and other goods. The purpose is praiseworthy, no doubt; and every possible effort must be made to put an end to drug addiction, the scourge that is spreading fast among the country’s populace, in particular the youth, and eating its vitals like termite. That drugs are causing havoc in Europe and the US and other countries of the world as well is also beyond question, which calls for adopting adequate measures to curb their smuggling. But at the same time, the storehouse, Afghanistan, where well over 90 percent of the globe’s total production of opium is grown, cannot be left unchecked; the evil must be nipped in the bud. Not only stringent steps against its growth have to be taken, but its smuggling out of Afghanistan has also to be stopped. But all these measures could, and ought to be taken by the two countries’ (Pakistan and Afghanistan’s) anti-narcotic forces acting in concert with other agencies like customs. Why the US should be taking up that role is simply incomprehensible! And why on earth should Pakistan be granting it the permission to seek tenders to construct the building? When this newspaper sought comments of different concerned government agencies on the issue, the Defence Division said it was “considering” issuing a rebuttal of the news-item; the ISPR blithely referred the matter to the Air Force, denying any knowledge of it; both Customs and Civil Aviation replied that they held no power to authorise any outside agency to issue a tender of this kind; the PAF appeared clueless and promised to “look into it.” In view of the foggy statements from all Pakistani quarters, perhaps that in itself is the reason the US corps has been requested for help in standing alert over an important port.

While the Pakistani nation would wish to have friendly and cordial relations with the US, it already has had enough taste of its inroads in our affairs, as a harmful fallout of the war on terror. Siding with the US in the mission to rid the area of the common enemy of militancy has meant coordination at various levels and the according of concessions that otherwise would have been unthinkable: for example, the operation of the Shamsi airbase by the US to fly drones that ultimately came to be used against our own tribal region; intelligence sharing involving the presence of a large US spy network leading to Raymond Davis murderous episode; so on and so on.

Where one would have hoped the responsible government and military officials to sound a note of warning against opening up as sensitive a seafront as Karachi – and according to reports it would have the authority to scan the entire coastline which might bring the superpower into clash with the Chinese who would be managing the Gwadar deep seaport - it appears from the uncertainty of their responses to the queries of this paper, that such hope from them is naive optimism at best. Perhaps instead of relying on the guardians of our national interest to keep the nation informed, we should be grateful the US corps will be taking up residence at Karachi instead.