By Imran Ali Teepu
ISLAMABAD: Health relief operations in Jacobabad are not possible because the airbase in the area is controlled by the US.
The stunning statement was made by Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari during an appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on Health on Wednesday.
"Health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is with the United States," Mr Lashari said while answering a question asked by Senator Semeen Yusuf Siddiqui of PML-Q.
Dr Jahanzeb Aurakzai, coordinator of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre, said: "Foreign health teams could not start relief operations in remote areas because there are no airstrips close to several areas, including Jacobabad."
The town has been evacuated and 500,000 to 700,000 people have been affected. People displaced from Jacobabad, Thul, Kandhkot, Kashmore, Ghouspur and Karumpur are camping in Dera Allahyar.
"It is very unfortunate that Americans can launch a drone attack from Shahbaz airbase but the government is helpless even in using the country's base for relief operations," Senator Semeen said while talking to this correspondent.
She said the health ministry should have requested the army to ask the US to allow relief operation from the base.
"I don't know why the health minister failed to report the matter to the quarters concerned, specifically the Pakistan Army.
"The airbase, which I think the government has given on lease to the Americans, should be used to provide immediate health relief to the flood-affected people."
The committee, headed by Senator Kulsoom Parveen, was briefed by officials on health-related operations in the affected areas.
APP adds: Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman has ordered PAF to form an air bridge of relief supply for Jacobabad which has been cut off from the rest of the country and make operational an airfield near Sibi for immediate supply of relief goods to flood-hit areas in the vicinity.
Presiding over a meeting, he asked the air staff to use all available human and material resources to provide timely relief to the affected people.