Lahore: Surveillance aircraft and helicopters United States provided to Pakistani army for hunting Al Qaida fugitives on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were used in the operation that resulted in a top Baloch nationalist leader's killing.
According to well-placed intelligence sources in Islamabad, the US helicopters and other related technology had been redirected to Balochistan's deserts to fight a defiant Nawab Akbar Bugti and his comrades-in-arms.
Three Cessna aircraft, outfitted with sophisticated surveillance equipment and given to Pakistan last year by the US to help catch heroin smugglers have also been drafted into service against the Baloch rebels.
According to the sources, when American antinarcotics agents examined the Cessna's flight records recently, they found that only seven hours had been spent chasing drug runners. Most of their flying time was logged over Bugti's craggy domain scanning for rebel camps.
The source conceded that the American military partnership with Pakistan was designed principally to take the fight to Al Qaida and Taliban fugitives on the run.
The Pakistani intelligence source, while responding to a question, said the Bush Administration knows fully well that American weaponry is being used against the Baloch insurgents.
While referring to a Time magazine report, the sources quoted a US State Department official as having said that there was nothing in the agreement with Pakistan to prevent the Musharraf administration from using US military equipment against Baloch insurgents. "When we transfer the equipment for them, it is for internal security and self-defence," the official was quoted by the magazine as having said.
However, some Baloch rebel sources in Quetta said over telephone that the military operation against Bugti had been carried out with full US assistance.