There are credible reports that control of the country's air space has been handed over to a U.S. command system and to U.S. warships stationed in the Gulf, some 25 to 30 nautical miles off the port city of Karachi.

Media reports quoting unidentified defence sources claimed that America wanted to control the Pakistani air space to ensure the safety of its military aircraft, flying over Pakistani territory from its flotilla in the Gulf, and wanted the commercial flights operating within, and to and from Pakistan, to be safe at the same time from possible hazards.

The report claimed that Balochistan fell on the route to American military aircraft, flying their missions into Afghanistan since October 7.

Pakistan's military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi vehemently denied these reports however, clarifying to reporters that the country's air space was entirely in the hands of the Pakistanis.

"We have not handed over the control of our air space to anyone", he took pains to explain, but a section of the media has insisted that America has not only requested it wanted four more airports under its control, but has also been guiding the military and commercial aircraft for the last two to three days.

The U.S. has been given control of airstrips in Jacobabad in Sindh, and Pasni in Balochistan's coastal belt. It has now reportedly requested for control of four more airports at Quetta, Peshawar, Abbotabad and Dera Gazi Khan.

A news agency report said the request was conveyed by the U.S. envoy in Islamabad Wendy Chamberlain when she met the Pakistan Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq on Friday night.

The response of the Pakistan government was awaited, the agency said, and claimed that the envoy had also communicated to Pakistani authorities the action plan about ground operations in Afghanistan.

The Sindh Governor Mohammad Mian Soomro also said that no foreign troops had been allowed permission or the authority to operate from Pakistan. The airports at Pasni and Jacobabad would be used by American personnel only for rescue and search operations.

"If there are injured or wounded persons, they will be transported to these airports, and from there to onward destinations. Nothing more.We are the ones who are authorising the air corridors to the U.S.," said Qureshi.

It was learnt, however, that at least two U.S. rescue helicopters were parked at Jacobabad Airport. Jacobabad Airport's air distance from Kandahar is less than 300 km.

From Pasni to Kandahar, the flying time is 500 km. The U.S. authorities have also installed the latest equipment at both airports and preparations are underway to use these for any military or rescue operation.

Pakistan Army troops have been moved from Pannu Aqil Cantonment in Sindh to Jacobabad where they have been deployed to protect U.S. troops and their installations. The area around the air bases has been cordoned off by the Pakistan Army troops and no Pakistani official from the civil administration or resident of the area is allowed near the air bases.

"We are providing only logistic support," Qureshi said, when asked whether U.S. troops would launch attacks on Afghanistan from Pakistani soil.

"Because of operational secrecy we will not comment beyond that," Qureshi said, when asked to define the contours of logistic support.

He neither denied nor confirmed the presence of U.S. helicopters on the air bases saying he would not specify logistic support. To another question, he said operational secrecy was being maintained to keep India from taking any advantage of the situation.

He said the U.S. troops would not launch any offensive operation against Afghanistan from Pakistan.

Air defence specialists, however, believe that once the air bases have been handed over to U.S. forces, they can operate from there in whatever way they want to. "These bases have practically been taken over by the U.S. authorities," an air defence expert said.

At Jacobabad, a southwestern district of Sindh province bordering Balochistan, all types of fighter jets and military transport aircraft can take off and land easily during the day and night.

"The PAF has been operating its F-16, F-7, and F-6 aircraft from these bases," said the defence specialist.