US knew about strategically-important constructions, installations


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By Fakhar Durrani

The Americans knew from the very first day “the strategically important” constructions and installations by Pakistan military forces as their spies reported them even minute details of every cantonment and military installations whenever and wherever these were erected.

The CIA declassified documents provide ample evidence that the spy agency has been closely monitoring each and every development related to the construction of new cantonments and military installations in Pakistan. However it is very critical, how they (CIA) succeed to get even photographs and minute details about all the military installations including the sizes of barracks, the patterns of streets, what type of buildings are being installed, even the number of water towers in each cantonment and the underground POL storage at every airfield.

In October 1971, a top secret memo was sent to CIA headquarters from Islamabad which contained details about the construction of the Army cantonment, Gujranwala.

According to this memo, “A large military cantonment area under construction was newly identified at 32-15-00N 074-07-00E, 6 nautical miles (nm) north west of Gujranwala and 32nm west of the West Pakistan/India border. The cantonment was being built immediately north of Rahwali Airfield (blank space). Construction of the cantonment had begun since (blank space) previous photographic coverage”.

The CIA declassified document about the details of the under construction cantonment Gujranwala had even revealed how many barracks were being constructed. “The installation consisted of 172 barracks or quarters (three under construction); six administration type buildings (four under construction); 15 explosive storage buildings (nine revetted and six under construction) in groups of three; 90 storage or support buildings (two under construction); two water towers and a small arms range under construction. Existing street patterns and ground scarring indicate probable additional construction”, reveals the secret memo.

The memo further says that the installations will probably include Rahwali Airfield with serviceable concrete runway (blank space) sight building and a water tower has been constructed at this airfield. The documents also contain the maps and photographs of the under construction cantonment. The critical question however is, who provided such sensitive details to the operatives working at that time.

Another top memo was sent to the CIA headquarters in August 1973 which contained details about the construction activity at 13 out of 15 military airfields. The report contains a location map and selected photographs as well.

In the introduction part of the memo, it is stated that just prior to the India-Pakistan war of December 1971, through June 1973 (blank space) revealed manor construction activity and improvement at 13 out of 15 known military airfields in Pakistan. These post-war improvements include the construction and lengthening of runways amid taxiways and construction of hangarettes, revetted hardstands, and support facilities. Much of the construction activity described in this report is continuing.

Providing the construction activity of Peshawar Airfield the memo says, “Six conventional aircraft hangarettes have been built and six more are under construction. Four aircraft revetments had been built. However these revetments and 16 others have been covered with roofs, thereby forming 20 additional hangarettes. Eight storage and 12 vehicle revetments have been built”.

About the Murid Airfield the memo describes, “A parallel runway/taxiway was in the initial stage of construction on the western side of the runway in January 1973 (blank space). A turnaround loop taxiway has been built at south eastern end of the runway. Eight hangarettes have been built and four more were under construction, bringing the total hangarettes count to 20. Two underground POL storage areas have been built and third was under construction. Four aircraft revetments and a probable command bunker have also been constructed”.

While providing details about Mianwali Airfield the memo states, “A 10,000 by 75-foot parallel taxiway, first observed under construction in March 1972 (blank space) was in the mid-to late stages of construction on the northwestern side of runway. Fourteen hangarettes have been built and an additional 14 were at the mid stage of construction. Four drive through revetted hardstands and eight additional aircraft revetments have been built. However one prewar aircraft revetment has been razed to make room for the parallel taxiway and ten additional aircraft revetments have been converted to hangarettes by the addition of permanent roofs. This brings the current aircraft hangarettes count to 38. Eight vehicles revetments and a command and control center have also been built.

The memo has provided minute details of Sargodha Airfield, Lahore Airfield, Chandhar Airfield, Risalpur Airfield and the other strategically important airfield in the country. Similarly the declassified documents of CIA also have the details about other cantonments and strategically important military installations in Pakistan.

In another secret memo sent to CIA headquarters on October 18, 1983 which is about identification of first permanent CSA-1 surface-to-air missile site. The memo carries the details about the location of this site, nature of the buildings and photographs of the site.

It is pertinent to mention here that the CIA has released about 13 million pages of declassified documents and more than 700 secret documents are about Pakistan which contain thousands of pages.