Miramshah: Local tribals in Pakistan's North Waziristan frontier region are reported to be expressing relief at the sight of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16s operating air patrols in areas on the border with Afghanistan. The PAF action comes after stern warnings issued by civil and military Pakistani leaders against what they have dubbed unilateral cross-border actions by the US-led coalition forces including airspace violations by drones and ground incursions by coalition forces into tribal areas.
In the latest such attack at least 12 people were killed in North Waziristan in a suspected US missile attack, the second such strike in three days in the same region.
Reports emanating from the region say that a US drone was spotted in the skies above North Waziristan earlier during the day, but it disappeared as soon as Pakistani fighters appeared. The jets, spotted in the skies for the first time after a series of US attacks in the tribal belt, flew over the region for an hour.
Tribesmen in t region welcomed the ''timely reaction'' by chief of the army staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to the US action.
With incidences of cross-border raids by Afghanistan-based coalition forces on the rise, a concerned civilian government in Islamabad has issued warnings, in tandem with the Pakistani military establishment. As of now, Pakistani premier Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has said Pakistan will pursue the diplomatic path to convince the US to stop attacks in Pakistani areas. For a brief duration of time, some ten days back, the government had suspended the supply route for coalition forces that runs through Pakistan.
Backing up the air patrol over the Waziristan region, Pakistan air chief, air marshal Tanvir Mehmood also said that the air force can respond to violation of air space by the US-led coalition forces if the government issues orders.
Also chiming in was army spokesman Major General Athar Abass who said that the army has been authorised to react in case of violation by coalition forces.
Meanwhile, reports from the region said that locals felt reassured by the PAF patrol. ''The presence of Pakistani fighter planes gave a sense of security to the people,'' one man was quoted as saying.
US-led forces recently carried out a ground assault in Angoor Adda, near the Afghan border, killing over 50 people. ''The people are very happy over action by Pakistani aircraft in view of the frequent air violations by US spy planes,'' the tribesman said.