By Arif Qoreshi
Islamabad: Pakistan has decided to reopen the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) for NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan after the United States said “sorry” over the attack on the Salala Check Post last November in which 25 Pakistani soldiers were killed.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Defense Committee of the Cabinet (DCC under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf at the Prime Minister House. That was announced by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira at the conclusion of its meeting. He said the decision had been taken in accordance with a mandate given by parliament and aspirations of people.
The DCC also decided that no lethal cargo will go into Afghanistan for NATO forces except armed equipment for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
The DCC reaffirmed that it will continue to be guided by the recommendations of parliament in the future as well.
The Defense Committee of the Cabinet allowed on Tuesday reopening of NATO ground supply routes for the sake of Afghan peace and stability and facilitating withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan.
Regret no apology but Assurance:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that she offered “deepest regrets” over the accidental killings during a conversation yesterday with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
“Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives,” Clinton said yesterday. “We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Beyond the “sorry” a word which has started a debate if it was suitable substitute for the demanded apology, the only worthwhile outcome from Pakistani context was an assurance that there would be no repeat of Salala type attacks in future.
United states didn’t discuss in the statement about the drones attacks inside Pakistan, a matter on which the Obama administration has called an invaluable tool in combating terrorists, but Qamar Zaman Kaira information minister said that Pakistan will persuade the U.S. to end drone attacks as counter- productive. Pakistan has repeatedly said the attacks also kill civilians and fuel public anger towards the U.S. and the Pakistani government. Information minister also claimed that United states has assured Pakistan that there will be no repeat of Salala-like incidents in future.
Collation Support Fund:
Pakistan will get $1.18 billion during the next seven months out of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and another $2 billion would also be sorted out in the meantime under different heads.
Pakistan pulled back from its demands during the negotiations that the U.S. pay about $5,000 per truck. The U.S. will pay about $250 per container as a basic operational cost, Nadeem Hotiana, a spokesman for Pakistan’s embassy in Washington said in an e-mail. That is the same as the U.S paid before the routes were shut.
USA and NATO Welcomed:
Both U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen who was in Islamabad twice over the past few days to finalize the deal and is being credited for repairing ruptured military to military ties that were at the heart of soured bilateral relationship welcomed the reopening of the supply routes.
diplomatic sources of both USA And Pakistan confirmed that the word ‘sorry’ was picked up by the officials of the two countries who were working on the document. Pakistan appointed its Finance Minister Senator Dr Hafeez Shaikh while the United States designated its Under Secretary of State Thomas Nydes to carry the talks forward. The White House played a direct role in affairs after the Pentagon’s hard-line stance some ten weeks ago. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman and US Deputy National Security Adviser for Pakistan and Afghanistan Doug Lute were also engaged and the agreed draft was the outcome of the Sherry-Lute efforts. She has had four rounds of visits to Pakistan in about three months to see the deal through.
According to the diplomatic circles the Turkish government played a vital role to settle down the issue between Pakistan and US. Pakistan’s ambassador to United States sherry rehman visited secretly many times to Istanbul to finalize the draft of the agreement. Even yesterday Sherry Rehman who had to attend the DCC meeting on a special invitation on Tuesday could not reach in time as she was stuck in Istanbul. Turkey was the first country who welcomed the Pakistan-US accord on the restoration of NATO supply. In a telephone call to his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar late Tuesday night, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu conveyed the greetings of the Turkish government. Turkey, which is also a member of the nato has been striving for the normalization of relations between Pakistan and Nato and its leadership has directly talked to the Pakistani leaders on this matter more than once.
US Lost $2 Billions:
Pakistan’s refusal to reopen NATO supply into Afghanistan has cost the US Defense Department more than $2.1 billion in extra transportation costs to move supplies and equipment in and out of the country.
Closure of the Pakistani roads cost an extra $100 million monthly to united states because it forced the Pentagon to instead move supplies by air, rail or truck through Russia and other central Asian countries, much longer and more expensive routes, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told Congress last month.
- Jamaat-e-Islami’s Ameer Syed Munawar Hasan said it would be a “foolish decision” which the nation would never forgive. He said if the government stuck to its decision of stopping NATO supplies, the US and NATO would be forced to withdraw from the region. He further added that by restoring supplies, ‘the rulers would be selling the independence of the country and neighboring Afghanistan for dollars.
- Jamat Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a militant group on whose head Washington has placed a $10 million bounty, said: “We will lay siege to Parliament. We won’t allow the supply routes to reopen”. Hafiz Saeed said that the resumption of supply routes must not take place since the blood of Pakistani soldiers was not so cheap that only a few words could be sufficient to condoning it and allowing the killers of millions of people to get away with their crimes against humanity.
- Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman said that only the parliament has the authority to resume the blocked Nato supply as it was the parliaments decision only to block the Nato supply routes in the first place.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman on Tuesday threatened to attack the Afghanistan-bound Nato supply vehicles.
IHSAN ULLAH IHSAN the spokesman of TTP said that we were shocked to hear that Pakistan has opened Nato supply lines. We had stated earlier that it was a drama staged by the Pakistani rulers to get maximum benefit from the United States. Pakistani rulers have no love with the country and the people. They are US slaves and wanted to enslave the entire Pakistani nation. But we are here to create hurdles for Nato supplies passing through Pakistan.
There are expectations that after the restoration of NATO supply to Afghanistan some religious parties like Jamat Islami and Jamat Dawa protest against that move.
But that is also fact all the political parties including opposition PML(n) has not oppose the restoration of supply.
Pakistan will get the amount of collation support fund approximately $3 billion dollars gradually, which Pakistan army hardly need.
The only challenge which Nato and pakistan will have to face is the threat of the Thrik Taliban pakistan who announced that they will hurt the vehicles carrying nato supply and even kill the drivers of the vehicles.
If we see the statement of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton it proves that was not the fault of united states alone, Pakistan was of the opinion that nato forces intentionally attacked the sala check post but united states refused to accept saying first Pakistani troopers attacked first on nato forces inside Afghanistan.
One positive thing is that the rate of the dollar is going to improve right now.
The writer is an editor of “thefortress.com.pk”