Pakistan moves to reopen NATO supply lines, but US ties remain frayed
Parliament outlined how US-Pakistan relations ought to proceed, but gave an unofficial okay to reopening NATO supply lines to Afghanistan.
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The legislation outlines how Pakistan should deal with the US and gives a tacit green light to restoring the supply lines that were cut four month ago. The agreement was struck after the government agreed to include opposition party demands, and after weeks of quiet diplomacy between the US and Pakistan.
Despite the diplomatic engagement involving the senior military and civilian leadership from both sides, many believe the future relationship between the two allies in the war on terror will not be fully repaired.
“The Parliament has tried to create a balance between anti-Americanism [among the people] and a pragmatic and rational policy for future Pak-US relations,” says Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, an associate professor of International Relations Department at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.
“[It's] not that the countries do not want to settle back the relations, but it is because of a divergence of interest vis-à-vis Afghanistan,” Dr. Jaspal says, referring to reported US plans to include India in future Afghanistan plans, which is not acceptable to Pakistan.
However, he says, the two countries will now have a better relationship than a few months ago after the November NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistanis.
A top foreign office official said that the Parliament's green light came on the heels of last month’s meeting between President Obama and Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Seoul, and a series of public and behind-the curtain meetings between the two countries. The meetings have begun to mend relations that have been strained over numerous incidents, including the US incursion to kill Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden last year.
Pakistan’s interior ministry has already told the Pakistan Oil Tankers Association (APOTA), responsible for transporting around 70 percent of non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan since November 2001, to get ready to restart operations.
“We were asked last week by high-ups from Islamabad to get ready for restoration of transport service for Afghanistan,” says Mir Yusuf Shahwani, the chairman of APOTA.
Mr. Shahwani who declined to name the officials, claims that the two key routes – through the Torkham and Chaman border crossings with Afghanistan – will be reopened within 10 days.
Pakistan processed about 200 to 250 NATO containers daily before the two routes were closed in response to deteriorating ties with the US. NATO has alternative routes by airlift and through Central Asia, though the costs are considerably higher.
NATO has already been using Pakistan’s airspace for supplies to its troops in Afghanistan, which Pakistan said it had allowed on humanitarian grounds in February as a first trust-building measure.