Monday, June 18, 2012

NATO supply routes: K-P governor warns of isolation

The Express Tribune
A top government functionary dropped the clearest hint yet on Sunday that Pakistan may reopen Nato supply routes for US-led foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan. “We cannot oppose Nato nor can we live a secluded life in this world,” Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar told reporters in Peshawar. The governor was speaking to the media during a visit to the Hayatabad Medical Complex to enquire after the health of Saturday’s Landi Kotal blast victims. He added that the government would have to take a decision over the Nato supply lines. Governor Kausar’s statement came against the backdrop of reports that the United States is getting increasingly impatient over the delay in the resumption of supply lines. A diplomatic source disclosed that the United States is pushing the embattled government to reopen the land routes at the earliest, as it fears that uncertainty hanging over the rule of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani might delay the process for months. “This is certainly an issue of concern for us,” said a source referring to the ongoing legal battle over the fate of Premier Gilani. The apex court is currently examining multiple petitions that challenge the ruling of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, who refused to disqualify the prime minister after he was found guilty of contempt of court. Legal experts believe that this week is crucial, as the three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, asked the premier’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan to complete his arguments soon. In what appears to be anticipation of a possibly adverse decision, Premier Gilani has called off his trip to Brazil for an international environmental conference. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will represent Pakistan at the conference instead. Gilani’s move to opt out of the conference is attributed to ongoing cases in the apex court. The US urgency stems from the fact that Nato supplies may remain blocked for months if the prime minister is disqualified by the Supreme Court. A Pakistani official familiar with the development has confirmed that there had been intense efforts in recent weeks by Islamabad and Washington to break the deadlock in ties. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that Washington wanted to see the government take a decision before any judgment by the Supreme Court. He said the agreement on technical details related to taxes and transit fees Pakistan intends to impose on Nato trucks passing through the country had already been reached. “The matter rests with the political leadership of the two countries,” said the official. However, an American official pointed out that it was up to the Pakistani government to take the decision. “We have conveyed what we wanted to,” the official added. A crucial meeting of the Defense Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) is expected to review the situation this week to take a final decision. But officials from the two sides, though hopeful of a breakthrough, are not sure if the decision on the resumption of Nato supplies is imminent.

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