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.

Zardari to visit Russia to attend Int’l Economic Forum

President Asif Ali Zardari will pay a three-day official visit to Russia from June 20-22 to participate in the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). President Zardari will join other world leaders in the Russian historic city of St. Petersburg at the annual gathering of leading decision-makers from across the globe to identify key economic challenges and engage in finding solutions. With this year’s theme ‘Effective Leadership’, the President will highlight the issues affecting the global economy and the increasing role of emerging economic powers in shaping regional and global agendas. Sources said President Zardari will also take part in the panel discussion titled ‘Leadership that works’ and will stress to minimize the global financial crisis and find ways to strengthen energy security, regulate financial markets, and introducing large-scale reforms. He will also present Pakistan’s point of view on the global economic model for the twenty-first century that can withstand geopolitical challenges and meet the interests of all countries. The President during his stay will hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin besides meeting several other world leaders and dignitaries on the sidelines of the Forum. He will also interact with the presidents and CEOs of the leading international business companies to seek investment in Pakistan, particularly in energy sector. The SPIEF will debate important topics including global energy outlook, the Eurasian economic integration, international global energy award, banking in the 21st century and investment in human capital.