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Nato supply routes likely to be reopened

Parliament unanimously approves revised set of foreign policy guidelines for rebuilding ties with the US

Gulf News

Islamabad The stage is set for the reopening of the Nato supply routes to Afghanistan through the country after the parliament unanimously approved a revised set of guidelines. The route has been closed for more than four-and-half months.

A joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate passed with consensus recommendations of the bi-partisan Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) containing foreign policy guidelines and terms for rebuilding ties with the US.

Effectively leaving it to the government to take a decision on restoring Nato supply lines, the PCNS recommended that "Pakistan's territory and its airspace shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan."

The committee called for an "immediate cessation" of US drone attacks on suspected militant hideouts in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas along the Afghan border, without making it a condition for resumption of Nato supply routes as was envisaged in the original draft.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, speaking in the parliament, vowed that the recommendations would be implemented "in letter and spirit". He said the parliament's action would enhance "respect" for the country and its parliamentarians throughout the world.

Initiate discussions

Sources said Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was expected to visit the US soon to convey the outcome of the parliamentary process and initiate discussions.

Prompt hostile reaction to the expected reopening of Nato supplies route came from a religious grouping calling itself Difa (defence) of Pakistan Council which threatened it would resist the move and block the routes. The sources said Gilani was to convene a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet to declare the reopening of the Nato supply routes. The closure of the routes, after an US air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26 last year, was enforced by this committee.

Despite calls by Islamists for a permanent supply line blockade, few inside the Pakistani government or the army believed this was desirable, given that Pakistan relies on the US and other Nato countries for its economic survival and diplomatic and military support.

On Thursday the opposition voted with government lawmakers to approve a revised set of guidelines, which differed little from the original ones. Opposition lawmakers didn't explain why they had dropped earlier objections, but they could have come under pressure from the army or extracted other, unrelated concessions from the government.

Important recommendations

  • Ministry of Defence and Pakistan Air Force should formulate new flying rules for areas contiguous to the border.
  • No overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be permitted.
  • No private security contractors and/or intelligence operations (of foreign countries) shall be allowed on Pakistani territory.
  • Pakistan's territory will not be provided for the establishment of foreign bases.
  • Pakistan's sovereignty shall not be compromised. The relationship with the US should be based on mutual respect.
  • The US footprint in Pakistan must be reviewed. This means an immediate cessation of drone attacks inside the territorial borders of Pakistan; the cessation of infiltration into Pakistani territory.

— With additional inputs from AP