ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wedenesday decided in principle to reopen the NATO supply routes.
In a meeting among the country’s top civil and military leadership, the proposal to lift the ban conditionally was discussed and consensus was reached. The meeting was attended by President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Director General ISI Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, the Air Chief Rao Qamar Suleman, the foreign secretary and heads of the coalition partners including Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali and MQM deputy convener Farooq Sattar.
The draft proposals would still need to be cleared by a joint session of the Parliament before the four month ban can be effectively lifted.
The US has on a number of occasion expressed its discomfort over the delay in the process, as NATO supplies through other means are much costly than the land routes of Pakistan.
Pakistan had shut land access for US supplies after NATO forces pounded two border checkposts in November 2011. The US adjusted for this by increasing air traffic for cargo and shifting backlogged critical elements through its Central Asia supply routes.
However, the critical fuel supplies, which were efficiently transported through Pakistan, did have an effect on the Afghanistan society which saw inflation rise.
A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that they had seen media reports about the re-opening of the NATO supply routes. “As far as we know no final decision has been made. Such a decision awaits parliamentary review which so far hasn’t happened.”
Last week, Opposition Leader in the Parliament, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had warned that the National Assembly will not be allowed to be made a rubber stamp on the issue.
Earlier, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said that the military will follow whatever policy the Parliament takes regarding ties with the United States, Express News reported on Wednesday.
Kayani made the statement during a meeting at the Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad.
The meeting was briefed about security and foreign policy related issues.
The Parliamentary Committee on National Security had been tasked with giving recommendations to review Islamabad’s ties with Washington in the wake of the Nato airstrikes that claimed the lives of 26 Pakistani soldiers.
The fifth joint session of the parliament under the ruling government will be held on March 17 and will be chaired by Zardari. The session is expected to review Pakistan’s troubled ties with the US.