ISLAMABAD: As the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) mulls over the resumption of Nato supplies, Pakistan is simultaneously working out the anticipated costs to its infrastructure when foreign troops start withdrawing from Afghanistan next year.
Meanwhile, the opposition also decided to end its boycott of the PCNS sessions.
Officials say the cost of withdrawal to Pakistan is likely to be high, considering the level of withdrawal activity. According to estimates, one container will leave Afghanistan every seven minutes – and the process will continue for a year and a half during the peak withdrawal phase. “Even if half of these containers pass through the Pakistani route we will be receiving a container every 15 minutes or so at our border at the time of withdrawal. We have asked the finance ministry to work out the cost our road infrastructure will be bearing at the time of Nato withdrawal,” an official told The Express Tribune.
Costs of withdrawal
Sharing rough contours of the planned NATO withdrawal, the official said that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had told the parliamentary panel that the finance ministry should also work out the cost of damages to the country’s already fragile infrastructure.
Khar recently informed the PCNS that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a more important issue than the resumption of Nato supplies to Afghanistan.
The international forces will have three options during withdrawal: Using the air corridor, the Northern Access route through the Central Asian states, and the Pakistani land and sea route.
International forces are likely to airlift personnel and more sophisticated equipment but they will have to use the Pakistani or northern route to move out most of the equipment they have moved into Afghanistan since 2001.
The official added that Pakistan was the cheapest route for Nato and Isaf. It is estimated that more than 100,000 containers will be used if Nato pulls out its equipment through any land route.
Some parties in the PCNS had proposed that parliament should recommend the resumption of non-military supplies to Nato – a clause on which almost all the parties can agree to. But such a recommendation is considered to be impractical – when the time for withdrawal comes, it will be mainly military equipment being pulled out.
Opposition ends boycott
On Wednesday, the opposition also agreed to bring an end to the PCNS boycott.
“PML-N President Nawaz Sharif agreed to the telephonic suggestion of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to participate in the proceedings of the PCNS being held on Thursday (today) under the chairmanship of Senator Rabbani” said an official statement issued by the Prime Minister House.
The recommendations of the PCNS are once again going through a review in the committee after the opposition objected to clauses presented in the joint sitting of the parliament last month.
The deadlock over some contentious clauses is yet to be resolved as the committee resumes its deliberations on Thursday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2012.