This time, it seems, it’s give and take for Islamabad and Washington.
At a time when the country is set to make a final decision on reopening vital land routes for Western forces stationed in Afghanistan, US Ambassador Cameron Munter has pledged $110 million in aid to Pakistan.
The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC), the apex decision making body on national security, is expected to meet next week to review the policy guidelines recently passed by the parliament, an official from the Prime Minister House said. The high-level meeting will be chaired by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and attended by all services chiefs and key ministers.
The official, requesting anonymity, said the DCC will finalise a broader framework in light of the new recommendations to resume ‘business’ with the US.
The committee is expected to lay down its conditions under which the government is to announce the resumption of Nato supplies, which were blocked after US attacks killed 24 Pakistani soldiers five months ago. However, another official said that supply routes will only be reopened once Washington offers a formal apology for the airstrike.
There are indications that the US will make the announcement soon. US Ambassador Cameron Munter held an important meeting with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Monday. The Foreign Office’s statement quotes Khar saying to Munter that the new policy framework offered both countries “a unique and unprecedented opportunity to establish a deeper relationship based on shared values, mutual interests and benefits.”
It added that Munter appreciated the parliamentary process and hinted at addressing all outstanding issues once Islamabad is “prepared to deal with Washington.”
“Pakistan is working on its parliamentary recommendations. When it will engage with us, we stand ready to engage in all issues concerning Pakistan,” the statement quoted Munter as saying.
The letter of agreement, pledging $110 million in aid to Pakistan, was signed between Munter and Secretary Economic Affairs Division Dr Waqar Masood. The money is to be utilised for reforms in cross border security and counternarcotics activities.
Dr Waqar Masood, lauding the financial aid, said “the US assistance will strengthen our efforts to secure our western borders against drug trafficking, militancy and other forms of organised crimes that undermine the sovereignty of Pakistan.”
The aid will be used to train police officials and procure uniforms, vehicles and protective and communications equipment. The programme will support counternarcotics efforts, including poppy reduction and development of alternative crops, nationwide support for private and government drug treatment centers and anti-drug campaigns.
It also covers aviation support. The 50th Air Wing Squadron and its operating locations will be expanded in KP and FATA to improve monitoring at the borders.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.