ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan and the United States struggle to break the impasse in their troubled relationship, Washington has cautioned Islamabad of ‘multiple repercussions’, if the six-month-long blockade of Nato supplies is not lifted.
The implications include a halt in US assistance for the country’s fragile economy and squeezing the political space available to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party by relying on other political groups, according to officials familiar with the development.
“During the meetings Marc Grossman recently had with Pakistani officials, it was obvious that the US was running out of patience,” one official told The Express Tribune, requesting his name not be disclosed.
“A message has been conveyed at the highest level that if the government cannot take a decision regarding Nato supplies, the US will rely on Nawaz Sharif,” he disclosed. However, his claim could not be independently verified.
The official added that the Obama administration was increasingly concerned over the delay in the reopening of the vital supply routes for foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
Last month, the country’s parliament announced new terms of engagement that seek an unconditional apology from the US over the Salala incident. Initially, Washington agreed to accept the demand but due to a delay in the passage of the new recommendations, coupled with domestic compulsions of President Barack Obama, it seems now the US is reluctant to take such a step. A well-informed PPP lawmaker acknowledged that the government was in a fix on how to move forward after the US hardened its stance.
“There is now a growing realisation that it was a mistake and miscalculation to ask parliament to formulate new foreign policy guidelines,” said the lawmaker.
Parliament has taken a tough stance on some of the issues making it difficult for the government to implement, he contended.
The PPP lawmaker also revealed that the delay in the reopening of the Nato supply lines annoyed the US to the extent that it conveyed to the party leadership its options of working with alternate political forces of the country.
Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar on Sunday also hinted at mounting pressure on the government to reopen the supply routes. He told reporters in Lahore that Pakistan could face economic sanctions if it did not unplug the routes.
When approached, the US Embassy denied Washington conveyed any threats to Islamabad. “The UN wants Nato supplies to reopen, the US wants Nato supplies to reopen but that should not be characterised as a threat,” said the embassy spokesperson.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.