ISLAMABAD: A Nato invitation to Pakistan for a key summit in Chicago hours before a high-level civil-military huddle says it all: The decision to reopen vital land routes for the foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan was a foregone conclusion.
As was expected, the high-powered Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) on Tuesday finally gave a go-ahead to lift the almost six-month old blockade on Nato supplies passing through the country.
The supplies were suspended in November last year in reprisal to a Nato air raid on a Pakistani border post that had killed 24 soldiers and strained Pakistan-US relations to the breaking point.
But after weeks of hectic overt and covert negotiations, the two sides have finally struck a deal.
The DCC, the highest coordination forum between the civil and military authorities on issues of national security, authorised relevant ministries/departments to conclude the ongoing negotiations on the new terms and conditions for resumption of GLOCs (Ground Lines of Communications).
According to the official announcement, the new terms and conditions should incorporate a clause, as recommended by parliament, to the effect that only non-lethal cargo would be allowed to transit through Pakistan to Afghanistan.
Though the statement did not give any timeline, official sources disclosed that the new terms and conditions have already been finalised for the resumption of Nato supplies.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is likely to be formally approved by the federal cabinet, which is due to meet today (Wednesday) in the federal capital.
Interestingly, the government went ahead with its decision without getting an unconditional apology from the US for the deadly US air raid and a halt in the drone attacks inside the tribal regions.
Those two were the main preconditions set by parliament last month for reconfiguring ties with the United States.
In an attempt to tame the possible public backlash, the DCC decided that the foreign ministry would continue to remain engaged with the US on other parliamentary recommendations, including the question of a formal apology and cessation of drone attacks.
It was also decided that the military authorities should negotiate fresh border ground rules of Nato/Isaf to ensure that Salala-like incidents do not recur.
It welcomed the ‘unconditional invitation’ extended by Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to President Asif Zardari to attend the historic gathering of over 60 world leaders to discuss the Afghan endgame.
Earlier, Rasmussen telephoned President Zardari and invited him to the Nato summit being held in Chicago on May 20-21.
However, the presidential spokesperson insisted that the invitation was unconditional and not linked to the opening of Nato supply routes or to any other issue. The DCC endorsed the president’s visit to the summit. The committee also discussed parliament’s call for the expulsion of foreign fighters, if found, on Pakistan’s soil.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.
More in PakistanAnalysis: From Salala to Chicago – a needed breakthrough