Pakistan seeks face-saving formula in NATO talks

Published: May 24, 2012

Pakistan, US have been trying to patch up serious differences in their ties since Abbottabad raid.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is unlikely to re-open supply routes to Nato troops in Afghanistan unless the United States offers a politically acceptable formula in talks on ending a six-month standoff on the issue, a Pakistani official said on Thursday.    

The official said the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had to be politically savvy, taking into account widespread anti-American sentiment in the country ahead of general elections due by early next year.

“It is not fair for any country to expect any decisions that could be politically harmful ahead of elections,” the official, who is familiar with the negotiations, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The United States has been pushing Pakistan to re-open supply routes to Nato forces in Afghanistan in difficult talks that show no signs of a breakthrough any time soon.

Pakistan closed the routes, seen as vital to the planned withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2014, in protest against last November’s killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a Nato air attack along the Afghan border.

Higher transit fees are the most difficult issue in Pakistan’s talks in the negotiations, said the official.

Pakistan was demanding a substantially higher fee than the current $250 per container or per fuel truck that crosses its borders and it was not clear when a deal was possible, he said, without elaborating. “It could be tomorrow or it could be in two months,” said the official.

US frustrations with Pakistan deepened on Wednesday after Pakistani authorities sentenced a doctor accused of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden to 33 years in jail on charges of treason.

Dr Shakil Afridi was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign, in which he collected DNA samples, that is believed to have helped the American intelligence agency track down Bin Laden in a Pakistani town.

The al Qaeda leader was killed in a unilateral US special forces raid in the town of Abbottabad in May last year that heavily damaged ties with Washington, a source of billions of dollars in aid.

Bin Laden’s long presence in Pakistan – he was believed to have stayed there for years – despite the worldwide manhunt for him raised suspicions in Washington that Pakistani intelligence officials may have given him shelter.

Pakistani officials deny this and say an intelligence gap enabled Bin Laden to live here undetected.

No one has yet been charged for helping the al Qaeda leader take refuge in Pakistan. A government commission tasked with investigating how he managed to evade capture by Pakistani authorities for so long is widely accused of being ineffective.

American outrage over sentencing        

US officials and lawmakers said Afridi deserved only praise, not a 33-year jail sentence.

Two senior US senators called the ruling “shocking and outrageous” and urged Islamabad to pardon and release the doctor immediately.

But a Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman said the United States should respect the court’s decision.

“I think as far as the case of Afridi is concerned, it was in accordance with Pakistani laws and by the Pakistani courts, and we need to respect each other’s legal processes,” Moazzam Ali Khan told reporters.

Aside from the talks on Nato supply routes, Pakistan and the United States have been trying to patch up serious differences in their ties since the raid that killed Bin Laden, which humiliated Pakistan’s powerful military.

Islamabad is sticking to demands for an American apology for the Pakistani soldiers killed in the air attack on the border, but progress has been made on the issue, said the Pakistani official.

“We need some sort of apology,” he said.

Pakistan also wants an end to US drone strikes on militants on its territory.

Attacks by unmanned drone aircraft, which US officials say are highly effective against militants, fuel anti-American sentiment in Pakistan because they are seen as violations of sovereignty and inflict civilian casualties.

After conducting a review of ties with Washington last month, parliament called on the government to demand an end to drone strikes.

That, the official said, implies that Pakistan must itself expel foreign militants from its soil, including Uzbeks, Arabs and members of the Afghan Haqqani network, one of the most feared groups fighting US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Some Pakistani officials, and Haqqani leaders, have said the group no longer operates in Pakistan, contradicting US assertions that it operates from sanctuaries in Pakistan’s unruly North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border.

A US drone strike on suspected militants in the area on Thursday killed 10 people, Pakistani intelligence officials said, an attack likely to raise tensions in the standoff with Washington over Nato supply routes.

The pilotless drone aircraft attacked a compound in a village in North Waziristan, a day after a similar attack killed four suspected militants in the same region.

“The drone fired two missiles at the compound. We believe it was being used by militants,” one of the Pakistani officials said.

The United States has been urging Pakistan to mount an offensive in North Waziristan to pursue Haqqani militants.

Pakistan has said its military is stretched fighting homegrown Taliban militants, and some analysts doubt the army could defeat the group.

A full-fledged assault in North Waziristan looks more unlikely than ever, as a result of troubled ties between Washington and Islamabad, and Pakistan’s PPP-led government may want to put on a brave face in the supply route talks.

The administration is already deeply unpopular, with public frustrations growing over chronic power cuts, widespread poverty, unemployment and official corruption.

on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook

Reader Comments (15)

  • Hedgefunder
    May 24, 2012 - 5:57PM

    That window of opportunity is well gone ! Another flawed decision or rather indecision from Pakistan in regards to their foreign policy, especially on Global Stage too !
    Recommend

  • Fatah
    May 24, 2012 - 6:21PM

    No more talks. The citizens of Pakistan do not want any US/NATO supplies passing thru Pakistan, via land or air.

    Shut down all US/NATO access to Afghanistan.

    Close the US Embassy and consulates and cut diplomatic relations with America now.

    End of story.

    Recommend

  • Tosser
    May 24, 2012 - 6:32PM

    +++Shut down all US/NATO access to Afghanistan.
    Close the US Embassy and consulates and cut diplomatic relations with America now.
    End of story. +++

    I agree 200%.

    Pakistan is a democracy and in a democracy the will of the people should rule. And I don’t know or have heard of ANYONE who is in favor of opening the supply lines.

    Good riddance NATO and Ba-bye.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    May 24, 2012 - 8:15PM

    Good work Pakistan. Keep up the pressure. Its the only thing Americans understand. On another tack, I wonder if the winging Senators are starting to understand what the rest of the world thinks about their doubtful legal system, and the dreadful treatment they mete out to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Additionally, Dr. Afridi only received a 33 year sentence. Dr. Aafi Siddique received nearly 3 times that amount, and nobody has come up with evidence of any crime at the time of her arrest in Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Cautious
    May 24, 2012 - 8:31PM

    “We need some sort of apology,”

    By some accounts you have received over 20 variations of an apology (regret etc) — but your asking for an unconditional apology issued by the President of the USA combined and lets not forget your asking for punishment for the USA soldiers as well. But your hands aren’t clean in this tragedy and this is only an issue because the Pakistan military won’t admit that they contributed to the problem. The USA is prepared to continue on without Pakistan — hope your capable of continuing on without any support from the USA.

    Recommend

  • American
    May 24, 2012 - 9:35PM

    @Fatah:
    End of story … OR Beginning of the real story to unfold ?
    This real story is 60 years late in arriving….

    Recommend

  • Pakistani
    May 24, 2012 - 10:52PM

    @Fatah: Sorry Fatah , we don’t agree with you completely

    Recommend

  • Pakistani
    May 24, 2012 - 10:56PM

    But I love the pressure Pakistan building for the sake of sovereignty,we have to made up the mistakes done 60 years ago , but cutting diplomacy is no way a right thing

    Recommend

  • Imran Con
    May 25, 2012 - 2:31AM

    @Sexton Blake:
    You’re the type people just want to slap because you probably won’t understand big words.

    Recommend

  • shabnaz
    May 25, 2012 - 5:16AM

    Talk about Salala attack not Nato route

    Recommend

  • Truthbetold
    May 25, 2012 - 7:49AM

    Pakistan has kissed free billions of dollars goodbye.

    Recommend

  • Nasir
    May 25, 2012 - 9:25AM

    @Cautious:
    @Hedgefunder:
    I can see your frustration where Pakistan stands tall in front of US/ NATO this time. Thanks to democracy in Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • vasan
    May 25, 2012 - 10:15AM

    If at all Americans save your face, who will save your soul ??

    Recommend

  • May 25, 2012 - 10:22AM

    Zardari is damn smart as well as not. He has made sure by not opening up the supply routes, no one is blaming him, as opposed to facing all the concentrated flak for opening the routes.

    But, he has also made sure that Pakistan as a Country will suffer. Not so smart. Not too patriotic.

    Zardari has almost no chance of coming back to power, but Obama does. So, there is greater reason for Obama not to accept Pakistani demands than vice versa.

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    May 25, 2012 - 11:59AM

    @Cautious and Imran Kan,

    “America will continue without help from Pakistan”. Great idea, but I think it is a case of promises, promises. America started all the problems in South Asia, and so far it has cost them one trillion dollars plus. Pakistan was foolish enough to think they could help the Americans and it has cost them billions. Perhaps both countries will admit they are loosing the Afghan war, and although America will find another bad guy to attack maybe Pakistan will be allowed to revert back to simple things such as education, economics, jobs, and developing the infrastructure. These four things are not big words, but everybody in the world, other than simple minded people, feel they are important and would like to get back to the simple things in life.

    Recommend

More in Pakistan