ISAF goods transit: NLC keen on getting a piece of the pie

Logistics arm says ISAF and NATO trade being conducted illegally.

Shahbaz Rana August 26, 2011

ISLAMABAD: A logistics arm for army on Friday suddenly realised after nearly ten years that the United States and the International Security Assistance Forces were transporting goods to Afghanistan in violation of the rules.

The National Logistic Board, the policymaking body of the National Logistic Cell, raised the issue of non-observance of rules by western and European embassies under the flag of Isaf during a meeting with the Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. It said these embassies, particularly the US, do not obtain No Objection Certificates from the NLC for transportation of their cargo to Afghanistan.

The National Logistic Cell’s latest assertion gives rise to the doubts about the nature of the cargo being transported in the ISAF containers, as thousands of containers were reported missing during past years. It also raises question about the intentions of the NLC to highlight the issue after ten years and at a time when military to military relations between Pakistan and the United States are at new lows.

Due to ongoing tussle on the issue of the US trainers Washington has already withheld $800 million tranche under Coalition Support Fund.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce also on Thursday, asked the government to bring Nato and Isaf traffic under the ambit of Pakistani law. The lawmakers were shocked when they came to know that even after ten years the movement of the Nato and Isaf containers was not regulated under any kind of agreement.

However, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Islamabad rebutted the NLC allegation, “The United States has transported goods to Afghanistan for many years now. We cooperate fully with the National Logistic Cell and always receive NOCs before conducting our transports”, said Siobhan Oat-Judge the acting spokesperson of the US embassy.

The NLB decided that strict compliance of existing rules and procedures on such transportation of goods should be observed.

The NLC that has already expanded its feet beyond its mandate and is largely working without any legal cover, on Friday demanded the government to allow it establish six terminals at the borders areas. An official who attended the meeting said that many viewed the NLC’s request as an effort to take over the country’s trucking industry.

The logistic wing of the army asked to allow it to establish terminals at Taftan, Chaman, Torekham, Wagha, Jamrode and Sust. However, the official said, the Finance Minister deferred the decision until procedural hindrances to execute the NLB’s demand are addressed. He also decided to involve all stakeholders like ministry of commerce, interior and Antinarcotics through a multi agency meeting to solve the issues and to operationalise the NLB proposal.

The NLC has no answers to the question of who would install scanners and lay infrastructure to make operational these terminals.

The Finance Minister also approved the expansion of Railway Freight Service of NLC. The NLC was allowed to purchase trains and locomotives from Pakistan Railways, South Korea and General Electric, USA.

The Finance minister also approved the proposal of NLB to purchase 300 prime movers- the type of engines to convert fuel to useful work at price of Rs2.5 billion from HinoPak in phases.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th,  2011.

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