Afghanistan transit trade agreement: ‘Treaty being used to bypass NATO supply suspension’

Officials say terms of engagement may be revised.


Irfan Ghauri December 11, 2011

ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR:


Just as Pakistan announced it would revise terms of engagement with the US and Nato, it is now considering doing the same with eastern neighbour Afghanistan, in what appears to be a continued revamping of foreign policy.


The bone of contention this time is the previously hailed Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade agreement, which is allegedly being misused in the wake of Islamabad suspending Nato supplies through the country’s land route.

Pakistan’s blockade entered a third week on Saturday, the longest closure of the 10-year war.

Pakistani officials believe that the trade agreement is being used to bypass the suspension of supplies in the aftermath of the November 26 Nato attack on military check posts, one of the many steps taken by the government in protest.

Behind closed doors, an official of the foreign office told senators during a recent senate panel meeting that the government is now seriously considering reviewing conditions of the agreement, which allows landlocked Afghanistan to transport goods via Pakistan.

“Since the current terms were being violated, new terms of cooperation will be discussed after we complete our own internal exercise,” an official said. He added that reports had been received that the agreement was being “misused”.

The provision of Nato supplies through Pakistan has already caused massive financial damage to the country. According to official records, the Pakistani economy has suffered a loss of Rs55 billion in revenue as a result of missing records of whether 29,000 containers crossed the border or not after being loaded in Karachi. In addition to this crucial missing information, 19,000 Nato containers are also missing on the electronic record of their exit points in Pakistan.

The reported damage caused by the Nato supplies does not end here, however. Recently, Federal Minister for Communication Dr Arbab Alamgir told Senate that the national exchequer had suffered a loss of Rs40 billion in the form of road damages caused by overloaded NATO containers travelling through the Karachi-Chaman and Karachi-Torkham route.

While the Parliamentary Committee on National Security has been tasked by the government to make recommendations for new terms of engagement with the US over the ‘War on Terror’, another official revealed that under the existing terms, Pakistan received a paltry Rs410 worth of cargo handling charges per container by NATO. The real profits were in fact being made by a cartel of Afghan contractors according to the official, who refused to divulge the identities of those behind the alleged cartel.

According to international law, it appears that Pakistan may very well revise the terms of the trade agreement with impunity. When asked if it was possible for Pakistan to change the terms of its agreement with Afghanistan once the treaty was signed, Umer Farooq Chaudhry, a lawyer of international law, said “In view of national interest, every country can evaluate it. You can tell your Afghan counterparts that your new demand of goods is not a natural demand and we think the treaty is being violated”. He added that an arbitration form is always available when a disagreement arises at any stage in a bilateral treaty.

Meanwhile, one senior security official said, “Pakistan will reopen the border when public anger cools down and the route is protected”. He added, “Nato will have to apologise. They will have to provide solid security for the future”. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2011.

COMMENTS (20)

Syed Kashmiri | 10 years ago | Reply

Pakistan has the best hand and it has played it in the worst way. It could make both Afghanistan,its supporters and India say uncle. The fault lies decidedly with the civilian leadership.

Parvez | 10 years ago | Reply

After all these years why is the ATT agreement still subject to misuse ?? No points for guessing the right answer.

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