The government has asked the panel tasked with rewriting the terms of engagement with the United States to speed up its work, amid whispers that strong bilateral cooperation on the ground will resume shortly. The development indicates Islamabad’s willingness to sort out its differences with Washington sooner than later.
The all-party and bicameral parliamentary committee on national security met on Tuesday to finalise its recommendations for reviewing political, economic and military ties with the US in the wake of November 26 Nato airstrikes.
The 17-member committee, headed by Senator Raza Rabbani, has completed two-thirds of its work and is expected to furnish its final proposals by Friday, said a participant who asked not to be named. He added that the committee was now waiting for a briefing from the finance ministry on the likely implications of renegotiating rules of engagements with the US.
Rabbani himself told reporters that the panel had begun work on drafting the new terms of engagement.
The government’s move to push the committee to complete its job at the earliest opportunity is being linked with a reported understanding already reached with the US on contentious issues.
Officials familiar with the development claimed that the government had already conveyed to the US that Nato supplies halted since the November 26 incident would be resumed later this month. In addition, the docking at Karachi port over the weekend of the US vessel ‘Freedom’, carrying goods for troops stationed in Afghanistan, appears to suggest that the two countries are inching closer to resume ‘business as usual’.
The government is expected to announce the resumption of Nato supplies soon after parliament approves new terms of engagement with the US by the middle of this month. However, it is unclear under what agreement Nato supplies will be allowed to pass through the country. There are indications that Pakistan wants to impose additional transit fees on the transport of goods.
Interestingly, while the parliamentary panel is busy redrafting foreign policy with the US, concerned authorities are quietly working to overcome the differences. It is said that the recommendations of the parliamentary committee and the subsequent approval of the joint session of the proposals will only be for public consumption and formality.
“We are hearing all kinds of speculation but we will try our level best to ensure that our recommendations are implemented,” said a committee member. Meanwhile, the military is expected to release its detailed response to the US investigations into the Nato attacks on Friday.
The rejoinder will be an indication of which direction the ties might be heading.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2012.