Closing the chapter on weeks of hard-talk and gruelling negotiations, a new agreement on Nato supplies through Pakistan is to be signed today (Tuesday) in Islamabad by senior officials from Pakistan and the US.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will replace the existing arrangement that had been in place since 2004. The new deal was part of an overall review Pakistan had sought in its ties with the US in the wake of last year’s Nato cross-border raid which killed 24 soldiers — consequently causing the suspension of the ground lines of communication for Nato-led foreign forces in Afghanistan for over seven months.
However, earlier this month, Pakistan formally agreed to lift the ban on the supplies for Nato forces after the US apologised for the killings.
Last week, the federal cabinet formally approved the new deal the two countries had been able to finalise after weeks of intense negotiations. Washington managed to convince Islamabad to drop its earlier demand of imposing an additional transit fee on Nato containers in return for an apology for the Salala incident and the release of long overdue finances from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which are reimbursements for expenses accrued in the war on terror.
According to the new accord, Pakistan will not allow transportation of arms and ammunition, as demanded by parliament in its foreign policy recommendations approved in April. However, military equipment for the Afghan National Army would be permitted to pass through the country.
Two routes have been identified for containers carrying Nato goods — southern and northern routes. Containers on the southern route will travel to Afghanistan from Karachi (Bin Qasim Port) via Chaman while the northern route caters to supplies from Karachi (Bin Qasim Port) via Torkham to Afghanistan.
According to the new MoU, Pakistan will not provide any warehouses or storage facilities for Nato goods.
It also authorises Pakistani authorities to stop the supply of goods that do not fall within the parameters of the new deal. Pakistan has agreed to provide facilities for security and quick transfer of the cargo and will keep the US informed about the monitoring and transit points of the shipments.
But it makes clear that the government will not take any responsibility of damage to commercial carriers. Under the new arrangement, the defence ministry will act as a central coordination authority to monitor the supplies.
In order to ensure the implementation of the new agreement, it was decided that officials from both sides will meet regularly.
The fresh MoU will be valid till December 31, 2015, but could be extended for one year after mutual consultations.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.
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