ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States signed a new deal on Tuesday governing arrangements for Nato convoys travelling to Afghanistan until the end of 2015. The new deal replaces verbal arrangements in place since the Musharraf-era, and signals yet another step towards gradual rapprochement between the two allies.
The pact, signed by Additional Defence Secretary Rear Admiral Farrokh Ahmed and Deputy US Ambassador in Islamabad Richard Hoagland, was the culmination of protracted negotiations over a period of seven months, in which the fractious allies fought hard to secure their respective interests.
Seemingly a quid-pro-quo arrangement, the agreement inked at the defence ministry in Rawalpindi will see the US release $1.1 billion due under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to reimburse Pakistan for its efforts in the war on terror, in exchange for the reopening of vital supply lines into Afghanistan.
Hoagland told reporters that Washington would release the funds following the formalisation of the new deal. The US last released CSF payments to Pakistan in December 2010, amounting to about $633 million (approximately Rs55 billion).
Officials at the ceremony gave no details of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) nor did they release a copy at a news conference.
The development comes just a day before the chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam, begins a three-day visit to Washington for talks with the head of the CIA.
Richard Hoagland hailed the MoU between the two governments.
“This MoU is a demonstration of increased transparency and openness between our governments, in respect of Pakistan’s sovereignty as requested by the Pakistani parliament,” he said, adding that the process had also opened new channels for the two countries to resolve other issues.
“Of course, it’s clear to our political leadership in both capitals … that we have a number of other issues to work on,” he added. Newly appointed Defence Secretary Asif Yasin Malik, who attended the ceremony, said the deal would contribute to the stability of the region and hailed it as a “landmark achievement.”
“With this agreement, there are no grey areas left in the process,” said Malik.
Islamabad agreed to reopen land routes for Nato goods on July 3 – ending the longest border closure of the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
The closure was in protest against Nato air raids that killed 24 Pakistani troops last November. However, a row over security guarantees and compensation has delayed a resumption of normal traffic.
The deal lasts until the end of 2015, well beyond the 2014 departure date for the bulk of Nato’s 130,000 combat troops from Afghanistan, and can be renewed for one-year intervals beyond that.
Interestingly, both countries can discontinue the MoU at any time by informing each other in advance
The deal specifies routes to be taken and has a list running to several pages of lethal supplies that may not be transported through Pakistan, as per the guidelines laid out by parliament earlier this year, although armoured vehicles and Humvees are permitted provided they are not mounted with weapons. However, Afghan security forces are exempt from this clause.
Furthermore, a central coordination authority will also be established at the defence ministry to monitor Nato supplies. In order to ensure the implementation of the new agreement, officials from both sides will meet regularly.
A Pakistani security official said the agreement gave Islamabad the right to refuse or reject any shipment and special radio chips would be fitted to containers for monitoring.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.