ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee on National Security has paved the way for the government to reopen the Nato supply route after getting assurances from the US that there will be no repeat of the 26/11 attacks on Pakistani border posts by coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The government may introduce new conditions, including a tax on the Nato cargo transported through Pakistan, before announcing the resumption of the route suspended after the November attacks in Mohamand post in which 24 troops lost their lives.
The reopening of the route will, however, take place only after a joint session of parliament approves the committee’s recommendations.
Little opposition is expected in parliament because PCNS is a bipartisan committee and its proposals are likely to be accepted by all parties represented in the two houses.
The government had reacted to the border incident by closing down the crucial supply route and asking the US to vacate the Shamsi airbase, which was once used for drone attacks. The airbase was vacated within the deadline given by the government.
During the closure of the route that has entered eighth week, tens of thousands of containers with supplies for coalition forces in Afghanistan have piled up at the Karachi port. US cargo vessels again started arriving earlier this month after ISI Chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha’s secret meeting with US officials in Qatar.
“If there is a repetition of the violation all cooperation will come to a halt,” said a source, who briefed the government on the committee’s recommendations.
The Defence Committee of the Cabinet – the country’s highest defence policy forum – will meet on Saturday to deliberate on the recommendations.
The committee has made 35 recommendations, which chiefly call for continuing ties with the US but, at the same time, strengthening relations with Russia, China, EU and Muslim countries.
The committee, mandated to review terms of engagement with the US after the border attacks, also asked the government to pursue its demand for a civil nuclear deal.
It called upon the US to provide assurances that there would be no repeat of the Salala checkpost-like incident and to reimburse at the earliest all pending Coalition Support Fund claims.
DRONE ATTACKS: Drone attacks was a tricky issue for the committee because of a lack of unanimity among its members.
There was an effort to persuade the members to recommend a mechanism under which the US and Pakistan would carry out coordinated drone attacks against militants through shared-intelligence.
The proposal was based on the calculation that drone attacks had tactical advantages despite their strategic implications even though the latter outweighed the former.
However, some members wanted complete cessation of strikes by pilotless aircraft which violated the country’s sovereignty and caused heavy collateral damage.
US stopped the strikes after the Nov 26 border incident to prevent further annoying the Pakistanis, but resumed them earlier this week after a lull of about two months.
Officials fear that resumption of the attacks even before the parliament concludes its deliberations on the matter could harden positions in the country and constrict the government’s space to find a compromise solution.
A US military investigation into the border incident last month concluded that mistakes by both American and Pakistani troops had led to the incident.
Although Pakistan army initially rejected the report as insufficient, no detailed rejoinder was issued apparently to defuse tensions with the US.