US not bothered about Nato blockade: envoy

Published January 11, 2014
US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson. — File photo
US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson. — File photo

PESHAWAR: Ruling out any negative impact of the ongoing blockade of Nato supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson on Friday said his country had many options to flow goods out of Afghanistan.

“The so-called (Nato) blockade has no impact and role on our operations because Nato forces have very resilient supply chain for flowing in and out supplies from Afghanistan,” he told a group of journalists here.

The US ambassador looked more concerned about local businessmen and truckers, who, he said, had largely suffered from to the blockade rather than International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel in Afghanistan.

He said the US had an agreement with the federal government about the route that had been blockade by some local protesters.

He said the US had many options to take out its goods from Afghanistan and this so-called blockade could not impede the operation.

When asked whether the US government would directly approach Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan to resume Nato supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa he replied: “We want to engage with those who want to engage with us. But there should be an internal dialogue because it affects local businesses.”

Workers of PTI and its two coalition partners, Jamaat-i-Islami and Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan, have blocked inflow and outflow of Nato goods in Afghanistan by blocking supply routes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since November 23, 2013.

The protest camp has been set up on Ring Road, Peshawar to prevent container-mounted trucks carrying supplies to Nato from entering Afghanistan.

Imran Khan has declared that blockade will continue until the US stops drone strikes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.

The ambassador said the blockade would not affect the US assistance to Pakistan and that Washington had committed to continuing partnership with Islamabad and never threatened to cease assistance.

“Toady, I am going to announce formal programme in Peshawar,” he remarked although there might be domestic reaction in the US about the issue.

Mr Olson did not comment on trial of former president Pervez Musharraf by a special court and termed it Pakistan’s internal issue.

He said his government had good relations with the former president and that since the issue was sub judice, he would not comment on it.

The ambassador expressed concern over Dr Shakil Afridi’s detention in Peshawar’s central jail.

He said the US government had concerned about Dr Shakil’s imprisonment and his safety and that the issue had been raised periodically with the government.

Mr Olson ruled out the possibility of the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Nato forces and said proper mechanism had been put in place to cope US not bothered about Nato blockade: envoy with the post-ISAF situation.

He said Afghan National Army was picking up and had been conducting combat operations independently since last year.

“Lot of progress has been made in the past 10 years in Afghanistan. And really I don’t see any scenario that the Taliban would simply take over after Nato withdrawal at the end of 2014,” he said.

The ambassador said the international community would ensure that there’s no repeat of the 1990 and 1999 experiences in Afghanistan.

He said Afghan security forces and government had been strengthened, while the US was also going for signing bilateral agreement with Afghanistan.

Also in the day, the US ambassador called on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Engineer Shaukatullah here and discussed matters of common interest.

The two also attended a dedication ceremony of the southern part of Peshawar’s Ring Road, which has been improved and developed through the US support.

The governor highlighting the importance of the project said it was a Rs4 billion partnership between the US and the provincial government.

The ambassador said up-gradation and development of more than 18km long southern portion of Ring Road had been materialised through 60 per cent share on part of the US and the rest was shared by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Zahidullah Shinwari met the US ambassador and discussed the local investors’ problems.

Mr Shinwari said the US government should install 400MW power plant to ensure interrupted supply to industrial units in the province.

He said installation of mega power plant would generate employment opportunities for over 200,000 people in the region.

The KPCCI president called for the participation of private sector in assistance being provided by the US government.

He also urged the US to provide assistance for the expansion and upgradation of Bacha Khan International Airport, Peshawar.

The ambassador said his government would ensure involvement of private sector in its aid for economic sector.

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