ISLAMABAD, Dec 1: Pakistan on Thursday conveyed to Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) that it was not considering an extension in the alliance’s 90-day mandate in the country and assured it of full assistance in withdrawal preparations. This was conveyed first to Nato Ambassador Fausboll by Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and subsequently to alliance’s secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer when he telephoned the foreign secretary.
Pakistan’s message to Nato comes on the heels of a top Nato official’s declaration that the alliance awaited a response from the government to its query whether it would like the Nato teams to continue with the quake relief work beyond the present 90-day mandate. Also, it coincides with APHC (All Parties Hurriyat Conference) leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s appeal to Nato to ‘supervise’ the suggested demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir.
A statement by the foreign office said: “Nato Secretary-General Mr Jaap de Hoop Scheffer telephoned Foreign Secretary Mr Riaz Mohammad Khan this afternoon to convey Nato’s appreciation of the facilitation extended by the president, prime minister and government of Pakistan for Nato’s relief assistance operation in Pakistan.”
The secretary-general also thanked the foreign secretary for the assurance extended to Ambassador Fausboll that the government would extend all assistance to Nato teams in their withdrawal preparations within the mutually agreed period of 90 days.
When Dawn contacted foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, she said: “Pakistan and Nato are sticking to their initial mutual understanding of 90-day humanitarian mission of Nato.”
She said the withdrawal would start in early February.
The spokesperson disagreed with a view that the team’s withdrawal would create a vacuum, saying that bulk of the relief work would have been completed by then.
The statement said the secretary-general during the conversation observed that Nato had been given the opportunity to play a modest role in the earthquake relief assistance effort.
The foreign secretary told the secretary-general that the relief help extended by Nato had been deeply appreciated by the government and people of Pakistan.
In what almost sounded like a pre-departure thank you note, the foreign secretary said to the Nato secretary-general: “The timely, massive and unprecedented airlift of tents and other shelter material to Pakistan and onward to the affected areas by 147 Nato planes to-date, bringing 2,600 tons of relief supplies from the UN, Nato member states and their partners, and also from the Pakistani diaspora abroad, constituted a most substantial and critical contribution, which we would always remember, along with the very valuable work being done by the Nato engineers, field hospital and medical personnel, water filtration unit, high altitude engineers, as well as by their heavy lift helicopters.”