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Govt allows Nato supplies by air

February 15, 2012

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While the parliament is still to determine terms for resumption of Nato supplies, the government has already given consent to the alliance to fly some goods to Afghanistan through Pakistan’s airspace.— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: While the parliament is still to determine terms for resumption of Nato supplies, the government has already given consent to the alliance to fly some goods to Afghanistan through Pakistan’s airspace.

In a rare public admission, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar on Tuesday accepted that Nato had been allowed to take foodstuff for troops fighting in Afghanistan on board aircraft flying through Pakistan’s airspace. But, he said, the permission was temporary.

“We have allowed them to transport food items by air to Afghanistan because they are perishable,” he told reporters after a ceremony for signing of an agreement for purchase of five new Boeing 777 aircraft from the US for the struggling national flag carrier, PIA.

“Rather than the perishable supplies getting spoiled, the government gave permission to take them out by air,” Mr Mukhtar said. He did not say when the permission had been given.

US Ambassador Cameron Munter had disclosed last week that Nato was using Pakistani airspace to transport supplies to Afghanistan.

Critics immediately condemned the exemption for Nato food shipments as a circumvention of Defence Committee of the Cabinet’s decision to close down the supply lines used by coalition forces based in Afghanistan, which amounted to pre-empting the parliamentary discussions on future of relations with the US.

Others saw in the relaxation a thaw in relations.

The DCC, in an emergency meeting after the Nov 26 attack on the Salala checkpost, had “decided to close with immediate effect the Nato/Isaf logistics supply lines”.

At the same time a parliamentary process for review of relationship with the US was initiated.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which spearheaded the effort, has formulated its recommendations that are to be debated at a joint sitting of parliament.

The defence minister, however, made it clear that full restoration of supply lines would depend on the decision taken by parliament.

But, there are clear indications that the blocked routes would be opened shortly.

Officials have in background interviews said the decision for reopening the supply lines had already been taken.

Meanwhile, security officials from Pakistan and Isaf met on Tuesday in Chaman for discussing security arrangements for resumed Nato supplies.

Following the closure of the routes, Nato’s reliance on the alternative northern route passing through Russia and Central Asia has increased, but the option has been proving very expensive for the coalition forces.

US Charge d’Affaires Richard Hoagland, who was present at the signing ceremony, said his country eagerly awaited the parliamentary discussion on bilateral relations.