Sunday, 20 May 2012

Pakistan at the NATO Summit

Afghanistan is the major topic for the Chicago Summit which gets underway later today, and it would have made no sense to deal with that topic with Pakistan absent. But, until earlier this week, that is what may well have happened. NATO-Pakistan relation shave been bad since the NATO attack on a Pakistani border post that killed several Pakistani soldiers last year. However, earlier this week Pakistan signalled that it might be willing to reopen the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan that were shut down after the air attacks, and NATO issued a formal invitation to President Zardari to attend the Summit along with other partners to ISAF.

Negotiations on the conditions for a restart of Pakistani cooperation with NATO continue. Voice of America reports that:
The United States and Pakistan are engaged in intense negotiations to finalize a deal to end the blockade. Prime Minister Gilani said he has instructed concerned ministries and departments to conclude the talks as quickly as possible.Pakistan is seeking heavy taxes on future NATO convoys, a condition diplomatic sources say is hindering the talks. Pakistan's Junior Communications Minister Dost Mohammad Mazari defends the demand. “For the last 10 years, NATO supply has been going on from [the southern port city of] Karachi to different places into Afghanistan,” said Mazari.  "There were some damages to our [road] infrastructure. The damages what we have gathered from our resources and staff is $1.5-billion.” The minister says Pakistan has proposed a levy of $2,500 per truck, suggesting the amount could be negotiated down during talks with the United States. Pakistani officials also are seeking an unconditional U.S. apology for the deadly border strike and are demanding an end to drone strikes that American officials say target Taliban and al-Qaida militants hiding in Pakistan's northwest, along the Afghan border.
According to other sources Pakistan first proposed a fee of $5000 per truck which was swiftly ruled out. But whatever the levy it will be a significant revenue source for the Pakistani government, although with attacks by the Taliban the convoys are also a source of instability and danger inside Pakistan.

The convoy fees are also an internal matter in Pakistani politics, reports show (see here for example) that some Baloch politicians have called for direct investment of the revenue received for the development of Balochistan.

Whatever decisions are made in Chicago, the Pakistani government insists that it will not reopen NATO's supply lines without the approval of parliament. And while NATO has managed to maintain supplies through northern routes for the past few months, with the withdrawal looming it will need southern exit routes to bring  the huge amounts of equipment, vehicles and supplies home as combat operation end.

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