Pakistan issues guidelines for resuming NATO supply lines
AP ISLAMABAD PAKISTAN’S parliament has unanimously approved new guidelines for the country in its troubled relationship with the United States, a decision that could pave the way for the reopening of supply lines to NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
The guidelines allow for the blockade on US and NATO supplies to be lifted, but also call for an immediate end to American drone strikes against militants on Pakistani soil.
However, the lawmakers on Thursday did not make a halt in the CIA-led missile attacks a prerequisite to reopening the supply lines, as some lawmakers had been demanding.
The government and the army will use the recommendations as the basis for reengaging with Washington.
Ties between the US and Pakistan all but collapsed in November after US airstrikes inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, after which Islamabad blocked the supply lines in protest. Washington wants the relationship back on track. The US State Department expressed respect for the Pakistani parliament’s decision.
“We respect the seriousness with which parliament’s review of US-Pakistan relations has been conducted,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “We seek a relationship with Pakistan that is enduring, strategic, and more clearly defined.” About 30 percent of supplies used by NATO and US troops in landlocked Afghanistan are transported through Pakistan.
Washington also needs Islamabad’s cooperation to negotiate an end to the Afghan war because many insurgent leaders are based on Pakistani soil. The drones are a source of popular outrage in the country and have fueled anti-US sentiment, although Pakistan’s powerful army has tacitly aided the missile attacks in the past, weakening Islamabad’s official stance that they are a violation of sovereignty. Washington has ignored previous entreaties by the parliament to end the strikes, and is seen as unlikely to change its policy now.
Despite calls by Islamists for a permanent supply line blockade, few inside the Pakistani government or the army believed this was desirable, given that Pakistan relies on the US and other NATO countries for its economic survival and diplomatic and military support.
Soon after the deadly airstrikes on the border, the Pakistani government asked parliament to draw up new guidelines for Islamabad’s relations with the US. The government’s move was widely seen as way to give it political cover for reopening the routes.
The national security committee presented a first set of proposals last month but opposition parties riding a wave of anti-American sentiment rejected them. But on Thursday the opposition voted with government to approve a revised set of guidelines, which differed little from the original ones.