Gingerly shuffling away from its rigid stance regarding reopening of NATO supply lines, Pakistan has asked all concerned departments to conclude ongoing negotiations on the new terms and conditions for resumption of this transit facility for non-lethal cargo of the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Though earlier indications were that the government would announce reopening of the supply lines — billed as Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) by the U.S. — after Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, that announcement did not come possibly because doing so is a hot potato as anti-Americanism is in high tide and the beleagured Pakistan People's Party-led dispensation wants to minimise the political cost to itself by moving towards the inevitable slowly.

On Tuesday night, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) — which includes members of the civil and military leadership — authorised officers of relevant Ministries/Departments to conclude the negotiations over resumption of GLOC. They have been specifically asked to incorporate the clause that only non-lethal cargo will be transported. This has been specified by Parliament in its guidelines for re-engagement with the U.S./NATO.

The DCC also asked the Foreign Ministry to remain engaged with the U.S. on other recommendations of Parliament including securing an apology from the U.S. for the Salala incident and cessation of drone attacks. The supply lines were shut down in November-end after NATO helicopters attacked Pakistan Army outposts in the Mohmand tribal agency along the border with Afghanistan killing 24 soldiers.

Pakistan is hoping to extract a bigger price from NATO for the transit facility which was provided free for the first 10 years since the war on terror began. From what Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar called a nominal charge that began to be levied since, indications are that it could be in the vicinity of $1,800 per container/tanker.

Regular terrorist attacks on NATO trucks had resulted in the coalition forces transporting a bulk of their shipment required in Afghanistan via the Northern Distribution Network — a series of commercially-based logistical arrangements connecting the Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. But the GLOC through Pakistan is a cheaper alternative and crucial for the planned withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan from 2014.

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