Decision after U.S. says sorry for Salala attack

Pakistan on Tuesday decided to reopen the NATO supply lines running through its territory into Afghanistan after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was “sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistan military” in the Salala attack of November 26.

This announcement was made by Ms. Clinton from Washington on Tuesday night (Pakistan time) even as the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) was in session to discuss reopening the supply lines. She said Pakistan would continue to allow transit facilities to NATO supplies free of cost.

Pakistan made the announcement well over an hour after the State Department released details of a telephonic conversation that Ms. Clinton had with her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar. Briefing journalists, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the decision nailed the canard that was being spread of Pakistan holding out on the issue primarily to get a big fee from NATO for using the Ground Lines of Communication (supply lines).

According to the State Department, both Ministers acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. This is a deviation from the official Pakistani position which has always maintained that the NATO helicopters attacked military outposts deliberately.

Quoting Ms. Khar, the statement said that “GLOC into Afghanistan are opening. Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region. This is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region.”

During the tele-con, Ms. Khar also made it clear to Ms. Clinton that no lethal equipment would transit into Afghanistan through GLOC except those meant for equipping the Afghan National Security Forces. About the free transit of NATO supplies into Afghanistan through Pakistan, the State Department acknowledged that this would help the U.S. and International Security Assistance Force conduct the planned drawdown at a much lower cost as opposed to shipping all the equipment out via the alternative route through Central Asia.

Pakistan had closed the supply lines in November-end to protest the Salala attack. Since then both countries have been moving in circles in a bid to break the stalemate but rampant anti-Americanism in Pakistan and doubts about Pakistan’s commitment towards fighting terrorism in the U.S. made the task all the more difficult; more so because both countries are in an election year.

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