Pakistan set to reopen NATO supply lines
Pakistan on Tuesday looked poised to end a nearly six-month blockade of NATO ground supply routes into Afghanistan, succumbing to a key demand of the West ahead of a summit in Chicago next week.world Updated: May 15, 2012 23:46 IST
Pakistan on Tuesday looked poised to end a nearly six-month blockade of NATO ground supply routes into Afghanistan, succumbing to a key demand of the West ahead of a summit in Chicago next week.
Islamabad shut its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies after US air strikes killed 24 soldiers last November, provoking the worst crisis in ties already frayed by the US raid that had killed Osama bin Laden in May.
But on Tuesday civilian and military leaders were to study reopening the route at a meeting of cabinet's defence committee, with a meeting of army chiefs and the regular cabinet due on Wednesday, then a formal announcement.
Sources familiar with the discussions told AFP the government had effectively decided to end the blockade, probably by the beginning of next week, and expected to be invited to the May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago.
Pakistani and US officials had reached a "broad agreement" on logistics for the fuel and other non-military supplies that would go overland through Pakistan to Afghanistan, one source said.
"The meetings will indicate that the decision has the backing of all the stakeholders," the source told AFP.
"This should minimise the prospect for Islamist groups to exploit the situation in the hope that they'll get the backing of the military establishment."
Pakistan's parliament has called in vain for an end to US drone strikes targeting Taliban and al Qaeda militants on its soil, and a formal US apology for the November air strikes.
But analysts say Islamabad has no choice but to reopen the border as US cash is needed to help boost its meagre state coffers, at a time when major NATO discussions are underway affecting its own strategic future.
Pakistan previously negotiated a fee of $160 per 40-foot container and is now looking to secure anywhere from $320 to $500, though the figure has yet to be agreed, a source told AFP.
The US has also guaranteed payment of at least $1.1 billion should the borders reopen, the source added.
Foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Monday that it was time to "move on".