ISLAMABAD - Amid the parliamentary debate on new rules of engagement, the United States is struggling as to how it can skip Pakistan’s core demand to bring the attackers of Salala checkpost to justice.
Well-placed sources told The Nation on Monday that a senior US government official, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides is expected to visit Pakistan soon to discuss the issue with Pakistani authorities in a bid to find a face-saving solution.
However, diplomatic sources did not agree that Mr Nides would be visiting to discuss this particular issue alone. They say his agenda carries other more critical issues including the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and resumption of Nato supplies. “The US respects Pakistan’s parliamentary review process, and is committed to discuss (its) conclusions”, a US diplomat said without sharing details regarding purpose of the visit of Nides, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, at a time when Pakistani parliament is yet to conclude its debate on new rules of engagement with the US. He is due to hold discussions with relevant government officials, including Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.
Despite the consistent US attempts, Pakistan has refused to lift the ban on supplies until Washington agrees to bring the attackers of Salala checkpots to justice and pay compensation, besides agreeing to pay additional taxes on Nato supplies. The official added that Washington had shown its willingness to accept Islamabad’s demand of additional levy on Nato goods passing through Pakistan.
The Coalition Support Fund (CSF) would also come under discussion during the meeting, sources said, adding that the US Ambassador Cameron Munter met Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh last week to finalise the agenda of Nides’ visit. The CSF has been one of the contentious issues between the two countries. The fund was established by the United States in 2001 to support 27 nations, including Pakistan, to partially cover costs they incur during the war against terrorism.
The talks would mark the first time the two countries will hold formal negotiations on the issue since Islamabad shut down the vital supply routes in November last year in reaction to the Nato airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The mainstream opposition parties in Pakistan as well as some coalition partners of the ruling PPP seem reluctant to allow resumption of Nato supplies until the US bring the culprits of Salala incident to justice.