ISLAMABAD - The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) on Tuesday announced restoration of ground lines of communication for Nato/Isaf supplies through Pakistan in tandem with a tacitly worded apology from the US over the Salala episode, which resulted in the closure of supply routes last November.

The resumption of Nato supplies and the understanding reached between the US and Pakistan is expected to have a positive impact on the bilateral relations and pave the way for resolving long pending issues.

Reading out the decisions taken by the political and military leadership of the country, Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira insisted that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had tendered a formal apology, whereas the Secretary’s exact words implied that the US felt sorry for the Salala incident and that they would ensure that such incidents would not happen again.

The DCC’s decision seemed falling short of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and on face of it none of the demands from the Government of Pakistan was met, including the much-talked about transit fee charges and immediate cessation of drone attacks within the Pakistani territory.

However, sources aware of the deliberations during a series of meetings which had taken place between the two sides over the past several months insisted that in coming days details of the understanding reached between the two sides would emerge and were expected to paint a rosy picture for Pakistan being compensated in shape of increased cooperation on existing and pending projects.

According to the press release issued by the Prime Minister’s House, the DCC also decided that no lethal cargo will go into Afghanistan except equipment for Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), essential for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The DCC reconfirmed that Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee but the issue in the first place was not of financial gains but of the principle of sovereignty. It reaffirmed that it will continue to be guided by the recommendations of the Parliament in future as well.

After the unfortunate incident of Salala, last year on 26th November, 2011, the DCC decided to ask for vacating the Shamsi Airbase and blocked the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs) through Pakistani territory to Afghanistan.

These decisions were guided by Pakistan’s principled stance on the issue of sovereignty.

The foreign minister briefed the DCC on recent discussions with senior US officials on the resetting of the Pakistan-US relationship in line with the parliamentary recommendations.

The DCC stressed that it was in Pakistan’s interest to support the transition and the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan as Nato/Isaf forces draw down by 2014. To enable a smooth transition in Afghanistan it was essential for the military drawdown at a lower cost and through an efficient transit facility. The DCC further noted, “In view of our larger objective of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region and also our cooperative relations with the 50 member states of Nato/Isaf, Pakistan wanted to facilitate the transition process and help enable Afghanistan’s national institutions to exercise full sovereignty over their country.”

The DCC reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the elimination of terrorism for the sake of a secure future for Pakistan.  The DCC further reiterated Pakistan’s stance on drones and agreed to continue to engage the US on counter-terrorism cooperation and counter-terrorism tools that are in line with international law and practice.

The DCC stressed that as recommended by the Parliament, Pakistan’s future relations with the US must be based on mutual respect and mutual interest and conducted in a transparent manner.

Responding to media persons’ questions, Kaira said they would not be charging extra transit charges for the Nato containers from US and added that this step vindicated that it was not the matter of money, as widely believed, but it was the matter of principle and the honour and sovereignty of the country.

There was no word from the federal minister whether the decision of DCC would be put before the federal cabinet today (Wednesday) for formal ratification or not and he simply said the DCC had decided to open ground lines of communications for Nato/Isaf through Pakistan.

When he was asked that Clinton has not used the word ‘apology’ and just said that they feel sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military, Kaira insisted it was an apology and said now one should not go into the wording.

Hillary Clinton, who was informed about the reopening of the supply routes during her telephonic conversation with Hina Rabbani Khar, said, “I once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November. I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”

“As I told the former Prime Minister of Pakistan days after the Salala incident, America respects Pakistan’s sovereignty and is committed to working together in pursuit of shared objectives on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect,’ she added.

Earlier in his opening remarks at the DCC meeting, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said, “We are committed to working with the international community to counter the threat of terrorism, both at the regional and global levels as it has been our constant endeavour to safeguard Pakistan’s supreme national interests in a most effective and inclusive manner.”

Raja said Pakistan had been cooperating with the international community on the principles of mutual respect, trust and interest, as it was an active and responsible member of international community.

“We have paid a high price for this cooperation. Many of our valiant officers and jawans of the armed forces and security personnel fell victim to terror and have embraced martyrdom. Our civilian population has repeatedly been targeted by terrorist organisations.”

“The continued closure of supply lines not only impinged on our relationship with the US, but also on our relations with the 49 other member states of Nato/Isaf,” he concluded.

Deputy Prime Minister Pervaiz Elahi, Defence Production Minister Sardar Bahadur Ahmed Sihar, Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira, Senior Adviser to Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik, Chairman JCSC General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, Acting Chief of Naval Staff Vice-Admiral Tanveer Faiz, Director General ISI Lt-Gen Zahirul Islam, Director General IB Aftab Sultan and seniors officials participated in the meeting.