Pakistan and the US looked close to a breakthrough as the meeting of Defence Committee of Cabinet came to on the heels of overnight talks between top Pakistan and US officials to narrow down their differences. It was the second time in less than a week that the ISAF Commander, John Allen, landed in Pakistan to help break the impasse on restoration of Nato supplies. He, along with US deputy secretary of state Tom Nides held extensive talks with their Pakistani interlocutors including Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Chief of Army Staff Gen Kayani. To keep media at bay, the talks were held at Hina Rabbani’s residence and at GHQ. The two sides had finally reached an agreement. In the meeting at Hina’s residence at the Ministers’ Enclave, the two sides took to finalising the nitty-gritty of a proposed agreement for reopening of the Nato supplies and other contentious matters between the two states. As per the agreement the US would come up with something near apology on Salala attack; and the US would announce immediate release of payments under CSF. The issue of charges to be paid by Nato to Pakistan for using country’s road network was also settled downward from what Pakistan had demanded –$5,000 per container – to around $1,000. The US has given assurance that it would compensate Pakistan in some other way. Pakistan-US relations hit the snags when a month or so ago the US had recalled its technical staff engaged in drafting and finalizing mutually acceptable terms for restoration of Nato supply routes.

Obviously the opening of Nato supply would help (a) end the bilateral impasse, diplomatic stalemate and the ensuing blame-game; (b) enough has been done in terms of ‘punishment’ to the ally for ‘deliberate’ attack on Salala that killed 24 Pakistan soldiers; (c) the message is clearly sent across that any such attempt by the US would be considered as an act of aggression and that it would carry more severe repercussions; (d) the hostile elements within Pakistan like the PDC must also be convinced that hostility must not be given way to spoil the relations out of emotionalism; (e) if the formula of payment is agreed upon, the ultimate beneficiary of this deal would obviously be the nation; (f) with this Pakistan has once again proved that its strategic importance cannot be undermined, it has the will and desire to join hands with the world community, not in isolation but through diplomatic and political endeavors, towards resolving the Afghan imbroglio peacefully, and that its negotiators like the foreign office and Gen Kayani have acquired enough skill, courage and resoluteness to fight for Pakistan’s national and sovereign interests; (g) this also goes to the credit of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf that such an issue of bigger importance has been amicably solved within the first week of his assuming the office.

ESCHMALL SARDAR,

Peshawar, July 3.