While the military commanders of Pakistan, US-Nato and Afghanistan, who discussed the resumption of Nato supplies at Islamabad on Sunday, came out of their meeting upbeat about having made significant progress on the issue, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar left little doubt that the decision in favour of reopening the route had been taken. To paraphrase her words reported in the media, ‘the time has come for letting these supplies through.’ The route was blocked to register protest at the death of 24 of Pakistani soldiers during the Salala attack, she said, because we could not have remained silent over the incident; the supply channel had to be reopened sooner or later. After all, Pakistan would not like to incur the opposition of 48 countries which are operating in Afghanistan under the Nato umbrella. The Foreign Minister added that otherwise Pakistan would have to face problems, and that the issue had also come up at the Gilani-Cameroon meeting during the Prime Minister’s recent visit to England and the British Foreign Minister would be visiting Islamabad next month.

On the face of it, Ms Khar has made a plausible case for the reopening of the supply channel. Viewed in the light of pragmatic politics, it is hard to argue for remaining at cross-purposes with the superpower and a host of other powerful countries for long. And in an issue that is as sensitive as the well being of their soldiers in a hostile climate, Pakistan would have to carefully evaluate the consequences of its attitude that is bound not to go down well with them. Apart from that, we have been cooperating wholeheartedly, albeit going against the wishes of the majority of the population, in the war on terror and now that they want to withdraw their troops, the denial of transit facility would look odd.

However, that is just one side of the story. Pakistan’s case is not weak either. Not only has its sovereignty been violated repeatedly, but its soldiers have also lost their lives in an unprovoked attack by the Nato helicopters. It is simply churlish on the part of the strong to insist on continuing with drone attacks, a source of constant humiliation and affront to a sovereign state, and refuse to tender an apology for causing the deaths of these soldiers. The temptation of invitation to the Chicago summit and the release of $1.18 billion due to Pakistan should not be enough for us to give up our legitimate stance. Our interlocutors should apprise the US of the backlash of lifting the restriction on the transit of Nato goods, both in terms of resistance of the move and the anger the Pakistan government has to face from a large body of committed people for compromising national honour and interests. And on that score, they should tell the US that accepting our demands would help to some extent defuse the situation and at least cool the tempers that flare up every time there is a drone hit. But the government - and from yesterday's picture of General Kayani with his American and Afghan partners, one can safely assume, the military as well - is bent upon reopening the supply route despite the US refusal to accept our demands, they will invite public ridicule and further disillusion upon themselves and their effectiveness.