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GOING TO CHICAGO

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
May 19, 2012 3:40:46 am

GOING TO CHICAGO

Pakistan blocked the supply route to NATO troops in Afghanistan last year,when 24 of its troops stationed at the southwestern border were killed in what was reported by the Pakistan media as an unprovoked attack. This,coupled with the discovery that Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad,strained US-Pakistan relations. To formally register its unhappiness with Washington,Islamabad refused to attend the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan last year. Pakistan was not invited to this year’s NATO summit starting tomorrow in Chicago because they had closed their supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan for six months. Dawn quoted NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen last week as saying that in return for the invitation,the supply routes must be reinstated.

The News,on May 14,reported that Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar “stressed” they can’t afford a confrontation with NATO. Days later,the reopening of the supply routes became front page news in Pakistan’s newspapers. Khar was quoted on May 15 by The News: “It was important to make a point,Pakistan has made a point and we now need to move on and go into a positive zone…” With NATO having to resort to alternative routes,its transport costs have gone up. The News reported on May 15 that in 170 days,the US spent an additional $1.5 billion dollars. The Express Tribune reported on May 18 that the US House of Representatives passed an amendment to block up to $650 million to Pakistan,unless the route is reopened.

The matter reached Pakistan’s Defence Coordination Committee (DCC),which,Dawn reported on May 15,remained inconclusive on the reinstatement of the supply route. A Daily Times editorial,however,said on May 17: “As expected by many observers,the DCC has given a ‘green light’ to the reopening of NATO’s supply routes,with the caveat as per Parliament’s resolutions that only non-lethal cargo would be allowed to traverse Pakistani soil…” Another report in the paper quoted Zardari’s spokesperson as saying that “the invitation… was unconditional… The president told Rasmussen that he would consider the invitation in light of (the) guidelines of Parliament and advice of the government…”

A report from the Christian Science Monitor was quoted by The Express Tribune on May 16,announcing what could come as good news to cash-strapped Pakistan. The report,titled “Pakistan’s price: US to pay $365 million more a year to reopen supply lines”,states that the US-led coalition is expected to pay Pakistan a fee of $1,500 to $1,800 for every truck carrying supplies through the country. Officials… said that the bill is estimated to go up to $1 million per day.”

Electing the CEC

FORMER Pakistan PM and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is facing corruption charges again. Daily Times reported on May 18: “The National Accountability Bureau (NAB)… said it has started investigations against the Sharif brothers in a $32 million money laundering scandal. ‘The reference against Sharif brothers was sent by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and it will be decided on merit,’ NAB spokesman Zafar Iqbal… Replying to a question…that President Asif Ali Zardari had directed the NAB chairman to initiate the inquiry… and reopen pending cases against them,the spokesman said the president had only directed the NAB chairman to ensure that there was no political victimisation.” This comes after Sharif said on Thursday that after Yousuf Raza Gilani’s conviction,he does not accept him as the prime minister,reported Dawn on May 18. Sharif and Gilani strongly disagree over the appointment of the chief election commissioner. Sharif has vowed to not let the PPP install a candidate of their choice. It is noteworthy that Pakistan goes to the polls early next year.

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