ISLAMABAD – The tentative understanding reached between the United States and Pakistan on restoration of the Nato ground lines of communication through Pakistan and other related matters will be tabled before the Defence Committee of the Cabinet today (Tuesday), with a strong likelihood that it would get affirmative nod of the committee.
Sources aware of both overt and covert dealing between the two sides on the issue said that as a follow up session of the Sunday night’s meeting between the two sides, Federal Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafiz Shaikh on Monday afternoon held another meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R Nides at US Embassy, which lasted for well over two hours.
Sources in the PPP-led coalition government informed The Nation that the Shaikh-Nides meeting mainly focused on the release of Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and the US diplomat had assured Shaikh that the first tranche of US$ 400 would be released soon after the resumption of the Nato supply, with another tranche of equal amount to be released later.
It is pertinent to mention here that in total the US would have to provide US$ 2.5 billion under the CSF to Pakistan and Islamabad was to get US$ 800 million in year 2011 under the proposed plan, but when the relations between the two states had hit the snags following US raid in Abbottabad in May last the United States had stopped release of money to Pakistan under Coalition Support Fund.
Now, the US deputy secretary has given assurance to Pakistan that in case of resumption of the Nato supply routes and normalisation of the relations between the two sides the total amount of US $ 2.5 billion would be released to Pakistan in instalments by end of 2012.
Meanwhile in another development, Pakistan’s Ambassador to US Sherry Rehman also landed in the federal capital on Monday night and would be giving her reflection on the matter and the views of the people in Washington in a briefing to the DCC.
Both Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and Federal Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh held a meeting with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and briefed him on the tentative agreement they reached with the visiting US team lead by ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen on Sunday night.
Diplomatic sources informed The Nation that in the Sunday night meeting, which lasted for well over four hours, both sides had almost finalized the nitty-gritty of the agreement, including the apology being demanded by the Pakistan Government over the Salala check-post attack resulting in the martyrdom of 24 Pakistan Army personnel.
Sources further informed that US was reluctant to come up with an apology but now they would be ready to offer deep regrets for the mishaps would not reoccur in future from the top political leadership of the United States.
Sources further informed that the downward adjustment for the container tariff to be paid by the United States to Pakistan was also finalized while the matter of security provision to the Nato containers in Pakistani territory still needed to be settled as Pakistan wanted extra money for the same whereas the US was reluctant to dole out extra funds under this head.
The sources, however, did not give importance to it and termed it a minor issue, which would be resolved accordingly, as the major hiccups in the resumption of the Nato supply lines were removed.
Sources further informed that though the US team was having full mandate for the talks but they took the tentatively reached agreement on various issues right from the tariff rates for the Nato container to the release of the CSF funds and giving public face saving to Pakistan by coming up with some sort of ‘deep regret’, almost near to apology from the top US leadership, to Washington and would convey to Pakistani authorities about the final reflection of the US leadership on it in a next couple of days.
Sources in the government informed that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has summoned the meeting of DCC so that the political and military leadership would have a final word on the tentative agreement but the main reason behind calling the meeting was to give the impression that military and political leadership of the country was on same page regarding the matter.
These sources further said that it was expected the DCC’s decision would be provided the Cabinet ratification, as on Wednesday the Federal Cabinet would also be meeting.
Meanwhile Foreign Office spokesman on Monday informed that there have been significant developments in the Nato supply talks between Pakistan and the US but a final decision had not been reached in the meeting.
In the talks, the Pakistani delegation was led by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar while Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R Nides headed the US delegation the spokesman further informed.
After the negotiations in Pakistan, the US delegation left for Kabul, the spokesman said. Ms Khar will brief President Asif Ali Zardari on the meeting and take him into confidence, the spokesman said.
He stated that the US sides had held talks with Pakistani military and political leadership on various issues including Nato supplies and the Salala attack. He hoped that both the sides would be able to resolve confronting issues to normalise bilateral relations.