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- Saturday, April 07, 2012 - From Print Edition


ISLAMABAD: The United States has agreed to release $1.18 billion under Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for Pakistan on immediate basis. It is expected that the money would be reimbursed in a month after settling of fresh terms of engagement between the two countries. The process is already under discussion in Parliament here. Once the release is made it would pave the way for restoration of confidence between the two countries that have developed sour relations over period of time due to several reasons, including defiance of Pakistanís sovereignty.


Islamabad and Washington were engaged in discussions for a number of days to evolve new formula for the payment. The US President will have to intervene for removal of the procedural delays, and the approval would also require the endorsement of the US Congress that would be forthcoming without much delay. The talks between the two countries were underway in Islamabad on various echelons where Pakistanís ambassador in the United States Ms Sherry Rehman and Finance Minister Senator Dr Hafeez Shaikh also played an active role, besides other officials, and now an arrangement has been agreed by both the sides for the purpose.


US Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides, who had meeting with number of important people here, including Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, last week has given signal to the authorities here in a clear-cut manner. The US has reimbursed $8.654 billion in shape of the CSF till now after Islamabad becoming an ally of the US in its so-called war against terrorism since 2001. The fence-mending visit of top US diplomat Tom Nides addressed the US concerns about security, calling for a "balanced" relationship that works through the countries' differences.


Meanwhile, US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Dr Rajiv Shah is visiting Islamabad Tuesday next to discuss further programmes of assistance and the financial assistance under Kerry Lugar would also come up for discussion. The sources pointed out that Pakistan hasn't expressed its keenness for the release of the money under the Kerry Lugar, but the US administration is willing to pay the same as gesture of friendliness. The administration has already obtained approval for the payment of $01 billion and as the two sides reached to some understanding, the amount would be released immediately. Pakistan has already got $653 million under this head while projects valuing $895 are underway in different parts of the country.


Highly placed sources revealed to The News here Friday that the US administration is prepared to initiate the process of CSF payment within a week, but the government has told the US interlocutors that any movement forward in this regard would be possible only after completion of Parliamentary process for shaping the new terms of engagement with the United States, Nato under the fresh guidelines for the foreign policy. Federal Finance Minister Dr Hafiz Shaikh is reluctant to offer any comments on the development by saying that the whole future dealing with the United States is subject to the parliamentary process in question. To a query, the minister said that Pakistan has also asked the United States that the future procedures for reimbursement of the amount under the CSF that is our own money must be without complex and cumbersome procedures. A formula has also been identified for the purpose, he said.


The sources pointed out that the US authorities have been accepting 65 to 70 percent claims put up by Pakistan forwarded as bills under the CSF in recent years, but the new system would eliminate the complaint with pertaining to the rejection of any bill. It was claimed earlier that the outstanding reconciled amount of $2.5 billion was pending before the US, but no amount was released since May 2011 after Osama bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad unilateral operation conducted by the US forces on Pakistani soil.


Now the Salala check post gory incident of November 26 further aggravated the relations between the two countries in which the US invading choppers martyred 24 soldiers of Pakistan, including two officers posted in the bordering areas with Afghanistan. More than 16 troops were wounded in the attack.


In an encouraging development leader of the major opposition party Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif has offered conditional support for the granting of permission for the passage to the Nato supplies from the soil of Pakistan as he has demanded secession of Drones attacks and in return he has given his nod for the passage. The second largest opposition religio-political Jamiat Ulami Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazalur Rehman, who boycotted the proceedings of the parliamentary Committee for National Security (PCNS) under Senator Mian Raza Rabbani on Friday, now has also agreed to review his decision after his meeting with the chairman of the committee. The chairman has left for Karachi without any prior schedule, and it is expected that the JUI would return to the committee meeting on Monday as it is deliberating the proposals for the new terms of engagement with the US and NATO.