ISLAMABAD: The United States has accepted the new terms of engagement with Pakistan covering all aspects of bilateral ties between the two countries as enumerated by Islamabad, possibly bringing to an end the acrimonious relationship between the two countries created in the wake of the Salala attack last November.
Pakistan accepted the set of proposals handed to it by the high-powered US mission during the two-day talks that ended here on Monday evening. The draft of the understanding will come up for formal approval in the meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) that is scheduled for today (Tuesday) with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in the chair, following which the federal cabinet will endorse the decisions of the DCC tomorrow (Wednesday).
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will call her counterpart in Islamabad Hina Rabbani Khar and will convey the apology for the Salala incident after which the remaining issues will be settled one after the other as the ground lines of communication (G-LOC) are reopened.
The route will be strictly used only for non-lethal goods for the troops combating in Afghanistan. The passage fee per container would be charged according to its size and the stuff carried would be subject to scrutiny as no weapon or ammunition would be allowed to be transported. The US has assured Pakistan that it would respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and intelligence sharing will guide the use of drones in difficult terrain of the tribal areas.
Federal Minister for Finance Senator Hafeez Shaikh told The News late Monday evening that once the United States had agreed to almost all the conditions set by Pakistan, one should not think in acrimonious terms. Khar, who also looked jubilant about the developments, said “We are close to a new beginning.”
In the meantime, highly-placed diplomatic sources told The News that Washington had assured Islamabad that it would release half of the payment equaling $400 million under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) next week while the rest would be released within this year.
The United States had pledged that it would pay Pakistan $800 million in the year 2011 for providing assistance in the ‘war on terror’ but tension in ties came in the way of payment according to the stipulated time. The US is bound to pay Pakistan an amount of 2.5 billion US dollars.
The United States will also discuss at the appropriate level the realisation of funds under the Kerry-Lugar law which will help improve the balance of payment and allow the government to fulfill the fiscal commitment it had made in the budget for the next year with its people. With this, the military cooperation between the two defence establishments would also be restored to the normal scale, sources maintained.
The sources said that Finance Minister Senator Hafeez Shaikh, who led Pakistan in talks with visiting US Undersecretary of State Thomas Nydes, has reported to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf about the outcome of the negotiations on Monday evening. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was also present. Pakistan’s Ambassador in the United States Sherry Rehman has arrived here in the wee hours of Tuesday. She will also attend the DCC on special invitation.