Islamabad, 14 May 2012. As negotiations with the U.S. over reopening NATO supply lines through Pakistan entered an ‘either-or’ phase with the West obliquely linking it to an invitation for next week’s Chicago conference on Afghanistan, Islamabad on Monday hinted at a readiness to “move on” and “continue to be a facilitator” in the global war on terror.
Refusing to give a direct answer on whether the NATO supply lines would be reopened, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told the media that Pakistan wants to continue to be facilitator and an enabler; not a blocker. Maintaining that the objectives of Pakistan and NATO are identical, she sought to underline the fact that cooperating with the predominantly Western alliance involved more than just the U.S. but also some of its closest friends like Turkey.
Though she came for the press conference directly from a high-level meeting at the Presidency where the civil and military leadership put their heads together to evolve a response to the toughening postures of both the U.S. and NATO vis-à-vis the supply lines and financial assistance to Pakistan, Ms. Khar refused to divulge details on what transpired. However, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said there would be clarity on the issue within a couple of days.
Even with the U.S., Ms. Khar’s submission was that things were not as bleak as is being portrayed. “Both sides believe that we are currently in a positive atmosphere of dialogue trying to resolve rather than build on the issues.” Further, according to her, the world must realise that for 10 of the 12 years that Pakistan has been facilitating the war on terror, NATO supplies were allowed to move through the country into Afghanistan gratis. Only over the last two years, a nominal amount was being charged.
Given the criticism within the country regarding aligning with the U.S. in the war on terror, the Minister clearly made an attempt to change the narrative in the country by stating that “if you want to bracket Pakistan as a facilitator of the international community, then that is the right spot where Pakistan belongs in”.
Referring to Parliament’s recommendations for engaging with the US, Ms. Khar said: “It is a big yes to the partnership approach”. Also, now that Parliament has spoken in favour of engagement, it has shown that those who were against aligning with the war on terror were just fringe elements as majority of the people wanted to fight terrorism.
Both Ministers were dismissive of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council — which has been spearheading protests against NATO supply lines — and Mr. Kaira went to the extent of suggesting that even protests against drone attacks were more in Punjab than in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas which bear the brunt of the Predator visits.