Pakistan's Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said on Sunday that if Pakistan does not open NATO supply routes, it will have to face wrath of the international community. He said that Pakistan will be slapped with the toughest economic sanctions if it does not change its stance over the NATO supply routes. He expressed these views while addressing a press conference in Lahore. Since the NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, all logistic and other cargo had been transported through Pakistan to Afghanistan.
Pakistan shut down the NATO supply routes in November last year, when NATO choppers fired on a military check post in Salala. As many as 24 soldiers were killed, while two dozen others sustained critical injuries. Pakistan called the attack "unprovoked" and "unwarranted," while the US came up with the stance that Pakistani soldiers provoked the NATO helicopters to bomb the check post. Also, the United States said that terrorists crossed the border from the check post and attack on the NATO troops based in Afghanistan.
A number of rounds of talks between top officials of both the countries have been held since the tragedy, but the matter still remains unresolved. The US constituted an inquiry committee to ascertain facts behind the attack. The report said that both Pakistan and NATO troops were responsible for the attack. The US wanted to share the responsibility of the attack, but Pakistani officials demanded a full-fledged apology over the tragedy, a demand the US refused, making the matters worse.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security recommended to the parliament that NATO supply routes should be kept closed unless the US tenders official apology over Salala check post attack. The defence minister, however, said that the government should soften its stance over the issue because the international community was pondering to slap economic sanctions over Pakistan if NATO supply routes were not opened at the earliest. The minister, however, said that army and civilian government were on the same page as far as policy towards the US is concerned.
Pakistan is already faced with bad economic situation, as the US has not disbursed the money to the country for Coalition Support Fund and aid under Kerry-Lugar bill. The government is going to present its annual budget on May 25, but is worried over how to cover the budget losses. International Monitory Fund (IMF) and World Bank have already refused to pay any loans to the country for its bad economic condition and poor governance.
The government should take pragmatic steps to avoid sanctions at this crucial time. And also, the US should not go too far, especially at a moment when it is planning to hold dialogue with Taliban and withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Pakistan to face economic sanctions if doesn't open NATO routes