Islamabad on Tuesday signed a new deal with the United States governing arrangements for Nato convoys travelling to Afghanistan, seeking to draw a line under a seven-month border blockade.
|Deputy US ambassador in Islamabad, Richard Hoagland and Rear Admiral Farrukh Ahmed sign an agreement on Tuesday.|
After hectic negotiations, Pakistan and the US on Tuesday signed a long-awaited memorandum of understanding on transporting supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan, until the end of 2015.
The document was signed by Additional Defence Secretary Rear Admiral Farrukh Ahmed and US Charge d Affaires Richard Hoagland.
It comes just a day before Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam begins a three-day visit to Washington for talks with the head of the CIA.
Under the deal, the US will release $1.1 billion under the Coalition Support Fund to reimburse the troubled nation for fighting terrorists within its borders.
A US official said the deal lasts until the end of 2015, and can be renewed for one-year intervals beyond that.
The agreement bars transportation of arms and ammunition for NATO/ISAF in Afghanistan via Pakistan, while all cargo of the supplies will be scanned in Karachi and at the border crossings of Chaman and Torkham. Pakistani officials said the MoU was signed keeping in view the parliamentary recommendations and national interest. The cabinet had last week approved the draft of the MoU after several rounds of talks between senior officials of the two countries.
The agreements will replace existing arrangements for transporting NATO supplies through Pakistani territory, which were reportedly based on a "verbal understanding".
Though the MoU bars arms supply to foreign troops, yet it states that arms shipments and equipments for training of Afghan security forces would be allowed. After the US apology, Pakistan dropped its demand of increasing per container fee.
The MoU states only two routes through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan would be used by NATO tankers. Containers on the southern route will travel from Bin Qasim Port in Karachi to Chaman in Balochistan. On the northern route, containers will travel from Karachi to Torkham in the northwest.
The agreements states no tax or duty would be charged on the containers though commercial carriers will have to pay a fee. New fees can also be introduced for quick transfer of cargo. It further states no warehouses or storage facilities will be provided for US goods and no new No Objection Certificates will be required for transit. A Pakistani official said the deal gave Islamabad the right to refuse or reject any shipment that fell outside the parameters of the MoU, and special radio chips would be fitted to containers for monitoring.
Pakistan will also ensure the security and quick transfer of cargo and keep the US government informed about monitoring and transit points for supplies. Containers travelling to Afghanistan will be bound to return via Pakistan.
The Defence Ministry will act as a central coordination authority and review daily operations and other matters related to the supply routes. Two monitoring offices for NATO supplies will be set up at the Defence Ministry and the US embassy. Defence Secretary Asif Yasin will be the coordination officer from the Pakistani side.
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