Pak starts allowing NATO supplies routes to Afghan

Islamabad: Pakistan today began allowing NATO supplies to move out from a port in Karachi, a day after it lifted a seven-month blockade of vital routes to Afghanistan in the wake of the much-sought US apology for the killing of 24 of its soldiers in a cross-border raid.

Authorities at Port Qasim, Pakistan`s second busiest harbour, told the media that they had received instructions to allow the movement of NATO supplies after the payment of demurrage for the period when the goods were kept at the port. Officials at the Chaman land border crossing in southwestern Balochistan province too told the media they had received instructions to prepare for the movement of NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

Pakistan`s Defence Committee of the Cabinet decided late last night to end the blockade of the supply lines after the US apologised for a cross-border NATO air strike that had killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a telephonic conversation with her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, reiterated America`s "deepest regrets" for the NATO attack on November 26 last year, which had triggered a major diplomatic rift between the two countries.

"I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again," Clinton said. Islamabad had shut the supply routes after the NATO attack last year. The meeting of the Defence Committee of Cabinet (DCC) was chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and attended by army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The DCC said a decision was made to reopen the supply lines to facilitate the transition and the transformation process in war-torn Afghanistan. Pakistan has said that it would not allow the transportation of lethal equipment and that it would not charge any fees for the NATO supplies. Official sources said a formal notification about the reopening of the supply routes is expected to be issued after a meeting of the federal Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Ashraf.

This is the first Cabinet meeting being chaired by Ashraf since he succeeded former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified by the apex court last month. Over the past six months, Pakistani and American negotiators had haggled over the fees to be paid for NATO vehicles, with some reports suggesting that Islamabad had asked for 5,000 dollars for each truck. Pakistan had also insisted on an apology for the NATO attack.