Washington: Expressing serious concerns over illegal flow of ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient of IEDs being used by terrorists in Af-Pak region, US Senators have asked Pakistan to take strong action and asked Obama
administration to ensure that Islamabad takes appropriate step in this regard.
"The amounts of ammonium nitrate reportedly ferried into Afghanistan from Pakistan are staggering," said Senator Tom Casey at a Congressional hearing.
The Los Angeles Times reported in May that as much as 85 tons of ammonium nitrate was smuggled into Afghanistan and Pakistan in a single night, a shipment that could yield more than 2,500 Improvised Explosive Devices, he noted.
"Pakistani Parliament should pass legislation that restricts ammonium nitrate and other explosive precursor chemicals like potassium chlorate. While I understand that farmers in Pakistan rely on ammonium nitrate as fertilizers, especially for cotton, officials may want to consider a temporary ban during this precarious period," he said.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the steps being taken by authorities so far, Casey said more needs to be done to track the flow of ammonium nitrate inside of Pakistan itself.
"The US needs to work more closely with Pakistan to insure that ammonium nitrate does not flow across the border to Afghanistan. The British have been very helpful in working with Pakistani border guards to provide training and equipment that better detect and interdict ammonium nitrate and other illicit materials as they cross the border," Casey said.
Appearing before the Congressional Committee, Senior Economic Advisor to the Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mary Beth Goodman said the IEDs are responsible for a vast majority of coalition fatalities and injuries and are also the cause of significant civilian deaths among Pakistani and Afghan citizens.
"These deaths are the result of a complex and global network of both legal and illegal activities that facilitate the flow of lethal aid into Afghanistan from neighbouring countries, including Pakistan," Goodman said, adding majority of IEDs are constructed from the fertilizer calcium ammonium nitrate, which is legally and legitimately a dual-use traded product.
"While urea and ammonium phosphate are the predominant fertilizers in Pakistan, we know that there are two plants, the Pak-Arab Fertilizer Company in Multan and the National Fertilizer Corporation in Lahore, which illegally produce ammonium nitrate fertilizer in quantities sufficient to meet Pakistani demands," she said.
Pakistan Customs data reports that in 2009, the country imported ammonium nitrate fertilizer from Sweden, Germany, Russia, China and Iran.
"Given the low level of usage for ammonium nitrate fertilizer in Pakistan`s domestic agricultural use, this customs data indicates that the import levels far exceed domestic usage and thus may have been legally transhipped onwards to Afghanistan," she said.
David Sedney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, said both Pakistani civilian and military leadership realise that IED networks are the most lethal security threat within their own country, and that`s been proven again within the past week.
"This realisation has led to increased cooperation from Pakistan, particularly with Pakistani military on counter-IED efforts," Sedney said.