Taliban issues threat as Pak opens NATO routes

Hours after Pakistan ended a seven-month-old blockade of crucial NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban has issued a threat.

Zeenews Bureau

Miranshah: Hours after Pakistan on Tuesday ended a seven-month-old blockade of crucial NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban has issued a threat.

A Pakistani Taliban spokesman said it would attack NATO supply trucks and kill its drivers if they attempted to resume supplies to troops in Afghanistan.

Ehsanullah Ehsan said the Taliban "will not allow any truck to pass and will attack it".

"We will not only attack the supply truck but will also kill the drivers (of NATO supply trucks)," Ehsan added.

Islamabad yesterday decided to lift the blockade after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologised for the cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year.

A meeting of Pakistan`s highest decision-making body on security issues chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and attended by Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani decided to reopen the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs) to Afghanistan.

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet further decided that "Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee" on supplies transported to foreign troops in Afghanistan through its territory.

This was done "to emphasise the point that the issue in the first place was not of the financial gains but of the principle of sovereignty," an official statement said.

"Money was not the consideration (in reopening the NATO supply lines)," Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters after the meeting of the DCC that continued for over three hours.

Pakistan did not equate its dignity with money and that was why the government had insisted on an apology from the US and not financial gains, he said.

US apologises

Earlier, 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 long demanded that US must apologise for the air raid that killed 24 Pakistani Army personnel before it would re-open the supply routes to Afghanistan.

Putting a positive spin on the resolution of the standoff between Pakistan and the US on the supply lines, Kaira said the government, military and people of Pakistan had got a world power to agree that harm had been done to Pakistan and to offer an apology.

Addressing the meeting of the DCC, Prime Minister Ashraf said: "The continued closure of the supply lines not only impinges on our relationship with the US, but also on our relations with the 49 other member states of NATO (and) ISAF."

The meeting was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Defence Minister Naveed Qamar, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne, air force chief Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt and ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam.

Following the NATO air strike last year, Pakistan forced American personnel to vacate Shamsi airbase, considered a hub for CIA-operated drones, and shut down the supply lines.

The air strike took bilateral relations to a new low as it came in the wake of a string of crises, including the killing of Osama bin Laden and the gunning down of two Pakistani men by a CIA contractor last year.

Meanwhile, a US official said Washington will release about USD 1.1 billion to Pakistan`s military as part of a deal that will see Islamabad lift a blockade on NATO supply convoys into Afghanistan.

The money, from a US "coalition support fund" designed to reimburse Pakistan for the cost of counter-insurgency operations, had been withheld due to tensions between the two countries and Islamabad`s closure of the supply routes.

Also, as the Pakistan decision came NATO truckers expressed fears that they might be attacked by Taliban and demanded security guarantees before the resumption.

(With Agency inputs)