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Pakistan suspends NATO supply route over security

27 July, 2012

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PESHAWAR: Pakistan has temporarily stopped NATO supply trucks crossing its border into Afghanistan over security concerns due to fears of terrorist attacks, officials said on Thursday.

Gunmen on Tuesday attacked a convoy of NATO supply trucks, killing a driver in Jamrud in the first such attack since Pakistan lifted a seven-month blockade of the border.

"Movement of NATO vehicles has been temporarily suspended since Wednesday evening to beef up security," a paramilitary official said.

"We have launched a search operation in the hills surrounding Jamrud," the official added.

On Wednesday, officials at the Torkham crossing had said traffic was picking up for the first time since the blockade ended, with more than 100 vehicles crossing in recent days.

But local administration official Bakhtiar Khan confirmed on Thursday the supply route had been suspended due to "security reasons".

"Intelligence officials have informed the authority that attacks may occur on NATO vehicles this week and in the light of this a security plan is being chalked out," Khan said.

He said the NATO route would "resume very soon", but that until then trucks carrying supplies for the 130,000-strong US-led mission in Afghanistan had been told not to approach the border.

"We have been told by authorities to wait here as they are building up security after the firing incident," Amanullah Khan, a NATO truck driver, said in Peshawar.

So far, the closure has only affected the Torkham crossing.

At the crossing of Chaman, some 17 trucks were awaiting clearance to enter Afghanistan and 20 other trucks were parked in Quetta, clearing agent Ashraf Khan said.

Islamabad closed its land routes to NATO convoys after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, but reopened them after Washington said sorry for the deaths.

Before the blockade, around 150 trucks crossed into Afghanistan each day at Torkham – the closest border crossing to Kabul – and officials say the flow will rise to up to 300 a day.

But three weeks after the blockade ended, trucks and containers are still holed up in Karachi. Workers are waiting for security guarantees and compensation for the last seven months, said Rana Mohammad Aslam, vice president of the All Pakistan Goods Carriers Association.

No fees for NATO supply until 2015

There will be no tax or duty charged on containers carrying goods for NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan, says a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Pakistan and the US.

The MoU will be applicable after it is signed by both countries and will be valid until 2015.

According to the MoU, only non-lethal cargo for NATO troops would be allowed, however, arms for Afghan forces would not be banned, The draft – prepared according to the United Nations charter – will not allow transport of arms and ammunition for NATO troops via Pakistan. However, military equipment for the Afghan National Army will be allowed.

Transport of non-lethal cargo, which includes food and medicine, will be allowed in containers measuring 20 by 40 feet. The containers will use two routes. Containers on the southern route will travel to Afghanistan from Karachi (Bin Qasim Port) via Chaman. On the northern route, containers will travel from Karachi (Bin Qasim Port) via Torkham to Afghanistan.

The MoU also says there would be no warehouses or storage facilities provided for the US goods.

End.

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