Pakistan supply routes reopened


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The Independent Online

The first truck carrying supplies through Pakistan to US and Nato troops in neighbouring Afghanistan has crossed the border after a seven-month closure of supply routes by Pakistan ended.

Fazal Bari, a paramilitary official at the Chaman border crossing, said the first truck moved around noon local time on Thursday.

Pakistan shut down the routes in retaliation for an American air strike in November that killed 24 Pakistani border troops.

After months of back-and-forth negotiation, Pakistan agreed to reopen the routes on Tuesday after US secretary of state Hillary Clinton apologised for the border deaths.

The Chaman border crossing in the province of Balochistan is one of two used by trucks carrying supplies to Afghanistan. The other, the Torkham crossing, is further north in the Khyber Pass, a high mountainous area.

Thousands of trucks and tankers have been stuck at ports in Karachi waiting for the transit ban to be lifted.

During the closure, the US was forced to use more costly and lengthy routes through former Soviet Union countries.

The chairman of Port Qasim, Mohammad Shafi, said today that more than 2,500 Nato containers and vehicles have been held at the facility since the route was blockaded.

Even though the route is now open, it does not mean all the trucks will hit the road immediately. Mr Shafi said his staff need to do a lot of paperwork and customs clearance procedures before the trucks can leave.

"Once we do that, we will be able to let the supplies leave for Afghanistan," he said.

Once the drivers start their journey, they face considerable danger on the road. The Taliban and other militant groups have threatened to attack supply trucks running through Pakistani territory. Before the closure, hundreds of supply trucks were targeted in different areas of the country.