Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said his government is in no hurry to reopen the NATO supply routes that were closed after a cross-border air strike last year and that a decision on the issue will be made only after evolving consensus among political parties.

Gilani made the remarks during an interaction with reporters on board his special plane while flying back to Pakistan from China on Monady after attending the Boao Forum conference.
He said the Parliamentary Committee on National Security will make a decision on the issue of reopening the supply routes to Afghanistan.

"Let the committee, which has representation from all political parties in parliament, decide what they want. The government has not set a timeframe for the committee to complete its deliberations and will wait for a final outcome," the premier said.

Since the reopening of the NATO supply routes is a "national security issue", the government wants everybody on board, Gilani said.

He expressed the hope that his government will be able to reach a solution that will be accepted by all political parties.

Gilani referred to his efforts to involve all parties, including those in the opposition, in efforts to forge consensus on the supply routes.

The premier chaired a meeting of all political parties on March 29 that was also attended by the military top brass, including the army and Inter-Services Intelligence chiefs.

However, an unnamed federal minister who was part of Gilani's delegation referred to background discussions on the issue of reopening NATO supply and told the Dawn newspaper that the government was "virtually caught between the devil and the deep sea".

Though opposition parties had agreed that Pakistan could not afford hostile posturing towards NATO countries in the long term, they were playing politics with the issue in public, the minister said.

On the other hand, the military authorities wanted the government to develop consensus among political forces and "resolve the issue on an emergency basis", he said.

"With the passage of time, the US and its allies are getting impatient and pushing Pakistan hard for a favourable outcome, that is, the reopening of supply routes. And they want it without any further delay and hard conditions," the Dawn reported.

The premier said the purpose of convening last week's meeting of all political parties was to make all stakeholders, especially the opposition and the military leadership, sit together and express their points of view.

The federal minister said it turned out to be a good exercise because it took some pressure off the government.

Gilani's remarks on reopening the supply routes came against the backdrop of reports that Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides will visit Pakistan this week for talks that are part of the US re-engagement with Pakistani officials.

Nides is expected to meet Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh during the trip, which comes at a critical time for bilateral ties that remain strained due to a spate of unresolved issues.

Pakistan closed the supply routes after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

The government forced the US to vacate Shamsi airbase, believed to be a hub for CIA-operated drones, and Gilani ordered a parliamentary review of ties with the US.

Though the Parliamentary Committee on National Security presented 40 recommendations for resetting Pakistan-US ties, a joint sitting of parliament was unable to begin debating the proposals due to reservations expressed by the opposition.

The parliamentary panel is now reviewing the proposals.