NATO Supply Trucks From Pakistan Resume Trek to Afghanistan

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- After a hiatus of seven months, the first trucks carrying supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan crossed the southwestern border post at Chaman on Thursday, local officials said.

Pakistan agreed to reopen NATO supply routes on Tuesday after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a telephone call to Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, and said she was sorry for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers who were killed in an American airstrike along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in November.

By noon on Thursday, border officials had allowed three trucks to cross into Afghanistan, according to news reports that quoted Pakistani customs officials.

Thousands of containers have piled up at the southern port city of Karachi since NATO supply routes through Pakistan were shut down in the aftermath of the airstrike.

The closing became a major sore point between Pakistan and United States, which have a history of mutual mistrust and acrimony despite being partners for more than a decade in the effort to curb terrorism and militancy.

Pakistanis have been particularly incensed since a shooting in Lahore in January 2011 that involved a C.I.A. employee. Additionally, the American operation that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 was taken as an affront to Pakistan's sovereignty.

Pakistan had initially sought an unconditional apology from the United States over the American airstrikes and its Parliament put forward a raft of demands for the reopening of supply lines, including higher transit fees for supply trucks and an end to drone strikes.

But on Tuesday, Pakistan said it had not made any financial demands, and the political leadership said that it was satisfied with the regrets expressed by American officials.

Opposition political parties and religious leaders have, however, strongly criticized the move to reopen the border routes.

Anti-American sentiment runs high in the country. A survey released in June by the Pew Research Center showed that 74 percent of respondents consider the United States an enemy, up from 69 percent last year and 64 percent three years ago.

The Defense Council of Pakistan, an alliance of religious and militant groups, has announced plans to hold nationwide protests on Friday, the Muslim holy day, according to Maulana Sami ul-Haq, an anti-American religious leader.

Opposition political parties are also planning to hold a meeting on Saturday in the eastern city of Lahore to develop a protest campaign.

The prospect of countrywide protests by opposition political and religious parties comes as the governing Pakistan Peoples Party is embroiled in a conflict with an assertive Supreme Court and is struggling to overcome a crippling energy crisis in the country.

Last month, the Supreme Court removed Yousaf Raza Gilani as the prime minister over his refusal to write to the authorities in Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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