December 15, 2011 in Nation/World

Pakistan to tax coalition supplies

Action could cost U.S., allies millions
Saeed Shah McClatchy
Zardari to be discharged

 Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will be discharged from a hospital in Dubai today but it remained unclear when he will return home.

 The state of the Pakistani’s leader’s health has been the subject of intense speculation since he was flown out of the country Dec. 6 after suffering what was described as a “mini-stroke.” The departure of Zardari, whom Washington views as an ally, deepened Pakistan’s political crisis.

 Zardari, who has a history of heart illness, will recover at his home in Dubai, aides said.

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan is planning to tax supplies for U.S.-led coalition troops that are shipped through its territory to land-locked Afghanistan, officials revealed, in retaliation for the recent deaths of its soldiers in a “friendly fire” incident on the border.

Under the proposal being worked up inside the government, which is set to become policy, a transit tax or fee will be imposed on every shipping container sent through Pakistan, according to senior military and civilian officials.

The move will add tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the cost of the conflict, which is now a decade old. It follows the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers at a checkpoint that was shelled by a U.S. helicopter, the latest incident this year to roil the relationship between the anti-terrorism allies.

It’s thought that the government will levy around $1,500 per shipping container sent through Pakistan, along with separate charges for each fuel tanker en route to Afghanistan. That’s equivalent to adding one-third to the costs of transporting a container through Pakistan.

The international coalition in Afghanistan has benefited from the free transit of goods through Pakistan for nearly a decade, under agreements forged with Islamabad soon after the overthrow of the Taliban regime. Although the coalition purposely has reduced its logistical dependence on Pakistan in the past few years, around a third of its supplies are still trucked through the country, which is the cheapest route to Afghanistan.

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