Sessions to debate the recommendations have been boycotted or taken over with discussions on other national issues. Opposition parties, sensing the government wants them to share any political fallout for what will be an unpopular decision to reopen the routes, are refusing to cooperate.
“This is a hugely complicating factor. The government may now be realizing that by trying to be clever it has created problems for itself,” said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington. “In parliamentary democracies it is the responsibility of the executive to formulate a policy and act on it. The Americans tell me they are being very patient, but I know they are getting very impatient.”
In recent weeks, the U.S. has renewed high-level contacts with Pakistan, including meetings in Islamabad last week between Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the top U.S. commander in the region, Gen. James Mattis. Obama met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in South Korea.
But a U.S. official said talks on the supply line issue could not start before the parliament had finished debating the recommendations. He said it was unclear when that would be. He didn’t give his name because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
Before November, about 30 percent of the nonfatal supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan were unloaded at the port of Karachi and then trucked across Pakistan to the border. For most of the war, 90 percent of the supplies came through Pakistan, but NATO has increased its reliance on an alternate, so called “northern” route, through Central Asia in recent years.
Increased use of the northern route has removed some of the leverage Islamabad had over the West, but at a cost to the coalition. Pentagon officials now say it costs about $17,000 per container to go through the north, compared with about $7,000 per container to go over Pakistan.
The importance of the supply routes in general will rise, however, toward the end of 2014, when they will be needed to remove equipment from Afghanistan as foreign forces withdraw.
The parliamentary committee is currently reviewing its recommendations so they can be unanimously accepted by the parliament. One demand of opposition lawmakers is that the restoration of the supply lines be explicitly tied to a halt in drone attacks.
Pakistani lawmakers and government leaders have long campaigned against the strikes, which have been carried out with some level of secret collaboration with the Pakistani army. Opposition to attacks has become a rallying cry for anti-American politicians, who say they violate sovereignty and kill too many civilians.
U.S. officials say they have offered Pakistan notice about impending strikes and new limits on which militants are being targeted. Washington views the attacks as a vital tool in suppressing al-Qaida, and is seen as highly unlikely to agree to end them.
“By linking the resumption with drone attacks, things become unworkable,” said Ayaz Amir, an opposition lawmaker who is something of a maverick. “The possibilities of a workable deal are being shortened. They are not going to stop drone attacks, the supply lines are not going to open. We are going to have to suffer the consequences.”
Western officials are already looking ahead to the NATO conference in Chicago on May 20-21 where more than 50 heads of state will discuss progress on ending the war. The U.S. wants Pakistan to attend, but the meeting could be overshadowed if Pakistan is still blocking supplies to NATO members.
• Associated Press writers Sebastian Abbott and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.