ISLAMABAD, July 13 2019: Speaking at the 2019 Pakistan-United States Alumni Network (PUAN) Conference as the guest of honor, PPP Parliamentary Party Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman emphasized the importance of cooperation as the South Asian region battles shared challenges such as security, climate change and development.
Unpacking the regional challenges and opportunities Pakistan faces in a rapidly changing world, PPP’s Foreign Affairs Committee Chair said, “Pakistan is at the hub of key supply chains which are pivotal building blocks in the gateway to Central Asia which can completely change the way we live and earn our living. The first thing we need to understand is that we need to allow more trade, more regional travel, promote a culture of cooperation and work towards finding common ground on even the most long standing disputes such as Kashmir.” Further commenting upon the benefits of increased connectivity and cooperation in the region, she said “We are seeking to be a digital economy and that is another way of connecting. We need to be able to leverage gains through connectivity and while there are obstacles, we must try to work past them”.
Talking about the opportunities that lie within the shifting paradigm of the Pakistan – US relations and the way forward, she contended, “The containment of China has now been articulated as a national security goal for the US. But even so, both America and China are finding it hard to completely decouple their economies. Pakistan for it’s part, must not find itself in the crosshairs of new global binaries. One of the greatest antidotes to conflict is the growth and regional integration of the economy, and we need to invest in that process in terms of resetting relations. The best way forward for us is to not weigh down relationships with the burden of expectations. Nobody owes us anything, it is our own interest and work to get through.”
“As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Pakistan is also course-correcting there – there are some real historical wrongs and sometimes imagined wrongs in that mix. Peace can only be brought to Afghanistan by Afghanistan, not us, not by patrons – the future of Afghanistan must rest in their own hands. We must support and assist them, enable them to the best of our abilities and resources,” Rehman said regarding Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.
Expressing her views regarding Pakistan’s role in relation to India as contributor to peace and stability in Asia she said, “The decision in Delhi is not to engage with Pakistan because it helped their domestic political ratings through an election. The unanimous consensus across the board in Pakistan is to signal to India, that Pakistan continues to be ready to sustain strategic and non-strategic dialogue. Kashmir is one big root cause of the conflict, while both terrorism and climate change know no borders and need to be dealt with through joint cooperation of countries in the region. 65 per cent of Pakistan is under the age of 30, which is very close to what India is also witnessing in terms of demographics – the project must be to include younger people and not exclude them”.
Answering questions about how she deals with misogyny, the Senator replied, “People say I walk around with a forbidding demeanour and reputation on purpose. Even then I have to face all sorts of comments that target my gender or seek to trivialise what I do or say. I have to constantly be vigilant that I don’t let such behaviour slip by without pushback from me. Also, respect is earned from one’s own ability to stay the course and speak out for the rights of others, not just your own. You have to demonstrate a commitment to a culture of public responsibility.”
“In seeking peace and voting against conflict, Pakistanis needs to rise. That is the next step, for us to realize that we stand for something,” said the former ambassador to the United States in a message to the people of Pakistan in these challenging times.