Dinner at the Embassy in honour of visiting delegation from the National Defense University Pakistan
Ambassador Sherry Rehman
Dinner at the Embassy in honour of visiting delegation from the
National Defense University Pakistan
17 April 2012
It is a pleasure to host a delegation from the Pakistan National Defence University at the Embassy. I also extend a warm welcome to our American guests.
Your visit to the United States comes at a crossroads in the 65 year old bilateral relationship between Pakistan and America
The delegation is visiting the United States at arguably the most critical time in the history of this relationship
As you know, Pakistan and United States are engaged in the challenging choreography of reconfiguring the bilateral relationship to make it more transparent and sustainable -Â Â with realistic expectations on both sides
We need not recount the incidents that have strained the relationship and brought us to this decisive moment, for you know them better than anyone.Â Â Various assaults on Pakistani sovereignty and dignity have had a major impact on public opinion in our country, which in a democracy is critical.Â Â
Pakistanâ€™s Parliament has just concluded an exhaustive review of the Pakistan-US relationship, which we believe is among the most important in the world and which, we on the Pakistan side, are very keen to maintain and strengthen.
At the same time we want this relationship to be grounded in realistic expectations, respect for each otherâ€™s sovereignty, appreciation of each otherâ€™s legitimate security interests and understanding of each otherâ€™s redlines. Similarly, both sides need to be aware of each otherâ€™s limitations and constraints.Â
Pakistanâ€™s Parliament has made history by taking charge of spelling out Pakistanâ€™s concerns, priorities and redlines. We hope to use this framework as the foundation for a healthier, more sustainable and mutually cooperative relationship with the United States.
The exchange of delegations such as the one we have the honour of hosting this evening, are part of such a relationship. I am sure the delegation has had the opportunity to interact with their US counterparts and exchange views and ideas on a partnership that holds the key to bringing stability to our region.
For any relationship to be sustainable, both countries must treat each other as partners and respect their core interests.
Such interactions between militaries were suspended in 1990, and policy makers publicly recognize the price that the bilateral relationship paid for this hiatus.Â Â Your presence here is a good sign of the vitality of our new relationship.
Â As we meet here this evening, we have the shadow of an eighteen hour long set of attacks in Afghanistan, including Kabul, hanging over our region. Twelve Afghans lost their lives in these attacks.
Â I take this opportunity to reiterate our condemnation of these attacks and express our sympathy and solidarity with the people and government of Afghanistan on the loss of life.
President Zardari has strongly condemned these recent terrorist attacks.
The Defence Committee of the Cabinet has also strongly condemned these attacks and reaffirmed Pakistanâ€™s support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned inclusive peace and reconciliation process.
Â The Foreign Minister of Pakistan has done the same, and also spoken with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasool to convey the same message
Â President Karzaiâ€™s considered comments that the attacks point out the need for better intelligence by both NATO and Afghan forces have been seen as important in Pakistan.
Â Secretary Clinton has also reiterated the need for â€œrobust actionâ€ while underscoring the â€œshared responsibility by the US and ISAF, by Afghanistan, and by Pakistan â€¦ to confront and defeat terrorists and violent extremists.â€
There is no doubt that we are all doing that. I just saw in the Washington Post this morning that more than 1900 US soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghans have paid a similarly high price.
Pakistan may have paid the highest price fighting these same terrorists and extremists in partnership with the United States.
Today, we are a changed country. We have lost 37,000 Pakistani citizens to terrorists. There was one suicide bombing in Pakistan before 2001. There have been more than 300 since then. Our armed forces, police, and other law enforcement agencies have lost more than 5,000 officials. The roster of our military dead includes every rank from three star general down to the ordinary private. One in every ten military casualties is an officer. Terrorists have targeted our offices, hospitals, schools and colleges, bazaars, mosques, weddings and funerals. Our streets are a maze of security barriers. We have lost $ 78 billion in economic costs.
And let us not frget that we have lost one of the greatest leaders in Pakistani history, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, to a terrorist assassination, in an IED explosion
Clearly, the people of Pakistan do not need to be lectured about the dangers of terrorism.Â Â We have stood up for our principles with our blood.
I take this opportunity to say that we remain undeterred in our resolve to defeat these people.
Pakistan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process and we are prepared to assist in that effort in whatever way our Afghan brothers and sisters want. This is not a weightless statement, as we have made an important shift in our Afghan policy of the 1990s. While we have vital stakes in Afghan stability, we are very clear that Pakistan has no interest in playing favourites in Afghanistan, nor can we treat it as our strategic backyard. I donâ€™t want to go into details for how we must create a calibrated opening for dialogue, but that we must, with clear stakes for women and minorities. There can be no military solutions to any conflict in the region, and Afghanistan is no exception.
Other than the Afghans, the Pakistanis have the paid the highest price for instability and conflict in Afghanistan. We therefore find muted, and not so muted, aspersions that Pakistan is somehow responsible for the situation in Afghanistan extremely misplaced. These also fly in the face of reason.
Let me say unequivocally, that Pakistan condemns every terrorist attack in no uncertain terms, and pays a heavy price in the mission to deny terrorists any quarter on our side of the border.
If the combined forces of NATO, including the full might of the worldâ€™s only super power have not been able to contain terrorism on the Afghan side of the border, it is hardly realistic to blame Pakistan for not doing everything possible to contain terrorism on our soil.
Pakistan is in the process of turning a new page in Pakistan-US relations in which the representatives of the Pakistani people are the drivers of the equation. This is the first time that an average Pakistani is getting a stake in settling this vital relationship. This is also the first time that a democratic government has been able to build a crucial consensus in parliament on key national security interests.Â Â
Such public buy-in provides the best possibility for an open, long-term, broad-based, mutually cooperative relationship between Pakistan and United States. Such a relationship is not only to the benefit of the two partners but also for enduring stability in a potentially volatile region. I sincerely hope we can build bridges that bring prosperity to both our peoples. We have a lot to give each other, and I hope we can create the opportunities to do that.
In conclusion I would like to say that there is much an average American can identify with in an average Pakistani – a never say die attitude, tremendous enterprise, a rugged individualism, boundless capacity to work hard and without complaint, and a constant quest to do better, especially when faced with challenges.
Thank you, and once again, welcome to Washington DC.