Pakistan cannot make crucial decisions based on one phone call: Sherry Rehman

Published: February 16, 2012
Pakistan's ambassador to US Sherry Rehman addresses the US Institute of Peace in first public speech.

Pakistan's ambassador to US Sherry Rehman addresses the US Institute of Peace in first public speech.

WASHINGTON: In her first major public appearance since becoming Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman told a packed audience at the US Institute of Peace that “Pakistan can no longer make crucial strategic decisions based on one phone call.”

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Rehman said, “Pakistan has no shortage of commitment on the effort against extremism, militancy or terrorism today.” Saying it was impossible to open all fronts at one time given the current conflict in Afghanistan, and dubbed it a capacity issue and a sequencing challenge, the Ambassador added, “We often feel we are fighting this long battle with one hand tied behind our backs.”

Rehman’s speech focused primarily on the conditions in Pakistan, and the subject of US-Pakistan relations. “The tragedy at Mohmand really served as an end-line trigger that called for a fundamental re-set.” Rehman said it was shocking for Pakistan to see the “flag-draped bodies of 24 soldiers martyred in the line of active duty on the international border with Afghanistan, at the hands of our allies.” She continued her complaint that Pakistan did not receive an immediate apology.

Humiliated, and with no apology from an ally, Pakistan’s streets erupted in protests, and left “a strong mark on the Pakistani psyche, spurring a re-think of the modalities of how we had been working together,” Rehman said.

Dubbing 2011 as a “long line of bilateral catastrophes,” she added that for Pakistanis, “the notion of territorial sovereignty dominates public space today in important ways, simply because the symbol of its subversion is so repeatedly and unfortunately associated with the United State’s growing footprint in Pakistan.”

Addressing the issue of Pakistan-US relations, the Ambassador said that she felt a reset of the relationship was needed for various reasons. “Some of these were structural, while some of the famous “trust deficit” gaps were informed by a profound cognitive, and even institutional, disconnect. Many of the gaps can be mitigated, if we step back, give pause and re-construct,” she said.

However, the former MNA believed that the US was simply expecting too much of Pakistan. “But on the strategic end, this relationship has been burdened with too many expectations, and invested with an inordinately high wattage of emotion. Given the state of strategic flux our region faces at a time of unprecedented challenges, and the responsibilities such transitions bring with it, this is too important and too sensitive a relationship to carry this volume and scale of unregulated hyperbole.”

She highlighted how al Qaeda’s core assets had been defeated and destroyed with Pakistan’s cooperation and said that many in the US administration have also “echoed this view.”


Rehman added that many in Pakistan and the US believe it is time “that this relationship matured into a more consistent, stable and transparent equation, with weight given to mutual respect, but once again that would be the subject best reserved right now for our parliament to decide.”

She said that she had no intention of portraying a victim narrative. However, she said that the Embassy of Pakistan would be issuing a weekly scorecard of the losses suffered by Pakistan in the war.

Reiterating that Pakistan supports an Afghan-led, Afghan owned reconciliation process, the Pakistani diplomat said, “We do not consider Afghanistan our strategic backyard, as many claim we do, but we do have the highest stakes in Afghan stability since we simply cannot afford the blowback from either a civil war there again, nor any other kind of surge into Pakistan, with its long, porous border.”

In response to a question, she said that there needs to be a review of the impact that US assistance makes in Pakistan. The ambassador also stressed on the US to open up trade with Pakistan, and cited the example of the European Union who had recently opened up trade with Pakistan.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Feb 16, 2012 - 2:08AM

    Very well said Sherry.

    You are the true representative of Pakistan in US.

    May God Bless You.

    Keep it up!


  • Falcon
    Feb 16, 2012 - 2:15AM

    Now she does seem like a Pakistani Ambassador to US…graceful, quick-witted, objective, and considerate…heads and shoulders above Mr. Haqqani


  • John B
    Feb 16, 2012 - 2:15AM

    The key of her first major speech was wrong and as such nothing new came out of it. I doubt any new major positive developments between the two countries will be forthcoming with the present administration in PAK.


  • Feb 16, 2012 - 2:39AM

    This relationship us unnatural, Us never treated Pak as an ally, both countries have different strategic interests and thats why confrontation between both of them occurs, US needs to understand the differences rather than pressing or threatening


  • Fahad Raza
    Feb 16, 2012 - 2:41AM

    Well said Sherry rehman… Well said indeed


  • Mirza
    Feb 16, 2012 - 2:50AM

    Nothing new here. The blame game continues. Yet the two countries would keep cooperating with each other. When we have to work together then why make relationship so bitter?


  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    Feb 16, 2012 - 3:04AM

    “it a capacity issue” In that case stop boasting Pakistan Army as worlds fifth or sixth largest army or whatever the flavor of the month is. President Clinton agreed to see PM Nawaz Sharif based on one phone call to resolve Kargil conflict on a July 4th holiday. Next time do not expect Americans to respond to your one phone call either. Rt Hon Ambassador is you saying that Pakistan has so many power centers that one phone call are not sufficient?


  • rk
    Feb 16, 2012 - 3:15AM

    yes..USA can ask pakis do do whatever with a simple phone call afterall pakis live on US aid…so how can they expect any respect from US…???


  • Blue eyed Indian
    Feb 16, 2012 - 5:30AM

    Sherry Rehman: Pakistan cannot make any crucial progress even after three years of constant evidence provided to them that LeT and related people were perpetrators of 26/11. Where do you draw line of commitment ? Commitment is not selective and please remember you have to earn and not ask for trust. And trust is something Pakistan is not qualified for thanks to your double standards on global and local terrorism.


  • Imran Ahsan Mirza
    Feb 16, 2012 - 6:10AM

    Fully agree.


  • Gahratmand
    Feb 16, 2012 - 6:22AM

    The “one phone call” remark is based on reality, therefore, no one can dispute it – US has several power centers WhiteHouse/Congress/Senate – like wise Pskistan should function within its constitutional framework to formulate policy – This will be a bold Soverign move – GHQ should not dictate policy. :)


  • MarkH
    Feb 16, 2012 - 6:25AM

    Nah, but you can from a vague unsigned memo not addressed to you that was sent by phone.


  • Raj - USA
    Feb 16, 2012 - 6:26AM

    Who has time for phone calls when you have BBM !!!!!!!!!!


  • JA
    Feb 16, 2012 - 8:13AM

    She gracefully presented Pakistan, I like her speech


  • Feb 16, 2012 - 8:26AM

    The irony is while she is fighting for her Country, it is the last place she is safe in.


  • Street View
    Feb 16, 2012 - 9:05AM

    Sherry Rehman told a packed audience at the US Institute of Peace that “Pakistan can no longer make crucial strategic decisions based on one phone call.”

    Till date are we taking policy and strategic decisions on one phone call?


  • John B
    Feb 16, 2012 - 10:14AM

    @Fahad Raza:

    She was disappointing. Mr. Haqqani was a better ambassador to PAK.

    Ambassadorship is not what she said or what @Falcon said the comment.

    She distanced the public and the audience. Hope she comes out better in presenting her case.


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