WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s outgoing ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman has said the Pakistan and the United States have improved their ties considerably from a low-point in 2011 but asked Washington to end drone strikes in the tribal areas in order to help put the relationship on a sustained upward trajectory.
In a farewell speech to a gathering of senior American officials and Pakistani-Americans, Rehman who resigned from her post this week after May 11 election, also called for using trade as the engine for enhanced bilateral partnership.
The ambassador said during her assignment she was guided by the belief that Pakistan and the US should have sustained relations on the basis of mutual respect.
Commenting on the contentious issue of drone strikes the US carries out in pursuit of militant targets on Pakistani soil, she noted that this kind of footprint roils anti-American discontent and fuels the “cognitive disconnect” between the two nations.
“This is one thing that has to change if we are ever to be sanguine that we are on the path to an upward bilateral trajectory,” she added.
She said terrorism is very much Pakistan’s problem too and the people of the country have been bravely fighting it as proved by the May 11 election.
The farewell reception was attended by top US officials including White house advisor Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, USAID Administrator Rajev Shah and former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, American think tank experts and journalists.
Rehman, who led Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts in Washington in a tension-filled phase following a spate of unsavory incidents in 2011, also highlighted the need for the two countries to acknowledge each other’s roles in the good work they do.
“I take this opportunity to say to the people of the United States, stand by our side as you have done so many times in history. But stand by us as long term friends, for the right reasons, and we can achieve many breakthroughs together.”
The ambassador praised the team of Pakistani diplomats for their dedicated work in helping the two countries navigate some very turbulent waters and onerous challenges in the relationship.
Ambassador Rehman said as she leaves her post, she has the satisfaction of knowing that Pakistan and the US “are on the cusp of a new normal, a less hyperbolic relationship, but one founded as much on the sustainable continuum of shared democratic values instead of only the sharp, edge of strategic compulsions.”
Speaking on the occasion, Deputy US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan David Pearce appreciated Ambassador Rehman’s diplomatic efforts towards improvement in bilateral relations, saying she has “played a key role in helping us rebuild the relationship between the two countries following a very difficult period in 2011-12.”
“Thanks in no small part to your dedication and efforts that the two countries are in a much better place than they were 18 months ago,” he noted.