CHICAGO, May 20 Islamabad has taken the first step by working towards restoring its NATO supply routes and now Washington should apologize over Salalah cross-border strikes that caused closure of the routes and end its controversial drone attacks into Pakistani territory to help rebuild the relationship, Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman advocated Sunday.
The Pakistani envoy wrote in an opinion piece in The Chicago Tribune that restoration of normalcy in Pakistan-U.S. relations would serve the cause of peace and security in the region and be a death blow to extremism afflicting the region.
Rehman’s opinion piece appeared as the US-led NATO and international partners gathered in the third largest American city for a critical summit to secure support for peace and stability in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when security responsibiliy is fully transfered to Kabul at the end of a long war, which has seriously hurt Pakistan.
The NATO summit in Chicago will focus on the endgame in Afghanistan on the heels of U.S. House debate on bills that will shape the nature of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, Rehman noted.
“The tone of this debate and the diplomacy of the Obama administration will send a clear signal to the 180 million people of Pakistan as to whether the world’s oldest democracy will stand with one of the world’s newest democracies to defeat terrorism and extremism for a politically stable and economically viable South Asia. Many are pessimistic.”
Stressing the importance of a series of confidence-building measures that could recast the bilateral relationship, the ambassador wrote “if the war against extremism is to succeed, the war of words between democratic allies must end.”
Rehman pointed out that the unilateral raid on Abbottabad, the Raymond Davis CIA provocation, the U.S.-led NATO air assault in Salalah that tragically killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the continuing unauthorized drone attacks on Pakistani soil frayed 60-year special relationship between the two countries.
Significant progress could be made toward resetting the relationship between our countries if the U.S. were to finally apologize for the battlefield deaths at Salalah, she emphasized.
The United States should reimburse the Coalition Support Funds — U.S. repayments to Pakistan for the cost of battling terrorism — owed to Pakistan, a very small part of the $78 billion that Pakistan has lost on account of the war against extremism since 2001.
Washington should also increase the sharing of counterterrorism intelligence to assist Pakistan military in combating extremism and cease the controversial drone operations that violate Pakistani sovereignty and the norms of international law.
On the economic front, the ambassador called for shifting to a policy of ‘trade not aid’ by providing enhanced access to U.S. markets for Pakistan’s exports.
“These game-changing steps would serve as a deathblow to extremist expansion in the region.”
The ambassador reaffirmed Islamabad’s desire for a responsible transition in Afghanistan.
“As the U.S. prepares to exit from South and Central Asia — again — in 2014, those of us who live and will remain in the region have a legitimate interest in a stable and responsible security transition in Afghanistan.”
The envoy also reminded the US-led counterterrorism partners of the massive cost in blood and treasure that Pakistan has paid in fighting terrorism in the region.
“Pakistan has paid an enormous price in our battle against al-Qaida, with more than 37,000 civilians and nearly 6,300 security forces killed. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave her life fighting this scourge. Given this level of clear commitment, coupled with sacrifice, it is unseemly for our resolve against terrorism to be questioned by the West.
“The 46 nations fighting in Afghanistan represent countries with an aggregate gross domestic product of more than $365 trillion, and an aggregate military force of nearly 22 million troops. When this unprecedented coalition cannot contain the terrorists on the Afghan side of the border, it is naive to assume that Pakistan alone can completely eliminate terrorist activity on our side of the border. We have 140,000 troops in daily combat against the militants in FATA, Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Waziristan. We are hardly passive allies in our existential battle against militancy.
She drew Washington’s attention to the little-noticed fact that militants who fought Pakistan in the northern areaas have found a sanctuary in Afghanistan, from where they damage Pakistani interests.
“America may not be aware that our successful (and costly) effort to clear thousands of terrorists from Swat, Bajaur and Mohmand has been undermined by militants who now find sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan from which they continuously attack our civilians and our soldiers. Despite the enormous efforts taken and huge casualties suffered, Pakistan’s efforts are in vain if NATO cannot provide the anvil to Pakistan’s hammer.”
The threat to Pakistan is real and constant, she wrote.
“The daily attacks shatter lives on a level we could never have imagined before 2001. Each military offensive launched in our tribal areas results in immediate attacks on our schools, hospitals, markets and religious shrines across our nation. Yet we are resilient. We continue the fight.
“My embassy updates the U.S. Congress on a weekly basis of the toll this fight has taken on the men, women and children of our country — a staggering 43,726 confirmed dead. Just last week an additional 34 Pakistani civilians and 18 security personnel were killed in my country as we fight this war. This is our reality.
“While some may question our commitment and ask whether we are doing enough, the truth is that Pakistan — our government, civilians and our soldiers — want a swift victory over terror more than anyone. Our existence depends on it. In order to succeed, America and Pakistan must forge a new beginning together, starting today.”
Sources: MGCT, The Chicago Tribune, Sherry Rehman Picture credit Jinnah Institute
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