WASHINGTON - Pakistan on Monday sought an end to American unilateral actions on its soil, with the country’s ambassador to the US also reiterating Islamabad’s demand for an apology over Salala incident, to end a lingering deadlock in the relationship.
Spelling out Pakistan’s point of view on several issues in the Pakistan-US bilateral relationship, Ambassador Rehman said currently the two countries are in a “critical phase” of negotiating new terms of engagement and narrowing down their differences. Islamabad had not closed the NATO supply lines into landlocked Afghanistan to “price-gouge” but after the Salala incident, which claimed lives of 24 Pakistani soldiers, Sherry Rehman said.
The gathering of American diplomats, experts on South Asia and Pakistani-Americans at a conference on the Capitol Hill. US Coordinator for non-military assistance to Pakistan Ambassador Robin Raphael also spoke on the occasion. The Pakistani envoy said once the two countries overcome current differences, they have a lot to gain from a mutually respectful and productive relationship in the years ahead. ”These (ground lines of communication) were closed following the Salala incident and remain closed pending a US apology,” Ambassador Rehman said.
The debate on the matter has been wrongly cast as a price haggle or price gouging in the US media.” This is not the case,” she observed. “We want our American friends to respect our sovereignty and territorial integrity. This means no drone attacks and no incursions into Pakistani territory,” she said at a conference organized by the Pakistani-American Congress. “An appropriate apology for the Salala incident of 26 November 2011 in which twenty four Pakistani soldiers were killed in a US air attack is also needed,” she said.
Sherry Rehman said she is not pointing out Pakistan’s sacrifices as part of some “victim narrative” but reminding the world of the key contributions Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism over last several years. She said a better understanding of Pakistani point of view in the United States about Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices in fighting extremism would help improve the bilateral relationship. “We have helped arrest or neutralize nearly 250 Al-Qaeda members, provided the US free use of our highways to transport supplies to Afghanistan. We have lost more than 37,000 Pakistanis to terrorism. Over five thousand security and law enforcement personnel have laid down their lives fighting terrorism.” At present, she said, the two sides are in a critical phase of re-framing our terms of engagement.
“I hope we can narrow our differences and move expeditiously forward. In the context of our region, Pakistan and the United States working individually, are a lot less effective than the sum of the two working together.” Both countries, the ambassador said, “need to focus on the positives, try to understand each other’s narratives, show understanding for each other’s priorities and constraints, and treat each other as sovereign nations engaged as partners in the defining struggle of our times – defeating terrorism.” Pakistan, she said, is trying to defeat violent extremism. “We urge our friends on the US side to make a similar commitment. The first step in that direction must be to stay away from coercive diplomacy through the media.”