Sherry urges US Congress on greater trade access for Pakistan
04 January, 2013
WASHINGTON: Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman has urged the United States Congress on helping realise greater market access for Pakistani products to the American market, emphasising that the long-sought step would contribute vitally to forging enduring bilateral relations.
Ambassador Sherry Rehman drew attention of the new US Congress to democratic accomplishments of the country, saying in an opinion posted on The Hill congressional daily that Pakistan would make history by going to the polls for the first peaceful and constitutional transfer of power in its history. Apart from addressing longstanding constitutional and political issues that threatened the federation, she wrote, the democratic government has taken full ownership of the fight against terrorism and given the people of Pakistan a stake in it.
At the same time, she reiterated Islamabad's clear-cut stand on the drone strikes as being counterproductive.
"I appreciate US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson's words that al Qaeda has largely been eliminated in the region due to joint PakUS efforts, and hope that this will trigger a more meaningful conversation on ending US drone strikes in Pakistan."
"They reverse the gains we have made in this relationship, and position the battle against terrorism as a sole US endeavour, stripping it of the public ownership we work so hard to build. In the key battle for hearts and minds, the drone campaign has now become counterproductive to US strategic interests," she wrote.
Pressing her argument for enhanced trade access, the envoy noted that think tank studies have shown that the impact of greater market access to Pakistan on US jobs will be negligible while the economic impact on the Pakistani side will be incalculable.
"As we turn the bend in our relations to a better space, and five bilateral working groups conclude productive sessions, we seek greater market access to the US," she wrote as newly elected American lawmakers began their fresh terms on the Capitol Hill.
"It will spur economic activity, generate employment, give the country's enormous youth cohort an avenue to earn a living, and above all, give ordinary Pakistanis a stake in an enduring Pakistan-US relationship. The US Congress has a leading role to play in this effort."
Highlighting Islamabad's anti-terror commitment, Sherry Rehman recalled that in an historic joint session, parliament unanimously adopted a resolution condemning terrorism.
"Soon after, with the full support and force of the government and people of Pakistan, our military forces went into Swat, and subsequently into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), to flush out terrorists."
"Although we paid a bruising price, as hundreds of thousands of our people were dislocated, the results have been acknowledged everywhere as impressive. Swat was cleansed of terrorists after a hard, bloody military operation".
"But many of the terrorists took refuge across the porous border in Afghanistan. Today they return to target innocent young schoolchildren like Malala Yusufzai, or to shoot at our military and police. Despite these challenges, we continued the fight and took it to FATA."
She underscored to the US Congress the fact that substantive progress in the anti-terror fight has been made under the democratic government.
"As we speak, 145,000 of our soldiers are stationed in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan to fight a battle the world may soon forget about and walk away from."
On the US Congress members' concerns about American casualties in Afghanistan attributed to IEDs, the ambassador said the situation in Pakistan's parliament is similar.
"We have suffered 15,851, 43 percent of all casualties in the past four years, just on account of IEDs. We, therefore, identify with the US on this issue. Only one-tenth of 1 percent of calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) produced in Pakistan as fertilizer is allegedly smuggled across the porous and extremely hard-to-police Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan is, therefore, effectively monitoring 99.9 percent of its production, while still waiting for matching interdiction on the other side."
In the regional perspective, the ambassador said, the democratic government is also leading Pakistan through a regional policy pivot in South Asia.
"Legitimately concerned about its own security, under President (Asif Ali) Zardari's specific initiatives, Islamabad is determined to send clear signals that bolster the security of others. It is, therefore, reaching out to all countries in the region, reassessing its own strategy and hoping to foster peace among others. Specifically, Pakistan is proactively moving ahead to build confidence based on opening sustained trade and dialogue spigots with our immediate neighbours, Afghanistan and India."
In the case of Afghanistan, as it makes an important security and political transition, Pakistan is working with the United States to facilitate an Afghan-owned and led reconciliation process.
Ambassador Rehman wrote that despite progress on many fronts, Pakistan continues to face challenges at home.
"Democratic gains must be consolidated, and regardless of high global oil and food prices, we have to begin making a positive and visible impact on the quality of life of the ordinary Pakistani. Above all, the fight against terrorism must continue to be waged and won. Since we signed up to fight this battle, 46,000 civilians and soldiers have been martyred in the blowback. It is now our battle."
"US friendship and support are essential in these endeavours. We certainly appreciate US assistance to Pakistan in all its manifestations, even though the promised legislation on ROZs never materialised. And we realise that the long-term solution to our difficulties lies in enhanced trade, not aid," Sherry Rhman added.