“This is a new Pakistan. Catch up, gentlemen.” This is Ambassador Rehman’s memorable retort that will live with us for years
Brave Sherry Rehman defends Pakistan like a ferocious Tigress. We have not see this sort of smart responses since the days of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The Pakistani Ambassador was brilliant, spontaneous, and adamantly defended the truth.
What a difference a few weeks make. Gone are the days when the Pakistani Ambassador was more loyal to Washington then he was to Pakistan. Mr. Haqqani could not find any good in Pakistan and never supported the Pakistani point of view.
The Washington Post described the interaction as “Pakistan presses demand for end to US drone strikes, citing ‘diminishing rate of returns’”.
- “Opposition to drone attacks is increasing among politicians in some countries.
- A number of Danish MPs have condemned the attacks.
- A group of 12 UK parliamentarians have written a letter to Obama urging him to stop the attacks. The Pakistani parliament has passed several motions demanding the attacks cease.
- Cessation of attacks was also set as a condition for reopening NATO supply routes.
- However when the routes reopened there was a drone attack shortly afterwards.”
Sherry Rehman, the Pakistani envoy said:
- Afridi “was contracting with a foreign intelligence agency without any permission. He was contracting with militant groups who were beheading our soldiers,”
- “He had no clue that he was engaged in a fight against or search for Osama bin Laden.”
- Rehman said Pakistan shouldn’t receive any more criticism for militants in its difficult-to-govern areas than Afghanistan does for similar hideouts on its territory.
Pakistanis can be proud of the way Rehman has defended Islamabad:
- Pakistan doesn’t have the option of ‘walking away from’ the Afghanistan-Pakistan problem, the way the US may end up doing.
- And after Lute parried a question about drone strikes in Pakistan by referring generically to US-Pakistan ‘cooperation’, Rehman said it is time for that sort of ‘robotic warfare’ to end.
- “The drone strikes now see diminishing returns,”
- “We will be seeking an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that.”
“This adds to the pool of recruits we’re fighting against,” she added.
- “We don’t welcome or sanctuary foreign fighters on our soil…. There is no question now of hedging bets”
- “This is a new Pakistan. Catch up, gentlemen.”
The New York Times and the Washington Post reported the renewed acrimony among Pakistan and American official brought on by denial of pockets of safe-havens in Afghanistan which are attacking Pakistan. The NYT labeled it a ‘tart exchange’, between Ambassador Sherry Rehman, Douglas Lute, President Barack Obama’s top adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the four-day Aspen Security Forum.
Pakistan had lost almost $78 billion during the conflict that started after the Sept 11, 2011, terrorist attacks in the US. “More than 42,000 Pakistani civilians and soldiers have been killed,” she said. “We are fighting every day and we are taking the hit.”
Steve Kroft shot off the first salvo asking if Afridi’s punishment demonstrated that the Pakistanis “have more loyalty to Osama bin Laden than they do to the United States.” Lt-Gen Karl Eikenberry (retd) chimed in from the peanut gallery
“In a word, I’d call it outrageous.”
Defending Pakistan’s position, Pakistan’s new Ambassador vociferously refuted the allegations and said “We are working according to a constitutional norm,” she said, joining the conference panel via a video link from Washington.
- “These are critical masses of people that come in; this is not just potshots,”
- She said that on 52 different occasions in the last eight months Pakistan had provided to American and NATO commanders in Afghanistan the locations from which the militants were attacking, to no avail.
- “We’re feeling a little bit of blowback from ISAF redeployments along the border,” Ms Rehman said, referring to the NATO command in Afghanistan.
Her comments drew a sharp rebuke from Lute, the White House adviser. “There’s no comparison of the Pakistani Taliban’s relatively recent, small-in-scale presence inside Afghanistan…to the decades-long experience and relations between elements of the Pakistani government and the Afghan Taliban. So to compare these is simply, I think, unfair,” Lute said bluntly.
The NYT described it as follows– “Tensions flared between the United States and Pakistan, as two top officials traded accusations of doing too little to combat Taliban sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
The theatrics are part of the bigger dilemma in US-Pakistani relations–on how to deal with each other. Neither party can afford to walk away from the relationships, though Pakistan has the upper hand because of geography. Dr. Sohail Mahmood is the Chairman of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan. He says:
That said, what should Pakistan do?
- The negotiations between the United States and Taliban in Qatar have stalled. Therefore, Pakistan must facilitate a Taliban-United States deal to the extent possible.
- Renounce the old discredited policy of ‘Strategic Depth’ and ‘a friendly Western border’ propounded by the Pakistan Army. Most importantly, the Zardari government must wrest control of the Afghanistan policy from the hands of the military.
It must immediately announce a stopping of support for the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-i-Taiba. Unfortunately, the Zardari Government is too preoccupied with the internal political and economic crisis to do much in this area.
The United States, on its part, must also take immediate action in a number of areas:
- The Pakistan military is worried that India is making inroads in Afghanistan and desires a role in the future of the country. More importantly, it believed that the United States was encouraging India in this development.
- The military leadership was apprehensive of any Indian role in Afghanistan and also firmly believed that these developments were happening at the cost of Pakistan.
- Therefore, the United States must do whatever it takes to reconcile India and Pakistan. It should support a final solution to the lingering Kashmir dispute.
- Stop covert CIA activity in Pakistan immediately.
- Reach out to the Pakistani civil society in a new effort at ‘winning hearts and minds’.