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June 25, 2018

Envoy seeks diaspora’s help to cement Pak-US ties


June 25, 2018

WASHINGTON: At a time when relations between the two countries appear low, Pakistan's new ambassador to the US has urged the diaspora to engage in advancing and strengthening bilateral ties.

Just twenty four hours after he presented his credentials to President Trump at the White House, the ambassador, Ali Jehangir Siddiqui, was with the diaspora bigwigs seeking their continuous support and help. He was at a dinner reception hosted in his honor by the known Muslim Trump supporter Sajid Tarar.

Addressing the first public gathering, Ambassador Siddiqui maintained that Pakistani government was keen to get the country back to prosperity and cooperation but needs support. "You can support us in many different ways," he suggested, "the most important to which is participating in your own political discourse, and your own political process. And if you can do that you will naturally carry the Pakistan story and naturally offer a perspective that is your own but will present Pakistan in a fair way."

In his short speech, the ambassador did not directly comment on the US-Pakistan relations but hinted that Pakistani Americans have a choice to come together as voters, as expatriates, as friends with Pakistan to getting the country back to the "tiger" status, a reference to a strong economic power. "At the very least if you engage in a discourse, speak to other people about the other side of the story, explain that problems are not rare in this world, and certainly many countries have had more difficult times and have emerged," he said.

"I am not denying that we have challenges we have many challenges, but what I am saying is many countries have challenges. Today one would be hard pressed to find a country in the world that is not facing difficult challenges. But rather than speak about negativity I ask you to participate along side us, hold us accountable, and work with us, to get Pakistan back to what we used to be," he insisted.

The ambassador also welcomed the ideas to invest in Pakistan to bolster business and trade ties. A large number of Sikhs were present at the event as well who presented exotic gifts to the ambassador and requesting that the government should have an easy travel policy for them so they could visit their religious places in Pakistan. Siddiqui said he was thrilled and ensured the Sikh delegation that he would look into strengthening religious tourism.

Two weeks earlier the ambassador had also sent out a letter to influential community members saying that he believed there was "a lot of promise and potential in Pakistan-US relations." Laying out his priorities, the ambassador wrote that he took the "challenging responsibility with full confidence that we can accomplish great things together."

"In the discharge of my duties, I will be relying on the Pakistani American community to add strength to my arms and to guide me through this effort," Ambassador Siddiqui said in the letter adding, "The Pakistani American diaspora has assumed significance and influence within the US mainstream. Our youth is active and well educated, and they provide reason for great optimism for the future."

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