ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday urged the United States not to look relations with Pakistan through Afghanistan or China lens as the ties between the two countries should stand on their own.
Addressing a reception hosted by the US Embassy in the Diplomatic Enclave Thursday to observe 75 years of diplomatic ties of the two countries, he referred to support and aid from the US over the years and expressed regret that aid worth $32 billion given by the US in the past was not spent “in the right direction”.
“Had we used this aid in a well-planned and properly supervised manner, we would have broken our begging bowl. But then there is no point in crying over spilt milk.” Pakistan’s two former envoys to the United States, Sherry Rehman and Dr Maleeha Lodhi, and federal ministers were among the guests.
The prime minister maintained that it was time for the two countries to move forward and find ways to warm up the relationship to levels seen in the past. The reception started with a one-minute silence to express condolence over the death of people and convey grief to those who had lost their livelihood in the devastating floods across the country.
The prime minister said that he wished to say this very sincerely today that we really want to build and reset these relations back to normal and friendly relations based on trust, respect and mutual understanding.
The prime minister said that during the long journey of 75 years, Pakistan-US relations touched their apex of glory but there were also several dips. “We know the reasons but this is not the right time to recall them. Of course, there is a file on your part and a file on our part but if we have to move forward, we must then find ways and means to warm up our relations to levels we have seen in the past.”
Shehbaz Sharif underlined that Pakistan wants to stand on its own feet. “When Pakistan was facing the worst kind of outages, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif decided to spend from our own scarce resources to invest in another 5,000MW of electricity. Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar opposed tooth and nail saying I don’t have the money... he had his own pertinent point. PM Nawaz thought on top of what we’re getting on CPEC projects. He said let’s not delay it because if there is another sit-in, the CPEC programme will be derailed and by the time of the 2018 election, we wouldn’t be able to show anything to the people of Pakistan,” he added.
Interestingly, Senator Dar was sitting in front of him among the guests. The prime minister said that as a result of that decision, we got 5,000MW of electricity and out of that 3,500MW was installed by GE. The plants were installed in the fastest-possible time, he said.
Shehbaz Sharif reminded that he has been the most ardent supporter of the friendship between Pakistan and the United States. “Let bygones be bygones... as long as we have serious dialogues, we cannot go wrong.”
Talking about his recent trip to New York, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that he had many productive meetings in the US, including with President Joe Biden and Secretary Antony Blinken. He thanked the US leadership for the programme they announced for the flood-affected people.
Referring to the floods in Pakistan, he said that the disaster is not made by Pakistan as it is a developing country. “Pakistan is a very strong nation. People are very hard working. Our population is 50 percent male and 50 percent female. There is complete freedom of action. The US is our biggest trading partner. The catastrophic situation is not made by us, it is man-made but not by us. Some 1,600 people have died, including 400 children. More than a million mud houses have been thrown into the Arabian Sea. People are living under the open sky waiting for help. It is my duty to help but whatever we do will not be enough.”
He urged the US and the international community to stand by Pakistan during this difficult time. “This is our right. We have not brought this upon us,” he said. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said, “We want to go back to those wonderful times when our relations with the US had their own standing. I would work most willingly for those relations.”
He went on to say that the floods in Pakistan this year were a “disaster beyond means”. The yawning gap between demand and supply, Shehbaz highlighted, was widening by the hour and this was just the first phase. “The final phase of reconstruction and rehabilitation is yet to come. But that costs money and, therefore, I again request you that now we need the international community to stand by us and support us.”
He clarified that the government was not asking for money but relief, funds for rebuilding the infrastructure, jobs, livelihoods, commerce, trade, and exports. In his address, the US ambassador said the people of the United States continued to stand with Pakistan. The strength of the bilateral friendship was demonstrated by the more than $66 million in US support for flood response, he added.
“We are doing what friends and partners do – support each other when it’s needed most… Our partnership has been advantageous to both the countries,” he remarked. Over the decades, more than $32 billion in US support benefited Pakistan and improved the lives of the Pakistani people, the ambassador added.
Donald Blome emphasised that the US relationship with Pakistan deserves to stand on its own. The US envoy maintained that Pakistan-US ties are necessarily broad-based, and profoundly important for both our countries, for the region, and for the world. It is not, and need not be, exclusive of any other regional relationship. At a moment of great change, the United States and Pakistan need to define a partnership that advances our shared interests and meets our mutual, ambitious goals.
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