WASHINGTON - In her first public engagement since assuming office two weeks ago, Pakistani Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman reached out to the Pakistani American community and sought their support to bring Pakistan and United States closer together.

“This Embassy is not going to work alone in Washington. It is going to work with many ambassadors to attempt to change the way this important bilateral relationship works,” she said.

Referring to Pakistan-US relations, the ambassador said these were certainly not “normal” times. “The relationship has never been as important, yet the tensions have never been so grave. We witnessed repeated episodes in recent times which undermined the relationship.”

Rehman went on: “For the first time in the history of the country, a comprehensive Parliamentary review is underway to establish new principles for this relationship. The review will reflect a multi-partisan parliamentary consensus and the support of the Pakistani people.”

She said, “Pakistan speaks today as one united voice, including the government and the people, and we will have one united policy toward the United States. This is an opportunity to reset this relationship in a transparent, consistent and predictable manner.”

“As Pakistani Americans, I want you to know that I will rely heavily on you as the extended arm of this Embassy and its Consulates in getting our message delivered to the American public. Every one of you is our mouth piece. Every one of you is our lobbyist. We want to remain friends with the US but our relationship must be based on mutual interests, respect and shared values.”

“Our friends in the United States must know that our sacrifices in the war on terror far outnumber those of any other international or Nato coalition partner in Afghanistan. Yet, I am not here with a grievance narrative.” She said Pakistan-US relations should move from dependency to partnership, from aid to trade. We would prefer to be economic and political partners and not just battlefield allies.

Speaking about democracy in Pakistan, she said that this was the first time in 30 years that a democratically-elected civilian government in Pakistan is nearing completion of its constitutionally-mandated term.  The government is committed to pluralism in Pakistan, but faces daunting obstacles, many of which have to do with the tide of extremism roiling the region.

Ambassador Rehman especially assured members from all religious communities from Pakistan that the Embassy and its Consulates General would always welcome them and that their empowerment was in fact, the Missions’ empowerment.

Paying homage to Benazir Bhutto, Ambassador Rehman said that her iconic figure always inspires her to serve the nation to the best of her own ability. She said she was honoured that President Zardari and PM Gilani had entrusted her with such a challenging task at one of the most critical and sensitive times in the Pak-US relationship. Around 200 representatives of the Pakistani American community from Washington and the tri-state area attended the event.