February 15, 2011

Chairman Kerry Urges United States And Pakistan To Work Together And Find Common Ground

Expresses Sorrow for Loss of Life

Lahore, Pakistan -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) reaffirmed support for the strategic relationship between Pakistan and the United States today in remarks at a press conference in Lahore, Pakistan. Chairman Kerry arrived in Pakistan Tuesday night for meetings with senior government officials at a time when the relationship is strained by the detention of a U.S. government official in connection with the killing of two Pakistani men in apparent self-defense during a robbery attempt late last month.

In remarks at the press conference, Chairman Kerry expressed America’s sorrow over the deaths of the Pakistanis killed during the incident and a subsequent one involving a U.S. consular vehicle in transit to the scene.

Chairman Kerry stressed that the purpose of his visit is to listen to the Pakistani people and officials and to help refocus both countries on the challenges they face together. In response to questions from reporters, Kerry made it clear that he is not in Pakistan to arbitrate the case of the U.S. official being detained by Pakistani authorities.

Chairman Kerry has traveled to Pakistan four times since assuming chairmanship of the Committee. He was the first high-ranking U.S. official to travel to Pakistan following the devastating floods there last summer. In 2009, Chairman Kerry coauthored the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, also known as Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB), which triples non-military foreign assistance to Pakistan to $1.5 billion per year over the next five years. KLB was designed to signal the United States’ long-term strategic engagement with the people of Pakistan.

Highlights from Chairman Kerry’s remarks:

“I’m here, because in the middle of events that seem to be focusing people narrowly, we need to remember and think about the things that we care about and that we’re both fighting for the bigger, the bigger strategic interests: stability in the region, opportunity for jobs for people, the right for people not to have their lives disrupted or ended suddenly and violently by radical extremists. This is in all of our interest. And these are the bigger issues that we need to be focused on and working hard. And we cannot allow one thing or another that might divide us in a small way to take away from the things that unite us in a big way.”

“So let me say, I know that in recent days emotions have been very stressed by an extraordinarily unfortunate incident involving a diplomat assigned to the United States Embassy. We’re all aware of that. And I want to come here today to express our deepest regret for this tragic event and to express the sorrow of the American people for the loss of life that has taken place. Personally, I’ve been through these kinds of losses. And I know the pain that the families of lost loved ones feel. I understand that…It is important, I think, and I express this on a very personal level, to understand the degree to which we really do feel the sorrow of what has happened and we express our sympathies to those families.”

“I’ve come here to listen. I haven’t come here to order anybody to do anything; I haven’t come here to dictate. I’ve come here to listen carefully, to meet with your leaders and have an opportunity to find a path forward so that we can all live by the law and hopefully find a way to deal with some really urgent pressing issues for both of our countries.”

The full text of Chairman Kerry’s remarks:

It’s a great privilege for me to be here on the eve of the celebration of the birth of the Great Prophet. Let me say also that I know this is a special time here in Lahore. So I’ll hope you will forgive me for bringing secular matters into that celebration, but that’s what I’m doing.

Let me say that I know the people of Pakistan are struggling with some very difficult issues and these are issues which, as you know, we have become involved in with you in a great effort to find a mutual cause, to work together and to build progress.  I know there are economic challenges and I know that the challenges of the flood are particularly enormous. I had the privilege of becoming the first senior American official to travel here during the floods.  I had the opportunity to fly over hundreds of thousands of homes that were destroyed; I saw people standing up on what high ground they could find; I visited several camps and I went back to the United States and reported first-hand on the extraordinary challenge that Pakistan faced and on our responsibility to try to be helpful.

I’m proud that the United States led the effort to provide assistance—we were the first and we were the largest. And, so, I think we come to you with a clarity about our willingness to engage in real humanitarian people-to-people efforts.

I know now there are many issues of significant concern, obviously. People need energy, health, housing. In some cases, prices have gone up on some items and the challenges are very deep and very real. That is why I, as I know you know, I took the leadership role within the  United States Senate—to try to change the relationship between the United States and Pakistan. What I wanted to do and what Vice President Biden, who was then a Senator, wanted to do, and Senator Hagel, the three of us, came back from a very emotional moment here in Pakistan where we got to share in Pakistan’s election. And we were all deeply impressed by the emotion, by the commitment to democracy, by the extraordinary patience and devotion people exhibited just to be able to vote for their future. So I come to you today with a great appreciation of Pakistan’s journey to democracy, to its efforts to honor the choices of that election and the aspirations of your people. That’s why I’m here.

And that’s why, in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill, we fought to create a new relationship, a relationship which is people-to-people. Where we’re building a relationship not just with a government, but with the Pakistani people.  And where the Pakistani people can come to have a relationship with the American people, because that’s the way our aid program is structured. That’s my dream. And it’s also, I might add, an effort that the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke gave his life to.  Really. Literally. He fought so hard to build a new relationship through a strategic dialogue and so forth. 

So, we have many mutual interests. And that’s what brings me here. I’m here, because in the middle of events that seem to be focusing people narrowly, we need to remember and think about the things that we care about and that we’re both fighting for the bigger, the bigger strategic interests: stability in the region, opportunity for jobs for people, the right for people not to have their lives disrupted or ended suddenly and violently by radical extremists. This is in all of our interest. And these are the bigger issues that we need to be focused on and working hard. And we cannot allow one thing or another that might divide us in a small way to take away from the things that unite us in a big way.

That’s really what brings me here to Pakistan today. So let me say I know that in recent days emotions have been very stressed by an extraordinarily unfortunate incident involving a diplomat assigned to the United States Embassy. We’re all aware of that.

And I want to come here today to express our deepest regret for this tragic event and to express the sorrow of the American people for the loss of  life that has taken place.  Personally, I’ve been through these kinds of losses. And I know the pain that the families of lost loved ones feel. I understand that. We share that and want the people here to understand the depth of our sorrow for this loss of life.

It is important, I think, and I express this on a very personal level, to understand the degree to which we really do feel the sorrow of what has happened and we express our sympathies to those families.  I might remind you, it happens that I just came across this as I was coming here today that one of the favorite sayings of the Holy Prophet was this question that he asked people.  He said, “What actions are most excellent?” And then he talked about feeding people, the hungry, or caring for the afflicted.

But he also specifically said, “To lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful and to remove the wrongs of the injured.”  That’s why I’m here today. My hope is that we can find our way forward together without politics, without getting into ideologies or other things. Let’s work together as two countries which have a huge common interest, who are working together toward the same goal and find a path forward.  And, again, I hope we can find the spirit of cooperation which allows us to keep our efforts and our focus on the things that bring us together and that will have the greatest impact on our lives. Both of us. That’s my hope.

I’ve come here to listen. I haven’t come here to order anybody to do anything; I haven’t come here to dictate. I’ve come here to listen carefully, to meet with your leaders and have an opportunity to find a path forward so that we can all live by the law and hopefully find a way to deal with some really urgent pressing issues for both of our countries.

 

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