Sherry Rehman appointment as US ambassador surprises diplomatic circles
Things can change rapidly in Pakistan. In the beginning of October, Husain Haqqani wouldn’t have imagined that a mere newspaper article will cause him his day job. There was an overwhelming assumption in some sections that Haqqani was ousted due to Pakistan army growing resentment after the memogate issue. And it was conveniently assumed that Haqqani’s replacement would be someone acceptable to army. But on the contrary, Sherry Rehman’s appointment has not only surprised diplomatic community but high ups of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were also taken off guard.
Sherry Rehman, a former journalist, was a closed friend of Late Benazir Bhutto and has enjoyed good relation with President Zardari up till her resignation from the cabinet. Most people were of the opinion that Sherry Rehman decision to quit the cabinet during the judiciary crisis in 2009 has made her position weaken in the party. Zardari was not happy when she vacated her slot during the crisis. She was also removed from the position of party`s information secretary when she quit cabinet and even issued a show cause notice by PPP for participating in a TV talk shows discussing matters that were not aligned with party high ups.
But she is widely appreciated by civil society for taken strong stand for media curb, minority and women rights. She has also faced death threats for her support for amending Pakistan’s blemish blasphemy laws. After the assignation of Salmaan Taseer in January this year over a proposed amendment in blasphemy laws, she was forced to live in Police protection against the deluded Islamist extremists due to her bold stance. She also hold the distinction among her contemporaries for tabling bills in National Assembly related to anti-honor killings, domestic violence prevention, women empowerment and freedom of information.
Call it her foresightedness or prudence when she was sidelined by her party, she didn’t blustered like other PPP dissidents and didn’t seek refuge in TV talk shows. Earlier this year when she was also over looked when Hina Rabbani Khar bag the hefty foreign ministry when it was vacated by Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s after Raymond Davis incident. Well, her patience has finally paid off.
Or maybe this time around, President Zardari don’t have much choice. Analyst argue that Rehman’s appointment not only help PPP government to do some damage control over memo issue and also replace Haqqani with someone who is not objectionable to Pakistan army. She was educated in Smith College in Massachusetts and understands the dynamics of United States. In other her words, considering the current scenario, she just got the right profile to be in Washington. She is seen as a liberal who advocates women’s and minority rights. Such fitting profile also helps her manage her new role as her predecessor was mostly viewed as Zardari’s man who is not cozy with Pakistan’s powerful army.
Ambassador Sherry Rehman has a tough job ahead of her. Pakistan relation with United State has always been complex. Recent NATO aircraft strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at Salala near Afghan border is already heating political temperature. Washington plans to pull out from Afghanistan after the killing of bin Laden, and Pakistan’s cooperation is much needed at the moment.
Haqqani met Rehman and briefed her about her new role and wish her good luck. How Sherry Rehman going to handle the front requires more than defensive diplomatic skills and courtesy.
Click Pictures to enlarge. Wait for photos to load in viewer.