Former Information Minister Sherry Rehman was on Wednesday designated to become Pakistan’s next Ambassador in the U.S. following the resignation of Husain Haqqani over the `Memogate’ controversy.
Her selection for the post was announced by the Prime Minister’s office early afternoon and immediately interpreted by analysts as a sign of consensus between the civil and military leadership of the country after a tension-filled week over the fate of Mr. Haqqani.
Soon after her appointment, Ms. Rehman called on Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. She also met with Mr. Haqqani to discuss her future assignment. That they met was tweeted by Mr. Haqqani who offered his congratulations, prayers and best wishes to his successor in ``conducting Pakistan’s most difficult external relationship’’.
Under threat from several religious right wing organisations for seeking an amendment in the blasphemy laws, Ms. Rehman’s appointment was criticised by the Sunni Tehreek on the premise that she is not fair to either Islam or her country. The organisation also accused her of pursuing Jewish and American policies.
Meanwhile, a petition was filed in the Multan bench of the Lahore High Court against Ms. Rehman’s appointment as Ambassador on the plea that she had committed blasphemy. At the height of the blasphemy debate in the country following the assassination of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, the Ambassador-designate faced a grave threat to her life with a fatwa being issued against her. Though she was advised to leave the country, she stayed on but kept a low profile for several months; returning to the limelight only recently.
A close associate of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Ms. Rehman was a journalist before she joined politics. A key minister when the current dispensation took charge, she resigned from the Cabinet over the issue of restrictions on the media. She is also chair of two Track-II dialogue processes with India. Last year, she launched the think-tank Jinnah Institute which, according to some analysts, is closely aligned with the military position on strategic matters while at the same time taking up issues regarding minority communities and their rights.