Never expected that Pakistan will send Sherry Rehman as next ambassador to the United States. I didn’t expect it because she is one of the very few strong, educated, opinionated, liberal woman who had quit her job as Information Minister to honor her commitment to the media. I didn’t expect it because Ms. Rehman is one of Pakistan’s few loud voices against intolerance and the nation’s anti-blasphemy laws.
But primarily I didn’t expect it because she had said taking the job of ambassador would be a demotion for her. About two years ago I had met her at Shaheen Sehbai’s house in VA along with few other Pakistani journalists. Ms. Rehman was the guest of honor- she had already resigned as Information Minister protesting the curb on Pakistani media. I, of course, admired her courage and her principled stand. One of us had asked her if she would consider the position of ambassador and replace Husain Haqqani. She categorically said “no” – explaining that it will be a lower pay grade 🙂
Although I am saddened by entrapment of Husain Haqqani – I am relieved that Sherry Rehman will be representing Pakistan in Washington DC. At least Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will be happy because unlike Husain Haqqani who was joint at the hip with President Zardari, Ms. Rehman has closer ties with the PM. And all the other names that were floating around would have been such an embarrassment for Pakistan.
Welcome Ambassador Sherry Rehman- hopefully you will keep us engaged at Twitter as well.
She will be 51 this December and studied at Smith College.
She started her career as a reporter for the daily Star newspaper and then moved on to the monthly magazine Herald, where she was – at the age of 26 – the group’s youngest editor.
Rehman left Herald in 1998 and co-authored the book The Kashmiri Shawl: From Jamawar to Paisley.
She was elected to the National Assembly twice, in 2002 and 2007, on reserved seats for women. In 2008-2009, she declared assets of Rs210 million.
As a legislator, Rehman highlighted human rights issues as well as played an instrumental role in passing key legislation related to women’s rights.
Rehman worked closely with the late PPP chairperson and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and headed the PPP’s policy planning committee that developed the party’s manifesto for the 2008 elections.
After the PPP came to power, Rehman, was named Minister for Information and Broadcasting, and had the additional portfolios of Health, Women Development and Culture.
According to a leaked US Embassy cable released by WikiLeaks, in a February 8, 2008 meeting with then US Ambassador Anne Patterson, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari said he was ‘struggling’ over who would be named Senate chairman. When he said the best candidate would be Farooq Naek, Zardari was asked who would be law minister. “That’s the problem,” he replied, “We don’t have enough good people.” According to Zardari, Sherry Rehman “was dying for the job,” but Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam would never vote for a woman as Senate Chairman.
She resigned from her position in March 2009 over the government’s handling of the media, and won kudos from the press for taking a stance on the issue. Rehman was then replaced as the Pakistan Peoples Party’s information secretary.
After her resignation as minister, Rehman focused her attention to the Jinnah Institute, “a non-profit public policy organization based in Pakistan, which works as a non-partisan think-tank, advocacy group and public outreach institution.”
In late 2010, Rehman’s life was threatened since she submitted a private member bill suggesting amendments to the blasphemy law. Rehman was criticized by speakers at large-scale rallies and kept a low profile in the ensuing months, particularly after the assassinations of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and the Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti.