x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sherry Rehman named new Pakistan envoy to US in wake of 'memogate'

Pakistan have appointed a democracy activist who has faced militant death threats as its new ambassador to the United States.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan have appointed a democracy activist who has faced militant death threats as its new ambassador to the United States, moving quickly to replace the old envoy who resigned after upsetting the country's powerful military in a scandal dubbed "memogate".

Sherry Rehman is likely to be well-received in Washington, though she will have a tough task representing Pakistan amid widespread suspicion in the US that Islamabad is not a sincere ally in the fight against militants.

Ms Rehman is an important and respected player in Pakistan's ruling party and a vocal proponent of civilian supremacy in the country. Her appointment was surprising to some observers, who had presumed the army, having ousted the last ambassador, would try to force its own candidate on the weak government.

Ms Rehman's appointment "suggests that the military has failed to assume complete control of Pak-US relations", Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director for Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

Ms Rehman was close to Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister who was killed by militants in 2007. She has spoken up against the country's blasphemy law, which is used to persecute Christians. Police warned her that she could be targeted by extremists, and she was under heavy guard for some time.

She currently heads the Jinnah Institute, an organisation she founded to "invest in policies that promote fundamental rights, tolerance and pluralism".

Husain Haqqani resigned from the post late on Tuesday amid allegations he engineered a memo to Washington asking for its help in reining in the military in exchange for a raft of pro-American policies. He has denied any connection to the memo.

Mr Haqqani was summoned to Pakistan by the army after the scandal broke a few days ago. He had made no secret of his desire to try to wrest some of the power in Pakistan from the army to the civilian government, which is nominally in charge, earning him the distrust of the army establishment.

Yesterday, he tweeted: "Ah! To wake up in my motherland, without the burden of conducting Pakistan's most difficult external relationship."