‘Sherry Reham’ strikes the right balance
PPP insists that the military had nothing to do with Rehman’s appointment - but many admit they have warmed to her
Perhaps it was an indication of how hurried her appointment was, but when the Prime Minister’s House sent out a press release announcing the new ambassador to the US, they called the person “Ms Sherry Reham”.
However her name was spelled, the redemption of Sherry Rehman is now complete and, appropriately, she has been given the country’s most important diplomatic post thanks to a two-year charm offensive to win back her doubters in the party.
Sources within the party say that Sherry’s appointment was proposed and championed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani but to paint this as a victory for the prime minister over President Asif Ali Zardari would be incorrect. According to them, her appointment would never have gone through had it not had the acquiescence of the president.
Relations between Rehman and Zardari had been gradually improving over the last year, primarily, said many in the PPP, because the former information minister won over party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Her liberal stance on social issues, in particular, appealed to the younger Zardari. This translated into renewed invitations to attend Central Executive Committee meetings of the party, a privilege that had been rescinded when Rehman resigned from her post and was critical of the party.
Sources in the party say that Zardari also began to grudgingly accept Rehman’s presence in the party when, unlike other dissidents such as Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Safdar Abbasi, she didn’t make her grievances with the party leadership public.
The party also insists that the military had nothing to do with Rehman’s appointment although many quietly admit that she has become closer to the security establishment thanks to the work she’s done for her think tank, the Jinnah Institute.
There are also worries, both within and outside the party, that Rehman may not have the intellect and negotiation skills required for this crucial position, and that she is certainly not up to the level of predecessors like Hussain Haqqani and Maleeha Lodhi.
Military sources, meanwhile, were not interested in commenting on Rehman’s appointment, a sign that they approve it since any opposition would be made clear in a series of targeted leaks. For now, it seems, the military is still intent on focusing its ire on Haqqani.
Just a day after the former ambassador resigned, the usual suspects began trying to feed information to journalists that Haqqani had been placed on the Exit Control List. That no such thing had been done was besides the point, since the military’s modus operandi is to present their desires as reality and hope that through the force of repetition in the media, they get their way.
Given Rehman’s establishment ties and the lack of condemnation, from the usual anonymous sources, of her appointment, it would be a stretch to say that her appointment is a poke in the eye to the military. But given that the military was eagerly promoting Salman Bashir and Ehsanul Haq for the post, it would be fair to say that they did not get things entirely their way.