The yawn-inducing sitting of the National Assembly Wednesday evening did nothing that deserved to be mentioned in this column. Even otherwise, I was almost mad to locate that MNA, who had forced me to watch out Ms Sherry Rehman when all kind of speculations were flooding our media while discussing the possible replacement of Haqqani in Washington.
Her eventual appointment as our ambassador to the US has surely surprised many. But my source was not present anywhere in the parliament house. After hectic search, one could only find out that since morning he had been staying put at Prime Minister’s secretariat.
Ms Rehman was also not taking calls. My sources revealed that she spent the whole day in attending an elaborate round of meetings. The longest one she had with Hussain Haqqani, focusing on the usual handing and taking over stuff.
Between you and me, until meeting my source Tuesday evening I was almost certain that Jalil Abbas Jillani would make it to Washington. Besides his being a Gillani from Multan, the real thing going in his favour was the complete trust that he savoured with national security outfits. He had already served in the US and was once asked to leave India after being declared a persona non grata. His being a career diplomat seemed doubly helping.
Two very senior bureaucrats have told me that even Prime Minister Gilani had almost selected him, but then he had a meeting with the President.
After an exhaustive brainstorming about how to deal with explosive blowback of the ‘memogate,’ they instantly decided that no person with a khaki background should be sent to Washington. The need to select a ‘civilian’ was instinctively felt by the two; simply for the fact that unravelling of the ‘memogate’ gradually made the world to believe as if the military and the political elite of Pakistan were heading for an either/or showdown. Haqqani’s resignation forcefully affirmed the said perception.
Replacing Haqqani with a person from a Khaki background would have established the feeling that Pak-US relations are all about Pentagon and GHQ doing business with each other. A general working as our ambassador in Washington reduces the mutual relations to one-window operation.
Jehangir Karamat had already been named in one of the BBMs that Mansoor Ejaz released to media. Still, most of media persons kept promoting him.
Fairly late in the day also popped up the name of General (retd) Ehsan, who had served as DG ISI during the heyday of Pak-US cooperation in the war on terror.
Promoting his name, though, none of my colleagues cared to find out how this veteran of intelligence games, General Ehsan, rated above many of his successors of these days. A few meetings that he recently held with the US ambassador were not enough for him being considered.
I have been told by a very reliable person that Sherry Rehman’s name was initially dropped before the president “by a common friend”. Indeed, some months ago, he had asked her to resign from the information ministry during the heat of tensions with a media group. But things between the two eventually turned friendly and goody-goody around six months ago.
Ms Rehman earned it by maintaining grace since leaving a high profile ministry. Instead of throwing tantrums, she switched her imaginative talents and employed the hardworking tenacity to build up a think tank. The Jinnah Institute that she had established took no time to get registered by relevant quarters. As a lightening rod of the same think tank, she remained active on track II as well to find out ways of establishing peace with India and seek a doable strategy to deal with Afghanistan. Her vocal stance on women-related issues, diligent working for some women-empowering legislation and above all her efforts to inject sanity in blasphemy laws augmented her credentials. She also is one of those few top-tier leaders of the PPP, who are equally trusted and admired by both the President and the Prime Minister. No wonder, Yousaf Raza Gilani instantly agreed to the name, when Asif Al Zardari “casually” mentioned it during their one-on-one meeting.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2011.