Switching gears: Sherry Rehman found her calling for change

Published: October 12, 2013
The former ambassador to US started her career in journalism, later joined the PPP. PHOTO: REUTERS

The former ambassador to US started her career in journalism, later joined the PPP. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: There is no shortage of stories when Sherry Rehman starts to speak as the 52-year-old has seen Pakistan evolve through the eyes of a journalist, politician and as a diplomat over the last 30 years.

“Journalism is my first love, albeit not a convenient one,” said the former ambassador to the United States. “As students, we were full of hope. I didn’t see myself as a doctor or a teacher. On the other hand I enjoyed writing which lead me on the path of journalism.”

Rehman was speaking at a talk organised by the Aga Khan University, titled ‘In the Service of My Country: The Politics of Living Dangerously’, on Thursday.

She recalled that she started her career in journalism in the mid 1980s when the country was run by a dictator and there was heavy censorship on the media. Rehman, who started off as reporter, was made editor of the Herald when she was only 26 while everyone around her was “older and grayer.”

“Journalism allowed us to see ourselves as agents of change,” Rehman said to the packed auditorium.  She mentioned a cover story of the magazine, Karachi’s Killing Fields, saying that it reinvented investigative journalism.

Today, however, Rehman sees a different kind of journalism. “They [media] do bring to light issues which would often go unreported, but people are less politically active and there are no agents of change,” she said, adding that news channels were racing for ratings instead of taking risks and opposing censorship.


Politics is everywhere, according to Rehman, as she fondly recalled her encounters as a journalist with Benazir Bhutto. “I was a powerful critic and Benazir would reach out to me.”

In 1998, after 10 years of being the Herald’s editor, Rehman bid farewell to journalism and embarked on a different journey to bring about change. “I met Benazir in London where she told me that I have to be part of the change.”

Rehman moved back to Karachi and decided to set up the Jinnah Institute where people could pursue research.

In 2002, she became a member of the National Assembly as part of the Pakistan People Party. She found her new career exciting. “Politics is about hope and transmitting hope.”

She was elected as an MNA again in 2008. “People ask me about my achievements as an information minister. It was not a long stint – during the first 100 days, I worked on the black laws of media.” Rehman also presented five bills pertaining to women rights.

Coming to the importance of democracy, she believed that the process should be uninterrupted. “Democracy allows everyone to have a voice. I know that the younger generation is cynical about democracy but they should realise that people have sacrificed their lives for it.”

Dabbling in diplomacy

Rehman briefly spoke about her role as a diplomat, saying that she did not choose the profession herself. “It was a red-eye job as I needed to be constantly alert.”

She kept her comments on peace in the region short, saying that Pakistan should not interfere in Afghanistan and let the country build its own future.

She was clear on her commitment to the PPP, saying that the party had her support and assistance. “Politics is like journalism; it gets into your blood.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2013.

Correction: The earlier version of this story was running an incorrectly sourced picture of Sherry Rehman. The error is regretted.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Oct 12, 2013 - 1:46AM

    Sherry, Keep it up!Recommend

  • Uza Syed
    Oct 12, 2013 - 2:21AM

    Sherry Rehman is alright! She is a gutsy woman and I like her for this.


  • Toba Alu
    Oct 12, 2013 - 5:35AM

    Change will go nowhere if it has to come from the elite. Elites have the tendency to talk change not to walk change. Preservation of wealth and power is their hallmark. This country could make a beginning by the introduction of the concept of love into daily life. Love your neighbour, love your country, love your enemy etc. Anyone can start today.


  • Bushra Mansoor
    Oct 12, 2013 - 7:07AM

    There can be no change in Pakistan as we tend to live our life as victims. Sherry & co may have the best of intentions but the basic ingredient missing is that we don’t want change. We moan & groan grumble & get frustrated but do we take ownership we are entrenched in old customs where corruption & low ethics are way of life where our productivity only matters when we live & work for foreigners. We dip in conspiracy & find it easier to play the blame game and use our rich religious beliefs to comment but ignore the basic truths.


  • Water Bottle
    Oct 12, 2013 - 7:36AM

    One of the rare honest politicians of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Oct 12, 2013 - 1:06PM

    True politician,cunning and shrewd


  • Oct 12, 2013 - 1:13PM

    The rights to the above photograph of Sherry Rehman are held by Newsweek Pakistan, which commissioned this photo shoot and used this photograph on our cover in March 2011. You are advised to please replace the photograph on your web page.


  • Waseem
    Oct 12, 2013 - 1:25PM

    she is part of those who could not deliver even in 5 years.


  • Max
    Oct 12, 2013 - 2:43PM

    One of the very few respectable politicians in the country. More power to her.


  • Oct 12, 2013 - 2:51PM

    Thank you.


  • ashar
    Oct 12, 2013 - 3:25PM

    @Water Bottle:
    Yes but ineffective.


  • ishrat salim
    Oct 12, 2013 - 3:50PM

    this country can never witness change unless status quo is changed…..dynastic political parties, no intra – party election and then talking of democracy is a bit too hypocrisy, is not it ? then topping of icing by the presence feudals, beradaris, tribal leaders leaves little stone to turn for the CHANGE we are looking for…..we are enemy ourselves. We do not need external enemy to inflict damage on ourselves….main ingredient being corruption,dishonesty and selfishness and lack of education…..


  • Oct 12, 2013 - 8:33PM

    Well Sherry Rehman certainly has a flair for “switching gears”. She has been upto a lot of hanky panky according to this Moroccan Newspaper. http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2013/10/108323/new-book-claims-benazir-bhutto-had-a-secret-relationship-with-a-moroccan/?utmsource=feedburner&utmmedium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MoroccoWorldNews+(Morocco+World+News)


  • Saleem
    Oct 12, 2013 - 8:49PM

    @Water Bottle
    Honesty has no affiliation with politicians in general and Pakistan People Party in particular


  • Blunt
    Oct 12, 2013 - 9:10PM

    Now can join protests hand in hand with Geelani.


  • unbelievable
    Oct 12, 2013 - 9:42PM

    I wonder how she would assess her time as Ambassador to the USA? I think her presence in the USA was unremarkable and some might argue an abject failure – how much was attributable to her vs Pakistan policy maybe debatable. Maybe she will write a book?


  • Jonathan
    Oct 17, 2013 - 12:34AM

    Sherry you said you met Benazir in London, where she told you to be part of the change. Was this the change she was referring to. http://weeklyblitz.net/2013/10/secret-sex-life-of-benazir-bhutto-a-political-dynasty-in-the-limelight-part-3/


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