The Nation, April 15, 2012
Sherry Rehman and Pak-US Relations
By Asif Nouman
Ambassador Sherry Rehman,Â a longtime ally of late Prime Minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto has been duly rewarded with the status of Federal Minister in recognition of her contributions projecting Pakistanâ€™s viewpoint in Washington at a difficult and challenging time during the past two months. She will be the first Pakistani Ambassador, with the highest status in the history of the post, sending a clear signal to Washington and to the Foreign Office that she enjoys the full backing of the President and the Prime Minister to take decisions in the national interest.
Sherry Rehman, who is staying put in the Capital, has been attending meetings at Aiwan-e-Sadr and Prime Minister House, including those of the allied parties about future re-engagement with the United States and contributing in reshaping a pro-Pakistan foreign policy and not pro-American policy.
The Ambassador, during her brief stay in Washington, has so far made headway in meetings with top leaders in the State Department and Pentagon, while steadfastly conveying Pakistanâ€™s stance on issues that have bedeviled relations between the two countries. She emphasised to the members of Congress the need to see things from Pakistanâ€™s perspective, as a one-sided approach would not help in normalising relations.
At a time when Parliament is redrawing lines of engagement with the US, her presence in Islamabad is of immense significance. Once Parliament gives its recommendations about future relationship with the US, the task for Ambassador Rehman would be to bring the two sides closer and restore the ruptured relationship. With democratic credentials, articulate self-confidence and having learnt much from former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, about handling ticklish diplomatic issues, one expects that she will bridge the gulf by keeping Pakistanâ€™s interests and its peopleâ€™s sentiments uppermost.
Due to her efforts at Capitol Hill, there appears to be a change in the US thinking about the role of Pakistan and its sensitivities on sovereignty and security issues. Since taking up her post, Ambassador Sherry Rehman has handled her challenging portfolio with a purposeful charm. She is not a solo flier and likes to consult and act institutionally and insiders claim that the political and military leadership is happy with her handling of a difficult assignment.
Sherry’s appointment has been viewed as a breath of fresh air in Islamabad and Washington, as she is a “tough and courageous” negotiator and represent “the traditional values of Jinnah’s Pakistan, tolerance and moderation.”
Pakistan and the United States can have a rational, constructive, predictable and transparent relationship, which they have not had in a sustained way for too long. In an interview, she rightly stated that the two countries need to lower expectations, do business in a grounded way and invest in a relationship with less emotion.
With such confidence invested in her, it is hoped that during her presence in Washington, Sherry Rehman will play a fruitful role and invent a new partnership with the US, as Pakistan cannot afford to remain in isolation.
Â The writer is a freelance columnist.