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Pakistan Moves Fast To Name New Ambassador To U.S.

Sherry Rehman is a former Pakistani information minister who has also campaigned hard on rights issues and holds considerable sway within the ruling Pakistan People's Party.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has announced the choice of a rights-activist lawmaker and former information minister as Islamabad's ambassador to the United States, in a swift appointment aimed at nipping the effects of a damaging scandal.

The choice of Sherry Rehman as the country's new envoy to Washington was likely to please critics who feared the country's powerful military would try to fill the gap created by the resignation of Husain Haqqani.

The prime minister's office announced Rehman's appointment but gave no more details.

"There are challenges on every front, and we have many challenges in Pakistan today," Rehman said in Islamabad about her appointment.

"I spoke to you of terrorism; we are trying our best to tackle it. We in Pakistan have sacrificed a lot. These sacrifices should not go to waste. This blood should not go to waste and we have a firm resolve. We will plead our case everywhere with one voice."

Pakistan's outgoing ambassador, Haqqani, stepped down to "allow the democratic move on" amid a furor over a memo that he purportedly passed along to U.S. officials that included a request from President Asif Ali Zardari for "direct intervention" to prevent a military takeover of Pakistan. The Pakistani government backtracked after initially denying the existence of such a correspondence.

Rehman is an influential member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party of President Zardari, whose role in "memo-gate" could threaten his standing as pro-army media outlets describe his alleged overtures to the United States as treasonous.

Rehman is also a former confidante of slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who has faced death threats from militants over her criticism of Pakistan's draconian blasphemy law and other expressions of intolerance. She has headed the Jinnah Institute, which professes to "invest in policies that promote fundamental rights, tolerance and pluralism."

Her challenge is to repair frayed relations between two allies battling mutual mistrust and potentially competing interests as they also work to counter international and regional terrorism.

The memo at the heart of Haqqani's departure was reportedly delivered shortly after the U.S. operation to kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in early May on Pakistani territory, which hugely embarrassed Pakistan's security community and engendered resentment for its infringement on Pakistani sovereignty.

compiled from agency and RFE/RL reports