Pakistan Appoints New US Ambassador After Scandal

Posted November 23rd, 2011 at 6:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistan has named a new ambassador to Washington after previous envoy Hussain Haqqani was ordered to resign following allegations that Pakistani media have labeled “memogate.”

Officials said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appointed former Information Minister Sherry Rehman to the post Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Haqqani stepped down following claims he had appealed in a memo for Washington's help in reining in Pakistan's powerful military.

Haqqani has denied any connection with the May memo, and Ambassador Rehman sought to downplay its impact. She dismissed the notion that the episode has in any way undermined Pakistan's relations with the United States. Rehman also said Pakistan has “rendered a lot of sacrifices,” adding she plans to represent Pakistan's positions to the United States on different issues.

Rehman is a veteran lawmaker for the ruling Pakistan People's Party and has ties to the United States, where she studied politics and foreign relations in the 1980s. She is also a strong advocate for minority rights, and has faced threats for her challenges to the country's blasphemy laws and serves as chairman of the Jinnah Institute, a research and advocacy group in Pakistan.

Her appointment came as a surprise to many analysts who had expected someone with closer ties to the military.

Former ambassador Haqqani had represented Islamabad in the United States since 2008, and was well-regarded in Washington. He also is a close ally of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Last month, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz publicly accused Haqqani of writing an unsigned memo, requesting U.S. assistance to prevent a feared military coup in Pakistan. The letter was reportedly sent in May to Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military official at the time.

In return for U.S. help in preventing a military coup in Pakistan, the memo said a new national security team would conduct a full inquiry into allegations that Pakistan harbored terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. The new team also would hand over top al-Qaida members and ensure that Pakistan's military spy agency cuts ties to the Taliban, the Haqqani terrorist network and other groups.

Prime Minister Gilani said Tuesday that Haqqani's resignation was necessary to ensure a fair investigation of the memo controversy.