Bilawal Bhutto Zardari now ‘Patron-in-Chief’ of a party in crisis.
Sherry Rehman, who was instrumental in smoothening relations between Islamabad and Washington after a NATO attack on Pakistan’s international border with Afghanistan in November 2011, has resigned as ambassador to the United States.
“Congratulating the new Parliament on its election, Ambassador Sherry Rehman has sent in her resignation to the P.M.,” the Pakistan Embassy in Washington announced earlier today. “It is time a new envoy comes in as quickly as possible so that there is no gap in the relationship,” it quoted Rehman as saying.
Rehman, 52, succeeded Husain Haqqani as ambassador to the U.S. Haqqani resigned prior to the NATO attack and after the Memogate saga, which pitched the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government against the Army. (Haqqani has firmly denied any involvement in efforts, advised through a memo to a top U.S. military official, to have the Pentagon tame Pakistan’s Army.)
Rehman and Haqqani both belong to the PPP, which was virtually wiped out in the country’s May 11 elections. The incoming government led by Nawaz Sharif, a twice-elected former prime minister, will name its own envoys to key capitals next month.
“Rehman was appointed by the outgoing government,” said an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It is normal for diplomats to resign when new governments come to power.”
In Washington, Rehman has worked closely with both elected representatives and the security bureaucracy to advocate Pakistan’s cause effectively and cogently. Her diplomacy has been hailed by Newsweek International, Foreign Policy, and a number of key and independent think tanks in the U.S. and Pakistan. (When she returns, the widely-respected ex-lawmaker and federal minister may resume charge of Jinnah Institute, the Islamabad-based think tank she founded.)
Meanwhile, Rehman’s party colleague Aitzaz Ahsan announced today his resignation from Pakistan’s Senate. Ahsan, who was the intellectual architect of the popular lawyers’ movement that culminated in the resignation of Pervez Musharraf as the country’s president, said he was stepping up and accepting responsibility for the failure of the PPP in the May 11 elections. His wife, Bushra, was unsuccessful in her bid for the National Assembly from Lahore.
The stunning failure of the PPP at the polls has led to other resignations as well: Ahmed Mahmud, whose son won his bid for Parliament, has resigned as governor of the Punjab. His cousin Yousaf Raza Gilani, the former prime minister whose son Ali Haider was kidnapped last week from the campaign trail, has resigned as the party’s vice president. Manzoor Wattoo has resigned as the party’s Punjab chapter president.
The PPP, which has been reelected to run Sindh province, is in crisis. President Asif Ali Zardari assumed co-chairmanship of the party on Dec. 29, 2007, two days after the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto. Zardari and Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was chairman in name only. The 24-year-old campaigned for his Taliban-threatened party via two video messages ahead of the May 11 elections. He is no longer the chairman of the PPP. His new designation, according to the party’s official website, is “Patron-in-Chief.”
In recent weeks, it has been widely speculated that Zardari fils, unhappy with how the party his grandfather founded had been run these past five years, may have fallen out with his father. The party strongly denies this.