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Sherry due in Washington next week

January 03, 2012

Pakistan had appointed Sherry Rehman as new ambassador to the United States on Nov. 23, 2011. - AP Photo

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman, will arrive here on Jan 9 to occupy a position vacated by her controversial predecessor Husain Haqqani.

Diplomatic sources told Dawn that the US State Department sent its agreement to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington earlier this week and the embassy planned to send it to Islamabad on Tuesday.

“Once the documents arrive there, it will take a day or two to complete the formalities,” said a diplomatic source while confirming that Amb Rehman was arriving in Washington next Monday.

Diplomatic courtesy requires that before a state sends a new envoy, it must first ascertain whether the proposed appointee is acceptable to the host country.

The receiving state conveys its acquiescence by granting its agreement to the appointment. It is unusual for an agreement to be refused, but it occasionally happens.

Arriving in Washington, however, was least of Ms Rehman’s worries. The US State Department had already said they knew her and “certainly look(ed) forward to working together with her.”

The problem revolves around efforts to rebuild “a strong, cooperative relationship between our two countries”, as the department’s spokesman Mark Toner said while welcoming her appointment.

She comes at a time when US-Pakistan relations are at their lowest.

The US Congress has slapped new restrictions on aid to Pakistan and President Barack Obama has signed the bill containing these restrictions into a law, although secretaries of state and defence can still maintain the flow of aid to Pakistan by certifying that Islamabad making efforts to curb the use of IEDs.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that this and other developments leave a very narrow space for Ms Rehman to operate.

They argue that her success or failure would depend mostly on relations between the US and Pakistani defence establishments, an area where she will have limited influence.