By CNN's Reza Sayah in Islamabad
The Pakistani government has appointed Sherry Rehman, one of its most liberal female lawmakers and staunch supporters of human rights, as the next ambassador to the United States.
The longtime member of Pakistan's ruling People's Party was a confidant of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. When militants assassinated Bhutto in 2007, Rehman was part of the convoy that was attacked, riding several cars behind her.
Rehman took a stand in 2009 against her own political party when she resigned her post as information minister after the government banned a private television channel that had been critical of government policy.
The former journalist openly expressed her liberal views in this conservative society until she received death threats in 2010. The threats came after she proposed a bill to protect minorities by amending Pakistan¹s controversial blasphemy laws.
She withdrew the bill and seemed to keep a much lower profile when it became clear that other rights activists were not willing to support her against hardline religious groups who deemed any change to Pakistan's blasphemy laws as an attack on Islam.
Rehman replaces Pakistan¹s former Ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani, who resigned amid alleged links to a secret plot to cut back the powers of Pakistan's military leaders.
It is widely believed that the scandal so incensed the military brass that they wanted Haqqani out.
His resignation underscored the power of Pakistan's security establishment and reinforced the perception that it's the military leaders who call the shots, not the civilian government.
However, Rehman has never been viewed as being close to the Pakistani Army and her appointment suggests the military had little to do with her selection.
Rehman will face the immediate challenge of boosting the civilian government's ailing credibility in the eyes of Washington politicians and the US media.
But perhaps her most critical mission is to sell Pakistan as a reliable ally in the fight against militancy and a deserving recipient of billions of dollars in US aid, at a time when Washington is also fast losing trust in Islamabad.