ISLAMABAD — A senior Pakistani woman lawmaker from the opposition party of former President Asif Ali Zardari has become the country’s first opposition leader in the upper house of parliament, officials said Friday, a sign of the increasing role women have in this Islamic nation’s legislature.
Sherry Rehman, a former diplomat who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2011 to 2013, has been a member of the Senate since 2015. She is also a former journalist and prominent human rights activist in Pakistan.
Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, recently elected Senate chairman, announced Rehman’s appointment, which was confirmed on Friday. She replaced her party colleague Aitzaz Ahsan who retired this month.
Azam Swati, a lawmaker from cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s party, had hoped to win the post but lost the bid to Rehman, the only other candidate, who won support of more lawmakers. She is among 20 women lawmakers in the 104-member Senate.
Zardari said he nominated Rehman for the post in recognition of her service to democracy.
Rehman has closely worked with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, killed in a bomb attack at an election rally in 2007. Bhutton was Pakistan’s first woman prime minister.
Bhutto struggled to revive democracy after former dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq toppled her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government and later hanged him, in 1979.
A statement from Bhutto’s party congratulated Rehman on her appointment. Rehman Tweeted her gratitude to her party and political allies and vowed to work to uphold the constitution.
Among newly elected Senate members Pakistan swore in earlier this month was for the first time, a woman from the country’s marginalized Hindu minority.
Krishna Kumari, who hails from the so-called untouchables in the still prevailing caste system, was elected from the southern Sindh province in a vote that also saw a Taliban-linked cleric defeated in the northwest despite backing by moderate parties.