ISLAMABAD - The key diplomatic post of ambassador to the US still remains vacant as the PML-N could not any person even after three months, setting probably a new record of indecision on this score.
The post fell vacant in May 2013 when the PPP-appointed former ambassador Sherry Rehman relinquished charge after tendering her resignation.
Washington, a capital that is diplomatically, politically and strategically very significant for Pakistan both for bilateral and regional challenges it presents, has obviously not figured at all as a priority for the Nawaz Sharif government or his key aides. No one has been nominated yet, leave aside appointing one.
It appears the government is still indecisive of whether it should go for a political appointee or a career diplomat. Reportedly, three names have been shortlisted. A couple of ambassadors figure in the list.
In diplomatic circles, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Mission in Geneva, Ambassador Zamir Akram, is considered to be the most appropriate candidate for the challenging diplomatic assignment in Washington. But he is going to retire at the end of this year.
Ambassador Akram, Ambassador Haroon Shaukat and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas are currently the three senior-most officers in Pakistan’s foreign service.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s upcoming visit to the US this month and his planned meeting with President Obama seem to have finally awoken the government to this issue of a ‘missing ambassador’ to Washington.
It remains unclear when the mystery of Pakistan’s next ambassador to the US will be over. Until it is done, Asad Majeed, the deputy head of the Mission, will run the show in Washington.
There is no firm word on whether the PM will nominate a career diplomat or a political appointee to this high-profile diplomatic slot. The Foreign Office seems to have no clue to it as the government has remained tight-lipped on this matter.
There are two views in the Nawaz government; one supports appointment of a career diplomat while the other backs the idea of sending a ‘trusted person’ to head the sensitive mission in Washington. Apparently, the PM has been advised by his inner circle to avoid a political appointee as an ambassador to Washington for he could follow his own agenda there.
Other important capitals where the government has to make ambassadorial appointments are Delhi and London as well as the UN Mission in New York. It is still uncertain when and who the government will nominate for these posts, currently held by political appointees of the previous PPP-led government. All three envoys, two of them retired career diplomats, have been asked by the PML-N government to continue till their replacements are found.