ISLAMABAD - After almost four months of indecision, the government on Wednesday finally named Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also decided to recall Pakistan’s ambassador to Germany, Mr Abdul Basit, to appoint him as the next foreign secretary.
Informed sources said the prime minister took the decision of appointing Jilani as US ambassador after prolonged consultations with his close aides during which agenda of Pakistani premier’s upcoming visit to the United States was also discussed in detail.
The decision was conveyed to Foreign Secretary Jalil by the prime minister personally, it is learnt. According to insiders the PM told Jilani that his government had decided to appoint him as the next ambassador to the US as almost everyone he consulted had recommended his name for the key diplomatic post.
The government’s move of appointing a senior career diplomat as ambassador to Washington instead of opting for a political appointee has generally been welcomed in the diplomatic and political circles here. The PM had throughout been counselled by his inner circle to avoid a political appointee to the sensitive mission in Washington as such an appointee was more likely to follow his or her own agenda there.
Notably the decision comes less than two weeks before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s first high-profile bilateral visit to the US. His meeting with the US President Barrack Obama is slated for October 23 and Mr Jilani would attend the meeting as the foreign secretary. The choice of Mr Jilani therefore ensures participation of Pakistan’s next ambassador in the important bilateral talks.
Washington, the world’s most powerful capital, is diplomatically, politically and strategically very significant for Pakistan both for the bilateral and regional challenges it presents. The top diplomatic slot in Washington fell vacant in May 2011 when the PPP-appointed former ambassador Sherry Rehman relinquished charge after resigning from the post. Since then Asad Majeed, the deputy head of the Mission, has been running the show in Washington.
Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas is currently among the three senior most officers in Pakistan’s Foreign Service. Ambassador Zamir Akram and Ambassador Haroon Shaukat are the other two. Mr Jilani was appointed the Foreign Secretary by the previous PPP government in 2011. He joined the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1979 and has had extensive experience in diplomacy. He has held challenging diplomatic assignments in Pakistan’s missions abroad including Washington, London, New Delhi, Brussels, Jeddah and Australian. At the headquarters he served as Director-General South Asia Division and was also appointed spokesperson for a brief period.
NEW HC TO INDIA: Another important decision taken by the government is to send additional secretary Mr Ibne Abbas as the High Commissioner to India later this year when the tenure of current High Commissioner Mr Salman Bashir ends. Mr Ibne Abbas, who has previously served as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to New Zealand and Consul-general to Los Angeles, has also held the key post of Director-General South Asia division and SAARC at the headquarters.