The government has decided to appoint current Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, officials said on Wednesday.
The key diplomatic post has been vacant since Sherry Rehman resigned as Pakistan’s envoy in Washington following her party’s defeat in the May 11 parliamentary elections. After a delay of over four months, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has finally picked veteran diplomat Jilani for the important diplomatic assignment.
Although the government has not yet made any official announcement, a foreign office official confirmed the development.
Jilani, 58, joined the Foreign Service in 1979 and is highly regarded by his colleagues as a professional diplomat. He is career diplomat and served on several important positions before being appointed as the foreign secretary in March 2012.
Prior to his appointment as foreign secretary, Jilani served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Belgium, and the European Union (EU). He also served in the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Australia and remained a Foreign Office spokesman.
Jilani was also the deputy high commissioner in New Delhi in 2003, when the Indian government declared him persona non grata after accusing him of funneling funds for separatist activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
A western diplomat described Jilani as a ‘truly professional diplomat’ who has broad understanding of important regional and international issues.
Jilani was believed to be a strong advocate of reaching out to regional countries such as Russia, Iran and China. He was reportedly also in favour of pursuing the multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project despite strong opposition by the US.
The position of ambassador to US is considered crucial, particularly at a time when Islamabad and Washington are exploring ways to work closely to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan.
Sources said Jilani is expected to travel to Washington ahead of the important visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the US later this month.
They also said Pakistan’s current ambassador to Germany Abdul Basit is likely to be appointed as the new foreign secretary.
Basit, who previously served as additional secretary Europe and foreign ministry spokesperson, is also regarded as competent diplomat.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2013.