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Pakistan's Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.     — File Photo
Pakistan's Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. — File Photo

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to hold three crucial meetings when he arrives in the United States next month but Pakistan does not yet have an ambassador in Washington to plan for these vital engagements.

Although the prime minister is coming to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, his expected meetings with three key world leaders, US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has added new significance to the visit.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that the meetings would focus on one issue, the Afghan conflict, which has a direct impact on Pakistan’s security as well.

The United States plans to withdraw most of its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year and is trying to make an arrangement with major regional players to ensure a smooth exit.

Washington feels that there can never be a lasting peace in Afghanistan unless India and Pakistan are on the same page.

The Indians want to retain the influence they have developed in Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban regime whereas Pakistan fears that a strong Indian presence there can affect its own security.

“We are surprised that Pakistan does not have an ambassador in the US capital during this crucial process,” said a Washington insider.

“While the acting ambassador, Dr. Asad Majeed, is doing a fine job, the country does need a regular envoy now,” he added.

Pakistan’s former ambassador Sherry Rehman resigned on May 13 after PPP lost the general elections and returned to Karachi.

“Washington is too sensitive a place to be left vacant for three months,” said the insider. “But Prime Minister Sharif’s visit has further enhanced the need for an ambassador.”

During a visit to Islamabad last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that President Obama wanted to meet Prime Minister Sharif sometime next month.

It is still not clear if the two leaders will meet in New York during the UNGA or the prime minister would visit Washington for a bilateral meeting.

But a US official, when contacted by Dawn, said that the Obama-Sharif meeting will not “just be a sideline affair” during the General Assembly. “It will be an exclusive and substantial meeting wherever it takes place.”

During his one-day stay in Islamabad, Secretary Kerry also announced Washington’s decision to revive the strategic dialogue with Pakistan, suspended after the Salala attack in November 2011.

Diplomatic observers say that the revival of the strategic dialogue further underlines the need for a regular envoy in Washington for facilitating preliminary work on this important process.

During this period, senior US lawmakers also made half a dozen visits to Pakistan, reflecting their desire to stay engaged with this key nation which has to be included in any effort for restoring peace to Afghanistan.

Also this week, the United States braced itself for an expected al Qaeda attack on American interests and personnel abroad.

Washington temporarily closed 22 diplomatic missions in the Muslim world and warned Americans to avoid unnecessary travels.

Sources on Capitol Hill say that increased security fears and their desire for a smooth transition in Afghanistan have further increased US lawmakers’ interests in Pakistan.

“Islamabad needs a senior envoy now to engage the lawmakers, informing them of Pakistan’s interests and the role it can play in ensuring US security abroad,” said a congressional aide.

Comments (23) Closed

Agha Ata Aug 07, 2013 05:30pm

A good outcome of these meetings is not possible, but It is not possible to have General Kiani in these three meetings either without whom the talk would be incomplete. The pretense that Nawaz Sharif can independently make important decisions would not go beyond next Thursday, and he knows that.

Amjad Wyne Aug 07, 2013 06:13pm

There are two sides of this story - The first one is obvious - it tells how ill organized and clueless the government and leaders are. What it does not say (and that is the second one) - is that Pakistan does not have much of a relationship - negative or positive - left with the US. So what would the prime minister do - most likely enjoy a vacation at government's expense. Talking on the sidelines has no meaning when nothing is going on on the mainline.

gopilal Aug 07, 2013 07:12pm

Send Hamid Gul as the ambassador and Lal topi as his deputy.

farrukh butt Aug 07, 2013 07:54pm

I would strongly urge Mr Nawaz Sharif to consider DrMaliha Lodhi for this job.

syed baqar ahsan Aug 07, 2013 08:39pm

Our envoy in Washington always served American purpose so there is no need to react on this diplomatic observer's report.For Pakistan no one is important weather it is Obama,Singh or Karzai all are playing their own games on our soil,USA/NATO get out of Afghanistan Indians will be sorted automatically,lot many cooks spoiling the broth.Peace in Afghanistan not only rest with Pakistan,Russia,China,Iran,Tajikistan,Uzbekistan and Afghanistan has equal stake and has to be on one grid or on same page.Anyone missing or not in the loop trouble will stay in Afghanistan because before American leave will make sure all kind of ethnic/sect divide.Big example is there of Iraq.Nawaz Sharif is mature enough to handle,no need to create hype or react to these sensational reports.

syed baqar ahsan Aug 07, 2013 08:43pm

Will it be a "key visit" again our newspaper used word "KEY",please do not mislead our leader and people of Pakistan.

ailly Aug 07, 2013 08:44pm

he is and he will remain in history a PM from Pakistan who always was interested in promoting his own business empire using highest ranked authority in our country. sooner, we will hear or read about his new business ventures either in Afg, India and USA or he will be having a joint ventures in these three countries. Nothing else, nothing less will be there in offing for the nation.

M. Asghar Aug 07, 2013 09:05pm

"informing them of Pakistan

aslam minhas Aug 07, 2013 09:09pm

I think the PM should postpone his visit to US till he finds (in no hurry-in a year or two) a suitable ambassador and let the things cool down till Washington feels the pinch in its withdrawl from Afghanistan. On foreign affair matters the delay always helps. Already we let ourselves down by showing enthusiasm in rolling out the red carpet for John Kerry. I remember John Kerry had picked up John Edward as his running mate against Bush. What I read on a bumper stickers in USA at that time was: 'Flush the johns.' No harm in adopting it as pivotal to our foreign policy!

Khalid Aug 07, 2013 09:30pm

She resigned because she was picked up from nowhere to become the highest post in the foreign service for any country. In Pakistan, we have these positions reserved for politicians, loyal servants and such like. No doubt Mr. Sharif will pick up someone like that. I wonder when would our politicians learn the word MERIT?

Jonaid Iqbal Aug 07, 2013 10:23pm

Try Maleeha Lodhi again

Oz Aug 07, 2013 11:52pm

This is funny... looks like he has finally ruan out of family members to distribute key positions. May be, Allah willing, this one might just go to someone on merit for once. LOL

sikander Aug 08, 2013 08:22am

Government of Pakistan is responsible to defend its own territory. It is time to build a border fence between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But before that clean its own soil by expelling all radicals and Jihadist out of the country. It is time to differentiate between pro Pakistan and against Pakistan groups. All Maulana parties should respect constitution of Pakistan and join the the Government to work for the betterment of the country. All those who oppose constitution of Pakistan and want to implement their own agenda should be apprehended and punished. Ultimate goal of every individual should be one nation, one Pakistan. "PAKISTAN FIRST."

makm Aug 08, 2013 08:31am

The PM should focus on his meeting with US President and US officials. PM Sharif should have enough to discuss and work out with the US, rather burden and complicate matters by also meeting on the same trip with Indian PM and Afghan President. Sharif should meet with them separately in either Islamabad or Delhi and Kabul.

NK Ali Aug 08, 2013 09:56am

If there is no ambassador to the USA, maybe the PMLN is conveying a snub. The Afghan imbroglio will always remain and no number of wars or diplomacy will bring peace. The terrain has tempered the environment and the civilization. The question of India remaining engaged does not arise 'et al' and India should concentrate on its own neighborhood. If any want to be engaged, it should China and Russia for their border is contiguous with Afghanistan. This is deliberate 'bad blood' created by America so that the region remains under the wraps of insurgency, border flare-ups, possible outbreaks of war, and verbal jabs and hooks. If it is to contain China, then India is living in a fool's paradise conjured up by America. Salams

Just kidding Aug 08, 2013 11:02am

Nawaz Sharif is his own foreign minister. We understand now that he is also his own ambassador to the US. Dekho dekho kaun aya...sher aya, sher aya.

Khanm Aug 08, 2013 12:13pm

My dear Nawaz Sharief. With due respect. Your track record when it comes to negotiation is quite vague. Negotiation is not a policy. It's a technique. It's something you use when it's to your advantage, and something that you don't use when it's not to your advantage. You are asking for an envoy they will send you the convoy

siddiqui Aug 08, 2013 12:25pm

The govt should have posted the ambassador just after it became vacant , this shows that they are either sleeping or they do not have any person at present for this post .

Onkar Sharma Aug 08, 2013 03:29pm

Take Asma Jahangir, Shahyar Khan or Najam Sethi for US diplomatic post. Pakistan has a number of suitable candidates for this position. Should not be a politician or army gerneral.

Khalid Aug 08, 2013 04:59pm

@Khalid: An ambassador is ambassador for the govt. and not the nation. He or she must have close relationship to the govt and specially to the head of the govt (PM in case of Pakistan. The host govt. has to know that when they speak to the Ambassador they are speaking to the head of the govt. directly not to bureaucrat. Specially in important postings like the US. Bureaucrats should remain bureaucrats, they should not be ambassadors. The US appoints best friends as ambassadors to the UK, Russia, China etc as soon as the President changes. So does everyone else. Exceptions aside, bureaucrats cannot be ambassadors.


Khalid Aug 08, 2013 09:42pm

@Khalid: An Ambassador MUST come through the ranks of the foreign office. Not to be picked up like Mr. Amin Fahim's daughter was picked up to become 1st Secretary in Ireland. That is the problem in Pakistan "jobs for friends" has killed the merit in our country. Ambassadors have to be highly educated and have to go through the ranks in the foreign office. Our previous ambassador in USA was neither highly educated nor did she come through the foreign office service.

Naushad Shafkat Aug 08, 2013 11:19pm

No worries; the PML-N will find an ex-pat in America and post him there soon. Only qualification; he must have contributed to the Prime Minister's election campaign.

M aslam Aug 09, 2013 12:56am

@ailly: Same as your leader IK become billionair without doing any business in UK, USA, Afghanistan and India. The biggest success story is either open a hospital or dargah sharif and collect Zakat and Sadaqa. The easiest way to become billionair.