ISLAMABAD: At a time of tense relations with the United States over drone strikes in the country's tribal belt, senior diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani has been appointed Pakistan’s new ambassador to the US.
Ambassador Jilani, the 58-year old former foreign secretary, will formally begin his new assignment in December, said a statement by the ministry of foreign affairs on Friday.
“He is a career diplomat and prior to his current appointment, he served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union,” said the statement. “He also interacted with the Nato HQ based in Brussels on regular basis.”
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had taken the decision of his appointment last month. However, it was not officially announced because ambassadorial appointments are made public once ‘agreement’ (consent) from the host government is received.
The position has been vacant for several months following Sherry Rehman’s resignation soon after the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government suffered defeat in the May 11 elections.
Appointment of Jilani came in the wake of a US drone attack that killed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in North Waziristan tribal agency bordering Afghanistan last week.
Just over a week before the killing, PM Sharif had asked President Obama at White House talks to stop drone strikes in Pakistan.
The incident has taken bilateral relations between United States and Pakistan to a new low as the latter has vowed to review mutual cooperation and ties between the two countries.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has accused Washington of sabotaging peace efforts with the drone strike on Mehsud.
The United States has also admitted to “tensions” and occasional “misunderstandings” in its relations with Pakistan. The White House spokesman, on Monday, implicitly defended the killing of Mehsud saying the TTP chief had a long list of extremist credentials.
Anti-American sentiment runs deep in Pakistan and drone strikes are hugely unpopular, with many criticising them both for civilian deaths and as a violation of sovereignty.