The Senate saw much commotion in its session on Wednesday after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Senator Samina Saeed moved a call-to-attention notice on the appointment of Ali Jahangir Siddiqui as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.
Senator Saeed protested the appointment, saying it was inappropriate that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had appointed his "business partner's son" as the top envoy to the US.
She argued that Siddiqui does not have any prior experience regarding diplomatic missions and alleged that he has accountability cases pending against him.
She reminded the Senate of PM Abbasi's "mistreatment" at a US airport during a personal visit to the country. She remarked that when relations with the United States were already this rocky, Siddiqui's appointment would only complicate matters.
PML-N Senator Sadia Abbasi, who is the prime minister's sister, took exception to the criticism, saying: "We should not be discussing the PM's case in this matter. You should remain focused on your call-to-attention notice."
Senator Saeed hit back immediately, saying: "If you're the prime minister's sister, then I am a member of the opposition. I will discuss the call-to-attention notice and I will appreciate it if you do not discuss personal matters in parliament."
As things got heated, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, the leader of the house, and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tried to prevent Senator Abbasi from interrupting Senator Saeed again and sparking a furore.
"Do not discuss personal affairs in the Parliament. It will ruin the atmosphere," echoed Senate Chairman Sanjrani as he addressed Senator Abbasi.
Senator Asif later defended Siddiqui's appointment, arguing: "According to the Constitution, parliament does not need to be approached [for approval] for the appointment of a diplomat. There is therefore no violation of law in Ali Jahangi Siddiqui's appointment. Moreover, it is the prime minister's right to appoint any diplomat he sees fit."
He also denied allegations that Siddiqui has any accountability cases pending against him.
Regarding PM Abbasi being subjected to a body search at a US airport, he said: "The Prime Minister was on a personal visit to the US, not in his capacity as prime minister. For him to be searched as Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is in no way inappropriate."
He said that the PM does not believe in requesting official protocol for a personal visit, to which Senator Mohsin Aziz retorted saying: "He does not believe in official protocol when visiting abroad, but has an official protocol in his own country."
To this, the foreign minister remarked exasperatedly: "When he [PM Abbasi] does not take an official protocol with him abroad, there are objections as to why he did not, and when he does take an official protocol within the country, that too it is frowned upon."
Accusations of nepotism
Before being approved for appointment as US ambassador by the PM, Siddiqui had been serving Abbasi as a special assistant, advising the prime minister on economic and business matters.
He is currently the chairman of JS Bank Ltd and son of stockbroker-turned-banker Jahangir Siddiqui.
He has previously been a director in Airblue — which is connected to the prime minister's family — Lucky Cement, Azgard Nine, and numerous other companies.
He will replace Aizaz Chaudhry in Washington, a career diplomat who previously served as foreign secretary before being appointed ambassador to the US.