US delays agrément for businessman Ali Siddiqui
WASHINGTON: The US government has not yet released the agrément for Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, a Karachi-based businessman who was designated the new Pakistani envoy to Washington in March.
An agrément is the approval of a diplomatic representative by the state to which he or she is to be accredited. Pakistan had sent relevant papers to the US State Department almost two months ago and is now waiting for the agrément.
Diplomatic norms do not allow a host government to tell another government who to send as ambassador, but they also place no obligation on the host government to approve the appointment.
In early March, the federal government announced in Islamabad that it planned to appoint Mr Siddiqui as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.
Media reports claimed that the order for Mr Siddiqui’s appointment came directly from Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Mr Siddiqui was special assistant to the prime minister on economic and business affairs before his new assignment was announced.
He is also chairman of JS Bank Ltd, which is owned by his father Jahangir Siddiqui.
Mr Ali Jahangir has previously been a director in Airblue, which is also connected to the prime minister’s family.
His new assignment has been challenged in various courts in Pakistan while opposition parliamentarians in both the National Assembly and the Senate have also rejected it.
Reports in the media claimed that the army chief also opposed the appointment in a recent, informal conversation with senior journalists.
Last month, the Islamabad High Court summoned a reply from Mr Siddiqui over a case challenging his appointment as ambassador to the US.
A combined investigation team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore also interrogated him for over an hour in an alleged embezzlement case.
Diplomatic observers in Washington say that the US reluctance to approve Mr Siddiqui’s agrément is apparently linked to these developments in Pakistan.
The observers point out that since the appointment was made by a government which completes its term in less than a month, Washington feels no pressure to rush the process.
By the end of May, Pakistan will have a new, interim government for three months and if the agrément is delayed till then, the current ambassador, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary, will continue to work until after the general elections. The next ambassador will be appointed by the government that wins the elections.
Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2018