WASHINGTON: Pakistan has a new ambassador in Washington now, Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, as Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary relinquished his charge on Tuesday after serving his country in the US capital for a little more than a year.

“It has been a fabulous journey of 37 years in the foreign service of Pakistan,” Mr Chaudhary told Dawn after relinquishing his charge.

Mr Chaudhary, who assumed the office of the ambassador on March 13, 2017, said that in those 14 months and 17 days, he “defended my country passionately and in a complex and difficult phase of US-Pakistan relationship”. He said during this phase, he “pursued a multi-pronged strategy, which I hope will be built upon by my successor”.

Inexperienced Ali Siddiqui’s appointment at Washington comes at a time when Pakistan-US relations are strained

Mr Chaudhary, who built a close relationship with the Pakistani community, thanked “these dedicated men and women” who helped him promote Pakis­tan’s interests in the US as Islama­bad’s ties with Washington strained.

Mr Siddiqui arrived in Washington on Monday night and was welcomed at the airport by Rizwan Saeed Sheikh, the deputy chief of Pakistan Mission to the US. Mr Siddiqui assumed his office just two days before the government that appointed him completes its term.

“We will hold a briefing for the media as soon as we can,” he said when a journalist asked him at the airport what were his plans for representing Pakistan in such a difficult situation. He did not respond when asked if the interim government, which takes charge on June 1, would ask him to continue.

Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan the Tehreek-i-Insaf wrote to nominated caretaker prime minister Nasirul Mulk, asking him to declare Mr Siddiqui’s appointment, which has been a cause of much controversy at home, null and void.

Opposition parties have accused outgoing Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of sending his “business partner’s son” to the world’s most sensitive diplomatic post, although he has little experience of diplomacy.

Mr Siddiqui has served as the prime minister’s special assistant on economic and business matters and as chairman of JS Bank Ltd, founded by his father Jahangir Siddiqui, a stockbroker-turned-banker.

Ali Siddiqui has also been a director in Airblue — which is linked to the prime minister’s family — Lucky Cement, Azgard Nine, and various other companies.

His appointment as ambassador has been challenged in various courts in Pakistan while opposition parliamentarians in both the National Assembly and the Senate have urged the government to withdraw him.

Reports in the media claimed that the army chief opposed the appointment as well, in a recent, informal conversation with senior journalists. Last month, the Islamabad High Court summoned a reply from Mr Siddiqui in a case challenging his appointment.

The US Department of State took almost two months — otherwise, a routine — to send out an agrément to pave the way for his arrival.

Mr Siddiqui is expected to submit his credentials and the former ambassador’s recall letter to the State Department on Friday, a day after Mr Abbasi will cease to be prime minister. He will then present his credentials to US President Donald Trump to be fully operational to perform his duties. This can takes weeks, if not months.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2018

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