ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday approved a major reshuffle in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reappointing Ambassador Munir Akram as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations headquarters in New York in place of Dr Maleeha Lodhi.

The government also named Khalil Hashmi as the new envoy to the UN in Geneva to fill the position lying vacant since March.

The postings were announced a day after PM Khan returned from New York where he had attended 74th UN General Assembly session. The government had hailed the trip as highly successful.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said: “Ambassador Munir Akram has been appointed as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in New York. … Khalil Ahmad Hashmi, presently serving as Director General (UN) at MoFA has been appointed as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN in Geneva.”

Dr Lodhi in a statement issued after the change was officially confirmed said: “It has been an honour to serve the country and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so for over four years. Representing Pakistan at the world’s most important multilateral forum was a great privilege.”

Government changes envoys to several capitals

Dispelling the impression that she was forced to step down, Amb Lodhi said she had “planned to move on after the UN General Assembly (UNGA), following a successful visit by the prime minister.” She tweeted: “I am humbled by the appreciation I have received for the PM’s visit and the support I have also received over the years. I wish my successor Munir Akram the best of luck.”

Amb Akram had previously served during the Musharraf regime in the same position between 2002 and 2008. He was replaced by the Pakistan Peoples Party government due to their differences over the UN investigations into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

Amb Akram had also served as permanent representative in Geneva from1995 to 2002. He is one of the very few foreign services officers who had served mostly on UN-related postings, both overseas and at the headquarters.

He recently returned to limelight when he assisted the government in preparing its strategy for countering annexation of occupied Kashmir by India at the United Nations.

While the position of Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the UN in Geneva had been lying vacant since March, the government had shown no urgency to fill the key position. However, after the Kashmir crisis deepened, the government made makeshift arrangements by appointing former foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua as the special envoy on a temporary basis. Ms Janjua then helped prepare for Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s participation in the Human Rights Council session.

Meanwhile, the post of Pakistan’s high commissioner in Dhaka that had been lying vacant since February 2018 was also filled as the government appointed Consul General in Toronto (Canada), Imran Ahmad Siddiqui, to Bangladesh.

The position remained vacant for more than a year as Bangladesh government had denied Agrément to high commissioner-designate Saqlain Syedah. The post fell vacant after the retirement of Rafiuzaman Siddiqui in February 2018. Dhaka has been at odds with Islamabad since Prime Minister Hasina Wajid’s government came to power in 2009 and resumed “war crime trials”.

Abdul Hamid will replace Imran Siddiqui as consul general in Toronto, while Abrar Hussain Hashmi will be consul general in Houston.

Additional Secretary Mohammad Aejaz, who is currently serving at the FO, has been appointed as ambassador to Hungary. Charge d’ Affaires (ap) to Pyongyang Syed Sajjad Haider has been posted as ambassador to Kuwait. Charge d’ Affaires in Niamey (Niger) Ahsan K.K. Wagan will be Pakistan’s envoy to Muscat. Retired Maj Gen Mohammad Saad Khattak has been appointed as high commissioner to Sri Lanka.

Anwar Iqbal in Washington also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2019