WASHINGTON: Notwithstanding confirmation is still awaited from the Foreign Ministry in regards to appointment of Sardar Masood Khan as a new ambassador to the US, it is learnt that the Pakistan Embassy in Washington has received nomination papers for Sardar Masood Khan as new envoy.
Masood Khan will replace the current ambassador, Asad Majeed Khan, who will now return to Islamabad for his next assignment and he is expected to be appointed as Foreign Secretary.
Masood Khan, who was AJK’s 27th president from Aug 25, 2016, to Aug. 25, 2021, is a retired diplomat. He was appointed on this position during Nawaz Sharif’s government. He twice served as Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva and New York and as ambassador to China. After retirement, he headed the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad before returning to his native AJK as president.
The embassy is expected to submit the papers, known as the agrément, to the US State Department by Monday. An agrément, in diplomatic parlance, is an agreement between states to receive and facilitate members of a diplomatic mission.
The State Department usually takes about a month to approve an agrément, which is then returned to Islamabad for further processing. The nominated ambassador also holds a series of meetings with senior members of the government, starting with the president, before he leaves the country. The entire process takes two to three months.
A new ambassador starts working from the day he arrives in Washington, but his formal designation begins from the day he submits his credentials to the US president. This may take weeks or even months, depending on the US president’s schedule. The White House usually accommodates several ambassadors in one ceremony.
When asked the Foreign Office spokesperson said there was no confirmation of the development yet. However, official sources said the summary has already been moved for the appointment of ambassador to the US.
The government opted to appoint a retired diplomat instead of sending someone who is already in the Foreign Service for the coveted but challenging diplomatic assignment.
Masood after his retirement became the AJK president and has been advancing Pakistan’s case for the longstanding Kashmir dispute with India. Masood has vast experience in multilateral diplomacy and has been a frequent negotiator for Pakistan.
He has served in various diplomatic positions at the Pakistan missions in Beijing, The Hague, and Washington DC. Masood during his service served as the ambassador to China as well as a permanent representative to the United Nations. He also remained a spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs.
He is being tasked with the new assignment at a time when relations between Pakistan and the US are facing an uncertain future. Since the US exit from Afghanistan, there is no clarity about the kind of relationship the US wants to maintain with Pakistan. Relations between Pakistan and India are also soar and a Pakistani ambassador in Washington is stated can act effectively to boost the image and case of Pakistan effectively.
Although Pakistan has been seeking broad-based ties with the US covering all aspects, the US has so far given little indication if it is ready to enhance the scope of ties beyond security and Afghanistan.
It is perhaps because of this reason that President Joe Biden has not yet spoken to Prime minister Imran Khan despite being in office for nine months. There has been some movement on the ties in recent months after the Biden administration named a full-time ambassador to Pakistan. The US has not had a full-time ambassador since August 2018.
Officials say that the US is keen to maintain ties with Pakistan but with a narrow focus on counterterrorism and security. For this purpose, the US is negotiating a formal agreement with Pakistan seeking airspace for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.
Pakistan said it has longstanding security and counterterrorism cooperation with the US but denied reports that the country had any formal agreement with the US on the use of its airspace for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.
Against this backdrop, the new US envoy will have his hand full in dealing with the Biden administration. Pakistan despite differences on certain issues is keen to maintain ties with the US since it understands the importance of Washington in terms of many bilateral, regional and international issues.
The Islamabad sources comment that the Pentagon and the GHQ relations are of particular significance for both countries despite many hiccups. US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who recently undertook a visit to Pakistan, had said: “We have a long history of security cooperation and deep personal relationships between our military leaders. Both of which are central components of our counterterrorism efforts.”
A vocal and strong advocate of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, Masood effectively highlighted the sufferings of the oppressed Kashmiris that warrant an effective strategy to end the never-ending holocaust.
The former AJK president also served as the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from August 2003 to March 2005, before becoming Pakistan’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and International Organisations in Geneva, Switzerland, from 2005 to 2008.
He was also Pakistan’s Ambassador to China between September 2008 and September 2012 and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York, between October 11, 2012 and February 7, 2015.