ISLAMABAD: The US State Department has been taking unusually long to process the agrément of Pakistan’s ambassador-designate to the United States, Masood Khan. The delay has triggered an impression of a pause in the process.
Mr Khan, who served as Azad Kashmir’s president till last August, was nominated as ambassador to the US in November. He had previously served as Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva and New York and as ambassador to China. Mr Khan was to replace the outgoing ambassador of Pakistan in Washington Asad Majeed Khan.
According to a Dawn report, the request for agrément for Masood Khan had been sent to the State Department in the second week of November, a Pakistani diplomat said.
The agrément is the approval of a designated diplomat by the receiving state.
Normally, the State Department took four to six weeks to issue agrément for Pakistani ambassadors in the past, a former foreign secretary said. “This time they are taking unusually long,” another diplomat said.
The delay has happened at a time when ties between the two allies have turned increasingly frosty due to the geo-political environment.
The US interest in Pakistan has waned after it pulled out of Afghanistan. Moreover, Washington looks at ties with Pakistan from the prism of its strategic competition with China, although Islamabad has repeatedly said that it was not part of any camp politics.
“While I’m encouraged that the State Department has reportedly placed a pause on approving Masood Khan as the new ambassador from Pakistan, a pause is not enough. I urge you to reject any diplomatic credentials presented to you by Masood Khan and reject any effort by the Government of Pakistan to install this jihadist as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States,” Scott Perry, a congressman, wrote to President Biden.
People in FO believe that the delay was because of Mr Khan’s last position as the president of AJK. FO Spokesman Asim Iftikhar did not respond to a query sent to him on this issue.
An American diplomat, who has previously worked in Pakistan and is currently in Washington, played down the situation as possibly a procedural matter.
He said the delay was probably due to the State Department operating on maximum telework because of Omicron. Moreover, he said, Mr Khan’s credentials had been submitted at the cusp of the holiday season which was the slowest period of the entire year.
The US had at the end of October nominated Donald Blome as the new envoy to Pakistan. Islamabad has already issued his agrément.
Pakistan hopes that the US Department of State will approve and return the agrément over the country’s new envoy for Washington in the next two or three weeks.
The agrément, in diplomatic parlance, is an agreement between two states to receive and facilitate members of a diplomatic mission. The Pakistan embassy in Washington submitted Masood Khan’s agrément to the State Department in November and the host government usually takes two to three months to approve the papers.
“Mr Khan’s “agrément is under process and the State Department will approve and send it back soon, perhaps in the next two to three weeks,” an embassy official told Dawn.
Earlier this week, a Republican lawmaker, Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to reject the nomination of the new Pakistani envoy, Masood Khan.
In the letter, Mr Perry also claimed that the State Department had placed a “pause” on Pakistan’s request for approving Mr Khan’s nomination.
The State Department, however, refused to get involved in the controversy. “As a matter of standard diplomatic practice, we do not comment on the status of agrément requests from foreign governments,” a State Department spokesperson said when asked to confirm or deny Mr Perry’s claim.
The Pakistani embassy, however, rejected the allegations against Mr Khan as baseless, pointing out that this was “a part of the wider Indian disinformation campaign to malign Pakistan and those who represent Pakistan, by using fake news to make scandalous claims and baseless allegations”.
The Pakistan Embassy noted that the report against Mr Khan was published in the Indian media only and the letter, although issued in the US, was distributed to Indian media outlets in New Delhi.