Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s unanticipated decision of selecting Jalil Abbas Jillani as the next ambassador to the US, forgoing his prerogative to make a political appointment, is surprising as well as encouraging. Deviation from the traditional approach of reserving such key positions exclusively for loyalists, and this show of a new-found faith in the capabilities of career diplomats, may be an indication of the PM’s well-founded concerns over Pakistan’s performance in the international arena. Perhaps, he now knows what he didn’t do when he last took the driving seat. A lot has changed. The UNGA session must have had a sobering effect too, witnessing first-hand that the country’s future, possibly more than ever before, hinges on its ability to repair and more importantly, redefine broken relationships. Other appointments of diplomats such as that of Syed Ibne Abbas as Pakistan’s new High Commissioner to India and Abdul Basit Khan as the country’s new Foreign Secretary is an attempt by the government to adopt a maturer approach towards matters. But, what exactly will this ‘new approach’ entail and what effects will it have on Pakistan’s foreign affairs remains to be seen.

For now, there is one immediate task at hand; the PM’s visit to the US which is expected to take place in a few weeks time. It is because of this, that Mr Jillani’s appointment may have materialised, as some speculate that he may be an emergency adjustment, or more fittingly, a specialist of sorts, carefully chosen to handle the monumental task of laying the ground work in the US before the PM’s visit. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the appointment, the main focus must remain on the tense US-Pak relationship. The last few years have seen an alarming rise in the trust deficit, countering which is a pre-requisite if the two countries wish to move forward. The new ambassador must establish that Pakistan is not only willing to speak, but to listen as well. Mindful of not over-burdening the new man in the old office, he is expected to ensure that this visit successfully shakes the status-quo in a manner which proves beneficial for both parties involved. The US needs Pakistan for a safe-exit from Afghanistan and seeks its co-operation in the ‘war on terror’. Pakistan needs US for its own legitimate reasons. There is no reason why the two countries cannot find common ground where they both enjoy a firm footing and take specific measures which are conceived as a result of an acute understanding of long-term effects, instead of short-term gains.