ISLAMABAD  - Ali Jehangir Siddiqui left for Washington on Sunday to take over as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States – ostensibly a ‘caretaker’ job unless the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz returns to power after the July 25 polls.

Siddiqui, who travelled on his new diplomatic passport, will take charge of the responsibilities from May 28 (today). His predecessor Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry will return to Pakistan on May 29.

Back home, the government will completes its term on May 31 and under the rules, a political appointee has to resign after the government loses power. The caretaker government can ask Siddiqui to continue until a new elected government takes over after the July 25 polls. The new ambassador could retain his job, after the polls, if the PML-N is voted to power.

A senior official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Siddiqui will practically be a ‘caretaker ambassador’ until a new government takes over.

“The Prime Minister (Shahid Khaqan Abbasi) wanted him to proceed, otherwise, there is no logic sending him just a few days before the government’s term ends. But hopefully, the caretaker government will retain him and the new (elected) government will decide about his fate,” he said.

The official said: “If the PML-N returns to power, Siddiqui can remain the ambassador but if any other party wins, he will have to fly back home. The PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) or the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) are not expected to retain him (if one of them forms the government after the general election).”

The banker-turned-diplomat will present his credentials at the US State Department today (May 28) before resuming his duties at the Pakistan embassy. However, he can only hold meetings with senior US officials after he has presented his credentials to US President Donald Trump.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a good friend of Siddiqui, can be helpful to expedite the process as he works at the White House as Trump’s adviser.

In March, Prime Minister Abbasi had controversially appointed Siddiqui as the new ambassador to the US to replace career diplomat Aizaz Chaudhry, who has completed his term. The new ambassador is the son of prominent businessman Jehangir Siddiqui who is the founder of JS Group.

Siddiqui – until recently PM's Special Assistant with the status of Minister of State – flew to the US after a belated confirmation from Washington. He had disassociated himself from the business when he was appointed as Special Assistant to PM in August 2017.

His official profile says Siddiqui has “impeccable record in international banking and finance management. He was Chairman JS Private Equity Management, Pakistan’s largest private equity firm, which he founded and was also the Chairman of the JS Bank.”

Siddiqui has previously served as Member of the Privatisation Commission, Member of the Private Sector Advisory Board of the Planning Commission, Member of the Sindh Board of Investment and Member of the Community Development Board of the Government of Sindh.

In an honorary capacity, Siddiqui serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Mahvash and Jehangir Siddiqui Foundation, based in Pakistan that makes grants to education, healthcare and social enterprise sectors.

He has worked in natural disaster zones in Pakistan and has a strong personal commitment to finding new solutions to disaster response. Aside from making grants, MJSF directly provides emergency relief in humanitarian crises and implements projects in disaster zones.

In partnership with certain other institutions, MJSF established the Karachi School of Business and Leadership in Pakistan, which is a new graduate business school in collaboration with the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.

In 2014, Siddiqui was a guest lecturer at National Defence University and in 2013 he was a Visiting Faculty Member of the National School of Public Policy. He lectured on energy security and related policymaking.

In 2012, he taught emerging markets entrepreneurship as an Executive-in-Residence at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 2014, he was honored by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. He holds a BA in Economics from Cornell University.

Former Pakistan ambassador to the US and Opposition Leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said that she was surprised over Siddiqui’s departure to Washington. “I am struggling to understand why an ambassador-designate is flying out to the US for a week. This makes no sense given that he will have to resign under the contract of political appointees soon as the government goes. Sadly, looks like a case of crony rewards at Pakistan’s cost,” she said.

Rehman served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US from 2011 to 2013 during the PPP’s government.

 

 

SHAFQAT ALI