ISLAMABAD: In barely seven months since his appointment as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the government is mulling calling back retired Lt Gen Bilal Akbar from Riyadh
Prime Minister Imran Khan is considering recalling Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Lt Gen (retd) Bilal Akbar, read the report.
Ameer Khurram Rathore likely to replace Bilal Akber
Ameer Khurram Rathore, a career diplomat and Bilal’s likely replacement, has already been called to accompany the PM, but no notification has been issued yet. The decision was taken around two weeks ago, according to a well-placed official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ameer is presently serving as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada, a position he took over hardly a month ago.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed ignorance when contacted some 10 days ago. He said he would respond after checking, but he didn’t. The News approached him Sunday again but he didn’t reply. Bilal, when approached on Oct 15, was non-committal. Asked if he was being called back, he showed ignorance.
Bilal terms reports as ‘rumours’
There may be some rumours due to the ongoing situation, Bilal told The News when contacted on Oct 15. When pressed further, he said: “Right now, there is status quo.” He couldn’t be reached when approached again on Sunday.
Bilal reportedly being considered for slot of NAB chairman
The exact reason behind recalling Bilal is not known. There are different reports in circulation. Some attribute it to an unsatisfactory person. Reports coming from the Prime Minister’s Office suggest he is being considered for the slot of chairman NAB.
The incumbent, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, is presently on extension. His four-year tenure was completed on Oct 8. President Arif Alvi had issued an ordinance a day before the completion of the chairman’s tenure that empowered his extension. How the government can decide about the NAB chairman without consulting the leader of the opposition remains an important question.
Bilal is the second ambassador who is being prematurely recalled in recent times. Earlier, his predecessor, Raja Ali Ejaz, was suspended weeks before his retirement and called back on short notice. The prime minister censured him during a meeting he held with him and made it known at an event organised in connection with Roshan digital accounts. In addition to him, six other officers of the diplomatic, community welfare and consular wings were recalled.
The government said the decision to recall him was made due to the rising complaints of the Pakistani community against the embassy staff. This decision, however, did not go well with the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as some retired diplomats recorded protest at this public humiliation. This happened in April this year.
Bilal, whose appointment was notified in January this year, went to assume charge in April and has since been there. According to sources, he wanted to stay there for some time due to the schooling of his daughter, but he has been asked to stay ready as his recall notice can be issued any time soon.
Bilal retired from the army in December 2020. He was the chairman of Pakistan Ordinance Factory, Wah, by the time of his retirement. Before that, he served as the chief of general staff and corps commander of Rawalpindi.
The ambassadorial position in Pakistan’s mission in Saudi Arabia is often held by a retired military officer, reflecting the fact that the relations between two countries are mostly focused on defence. A ministry official, however, said that Bilal’s replacement may be a career diplomat this time, not a retired military officer.