Career diplomat Moazzam Ahmad Khan, who earlier served in New Delhi between 2003 and 2006 is tipped to be Pakistan’s new high commissioner to India, people familiar with developments in Islamabad said on Monday. Khan, who also served as spokesperson of Pakistan’s Foreign Office and director general in the foreign minister’s office, is expected to replace Sohail Mahmood, who returned to Islamabad over the weekend following his appointment as the next foreign secretary of the country.
Currently Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Khan was also in the race for the foreign secretary’s post though he is several rungs below Mahmood in the seniority list, the people cited above said.
Pakistan’s next envoy to India will have to take on the onerous task of rebuilding bilateral ties, which plunged to an all-time low after the February 14 suicide attack by the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pulwama and the subsequent aerial engagement that took tensions to a fresh high.
Unlike his predecessor Abdul Basit, who angered the Indian government with his outreach to Kashmiri separatists and his blunt comments, Mahmood had quietly worked behind the scenes to try and improve ties by focussing on humanitarian issues such as the release of prisoners.
Khan is considered a competent and seasoned diplomat and his previous stint in New Delhi is believed to be one of the factors why he is being considered the front-runner in the race, they added.
The current spokesperson of Pakistan’s Foreign Office, Mohammad Faisal, was also considered for the position in New Delhi, though reports suggest he is now likely to be named the envoy to Bangladesh.
Khan’s appointment is expected to be part of Pakistan’s moves to appoint new envoys to key countries, including France, Germany, Russia and Japan. Before going to the UAE as Pakistan’s envoy in 2016, Khan served as the ambassador to the Netherlands.
During foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s first stint in the position from 2008 to 2011, Khan served as director general in the foreign minister’s office. He served as counsellor in the high commission in New Delhi during 2003-06 and as the Foreign Office spokesperson during 2012-13.
In 2017, Khan had also served as one of Pakistan’s “agents” during the initial hearing at the International Court of Justice of the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian national sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court for alleged involvement in spying.