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Many envoys to US were not career diplomats: AG

Several Pakistani ambassadors to the US, including Jamshed Marker, Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Hussain Haqqani and Abida Hussain, were not career diplomats but they performed well when they were given responsibilities, Attorney-General Ashtar Ausaf Ali informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday.

He was arguing before IHC’s Justice Athar Minallah on a petition challenging Ali Jahangir Siddiqui’s probable appointment as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. Ali said that Lodhi and Haqqani were both journalists yet they were appointed as diplomats.

He would give further assistance in this regard on the next hearing on May 2.

During the previous hearing, the IHC served a notice on Siddiqui, the attorney-general, the secretary of the cabinet division, foreign secretary and the prime minister’s principal secretary.

Justice Minallah accepted the petition filed by Shahzad Siddiqui Alvi through counsels Chaudhry Hasan and Murtaza Mann for regular hearing.

The petitioner requested the court to declare the prospective appointment a “violation of law, equity, justice, fairness and public policy”.

He stated that Siddiqui, being the son of Jehangir Siddiqui, was part of the JS Group, which was nominated in a number of criminal investigations.

Moreover, he said, the group was found to be involved in manipulating the Azgard Nine shares price, a stock market fraud that resulted in stock market crash in 2008.

The petitioner stated that Siddiqui was also found to be involved in the same matter through front men and money trails were also found with the help of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), implicating him in this fraud.

Subsequently, he said, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) filed a complaint in a court.

The petitioner also stated that Siddiqui was also the president of the JS bank and in accordance with SECP investigation report in Azgard Nine Limited Stock Market Fraud, the JS Bank, the accused, used a strong group ally to hide some crucial financial matters of some group members.

Moreover, humungous cash withdrawals were made during the ANL stock market fraud and some of these withdrawals were made by residents of Orangi Town, Keamari and huge cash withdrawals were liable to be probed in money laundering and anti-terrorist financing.

The JS Group’s company Azgard Nine Limited defaulted loan payments and subsequently loan were adjusted by way of providing shares of Agritech Ltd to banks and financial institutions at a price of Rs35 per share, far higher than the market price of Rs11 prevailing at that time. This manipulation, the petitioner pointed out, caused the National bank of Pakistan (NBP) to suffer a loss of Rs3.283 billion.

NAB served a notice on Ali Jehangir on March 15 this year, asking him to appear in NAB’s Lahore office over accusations of causing Rs40 billion loss to the national exchequer through embezzlement.

NAB also accused him of syphoning off funds amounting to 23.758 million euros in 2008 for purchasing an Italian company, Monte Bello SRL, using a foreign company, Fairytal SRL Sweden, which resulted in a loss to the company and shareholders.

The petitioner said that NAB, after investigating Ali Jehangir, recommended that his name be included in the Exit Control List (ECL). He said that Ali Jehangir’s appointment as special assistant to the prime minister was against rules and his appointment as the ambassador to the US was illegal, unlawful and mala fide.

The petition also requested the high court to set aside Siddiqui’s nomination for being “ultra vires of the law, constitution and policies” and direct the government to withdraw the “impugned order”.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, he said, should be known for “experience, achievements and eminence in the arena of diplomacy in the best interest of the nation.” The petitioner requested the court to direct relevant authorities to appoint a suitable candidate.

It also urged the government to clarify the investment banker’s appointment as special assistant to the premier with the status of minister of state.

By Rizwan Shehzad

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