Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Jalil Abbas Jilani?
On January 2, 2014, Jalil Abbas Jilani, a career Pakistani foreign service officer, assumed the job of his country’s ambassador to Washington. It’s the third time Jilani has been appointed to head a foreign mission.
Jilani was born February 2, 1955, in Multan, in the north-central region of Pakistan. He comes from a family of public servants; his father was a Public Service Commission officer, one brother was chief secretary of Punjab; an uncle recently stepped down as chief justice of Pakistan and a cousin, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was the country’s prime minister from 2008 to 2012.
Jilani earned a Bachelor of Law degree and a M.S. in defense and strategic studies and joined his country’s foreign service in 1979. His first overseas posting came in 1983 to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and he was transferred to London in 1985. Jilani was brought home in 1989, first as deputy secretary in the prime minister’s secretariat and in 1992 as the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) director for India. Jilani began his first stint in Pakistan’s Washington embassy in 1995.
In 1999, Jilani was named deputy high commissioner to India. He was acting as charge d’affaires in New Delhi in 2003 when he was declared persona non grata after being accused of funneling money to support separatist activities in the disputed regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions are common between India and Pakistan, but usually don’t involve high-level personnel.
Upon his return to Pakistan, Jilani was named the MFA’s director general for South Asia and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, an organization of eight countries in the region. In 2005, Jilani also acted as the MFA’s spokesman.
In 2007, Jilani was named high commissioner to Australia, serving there until 2009. Then, he was sent to Europe as Pakistan’s envoy to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union.
Jilani came home to become foreign secretary, the top civil service official in the ministry, in 2012. He served for almost two years until he was unexpectedly appointed to Washington in late 2013.
Jilani’s posting to the United States is somewhat of a rarity; Pakistan’s envoys to Washington are usually political appointees. Much of his work involves stimulating U.S. investment in his country. Jilani says that as Pakistan’s economy improves, so will that of neighboring Afghanistan, making that nation more stable as U.S. troops withdraw.
Jilani and his wife Shaista have three sons; Ahmed works for the United Nations in Rome, Amir has been employed by the Centre for International Economics in Australia, but is planning to attend graduate school at Georgetown; and Talha, who’s in high school.
To Learn More:
Ambassador to U.S.: Jalil Abbas Jilani Gets Coveted Job (by Kamran Yousef, Express Tribune)
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