What happened: Lt-Gen (retired) Bilal Akbar has been appointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia replacing a career diplomat, Raja Ali Ejaz who is retiring from service in May. Raza Ali Ejaz has been the ambassador in Riyadh since January 2019.
What we know: Gen Akbar retired from the army in December last year. His last appointment was chairman of Pakistan Ordnance Factory (POF), Wah. He had an exceptional career in the military where he was a three-star general and also served as chief of general staff and commander of Rawalpindi-based 10 Corps. He will be taking control of the bilateral ties that have lately been hit by turbulence to prevent them from further deterioration.
The Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Maliki is from the Royal Saudi Navy and retired as the Rear Admiral, both Islamabad and Riyadh now have former military men as each other’s ambassadors in their respective capitals. Retired generals are appointed against the 20 per cent quota for political appointees.
Earlier: Saudi Arabia had previously asked Pakistan to repay the loan by disagreeing to its rollover, as Pakistani workers in the kingdom too were laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Riyadh got closer to New Delhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited to the key financial conference as the two countries launched a Strategic Partnership Council to guide their relations. Hence the new assignment will be a challenging one for Gen Akbar.