ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is considering recalling Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ameer Khurram Rathore, hardly a year after he was posted there by former PM Imran Khan who did that through the premature removal of Lt-Gen (R) Bilal Akbar.
According to media reports, a Foreign Office source has confirmed this development on condition of being not named as the process of recall has started but is not finalised yet. Rathore was earlier posted as Pakistan’s High Commission in Canada and hardly a month after his settlement there, he was asked to get ready for posting in Riyadh. He was flown to Saudi Arabia during Khan’s visit, which turned out to be his last one as PM. Rathore had then not formally assumed the charge by the time.
A government official said Rathore’s removal had been on the cards since long because he was considered politically aligned with the PTI. “He is known as [Imran Khan’s] loyalist,” a well-placed official in the Prime Minister Office told The News.
Rathore was primarily considered close to Shah Mehmood Qureshi, former foreign minister and PTI vice chairman, and had served in a PTI office for a year by taking leave from the government job some years back, it has been learnt. A think tank was set up by PTI in Lahore and Rathore served there from 2012 to 2013.
Another official said the government got alerted about him after Khan’s revelation during an interaction with journalists a month back where he said he was in touch with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman. How far Khan’s claim was true and whether Rathore played any role in restoring his contact with the Saudi ruler remains unverified.
A diplomatic source was, however, dismissive that Rathore could either have that clout or risk his career by playing as a messenger between the opposition leader and the Saudi dignitary. A source in the PM Office said he was not aware of any special reason other than his affiliation with the PTI.
Rathore is the third consecutive ambassador in Riyadh who is being prematurely recalled. He assumed office on February 15, 2022. As mentioned, earlier, his predecessor Lt Gen (R) Bilal met the same fate. And so too his predecessor, Raja Ali Ejaz, who was suspended weeks before his retirement and recalled at a short notice.