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Maleeha Lodhi
Indo-Asian News Service, PTI
May 10, 2003
First Published: 23:43 IST(10/5/2003)
Last Updated: 23:43 IST(10/5/2003)

Journalist-turned-diplomat Maleeha Lodhi is among the frontrunners for appointment as Pakistan's new high commissioner to India, a senior leader of the country's ruling alliance said Saturday.

"A few names have been short-listed. This is likely to be finalised by early next week," a senior official told IANS.

The leader of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Asam said the names of Maleeha Lodhi and Riaz Muhammad Khan, also a career diplomat, topped the list of candidates for the New Delhi post.

Lodhi has twice served as Pakistan's ambassador to the US Earlier this month, there were reports she had been appointed high commissioner to Britain but no official announcement was made.

"Maleeha will definitely prefer India to Britain as her assignment in New Delhi would be more challenging," said the PML-QA leader, who did not wish to be named.

He said on Thursday Lodhi had a "long" meeting with PML-QA chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, widely considered to wield considerable clout in the government.

Riaz Muhammad Khan is currently ambassador to China, from where Shiv Shankar Menon, India's current envoy, would be moving to Islamabad as high commissioner.

Pakistan's former high commissioner to India Ashraf Jehangir Qazi had also served in China before his assignment in New Delhi. Likewise, India's former envoy to Islamabad Vijay Nambiar had also come after a stint in China.

One other person being considered is Akram Zaki, former secretary-general in the foreign ministry. He was an MP in the previous parliament and is now a senior member of PML-QA.

However, sources in Islamabad say that there is no timeframe for the envoys to take up their duties in Islamabad and New Delhi.

The resumption of full diplomatic relations would be the first major step taken by the two countries following Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's dramatic offer of a "hand of friendship" to Pakistan last month.

The diplomatic links had been downgraded after the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 that New Delhi blamed on terrorist groups backed by Islamabad.

Also on the cards are the resumption of rail, road and air links and meetings between senior officials of the two countries before a possible summit meeting later this year.


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