ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s relationship with both India and Afghanistan has become increasingly strained, despite allocating a hefty chunk of money and human resources to the missions in the two countries.
Islamabad is spending billions of rupees on running 122 missions — including audit and account offices — abroad with a workforce of 1,962 employees/persons.
During FY2015-16, the government had spent Rs11.725 billion as against Rs10.946 billion during the previous fiscal year on running these missions.
The country’s mission in New Delhi was given a whopping Rs411 million during FY2015-16 as against Rs378 million received during FY2014-15. It had a total strength of 98 employees/personnel of which the PML-N government sent 58 employees or personnel, revealed a written reply of the foreign affairs ministry which was submitted in response to a lawmaker’s query.
Similarly, Islamabad maintains missions in five cities of Afghanistan — including Herat, Jalalabad, Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif with a combined strength of 152 staff members. The total expenditure on these missions stood at around Rs527 million during the same period.
The Herat mission has a total strength of 20 of which 11 were sent during the tenure of the present government. At the Jalalabad mission there are 25 workers of which 12 were sent by the present regime.
Islamabad has deployed 60 employees/personnel in Kabul of which 43 were sent by the present government. A total of 27 employees/personnel were posted in Kandahar of which 12 were sent by the regime in place.
Some 20 employees are working in the Mazar-e-Sharif mission. In terms of sheer number of missions and strength of staff members, Pakistan has the highest diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.
Yet, despite the huge presence of diplomatic and other staff in that country as well as in India, Pakistan faces a hostile environment.
According to the document, throughout this time, the highest amount was spent on the embassy in Washington DC that received Rs536 million during FY2015-16. It had a strength of 54 employees or personnel of which 22 were posted during the tenure of the present regime.
According to the response, despite our mission in Sana’a (Yemen) being temporarily closed, 11 employees or personnel were still working there and Rs347,443 incurred on them against an expenditure of Rs35 million during FY2014-15.
During its tenure, 31 employees or personnel had been sent to London which has a total strength of 63 employees/personnel. The country’s mission in London also got a hefty budget of Rs452 million.
In contrast with India and Afghanistan, Pakistan has very cordial relations with Turkey and China. At Ankara, our mission has a workforce of 21 and just four for the mission in Istanbul.
A total of 46 employees/personnel have been working in the mission at Beijing and just two at Shanghai.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Pakistani Embassy in Yangon (formerly Rangoon). There are 12 employees or personnel in the mission of which five were sent by the present government. The government had spent Rs46 million during FY2015-16.
We also have missions where we maintain a very limited workforce. Montreal is one of them where only one person is counted as employee/personnel and the government had spent Rs7.09 million on running it during FY2015-16.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2016.