Diplomats in a huff over political appointments

Published: February 24, 2015
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PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI

PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI

ISLAMABAD: The government’s decision to appoint non-career diplomats in key foreign missions has drawn strong reaction from career foreign service officers as they are planning legal recourse against the move.

“The government is bypassing all the rules. It is a real concern of career diplomats. We will go to the court as the government is continuing to give non-career diplomats top diplomatic positions,” a senior Foreign Office official told The Express Tribune.

Such a preference has long frustrated the career diplomats, but what has become a renewed point of contention is the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s act of naming Dr Yousaf Junaid – an officer from Commerce and Trade group – for a key diplomatic assignment in Pakistan’s High Commission in Canada. “Dr Junaid is said to be a family friend of the Sharif family,” the official said, while seeking anonymity.

Meanwhile, Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Monday also confirmed the proposal of deputing the official to a key diplomatic post in Ottawa.

“He [Dr Yousaf] is a senior officer—brought a lot of investment from Turkey to Pakistan,” responded Sartaj when asked by a lawmaker about growing nepotism in Pakistan’s Foreign Service. Sartaj was attending a meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

There is an unwritten agreement in foreign ministry that 20% quota will be spared for non-career diplomats –  including retired government officials, diplomats, journalists, politicians and military officials, he justified.

Another senior Foreign Office official revealed that the government is going to fill top posts of ambassadors/high commissioners in ten countries – namely Canada, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Senegal, Tajikistan, Cuba and Indonesia.

“Political appointees have left behind senior serving diplomats including Foreign Office Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, National Security Division’s Secretary Sadiq, the FO Spokesperson Tasneem Aslam as well as additional secretaries, Nadeem Riaz, Burhan-ul-Islam, Afrasiab Hashmi and Amjad Sial,” he said.

He said political appointments in foreign missions are not a new phenomenon but in recent years the trend has become more frequent.

“It will be a second test case after the last government tried to appoint Dr Jahanzaib Khan of District Management Group as Pakistan Ambassador to France,” another senior officer of foreign office recalled.

“But the court gave ruling in our favour as no serving government servant (non-career diplomat) becomes ambassador,” he added.

He said the government is also going to appoint some 12 welfare attaches next month and interestingly a majority of them enjoyed political affiliations. The 12 out of 73 commercial attachés appointed abroad belonged to commerce group which is unfortunate, he said.

“We’ve acute concerns over political appointees in foreign missions,” observed Senator Farahatullah Babar, a member of Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Embassy in Turkey’s Press Attache Abdul Akbar said Dr Junaid had no such plans. “I spoke to Yusuf Junaid regarding the issue. He [Junaid] said there is no such thing on the cards. He [Junaid] showed his enthusiasm to work hard on the FTA with Turkey,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (1)

  • salman
    Feb 24, 2015 - 6:52PM

    I see the problem here. The diplomats think they are living in a democracy, but really they are living in the Kingdom of Sharif. Once they accept that, everything makes sense!Recommend

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