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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

DMG-FSP controversy fails to die down

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

By Ansar Abbasi


ISLAMABAD: The appointment of a grade 20 district management group (DMG) officer as Pakistan's ambassador to France has sparked inter-service rivalry between the two top groups of the civil bureaucracy with the Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP) determined not to swallow this appointment while the DMG has started questioning the performance of the FSP, terming it "white elephant".

In a rejoinder to a series of articles that have appeared in the print media criticising the appointment of Jehanzeb Khan as ambassador to France, a group of young DMG officers lamented that the FSP officers have launched a vicious media campaign against a competent DMG officer.

E-mailed to The News by a DMG officer, the rejoinder bemoaned that the media too has gone one-sided without crosschecking the facts about the officer, who is in the middle of the storm. The officer, who has requested anonymity, wondered what the foreign service baboos have done for the country since 1947 and alleged that it has bitterly failed to sensitize even friendly countries about the Kashmir issue, nuclear programme, fanaticism and terrorism in the guise of Talibanisation and Pakistan's losses in war against terror. "Do we need a service which has become a virtual white elephant on the national exchequer and our embassies are also providing no service or respite to the hapless expatriate Pakistanis?" the DMG officer asked, saying the FSP officers have done nothing for the projection of Pakistan.

Targeting the retired ambassadors, who too have voiced their opposition to Jehanzeb's appointment, the DMG officer said before rising in support of fellow FSP officers, the retired ambassadors' brigade should first answer the nation about their own performance.

"Did they develop any accountability mechanism for their service to improve our image abroad?" the officer asked, believing they did not have any other agenda except securing a lucrative foreign posting for themselves and their children.

The DMG officer said the Foreign Office didn't resist the induction of corrupt elements by former dictator Pervez Musharraf. It is because of them that today Pakistan has become an international pariah in the comity of nations.

The DMG officer said Pakistan needs the most capable and competent officers to win its case in the world fora and it has been a long drawn out tradition of the civil service that the most competent and iconic officers, having distinguished careers, are given important foreign postings to efficiently safeguard our national interests. And FSP baboos should also remember that it is the sole prerogative of the federal government to choose its best officers for important positions abroad. According to the Civil Service Act rules and regulations, he said, non-FSP officers can be appointed on any federal or provincial post.

"The appointment of Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan, who enjoys an excellent track record in service, should not be made controversial by the media as he has already served as Pakistan's commercial consular in France for 5 long years, to say the least. His past exposure of France will certainly benefit Pakistan in more than one ways; as ambassador, he will be quite nifty to boost bilateral economic ties with his proactive economic diplomacy, besides better handling of preferential tariff regime, which affords customs privileges in return for respecting certain principles in the areas of workers' rights and the environment, with the European Union to help increase textile quota for Pakistan," the rejoinder read, adding, "This shows that France is an important diplomatic destination and therefore, the issue of grade should be a less important point when compared with the national interest."

It added that this posting is not "Politicisation of bureaucracy" but a policy decision of the federal government to appoint best officers to promote its foreign policy agenda. Appointing best CSP officers and leading personalities as ambassadors is not a fresh occurrence as ambassadorship is not a career assignment. In the past, before the appointment of Abdul Sattar as foreign secretary, many iconic diplomats were from CSP who toiled all their lives to bring good name for the country and left traditions of their dedicated hard work in the FSP.

The officer argued that as many as 17 ambassadors in the Foreign Service of Pakistan are working in grade-20 but added in the same breath that the issue of grade's compatibility should be ignored in case of the most suitable candidate. "It is also pointed out that the FSP is a minority community in embassies' hierarchy which is mostly represented by Defence Attaches, Press Attaches, Trade Consulars, Labour and Community Welfare Attaches and like that."

The e-mail claimed that Jehanzeb Khan has always served well wherever he worked. Presently working as Secretary Livestock Punjab, it is said, he is a distinguished officer of the DMG who has a penchant for learning and hard work. His selection for an elevated assignment is of vital importance because France is a leading world power and a G8 member with strong role in EU affairs. Being a Pashtoon, it will be much easier for Jehanzeb to define the Taliban dimension well.

"These hard facts clearly belie the FSP's claim of limiting ambassador's posts within the domain of FSP as it is mere a cliche and they should, instead of running a malicious campaign against a high profile government officer, give priority to their own duties and strengthen the cause of foreign policy at a time when we need it most," concluded the officer, insisting that the rejoinder represents the feelings of a group of young and mid-career DMG officers.

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