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Thursday, July 2, 2009

From Civil Service to Foreign Service

By Atta-ul-Haq Qasmi
in his editorial column titled
'Rozn-e-Dewar Seh'

According to a report, Pakistani president Zardari, during his recent visit to France, got to hear appreciation of a Pakistani Civil Servant from unofficial circles. In addition to that, French President Sarkozy also asked President Zardari about his whereabouts. Infact, Dr Jehanzeb served as the Commercial Councilor in Pakistani embassy in France for five years and it was heard that because of his performance and fluency in French language, he was widely known in the French economic, political and social circles. President Sarkozy was serving as a senior minister and hence knew about his work and performance. Asif Ali Zardari, after hearing about the good performance and reputation of the officer from various circles, on return inquired about the officer who had brought a good name for Pakistan. He came to know that the officer was serving in Grade 22 and belonged to the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). President Zardari decided to appoint him as the Pakistani Ambassador in France. This decision sent ripples in the Pakistani Foreign office, which by itself is not anything unusual, as the Defence attachés in foreign missions are nominated by Ministry of Defence, Labor attachés nominated by Ministry of Labor and the Press attachés are nominated by the Information Ministry, as being their domain. In that context, the right to appoint diplomatic officers and ambassadors rests with the Foreign Office, which apparently, has been overruled by the appointment of Dr Jehanzeb. But this is one side of the picture.

Before I narrate the other side of the picture, I am reminded of some incidences of the past which relate to this and I would like to share them with my readers. One is of a renowned Pakistani Artist Sadequain (late). After achieving fame in his painting, when he turned towards Quranic Calligraphy and outshone all his competitors in that field as well. All of a sudden he was to an intense print media campaign which almost pronounced him to be excluded from the Islamic Circle. I was curious to find out as to who was behind this campaign. On inquiry I found it leading to a head Qatib (calligrapher) of a newspaper and some other Qatibs. They were afraid that this "new arrival' could send them packing and their business would be wound up. The other incident pertains to my collegue Mr Iftikhar Arif. During the premiership of Nawaz Sharif, he had almost succeeded in securing the slot of Pakistani Press Attaché in UK. Tables turned on this and it was propagated that he was a loyal citizen of Britain and a holder of British Passport and thus would not serve for the interests of Pakistan. One newspaper columnist even dubbed him as an Indian agent and even claimed that he was an Indian citizen for the last 25 years. I found all this very disheartening, but could not get to know as to who was behind this malicious campaign. The truth was revealed upon me when a high-up officer from the Information Group approached me to show my patriotism and "requested" me to write a column against Iftikhar Arif. I declined his request as I did not want to play at the hands of anyone. I could also make out that the backdrop of this request was that the Press Attaché is chosen from the Information Group and Mr Ifkihar Arif did not belong to that group (and infact to any other group at all), so his appointment should be stopped. The Information Group indeed succeeded in its campaign. The result of this malignment campaign was that Mr iftikhar Arif sent me his photograph to be published in "Muasir" which showed a large Pakistani Flag flying in the background, large enough to dominate the picture.

In the above context, Dr Jehanzeb Khan is lucky that he is being criticized on rules and regulations instead of being subjected to a character malignment campaign. Infact officers of other groups have served as ambassadors in the past as well. As far as I remember, the high ranked Pakistani diplomat Mr Agha Shahi did not belong to the Foreign Services Group (FSG). Same is true for Akbar S. Ahmed, Mirza Qamar Baig, Humayun Khan and Rustam Shah Mohmand. Tasneem Noorani is from District Management Group (DMG) and was posted as ambassador in Hong Kong. Another example is of Khawar Zaman, who was from Police, and served as Pakistani High Commisioner abroad. In addition to that, the federal government is empowered by act and law to appoint any officer on any important foreign assignment. But I am of the view that such an appointment should be done only in unavoidable circumstances so that the ego of the foreign office is not hurt. I am aware that our foreign office has many intelligent intellectuals and the criticism brought upon it is seldom due to a fault of its own. Rather the responsibility really lies with the policy makers and the foreign office just abides by those policies. Having said that, I am of the opinion that if a government servant possesses extra-ordinary capabilities and it is certain that these he can serve abroad in the best possible interest of Pakistan, so he should not be denied of this opportunity to serve. Therefore, If Dr Jehanzeb can serve Pakistani interest better than anyone else while serving in France and bright chances are that he can, rather he has already displayed it, so the Foreign Office should digest this as a bitter pill, because in the Shariah (Islamic Law) even gives exemption in certain cases between Halal and Haram.

Translated from the Original Version in Urdu Language.

Additional Reading

Pakistan's new ambassador to France

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1 comment:

zameer said...

if 2 presidents of france and pakistan are agreed upon performance , reputation ,wisdom and convenience of a DMG group pakistani officer to be appointed as ambasasdor in frnace then this is the biggest credibility and merit which stands for that officer to be appointed as amabassdor ;surely mr jehanzeb kahn to further promote bilateral ties between 2 countries ;

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