Association of Former Ambassadors of Pakistan writes to PM Imran Khan and expresses concerns over public castigation of the Pakistan Embassies

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Islamabad, Pakistan: The Association of Former Ambassadors, comprising more than one hundred retired officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who had the singular honour of serving as Ambassadors of Pakistan abroad, has written a letter to Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and expressed their dismay on public castigation of the Pakistan Embassies in a televised address to Pakistani Ambassadors abroad.

 

The content of the letter available is hereunder

 Inam ul Haque

President, Association of Former Ambassadors,

Former Foreign Minister,

Former Foreign Secretary.

No.: AFA/Pres/2021                                                         Date: 08.05.2021

 

Mr. Prime Minister,

The Association of Former Ambassadors, comprising more than one hundred retired officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who had the singular honour of serving as Ambassadors of Pakistan abroad, has noted with dismay your public castigation of the Pakistan Embassies in a televised address to Pakistani Ambassadors abroad. The public reprimand was ill advised and reflected a lack of understanding of the work that our diplomatic missions are performing despite major constraints and impediments. There are always some lapses in any organisation. These should be rectified and those responsible for any transgression must be held to account after a thorough and full inquiry. To denounce an entire Institution, without a proper and impartial investigation, is unconscionable.

You are aware, Mr. Prime Minister, that there are only 500 or so officers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Of these, around 180 are at any given time serving at the Foreign Office in Islamabad, or its branches in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore. The remaining 320 or so are posted abroad and have to be spread over to service around 120 Missions. That is a very thin spread for the multiple tasks the Embassies are expected to perform.

 

Our Embassies abroad operate in a difficult international environment to project a positive image of Pakistan in their host countries, advance national interests, promote political, economic and commercial ties, enhance defence cooperation, and not least, look after the interests of the Pakistani expatriates in the host countries.

There is no doubt that the Pakistanis working abroad are a valuable asset and the source of remittances to Pakistan which sustain our vulnerable economy. They deserve respect, care and compassion from our Missions abroad in resolving their problems. But it is equally true that a vast majority of the millions of Pakistanis living and working abroad receive adequate and prompt services from our embassies despite the obvious limitations of manpower and resources. It should also be borne in mind that many of the consular services are perforce time consuming because they require a mandatory verification from concerned departments in Pakistan. Without such clearance the Embassy can neither issue a travel document nor attest a degree or a marriage certificate etc.  These checks cannot be circumvented or dispensed with. They take time and cause some heartburn to the applicants, who tend to blame the Embassy for the delays caused by the concerned departments/ministries in Pakistan.

In countries where there many Pakistani workers,  particularly in the Gulf, consular and community welfare services are provided by officials posted to our missions by Interior, IMPASSE, NADRA, Ministry for Overseas Pakistanis etc. Instances of poor service delivery by them cannot be laid at the door of the Foreign Office or its officers abroad because the officials belonging to other services often do not fall under the line of Command of the Ambassador and are answerable to their own departments in Pakistan. This makes the task of the Ambassador even more difficult.

Mr. Prime Minister,

Your emphasis on promoting Pakistan as a desirable investment destination and to increase exports is indeed laudable and our missions must exert maximum efforts towards achieving this objective. But Pakistan still ranks at a dismal 108 in the ease of doing business and foreign investors are shy of investing in Pakistan because of reasons which are too well known to bear repetition. We need to address the internal issues which deter foreign investors from bringing their money, expertise and technology into Pakistan. We also lack diversity, quality and exportable surpluses so necessary to promote exports.

Mr. Prime Minister,

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one of those few institutions in Pakistan that continues to maintain a high standard of output despite manpower and financial limitations. As such your message was particularly unexpected and demoralising for its officers both at home and abroad. You could have given the same message to our Ambassadors in a positive manner by encouraging them to further improve their performance instead of subjecting them to unfair and public rebuke.

The best way would have been for the Foreign Minister to write to all our envoys conveying to them the directions of the Prime Minister to work harder for the welfare of the Pakistani expatriates and to redouble their efforts to persuade foreign investors to consider Pakistan as an investment destination.

Finally, Mr. Prime Minister, your comparison of the attitude of our officers with colonial officialdom was misplaced. The present generation of officers have never known colonial rule and its demeaning practices.

Similarly, your unfavourable comparison of the Pakistan Foreign Service with that of a neighbouring country was unwarranted and as disheartening for our younger colleagues as it was for us of the older generation. Our boys and girls have always been so much better than their Indian counterparts.

A few suggestions are placed below for your consideration:

  • A Committee comprising senior serving diplomats could be tasked to prepare recommendations for further improvements in the working of the missions by identifying bottlenecks and ways of overcoming them.
  • Many of the delays in the provision of consular services occur because of delayed responses from Pakistan. The concerned Ministries/departments may be asked to streamline their procedures.
  • Clear instructions may be issued by the PM office to emphasize that the Ambassador’s authority in all matters must be accepted by all officials of the line ministries to ensure the concept of unity of Command.

 

  1. The Foreign Service cadre must be expanded to be in a position to respond to the multiplicity of challenges facing Pakistan and the rising demands being made on the existing missions as well as the new missions being established.

 

Mr. Prime Minister,

I have sought to convey to you candidly the views of my colleagues in the AFA. Our long and proud association with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the service of Pakistan demanded nothing less.

 

Yours sincerely,

(Inam ul Haque)

President, Association of Former Ambassadors

Mr. Imran Khan,

Prime Minister of Pakistan,

Prime Minister Secretariat,

Islamabad.

Copy to:

Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi,

Foreign Minister of Pakistan,

Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Islamabad.

Mr. Suhail Mehmood,

Foreign Secretary,

Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Islamabad.

(Inam ul Haque)

Central Desk
Central News Desk.

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