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Diplomatic embarrassments and Pakistan’s Foreign Office

By Agha Iqrar Haroon

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All is said and done. Slowly but surely the United States responded to allegations of its direct alleged involvement in the Vote of No Confidence Motion against sitting Prime Minister Imran Khan who has already lost the majority in the House (National Assembly) but waiting for the counting process to vote him out.

The White House and the State Department of the United State have categorically rejected claims of Prime Minister Pakistan Imran Khan that any letter was sent by US diplomats threatening Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office is facing a series of embarrassments since the PTI government came into power. I believe the major reason for this situation is that an extra polite Foreign Secretary is working with a hawkish and politically ambitious Foreign Minister under the command of an impolite Prime Minister

White House Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield categorically rejected claims of PM Khan regarding Washington’s role in an alleged “foreign conspiracy” to oust him from power. “There is absolutely no truth to that allegation,” claimed Bedingfield. Bedingfield added that “no government agency or official” in Washington sent a threatening letter to the prime minister (Pakistan). “Allegations of US involvement in the no-trust motion and threat letter to PM Imran Khan are baseless,” commented Bedingfield.

Now it is time for the Foreign Office of Pakistan to come forward and share whatever it got from Washington but I am sure it would not do it for several reasons. I am sure our professional diplomats can only smile now with a gloomy expression and face the music for a reckless attempt of PTI leadership for gaining domestic mileage.

This is a reality that the domestic politics of Pakistan has been a mix of several ingredients but with a heavy taste of “international conspiracies”. However, the careless use of Foreign offices for domestic purposes had never been such that is today. Pakistan’s Foreign Office is facing a series of embarrassments since the PTI government came into power. I believe the major reason for this situation is that an extra polite Foreign Secretary is working with a hawkish and politically ambitious Foreign Minister under the command of an impolite Prime Minister.

We remember Imran Khan had been rough with Foreign Office cadre several times in the past and even made a mockery of professional diplomats in a televised session with Pakistani diplomats working in foreign missions. Khan believes that our professional diplomats are responsible for our foreign policy which, according to Khan has never served the interests of Pakistan. He had been criticizing Pakistan’s foreign policy and lauding Indian foreign policy but no reaction whatsoever came from the Foreign Service Cadre against this habit of PM Khan because of several reasons and one of the reasons is a race for “foreign postings” among professional diplomats.

Opposition circles question why did PM Khan not convene the NSC meeting when Foreign Office got this letter under question and why did he wait so long and convene the meeting sharing the content of the letter with journalists and discussed the letter in his March 27 Public Meeting?

After facing a Vote of No-Confidence Motion, Prime Minister Imran Khan tried to make a strong and sellable narrative of “an international conspiracy against Khan as part of regime change funded by western countries”. We know he did not defy western powers for making Pakistan nuclear as did former Prime Minister Bhutto and then Bhutto was punished with “hang till death”. We also know that Imran Khan did not launch the historic China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) like former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and faced the consequences in the shape of 124 day-long dharna (Sit-in) in front of Parliament that barred the visit of Chinese President Xi to Islamabad. Khan said he was punished for not supporting Ukraine’s cause but Pakistan sent humanitarian support to Ukraine at least twice since Khan visited Moscow. He said he was punished by Westerners for visiting Moscow when President Putin initiated bombing Ukraine. In his March 27 public meeting, he claimed that a foreign country had threatened Pakistan with dire consequences for tailoring independent foreign policy. However, an official statement issued by his office (Prime Minister Secretariat/Office) on March 31 did not include anything that can be referred to as a threatening letter. Foreign Office of Pakistan on the night of March 31 released a vague communication and said that “As decided in the National Security Committee meeting held on 31 March 2022, the requisite demarches have been made through diplomatic channels”. What requisite demarches and to what country it was handed over were not included in the three-lined statement. Even the statement issued by PM Office did not mention the name of the country but the speech of the PM on March 31 hinted it was the United States who communicated something undiplomatic.

The official statement said that Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the 37th meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) at the Prime Minister’s House. The meeting was attended by Federal Ministers of Defence, Energy, Information & Broadcasting, Interior, Finance, Human Rights, Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Services Chiefs, National Security Adviser, and senior officers. The National Security Adviser briefed the Committee on the formal communication of a senior official of a foreign country to Pakistan’s Ambassador in the said country in a formal meeting, which was duly conveyed by the Ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The statement further said:

“The Committee expressed grave concern at the communication, terming the language used by the foreign official as undiplomatic. The Committee concluded that the communication amounted to blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan by the country in question, which was unacceptable under any circumstances”.

Opposition circles question why did PM Khan not convene the NSC meeting when Foreign Office got this letter under question? Another important question is why did he wait so long to convene the meeting after sharing the content of the letter with journalists? Should he not hold an NSC meeting before discussing the letter in his March 27 Public Meeting? I believe all these questions are valid and Foreign Office or PM Office should answer these questions.

The statement issued after the meeting of NSC contradicts what Imran Khan had been building in his public speech and his communication with Pakistani media. The statement did not mention any threatening letter to Pakistan and also did not mention that there was any conspiracy against Pakistan being hatched by foreign countries for regime change with the help of politicians of opposition parties. I fail to understand if Imran Khan uttered the truth at his public meeting then why did he compromise while releasing an official statement after the NSC meeting? If truth should have been avoided for diplomatic demands, then why did he accuse foreign countries publically of threatening Pakistan and trying to change the regime with the help of “domestic traitors”? There is something wrong at least in one place— at a public meeting or in an NSC press release.

In the last 20 days, the ruling party used undiplomatic language for a “foreign country” as much as it could be possible but could not avoid the reality on the ground that is a counting process on the Vote of No Confidence motion against Imran Khan. Yes, the process has been delayed as much it could be possible but we know realities never change. What would be the result of counting I cannot say anything but I am sure building an issue-less, vague, weak, and illogical case to get domestic gains by sacrificing foreign relations would definitely leave a negative impact on Pakistan’s foreign relations with western countries. A number of retired diplomats in their private conversations had been sharing their fears that serving diplomats are (were) not showing their interest to tell the government what diplomacy is and are working as subordinates instead of professionals.

Disclaimer:

The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

Central Desk
Central Desk
Central News Desk.

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