Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.— File Photo
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The government is planning to shut 22 of the country’s overseas missions, besides cutting down on perks and privileges allowed to diplomats and staff posted abroad, due to budgetary constraints.

The closure of embassies and consulates would mean a one-fourth reduction in Pakistan’s diplomatic footprint globally.

The country currently has some 70 embassies across the world.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a source said, had consented to his Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi’s ‘austerity’ proposals, but would approve it on his return from China.

Five missions identified for closure in the first stage are in Port Louis (Mauritius), Santiago (Chile), Naimey (Niger), Belgrade (Serbia) and Sarajevo (Bosnia). The plan to open a consulate in the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas has been shelved.

However, the missions chosen for closure have left many baffled. The government had indicated its intention to focus on trade diplomacy, but closing missions in Latin America and Africa could limit its prospects of reaching out to the emerging markets in those regions.

Similarly, till last year there was focus on developing military ties with Serbia to diversify defence procurements.

Pakistan had long pursued its case for opening a consulate in Bandar Abbas with the Iranian authorities. Though there has been no agreement on the issue yet, the government had made allocations for it.

A diplomat commented that a consulate in Bandar Abbas would have been critical if Islamabad were to pursue the gas pipeline project with Tehran or develop the North-South trade corridor.

The sources said there was little debate on the matter in the ministry.

The move comes in the wake of the government’s decision to reduce all non-development expenditures by 30 per cent. The government has set itself a target of saving Rs40 billion this year by reducing the operational expenses of various ministries.

The budget allocated in fiscal year 2013-14 for overseas missions is Rs10.9bn against previous year’s allocation of Rs9.74bn.

A retired diplomat familiar with budgetary matters estimated that the government could save Rs180 million by closing down five missions, while full implementation of the proposal to shut 22 missions could yield savings of up to Rs1bn.

But, some diplomats believe that reduction in diplomatic presence by closing embassies could prove to be ‘costlier’ than the apparent savings projected by the financial wizards.

“A number of proposals are being considered to cut the expenditures. But, there is no final decision as yet. It is work in progress,” said Foreign Office Spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry.

In addition to closing missions, the proposed austerity measures include a host of other spending cuts — something which has angered the diplomats who think that reduction in their allowances would make it difficult for them to live at foreign stations.

Foreign service officers are planning to make a representation to Mr Fatemi. According to one of the sources, the Foreign Service Officers Association had sought an appointment with Mr Fatemi on July 9, but there was no confirmation of the date of the meeting being requested by the association that has remained dysfunctional for years.

Allowances for renting houses, health and overseas posting are intended to be reduced by 30 per cent. Similarly, the education subsidy for children of diplomats is proposed to be cut to 80pc. Moreover, missions in Europe, America and Australia are likely to be declared as ‘non-family stations’ for the non-diplomatic staff.


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Comments (38) Closed


Abu-Salmaan
Jul 05, 2013 07:34am

Instead of closing overseas missions their staff and expenses should be reduced by making them more efficient and effective and the same principle should be applied all over in running the government for the country's rapid growth and development.

Dilawer
Jul 05, 2013 08:54am

A recent visit with a friend to LA consulate revealed sorry state of affair. Pakistan consulate is extremely poorly managed and in a very shabby state. Staff does not have any experience in customer service. Even the very basics of handling 20 plus person was deplorable. Should this consulate not be shut down on performance basis?

Dilawer
Jul 05, 2013 08:59am

Pakistan consulates across the world are poorly managed and taken as a gravy train for the people visiting from Pakistan. The staff have only one interest and that is how to make money while abroad. There is no sense of achieving anything whatsoever. Is there any performance review of the consular staff? Where can i see the performance of the Pakistani consulates? Any data?

Qamar
Jul 05, 2013 09:02am

Most of the staff in foreign missions are incompetent, and have been posted overseas because of their connections. They are a burden on tax payers, and closing most of these useless missions in obscure places is a good idea.

Ahmed
Jul 05, 2013 09:16am

Excellent move. In this age of picture phones and emails, embassies have become increasingly anachronistic anyway. Here is an example of the reckless manner in which the Pakistan Embassy conducts itself: In Washington DC, 10-15 years ago the Pakistan government moved into a new embassy building. The old building was located on the choice location of Massachussetts Avenue Embassy Row. For several years (and probably even to this date), I saw the old building sit vacant. A commercial attache in the embassy I talked to once said they were thinking of turning the building into a Jinnah Library with the help of contributions from Pakistani Americans (never mind the additional cost that would mean to maintain the library and never mind the sheer absurdity of the whole idea). If this is the level of recklessness with which Pakistani bureaucrats spend money, then I think in addition to closing the 22 embassies the government should consider taking a closer look at the money spent on the others and cut out waste like this irresponsible manner in which an abandoned building that would have added millions to the Pakistani government has been held as bureaucrats try to milk it to increase their empire in Washington DC.

johar
Jul 05, 2013 09:23am

This is just a show of and will soon be forgotten. All these closure will end up costing more to restart.

Yas
Jul 05, 2013 09:40am

Govt should carry out a study to find out how much trade these missions brought in last 10 years and by the way our missions and embassies perform and support Pakistani expats they are better off closed than burdening the economy. You don't have to have a mission in every country especially small European and African countries.

Rahim Khan
Jul 05, 2013 09:37am

Very good move by new Government. We do not need our offices all over the world. We are a poor country and can not afford this expense.

jaffri
Jul 05, 2013 10:45am

good news

Shazia Syed
Jul 05, 2013 10:44am

How about not having Shahbaz Sharif accompany Nawaz Sharif on foreign visits. No other CM accompanies the PM. Why him only? Save the expense.

Khota
Jul 05, 2013 11:42am

Good thinking B2.

ali
Jul 05, 2013 11:46am

This intention of the government is likely to face red tapism and the bureaucratic anger.

B.ally
Jul 05, 2013 12:23pm

Our embassies are neither doing much for Pakistan nor for Pakistanis living abroad. Apply a simple criteria of what is the diplomatic and trade gain out of maintaining an embassy .if it is negative shut them down.

Dr Gul Metlo
Jul 05, 2013 01:23pm

@"The government had indicated its intention to focus on trade diplomacy, but closing missions in Latin America and Africa could limit its prospects of reaching out to the emerging markets in those regions."

Reach out to your neighboring countries. The govt. should focus its neighboring countries for trade diplomacy. Neighboring countries- India, China, Iran and Afghanistan. are over 40% of the world population. Pakistan should lift all trade restrictions and make free trade with all its neighboring countries. Make free trade posts at every 50 miles on borders with all bordering countries- India, China, Iran and Afghanistan.

Also link the national electricity grid with these countries.

Adnan zafar
Jul 05, 2013 01:43pm

Very nice decision. This is a good step to save money as the missions spend a lot on them and their fancy life styles and incur expenses in foreign currencies. But we should tie the performance of the mission to the expences. If a consulate business attachee is doing good work and helping exports, he should be rewarded as well.

george
Jul 05, 2013 01:51pm

Hard times required hard decisions, and diplomats must share in the process.

Go ahead PM.

khan
Jul 05, 2013 03:04pm

Un-papular decision. Agr aaap apni relative ya friends see is liye nahi miltay k paisay khurch hoooon gay aur aaap usss se ties khatm kr daitay hain to aaap savings to kr laitay hain but aaap k relations b limited ho jatay hain.

Khalid
Jul 05, 2013 03:48pm

The announcement does not say as to why are these offices being closed. I am really surprised at the closure of the office in Mauritius which has become the hub for financial institutions. The fact that culturally, Mauritius (although part of Africa) is much closer to Pakistan. Can we not measure the performance of our embassies on merit?. Do we not publish and verify the clais by embassies as to how much investment they have been able to attract from the country. Africa (and Latin America) are the fastest growing regions economically and the whole world is running towards it and we are closing our offices?. I am sure the people in power know something I don't but why don't the give the rationale for these decisions?. Same old people, same old practices.

Ahsan
Jul 05, 2013 04:06pm

I dont like this approach. Rather it would be more beneficial if they first closes the offices where there are more offices in one country. As this will keep country diplomatic presence and cut the cost. Secondly deployment of meritorious diplomat will surely payoff the expenses. Stop sending retired military personal, politically motivated personals.

muhammad farooq
Jul 05, 2013 04:05pm

I hope in all such cases of cost savingsw (be they for one ministry or the other) thorough and valid Cost-benefit Analyses are coducted and due weight is given to qualitative factors underlying such decision as well. It is also important to stop foreign postings on political basis. Merit should and must rule.

Muneer bhai
Jul 05, 2013 05:17pm

Excellent decision. Pakistani consulates are only open from 10AM to 2PM on weekdays and its staff has a luxurious lifestyle. Little work actually gets done so its a minor loss when a Pakistani consulate is closed.

arif saleem
Jul 05, 2013 05:31pm

good keep it up

azi ahmed
Jul 05, 2013 06:16pm

My question ....Pakistan has 70 Embassies .......then why are we allowed visa free only on 4-5 major countries ?????

Reponsible
Jul 05, 2013 07:43pm

Good thinking for cutting down expenditure. However, focus also on reducing corruption in FBR also.

umesh bhagwat
Jul 05, 2013 07:44pm

unfortunate!

Expat
Jul 05, 2013 08:22pm

@Rahim Khan: YES, We have money only for nukes expansion and maintenance and unaccounted expenses by establishment.

Ahmad
Jul 05, 2013 08:19pm

If you close down the CM, PM, governor and President houses you will find enough money to sustain all foreign commissions for 2-5 years. Thats austerity. Pakistan has become a defacto hindu caste state. The Brahamins are Sharifs and bhuttos and zardaris. The Kashtariyas are the army and then you have the nobels the business men and finally the achout (untouchables) the common man.

There is is no Islam in Pakistan its only cosmetic.

Moe Chaudhry
Jul 05, 2013 09:07pm

@Adnan zafar: It is impossible to quantify the work of a business attachae

Mike
Jul 05, 2013 09:28pm

@Shazia Syed: and Shahbaz's family also. His son accompanied Nawaz's wife and son. Looks like a family trip.

babar
Jul 05, 2013 09:29pm

how about if he can donate his 4.6 million dollar watch to Edhi foundation that would help lot of poor people.

murad
Jul 05, 2013 10:47pm

Its good decision by govt

murad
Jul 05, 2013 10:44pm

@Ahmed: Great

FAZL RAB
Jul 06, 2013 12:19am

Pakistani diplomats do not even exhibit the demeanour of respectability towards Pakistanis visiting their missions; let alone be of any help. I have lived in the US for over 25 years and found only two Ambassadors; Sahibzada Yaqub Khan and the one who was there just after 9/11 who treated their Pakistani visitors with respect and only one Consul General (Mr Jadmani) in the same category. . I did not know anyone of them personally. I fully endorse the Govt's move to close the 22 missions based on their performance.

Imran
Jul 07, 2013 10:39am

I am not a NS fan but really admire this decision. Lets put our house in order and spend this money on power generation, poverty alleviation, education or good governance before venturing out in the world. More expected from PM though by reducing expenses of parliamentarians and federal ministers. Keep it up.

asma tanoli
Jul 07, 2013 11:04am

Very welcome step. Every sector of society needs to contribute. In order to make a meaningful contribution to the savings, none of the Missions should have more than 10 person including ambassador to drivers. In Europe we do not need a full embassy in every capital. We could do with a maximum of 5 (UK, France, Germany, Italy abd Brussles) should be able to manage other EU offices. Just look at how Australia and some other manage their work with visa offices in certain countries and so on. We also need to check whether we need ISI, trade, community welfare and other such attaches in so many capitals. If at all they need to be kept there, then reduce their number by half..

dr vimal raina
Jul 07, 2013 11:59am

Most of them are missions impossible.

Mazhar Hasan
Jul 07, 2013 05:24pm

Yes we need to contain "unnecessary" expenditures at all ends. Just shutting down overseas Diplomatic Missions is not the answer. We do not need an armada of ministers, ministers of state and advisers. We should only retain important ministries and ensure that they function and the minister who leads them works. All other redundant ministries that have nothing to deliver to the masses should be abolished. Moreover, all foreign trips by the President and the Prime Minister should be reduced to a bare minimum. For decades we have witnessed numerous foreign visits by our Head of State and Head of Government whose entourage includes hordes of ministers and their families who have nothing to do but enjoy at public expense. All these visits which are labeled as "extremely productive" have not yielded an iota of benefit to the common man. These should be immediately put to a stop!

Gerry D'Cunha
Jul 07, 2013 09:33pm

The government is planning to shut 22 of the country