A farewell ceremony in honour of outgoing Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on Friday, where Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi lauded her services for Pakistan.
The ceremony was attended by senior officials of the Foreign Office and a large number of foreign diplomats and ambassadors.
After the foreign minister addressed the gathering and paid rich tribute to her, Janjua was asked to grace the podium and speak on the occasion.
She thanked the foreign minister for his speech acknowledging the services rendered by her. The outgoing foreign secretary termed Qureshi's remarks as "very generous" and said that "all [his words] may not entirely be merited".
"Thank you very much, foreign minister, for those very kind words and those very warm words. It's been absolutely wonderful working with you. You may not have agreed with me many times but you decided to agree. We have had our arguments but they always end[ed] up with the best results," she said.
"So thank you for giving me that leeway to be able to say yes and to say no. And to make things so that at the end of the day whatever we do together is for Pakistan and for this ministry and for the betterment of the diplomatic corps."
Janjua — the first woman appointed to the Foreign Office's top post — replaced Aizaz Chaudhry in 2017. She was long considered a favourite for the position. Although Hina Rabbani Khar served as the foreign minister (2011-13), no woman had ever held the post of foreign secretary in the country before Janjua.
Having joined the Foreign Service in 1984, Janjua's experience had mainly been in multilateral diplomacy. Her only remarkable bilateral posting had been as ambassador to Rome from December 2011 to October 2015. Among her other overseas postings are stints at the United Nations in New York and Geneva.
Janjua had not served on a major territorial desk at the headquarters, except for a year-long posting at the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe desk at the start of her Foreign Service career.
Addressing Friday's farewell ceremony, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Janjua had served as a "principled and competent foreign secretary" and that her services for Pakistan would always be remembered.
He further said that in all the years of their interaction, he learnt a lot from her.
Qureshi said that female officials in the Foreign Office have a lot to learn from the way Janjua conducted herself, adding: "I say this especially to the women, because in a male-dominated society like ours she has managed to rise to the rank of the country's first female foreign secretary."
"I first had the pleasure of working with you [Janjua] when you were the director general of planning and I was foreign minister [...] my respect for her went up exponentially when one day — looking at her capability — I asked her if she would like to work for my office and she said 'I am working for you, but I am currently placed at the foreign secretary's office and it is proper that I continue there'. I thought, here's a woman of character who has stuck to principle," he said while remembering his interaction with Janua in his previous tenure.
"I have seen her work Sundays, late hours, holidays; I mean [she is] alien to limitation, I think she is an inspiration," he said.
"I wish you well wherever you go, and I am not just saying that because it's polite — everyone knows I can be quite blunt — I am saying that because I mean it," Qureshi concluded.
Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood has been appointed to replace Janjua as the foreign secretary once she retires on April 16.