ISLAMABAD, March 7: There are clear signs of Pakistani women gaining prominence on the diplomatic front. Currently nine women are serving as the country’s ambassadors in various world capitals and four as the deputy heads of key missions abroad.
Although the number is not large, this is the first time ever that so many women career diplomats occupy these high profile positions.
Except one, all women posted as ambassadors are career diplomats. The exception is Dr Maleeha Lodhi, the High Commissioner to the UK who has also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US.
The names and countries of posting of the eight women from the foreign service cadre are: Asma Anisa, ambassador to France; Atiya Mahmood, ambassador to Morocco; Ayesha Riyaz, ambassador to Switzerland; Fauzia Abbas, ambassador to Denmark; Fauzia Sana, ambassador to Portugal; Seema Baloch, ambassador to Poland; Riffat Iqbal, ambassador to Zimbabwe, and Shireen Moiz, ambassador to Bosnia.
Among the women officers posted as the deputy heads of the missions are: Tehmina Janjua (Geneva), Naghmana Hashmi (Beijing) Zehra Akbari (Dublin) and Kehkeshan Azhar (Hague).
Also on home front, the positive development is that for the first time in the history of Pakistan’s Foreign Services Academy, it is headed by a senior woman diplomat, Fauzia Nasreen, who served as the additional secretary (Europe Division) at the foreign ministry previously. Also last year she became the first woman ever to serve as acting foreign secretary even if for just a few days. Another first at the foreign ministry is the appointment of a woman officer Tasnim Aslam, director-general (UN) as the ministry’s spokesperson.
At present, women constitute around 11 percent of the total officers serving at the ministry of foreign affairs. According to the ministry’s director-general (research) Riaz Syed, 41 of the current 370 serving officers are women.
Pakistani women’s role in diplomacy dates back to 1952 when Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan became the first woman to be appointed as ambassador. She served as Representative of Pakistan to the 7th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Late Begum Salma Jan was among the first Pakistani women career diplomats to be appointed ambassador.