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Overseas missions set for major overhaul

December 25, 2012

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani. — Photo by AFP/File

ISLAMABAD, Dec 25: Leadership of the country’s diplomatic missions abroad is set for a major overhaul next year due to completion of government’s tenure and impending retirement of a number of senior Foreign Service officials.

“At least nine career ambassadors serving in missions abroad are set to retire in 2013,” a source said. Add to that about a dozen and a half political ambassadors, who, as per tradition, would stand retired with the change in government.

Another 20 would be replaced as part of the routine rotation of the officers.

Pakistan has about 70 ambassadorial level missions abroad, which implies that almost half of the overseas missions would have new envoys.

Although a number of officers retire every year, what’s particularly interesting this time is that not only the number is on the higher side but also some of the Foreign Service heavyweights would be reaching the age of retirement. Moreover, many of the major capitals abroad would fall vacant due to retirement of political ambassadors serving there when the PPP government completes its tenure in the first part of next year.

The retiring career ambassadors include Khalid Aziz Babar (Iran), Fauzia Sana (The Netherlands), Ishtiaq Andrabi (Norway), Munawer Bhatti (Belgium), Khurshid Anwar (Austria), Haroon Shaukat (Turkey), Zamir Akram (UN, Geneva) and Irfan-ur-Rehman Raja (Greece).

The officer at the headquarters responsible for making all these postings, Mr Ikramullah Mehsud – Additional Secretary Administration – would himself retire next year.

Some of the important capitals where ambassadorial positions would fall vacant due to change of government include Washington, London, Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Moscow, Muscat, Kiev, Mexico City and Permanent Representative at the UN in New York.

“More reshuffling, more opportunities for young officers,” a career foreign service officer said when asked about the large-scale changes likely to take place next year.

Another said: “One hope the changes create more opportunities for the cadres.”

In 80s Foreign Service officers would get ambassadorial assignments after serving for 17-20 years, but with increasing numbers now going to political appointees, career officers on average become ambassadors after 25 years of service. This has generated immense resentment among the cadres, not just because of the more years of service they have to put in before getting the assignment they longed for but also due to the fact that most of the important stations go to political appointees.Ambassadors proceeding to take up new assignments early next year include Syed Hassan Raza (Qatar), Mr Sarfaraz Khanzada (Sudan), Mr Abrar Hussain (Kuwait), Mr Waheed-ul-Hassan (Morocco), Mr Iftikhar Aziz (Hungary), Mr Qasim Muttaki (Chile), Mr Riaz Bukhari (Uzbekistan), Dr Sohail Khan (Thailand), Mr Shahid Kayani (Malaysia) and Mr Ghalib Iqbal (France). Almost a similar number would be rotated in the second part of next year.

Ambassador Burhan-ul-Islam has been posted back to headquarters from Chile, while Ambassador Tasneem Aslam has proceeded on long leave instead of resigning as she initially planned. Ambassador Aslam was upset over having been posted to Morocco from Italy.

Ambassador Khanzada was prematurely moved out of Qatar due to complaints by the community.