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President Asif Ali Zardari 670 x 350 - File Photo
President Asif Ali Zardari.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Top officials of the ministry of information are to meet on Thursday in a desperate bid to bring about changes in the selection criteria for postings of officers abroad.

At a time when the caretaker prime minister has taken the charge and he has yet to select his information minister, the external publicity wing, which had recently come under allegations of violations in selection of officers for foreign posting, has called the meeting.

The external publicity wing of the ministry circulated a note among heads of all departments of the ministry on Wednesday to attend the meeting themselves or nominate officers of BPS 18 “to work on a proposal to bring much needed amendments to posting, transfer and deputation rules for postings abroad”.

A copy of the letter has been made available to Dawn.

Convening of the meeting at such a short notice has created ripples within the ministry, where a number of officers, who have been ignored in a recent selection board meeting for foreign posting, have decided to go to the court. Former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on March 14 got a summary of 15 officers signed by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for posting abroad, in a hasty manner. The entire selection process was completed within a week, which resulted in posting of officers at choice destinations who had once served, or were still serving at the presidency, prime minister’s secretariat and with the former information minister, and didn’t fulfill criteria.

Some of the officers who were posted abroad are in BPS 20, but have been posted against BPS 19. Now the ministry is also working to upgrade these positions just to accommodate these officers. Likewise, as per the ministry’s present rules, an officer who had served in a foreign mission of the country, needs to remain in the country for a three-year mandatory period before becoming eligible for another posting abroad. However, the condition has been violated in several recent postings. And obviously, the meeting has been called to change this rule as well, said an insider in the ministry.

“An attempt is being made to make amendments in rules to justify latest postings which at the moment have been made in violations, before the caretaker information minister takes charge and puts officers responsible on notice,” said a senior officer of the ministry.

Moreover, the officer contended, such decisions could not be taken by an interim setup, saying the ministry should have brought amendments to rules before making these postings, as it didn’t make any sense at this point.

According to a senior ministry official in the know of ongoing infighting within the information ministry, a petition will be filed in a court of law in a day or two by officers who believed their right to get posting abroad had been violated by top officials of the ministry.

Officers whose posting have been questioned include Masood Anwar, who had until recently served as staff officer to Salman Farooqi, Secretary General of President Asif Ali Zardari, and was posted as press counsellor in New York.

Another officer is Dr Najeeb. He has got the post of press counselor in Washington DC, another attractive location. Before that he had worked as a director in the office of former minister Kaira. Shafqat Abbas, who was working with Mr Kaira as personal staff officer, has been posted in Germany. Press secretary to the prime minister, Shafqat Jalil, has been posted as press minister in London. Nasir Jamal and Sheraz Latif, two BPS 20 officers, have been given postings in Brussels and Paris respectively against BPS-19 positions.