Wrangling in foreign ministry keeps vital post vacant for almost a year

FO

Naimat Khan
KARACHI: As our neighboring India is inching closer to Canada and striking important nuclear deals, Pakistan has totally failed in the North American state amid wrangling in Islamabad over the appointment of High Commissioner to Ottawa, sources said.

Highly credible sources both in the Prime Minister Secretariat and foreign office Islamabad revealed that Pakistan was facing a complete foreign policy failure on a crucial front due to the absence of High Commissioner since February this year.

The former High Commissioner to Canada, Akber Zeb, who retired in February 2014, was asked to continue but was then told to leave the office in June.

“The government initially tried to post a political appointee but for some reasons could not get it through” sources said, informing now there was a wrangling between Syed Tariq Fatemi and Sartaj Aziz because of which no name could be finalized despite the lapse of ten long months.

Sartaj Aziz, advisor to Prime Minister on National Security and foreign affairs and Syed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the PM on foreign policy want their own guys to be posted, sources said.

An official in the foreign ministry while demanding complete anonymity told this scribe that Aziz intends that additional secretary Afrasyiab Mehdi hashmi to be posted on the slot whereas Fatemi wants to appoint the foreign office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam as Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Ottawa.

As this wrangling was not enough, sources said, the Prime Minister came up with a different candidate. The name of Saeed Mehdi, ex-Principal secretary to PM, was being considered, sources informed, adding that in June this year his summary was also being prepared but could not become High Commissioner due to the lobbying against him. Mehdi was PS to PM during the first tenure of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1992-93.

According to sources the incumbent foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry is also an aspirant and has played a major role in keeping the crucial post vacant. Sources said Chaudhry, who is a cancer patient and undergoing therapy in the country, wants his posting apparently in order to enjoy better treatment facilities in Canada. “The current foreign secretary has kept the position vacant for him and will keep it vacant till his tenure as Foreign Secretary completes”, source said.

Although Pakistan responded furiously and summoned US Ambassador Richard G. Olson to foreign office over pentagon’s accusatory report, the foreign ministry is ignoring the rhetoric by Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander who has been leveling similar allegations against Pakistan for the last couple of years.

The former ambassador to Afghanistan and ex-deputy special representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan not only leveled similar allegations against Pakistan during the oath ceremony of Ashraf Ghani recently but last Wednesday unveiled a plan to ban entry to migrants who practice polygamy with specific aim to target Pakistan, sources said.

“In the view of recent attack on Canadian parliament and sort of crackdown on Pakistani community and aggressive behavior of current minister of citizenship and immigration Canada, it is very important to have a senior diplomat posted immediately”, diplomatic experts say.

Ironically, all this is happening when our arch rival India is inching closer to the Canada due to its active high commission in Ottawa.

The Indian Premier Narindar Modi is going to meet his Canadian counterpart Harper at the upcoming G-20 Summit to be held in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, Australia, on 15 and 16 November 2014. “But we have no plan to mend our affairs on this front” the official said.

When contacted, the Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasneem Aslam refuted the reports of rift between Aziz and Fatemi however also refused to further comment on the issue, saying “postings and transfers is an administrative matter on which we don’t comment”.

The story was originally published here

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Author: Naimat

Karachi based journalist, writing on national and international issues.

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