ISLAMABAD: A day after Prime Minister Imran Khan came down hard on Pakistan’s envoys across the world over mismanagement and corruption, senior diplomats have said that the prime minister should have taken up these issues with the envoys behind closed doors.
“There is a general feeling of demoralisation in the foreign service officers,” senior diplomats have told The Correspondent.
They said that the remarks about the foreign missions should not have been televised, adding that the PM should take the corrupt officials to the task instead of labelling the entire the Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP) corrupt. “Only some diplomats are corrupt, there was no need to target the entire corps of 540 officers,” they added.
“Out of 540 officials, 180 are stationed at Islamabad, whereas the others are posted abroad. Pakistan has a total of 113 foreign missions across the world, out of these, the premier named a total of five which had problems; while problems are existent, blaming the entire service is certainly not how things should have been dealt,” the officials complained.
The diplomats have also expressed concerns over the comparisons with the Indian diplomats. “General talks of the Pakistani diplomats being aggressive will hit their morale,” they said, adding that the comparison with India was the “worst”.
The officials claimed that the PM was not properly briefed about the situation in the Pakistani embassies, saying the FPS officers are already underresourced.
The officials said that blaming the entire cadre is not the solution; the prime minister should focus on fixing the system instead which is responsible for the delays in the services to the expatriates.
“The complaints read out by the PM himself were addressed to NADRA and with regards to verification, the embassies do not have the capacity nor the authority to verify documents. We send it back to Islamabad which takes time. If police verification takes up to six months from Pakistan, how can we be held responsible; the problem lies within the system that is back home and within their coordination; blaming us and making us scapegoats is not justified,” said senior and former officials while expressing their dismay.
Officials at the foreign ministry claimed that the premier’s address was a “charge-sheet” against Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. They claimed that the premier lashed out at the diplomatic staff due to an alleged rift between Principal Secretary Azam Khan and Qureshi.
“Azam Khan gave PM Imran one-sided briefing on the issue to cut Qureshi — who is in charge of the foreign missions — to size,” they alleged. They feared that the PM’s address hinted at the formation of a governing body that would take control of the foreign service.
Former foreign secretary and envoy to the US Jalil Abbas said that he “wished” the PM was “properly briefed”.
Tehmina Janjua, who is also an ex-foreign secretary, also criticised the PM over his remarks.
Senior ex-envoy Salman Bashir said the prime minister’s “critique” of the foreign ministry was “misplaced”.
On Wednesday, the PM had expressed his annoyance over an “indifferent attitude” of Pakistani embassies towards issues faced by overseas Pakistanis, particularly in the Gulf states.
“Feedback that I have received from Saudi Arabia showed the staff is not working. The staff in Kuwait takes bribes instead of guiding people and an official is involved in forging documents… I was shocked to learn all this,” Imran had said in his address to the Pakistani envoys deployed worldwide.