Senior diplomats perturbed as prime postings grabbed by ‘unworthy’ juniors

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–Ministry officials accuse authorities of appointing favourites while ignoring seniors

–FO spokesperson says action being taken against officers facing cases

 

ISLAMABAD: Senior diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) are reportedly frustrated by the government’s inaction against envoys who are facing criminal charges yet continue to serve on important positions, Pakistan Today has learnt.

Background conversations with various senior officers at the MoFA revealed that prime foreign postings and ambassadorial slots have been captured by a small group of officers, while senior officers in grade-21 and 22 have been ignored.

Sources at MoFA said that despite the fact that a new government has taken over, a coterie of officials considered as ‘blue-eyed’ of the authorities are being protected and prime postings are being shuffled between the same group of officers who have been involved in corrupt practices.

The ministry officials believed that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his adviser on foreign affairs, Tariq Fatemi, sidelined senior and respected foreign service diplomats such as Ibne Abbas and Abdul Basit. While Ibne Abbas was offered a posting in London, Abdul Basit had opted to step down in protest against the elevation of Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, a junior officer.

An officer of MoFA told Pakistan Today that various diplomats posted abroad had been allowed to travel back home and face serious inquiries at state expenses, while others were caught involved in the misuse of official vehicles and commandeering additional staff to serve as personal staff officers.

Sources alleged that around 20 ambassadors who had been appointed by former PM Nawaz Sharif on political grounds were still occupying the offices even after the end of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government’s tenure.

They said that high commissioner to India, Sohail Mehmood, was reportedly under consideration as a possible replacement of Janjua in order to bring some stability and merit to decision making at the top level of the Foreign Office.

Sources said that Dr Tauqir Shah is among the top beneficiaries of the PML-N government who has been retained as ambassador to Geneva. Interestingly, Dr Tauqir was secretary to the then Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif when the tragic Model Town massacre took place in Lahore and is co-accused in the case.

Sources said that Dr Shah had been given an extension of one year in service, and is currently serving as ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Tauqir’s term ended in March 2018 but former commerce minister Pervaiz Malik moved a summary for extension of his service by another year, despite the fact that general elections were around the corner and extension of another year could not be awarded to an accused.

Similarly, sources said that former head of Transparency International Punjab chapter, Syed Adil Gilani, who cleared all the fraudulent projects of Punjab government, is being retained in Serbia against rules.

According to the sources, the ambassador had been posted at the behest of Shehbaz Sharif after he audited and cleared projects, including Saaf Pani, Aashiana Housing Scheme and Orange Train etc. All these projects are being probed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Likewise, Senator (r) Tariq Azeem still serves as ambassador to Canada.

Similarly, Ali Jehangir Siddiqui is serving as envoy to the United States (US) despite allegations of holding a dual nationality and being an accused in a corruption case being investigated by NAB.

Dr Sohail Ahmed, the ambassador to South Africa, despite being a very seasoned and upright officer, has been caught in a web of allegations after a case was registered against him by the FIA for the award of visa to an accused, despite the fact that the ambassador is not the visa issuing authority. Dr Sohail has now obtained protective bail from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and shuttles between South Africa and Pakistan on state expense to appear in FIA inquiry.

Ambassador Babar Hashmi has been recalled from Bulgaria where a large sum of official funds is missing from the embassy’s account. It is said that a huge amount has been gambled away in a casino by some embassy personnel.

Ambassador Nadeem Riaz in Italy has been accused of sexual harassment by his subordinate female officer, the commercial secretary, who has lodged a formal complaint against the ambassador with the federal ombudsperson for prevention of harassment against women. Hearings of the case are underway.

Deputy Ambassador to Singapore Sohail Siddiqui has been recalled after being caught shoplifting, which speaks volumes about the state of affairs in MoFA. Ambassador Leena Moazzam, who served for a few months in Portugal and was removed after being found guilty of embezzlement, remained on leave for over a year but has been accommodated at Belarus.

While High Commissioner Sahibzada Ahmad Khan has already been removed from London after he was caught intoxicated on-stage in London, sources in MoFA said that the officer has again reached London and is awaiting another posting.

Sources said that he may be appointed as ambassador again to some European or Scandinavian country.

MoFA Spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal, when asked about the ambassadors involved in criminal cases, did not contradict the allegations.

The spokesman said that the High Commissioner to London Sahbizada Ahmed Khan had been reprimanded and action is being taken against him.

“In Bulgaria, there was a report of embezzlement. A special fact-finding officer was sent to investigate the issue. The accountant concerned has accepted responsibility for the embezzlement,” he said. The spokesman added that upon the return of the envoy, his name was given to NAB.

“The auditor general has been requested to do a special audit of the mission. Our ambassador has been called to Pakistan to assist in the investigation,” he added.

Regarding the high commissioner to South Africa, the spokesman said that the case is sub-judice. “The high commissioner’s travel to Pakistan is in line with relevant rules,” he asserted.

Regarding the query about the case in Portugal, the spokesman said that misinformation was circulated about Ambassador Leena. “An inquiry was undertaken which exonerated her after which she was sent back to Belarus by the previous government,” he disclosed.

Dr Faisal added that the case against the ambassador in Rome is with the ombudsperson. “In response to the ombudsperson’s instructions, an internal inquiry is also being undertaken,” he added.

Regarding deputy head of mission in Singapore, the officer has been recalled and an inquiry has been initiated in this regard, he said.