Race for the new Foreign Secretary kick starts

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There are three top contestants for this coveted slot including Asad Majeed Pakistan’s Ambassador in the United States, Moeen ul Haq, who is currently serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to People’s Republic of China and Raza Bashir Tarar who is in Canada

Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

ISLAMABAD: The race to grab the coveted slot of Foreign Secretary of Pakistan has kick started as the potential candidates have girded up loins with each one of them trying to employ all his resources in this regard.

The incumbent Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood has completed his three years in the office but is willing to continue as the Foreign Secretary till his retirement a year later. Sources privy to this development are of the opinion that Sohail has already started lobbying to stay in the office till his retirement.

As per practice the Foreign Secretary, when completes his term, is posted as Ambassador to some important countries. In this case, the preferred choice of secretaries happens to be the United States of America. If Sohail Mahmood does not get an extension in the office, he might replace Asad Majeed as Pakistan’s ambassador to the USA.

There are three top contestants for this coveted slot including Asad Majeed Pakistan’s Ambassador in the United States, Moeen ul Haq, who is currently serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to People’s Republic of China and Raza Bashir Tarar who is in Canada these days. Ambassador Raza Bashir has already been replaced and is due to come back to the headquarters soon.

Ambassador Moeen ul Haq was recently shifted to Beijing from Paris. Sources say he needs to complete at least one year in China as Ambassador before being considered for the Foreign Secretary slot. He still has about three months to complete his one year in Beijing.

Ambassador Asad Majeed happens to be the top contender in the given circumstances as he enjoys confidence of the government and the establishment. There are some key ambassadorial positions including the USA that require a green signal from the establishment as well, keeping in view the sensitivity  and importance of the respective station. Ambassador Asad therefore appears to be an obvious choice.

As regards the professionalism and integrity of these three top officers, each one of them stands out for his illustrious diplomatic career. All of them have served in a number of key positions which means they have immense experience and exposure in the field of diplomacy.

Nevertheless there is an interesting aspect of this whole scenario as well. If the sitting Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood is allowed to continue in his office till retirement then chances of both Asad Majeed and Moeen ul Haq to become the Foreign Secretary shall be eliminated because both of them would retire from service in the meantime.

Ambassador Raza Bashir Tarar, in this scenario, shall be the sole candidate in terms of seniority. It may however be mentioned here that it is not always mandatory for the powers-that-be to appoint the senior most officer as the Foreign Secretary. In the recent past, we have seen some junior officers being elevated to this prestigious post. During PM Nawaz Shairf time when Tariq Fatemi was the Prime Minister Assistant on foreign affairs- in fact the de facto Foreign Minister – he appointed a junior officer as the Foreign Secretary. In protest, the senior officers who were bypassed preferred to leave the job instead working under a junior officer.

Sources say the possibility of appointment of a junior officer as the next Foreign Secretary is possible even now. But this practice, by and large, is not welcomed by anyone. Even the officer, who is given out of the turn promotion, does not feel comfortable in wielding his or her authority.