The main focus of the Public Accounts Committee meeting recently held in Islamabad was the illegal use of funds from the national exchequer by those serving as envoys in missions overseas. It appears this has been a disturbingly common practice over the years. While the use or misuse of a massive $8 million secret fund in the Washington embassy is a recent matter and has not yet come to the PAC, the committee heard about the case of the building of the Pakistan embassy in Jakarta. In Feb 2002, the then ambassador to Indonesia allegedly sold the chancery building in a non-transparent manner. NAB is already probing the case on the orders of the Lahore High Court. The committee was also informed about three officials unable to properly account for a total of Rs. 4.703 million following audits. The officials had reportedly been found guilty, forced to retire and the Interior Ministry asked to begin criminal proceedings against them. There was also a report stating the ambassador of the Pakistan mission in the United Nations, New York, in the year 2006-07, had spent Rs. 2,852,005 on the purchase of alcoholic beverages to present as gifts despite clear directives from the government that alcoholic drinks should not be purchased with public money.
The rot needs to be contained. As the PAC noted, officials found involved in wrongdoing must not be posted overseas again. The FO needs to put in place tougher checks to ensure this. But we must also think about the need to raise the calibre of the Foreign Service as a whole. It has slipped over the past few decades, and this does nothing to raise Pakistan’s image in other countries, while malpractices of all kinds by envoys can only damage it further as news comes through of visa scams and other kinds gof abuse of office.