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October 8, 2019

Who opposed Gen Saad Khattak’s name for Pak HC in Sri Lanka?

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October 8, 2019

Major Gen (R) Muhammad Saad Khattak. File photo

ISLAMABAD: Major Gen (R) Muhammad Saad Khattak says a federal minister of an important ministry and his aides in the federal cabinet have blocked his appointment as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.

The move is unprecedented, as no civilian government has ever rejected any name recommended by General Headquarters (GHQ). “Before the General Elections 2018, Imran Khan promised to the nation that he will adhere to the policy of merit and will appoint the right man for the right job. Were all his promises and slogans a hoax? If Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has given my name for the post of High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, it means I must have met the criteria for this slot. The prime minister’s decision of rejecting this summary is strange”, General (R) Khattak said.

Talking to The News, Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain said is tr it is true General (R) Saad Khattak’s name was on top of the merit list for the post of Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). However, some cabinet members raised objections to his name and approved Dr Aamer Ahmed‘s name for the post of ETPB chairman.

“Some ministers again raised objections to General (R) Saad Khattak for the post of Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. According to these ministers, if the retired general is not fit for one post (ETPB chairman), how he can be eligible for another post. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has already clarified in his statement that GHQ has always been given share in the quota of non-career diplomats”, commented Dr Ishrat Hussain.

When asked to name the ministers who opposed General Khattak’s appointment, Dr Ishrat said he is under oath not to reveal any information related to cabinet meeting. The top diplomats and retired foreign secretaries of Pakistan believe that never in their entire service, any civilian government has rejected the GHQ’s recommended name. Prime Minister Imran Khan has set a new precedent by rejecting Gen (R) Saad Khattak’s name.

“The armed forces have five to six slots in the quota of non-career diplomats. Normally a retired officer from armed forces is appointed as ambassador or high commissioner in Sri Lanka, Brunei, Nigeria, Ukraine and occasionally in Saudi Arabia as well. This arrangement is already in place and being practised since years. The foreign secretary is conveyed the name by GHQ who then forward it to the prime minister for his approval. This is the normal procedure and no name forwarded by GHQ has ever been rejected because it is done with the understanding of secretary foreign affairs”, informed the retired foreign secretaries.

It is pertinent to mention here that the prime minister has a quota of 20 percent appointments of non-career diplomats as envoys. Out of this quota, five to six slots are allotted to armed forces. The prime minister gave approval of any name recommended by GHQ in past. After the mutual understanding of GHQ and Foreign Office, the name is forwarded to the premier.

“It is quite surprising why General Saad Khattak’s name was not scrutinised before his nomination. The retired general is already in litigation with Imran Khan’s government. How the GHQ could miss it that the person it is recommending for High Commissioner in Sri Lanka is in the court against present government. Both the civil and military leaderships claim to be on the same page then how this misunderstanding could happen,” commented an official in the Foreign Office who requested anonymity.

Talking to The News, General (R) Muhammad Saad Khattak said his name was recommended by the Chief of Army Staff. The retired general was surprised when he was told that the cabinet has rejected his name for the post of Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. He said he is not aware of this development.

To a question who can raise objections to his nomination, Gen (R) Khattak says, “You know very well who are sitting in the cabinet. Don’t you know their credentials?”

When asked if the allegations of his involvement in kidnapping for ransom as when he was appointed at an important department in Balochistan were right, the retired general said these allegations are totally lies, adding that after that post "I was promoted to the rank of Major General. This is not the Wapda where anybody can get promotion. The army never promotes anyone to the rank of general without proper scrutiny,” said Gen (R) Khattak.

The News also contacted the federal minister but he did not attend this scribe’s call. The minister was sent messages on WhatsApp to confirm whether he opposed Gen (R) Saad Khattak’s appointment during cabinet meeting or not, however, he did not respond to these messages.

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