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May 8, 2021

Lecturing envoys

 
May 8, 2021

As the prime minister, it is all right – in fact, important – to have a discussion with the country’s top diplomats. What is not the best step, though, is to tell your envoys off in a meeting that is later broadcast over social media, and hence is accessible the world over. That is unfortunately what was done with the country’s ambassadors and high commissioners. Again, it is all right to point out the failures – and there are many grave flaws there – of our consular services while they give a cold shoulder to the Pakistani diaspora, but it is not in the fitness of things that this becomes a spectacle in which our diplomatic corps cuts a sorry figure. Any good manager of even a small-scale organization knows well that a dressing down in public makes employees bitter. It is true that our Foreign Service officers need to improve their performances and there are ways to tackle this issue.

Pakistanis living abroad do have a litany of complaints against Pakistan consular services and they must be looked into with careful attention. Making a generalized assumption about all top officials present in the meeting smacks of a lack of understanding of how such matter should be resolved. Foreign Service officers have their own grievances when it comes to lack of proper training, appointment of staff not qualified to perform their jobs, and a lack of consultation with ambassadors and high commissioners while sending non-career staff to serve in the Foreign Service. Any ‘bad attitude’ displayed by officers cannot be rectified by an equally bad attitude towards them.

Then there is the question of foreign investment that the ambassadors are supposed to attract. If Pakistan fares badly in attracting foreign investment, there are many obstacles in the way, and a sluggish performance of our commercial attaches is just one of them. Holding our envoys responsible for lack of foreign investment in the country is a stretch. Foreign investors throng to a country where there is appropriately qualified and trained workforce, a well-oiled state machinery that expedites processes rather than hampers them, an infrastructure that is top-class and meets the requirements of the 21st century, and finally an image of a country where extremism is not threatening lives and properties of investors. This recent episode appears to be a continuation of the tendency in the present government to blame everyone else – for mere optics and headlines. It is about time the government set its own house in order rather than continuing with the blame game it has been playing for years now.