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May 8, 2021

Foreign service baboos to be judged on output, delivery

ISLAMABAD: To improve the disappointing performance of Pakistani missions abroad, the government’s new performance management system will also apply to the Foreign Service of Pakistan and those officers who are serving in the country’s embassies in foreign capitals.

According to an aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the cabinet has already approved the new performance management system that will also be applied to officers serving in the country’s missions abroad. The aim is to improve their output and ensure that diplomats serve the Pakistani diaspora, besides bringing business and investment into the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday asked the country’s ambassadors serving abroad to forego colonial-era attitudes and treat overseas Pakistanis with compassion, saying the

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current indifferent attitude towards overseas Pakistanis was “unforgivable”.

The prime minister also said that compared to Pakistan, the performance of Indian diplomats is much better. He also urged that ambassadors to work towards bringing business and investment into Pakistan from the country they are posted in.

Overseas Pakistani generally complain about the arrogance of diplomats in our missions abroad and their indifference to addressing their problems. A large number of Pakistanis living abroad have appreciated the prime minister on social media for taking on the foreign service baboos. However, some retired foreign service officials were disappointed by the prime minister’s statement,

Commenting on the remarks of these former foreign secretaries, a PM Office source asked in how many cases had ambassadors, as head of the missions, formally raised with the concerned authorities the issue of the poor performance of the staff who are not directly under them.According to an aide of the prime minister, the government has already made changes to the performance management, system, replacing the colonial system of ‘annual confidential report' that provides no substantive evidence of performance on the job or future potential.

The government is replacing these subjective evaluation reports by an objectives-based Key Performance Indicators (KPI)-driven evaluation system not only for those serving in different departments within Pakistan but also for foreign service officers and those assigned different roles in the country's missions abroad.

Under this system, a subordinate can discuss with his or her superior officer and both will sign the KPIs that are to be achieved during the year. In the case of the foreign service, the ambassadors as well as their juniors will be given clear targets and will be judged on the basis of their performance.

In this performance management system, only 20 percent in the cohort will be categorised as outstanding, 60 percent as satisfactory, and 20 percent as below average. Performance will also be related to promotion, so that the officer's training outcomes and placement in the promotion ladder will be determined by his or her performance.

There will be an incentive for the officer to work hard because he or she would want to get promoted to the next grade. This categorisation would also feed into the early retirement policy. If an officer has not consistently performed satisfactorily and keeps falling in the 20 percent or below average, then his/her case will be placed before the committee for early retirement.

In the Foreign Service of Pakistan, the sources said, there is also a lot of politics involved in foreign postings. Instead of merit, performance and area specialisations, the well-connected often get better stations and more lucrative postings.