Sunday June 23, 2024

Jauhar Saleem made acting foreign secretary

By Mariana Baabar
October 01, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Former foreign secretary Sohail Mehmood in his last official act while in office nominated Ambassador to Italy Jauhar Saleem as the acting foreign secretary at a time when the Foreign Office could not finalise and agree on a name for a permanent foreign secretary.

The rules allow for an acting foreign secretary and this helps avoid a vacuum on the administrative side and running day to day of the ministry. Ambassador Jauhar Saleem’s tenure as a diplomat ends in April next year. While there was no official notification for announcing the acting foreign secretary, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar confirmed to The News that Jauhar Saleem has moved to the office of acting foreign secretary.

Earlier, the highest authority had summoned Ambassador Dr Asad Majeed from Brussels and he reached Islamabad on Wednesday in anticipation of being nominated the new foreign secretary.

This week, in an interview in Washington, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had also praised Ambassador Asad Majeed and said he should not suffer because of Imran Khan. Confusion and indecision at the Foreign Office over naming a new foreign secretary started when the latest audio leaks in which former prime minister Imran Khan allegedly talked about a diplomatic cypher sent by Ambassador Asad Majeed when he was Ambassador in the United States.

“Yes this was one reason. There was apprehensions at the Foreign Office if the government orders an inquiry into the cypher incident, Ambassador Asad Majeed would not be able to give full attention to his duties but rather would spend time attending meetings of the inquiry,“ an official source told The News.

The optics would also be not very helpful with a new foreign secretary attending these meetings. It appears that the Foreign Office had been prudent and taken the right decision in appointing an acting foreign secretary on Friday, the cabinet ordered a special committee to probe the latest audio leaks including the one pertaining to the cypher sent by Ambassador Asad Majeed.

Shockingly, the cabinet also learnt that the copy of the cypher sent by the ambassador was missing from the files of the Prime Minister Office. However, it is to be recalled when several months ago, the cypher controversy was raging and Imran Khan was still prime minister, the DG ISPR said that copies of such sensitive cyphers were also sent by the Foreign Office to the offices of the Army Chief and the ISI chief.

Also the original or a copy is bound to be present at the Foreign Office. This is the second time that an ambassador has been summoned from Brussels by the prime minister to take over as foreign secretary but something or the other has prevented this.

Earlier, it was another Ambassador in Brussels, Abdul Basit, who had been called to Islamabad by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to be told that he was the next foreign secretary. However groupings inside the Foreign Office succeeded and Abdul Basit was told that there was no room to promote him to Grade 22, so it was not possible to promote him as Foreign Secretary.

The News understands that the Foreign Office could allow the promotion board to meet to nominate diplomats to grade 22, and choose a Foreign Secretary. Sources are once again not ruling out the name of Ambassador Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi, presently in Ankara to enter the race for foreign secretary again. At one time he was a hot favourite.

For time being an announcement from the Foreign Office for naming a foreign secretary could be pushed till next week. Foreign Minister Bilawal is stopping in Dubai on his way home after which he goes to Karachi to see his father Asif Ali Zardari who is unwell.