Pakistan

Basit-Aizaz spat

Sep 1, 2017
After the drama surrounding letters exchanged publically between a former and a serving ambassador, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot delay putting its house in order anymore.
 
We don’t expect diplomats serving in the Foreign Service of Pakistan to have unanimous opinions on all issues of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Difference of opinion ought to be respected but the way to deal with it has to be open and constructive dialogue. And it is the responsibility of the ministry to create mechanisms through its serving diplomats can engage in this dialogue.
 
Regardless, taking potshots at each other — and that too with reference to issues that took place two years ago — only serves to reflect poorly on the ministry and its diplomatic cadre.
 
Former Pakistani Ambassador to India Abdul Basit may have had concerns over Pakistan-India ties and Pakistan’s loss of a place in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR). Surely, he must have felt strongly about these issues.
 
But he has made light of his concerns on his own by using these issues as pretexts for expressing his criticism of the serving ambassador to the United States two years down the line. The problem he may have overlooked is that his letter and Ambassador Aizaz’s response have left the public in a fix to separate personal from professional.
 
To be sure, this issue has reflected poorly on the state of diplomacy in Pakistan not because it has pointed to differences of opinions on policy matters. Those are professional differences and they are expected and should be respected. The poor reflection has stemmed from institutional shortcomings that don’t let diplomats hash out their differences through debate.
 
In the age of social media, there is very little that escapes the radar. And with the perpetual risk of information leakage, like in this case, unresolved differences and personal rivalries are bound to come out in the open sooner rather than later.
 
It is encouraging that the association of former ambassadors has also taken notice of the episode. But the need of the hour is for the ministry to evolve mechanisms that can effectively take care of both personal and professional differences among its diplomats.
 
Daily Times, September 1, 2017

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