By Kiran Bokhari
Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s perception of diplomacy is as flawed as his populist politics, believes senior journalist Zahid Hussain.
Although Khan’s virtual address to Pakistani envoys serving in different world capitals last week invited divergent views but he had to eaten up his words under pressure…one wonders why he retracted his statement.
Senior diplomats were censured live on TV channels by Khan for not extending helping hands to the expatriates. Khan was somehow right in taking on Pak envoys abroad but he could not face the criticism for his action.
Zahid Hussain says PM Khan’ criticism has not only exposed a limited understanding of diplomacy but also a disdain for the foreign service.
It was unprecedented and extremely humiliating. Diplomats were accused of acting callously towards the Pakistani diaspora and harbouring a colonial mindset. They were told that their Indian counterparts were more proactive.
“Such unwarranted public remarks from the country’s top leadership is highly demoralising for the foreign service. The angry reactions from some retired foreign secretaries to these comments reflect the sentiments of the institution. Perhaps the strongest public criticism of the remarks came from Tehmina Janjua, Pakistan’s first woman foreign secretary. She tweeted: “Deeply dismayed at the unwarranted criticism of the Foreign Ministry. There seems to be woefully inadequate understanding of the Embassies’ consular work, the acute resource constraints, and the role of multiple departments, which [are] not under the control of Ambassadors.” Other retired officers shared her anguish,” says Hussain.
The prime minister he says appeared to be using his container approach in the realm of foreign policy. He waved stacks of papers at the officers attending virtually.
These apparently contained complaints filed by members of the Pakistani community abroad against the treatment meted out to them by some of their missions.
The prime minister was upset with reports of the ill treatment of those approaching Pakistani embassies for consular services. He held the ambassadors responsible for their ‘callousness’. It was obvious that the whole spectacle that was telecast live was for political grandstanding.
“How can diplomats work effectively if there’s no clear foreign policy direction?” asks Hussain. And yet another U-turn a week later PM Khan admitted that it had been a mistake to telecast the entire episode in such a manner. He also tried to retract some of his comments about the working of our foreign missions. He says matters related to foreign affairs are too serious to be dealt with in a cavalier way.
PM Khan should better think before he speaks on the matters which he later should not regret. PAK DESTINY