Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pakistan Needs a Full Time Foreign Minister

April 26, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has two advisers to deal with the foreign affairs but not a full time foreign minister. The portfolio of this prestigious and delicate office is kept by the prime minister himself. And patently he is not deft in such a sensitive domain as dealing with Pakistan’s external affairs. For that, one has to be knowledgeable and eloquent. Although he is an excellent businessman but truthfully he lacks both these traits.

There are two glaring flaws in the demeanor of honorable Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that make him inept for such a gubernatorial undertaking. What we have perceived from his postures and meetings is that he seldom speaks but listens most of the time.
First, genetically, he is not fluent or communicative particularly in English language that is the linga-Franca and is indispensable in international arenas. We have seen Mian Sahib sitting like a lame duck in his meeting with American president Barrack Obama. He had a sheet of paper in his hand caught from one corner and simply listening to a highly articulate president Obama.
If someone lacks the ability to effectively and forcefully communicate one’s mind and point of view then how other countries would be convinced of the veracity or import of our perceptions, policies, needs and goals. Ironically on top of this, he had appointed spent-up dummies as his assistants and advisers to spearhead the bulwark of the foreign office.
I have no personal rapport nor any grudge with these two guys but let me express myself candidly that they are good for nothing as they are simply mouthpieces of the prime minister and convey what he has in his mind. Or else the prime minister spews out what they brief him then it makes the whole exercise of running foreign office as frivolously ludicrous.
Pakistan does not need the retired government servants to run the foreign office nor should this delicate office be dealt with by the prime minister himself. It is a full time job that needs acumen, intelligence, a vast knowledge and highly persuasive and eloquent tongue to put one views across with emphasis.
These gentlemen looking like proxies for a genuine foreign minister may not be befitting match and counterparts to the international diplomats and seasoned politicians. The basic and potent question that intrigues the mind is why the prime minister is not having a full time, competent, energetic and an elected member of assembly or Senate as the foreign minister.
My hunch is that he fears a kind of opposition or contradiction from a politically elected person as was the case between Asif Zardari as the president and Shah Mahmood Qureshi as the foreign minister.
The bane of contention was Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis on January 27, 2011 in broad day light. Shah Sahib turned down the request of Zardari Sahib to accord diplomatic indemnity to the heinous culprit.
Unlike the dummy or caretaker advisers, Pakistan must have a full-time foreign minister who ought to be shrewd, persuasive and an expert in foreign affairs. Between these two guys there could be a personality clash on policy matters and also on what to convey to the prime minister and who should convey.
If at all there should be an adviser (Sartaj Aziz) or special assistant (Tariq Fatemi), there should be only one and not two with divergent backgrounds. If there is a conflict of opinion between these highly senior people then it can negatively impinge upon Pakistan’s relations with both friendly and not unfriendly countries.
The foreign office  must have also been flabbergasted and rather averse to having two gentlemen hovering on their heads who may not be having an insight into the intricacies of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the rest of the world. It is not known who goes through of files sent from the foreign office to the prime minister secretariat.
Understandably  the prime minster has neither time nor stamina and even inclination to read all those files and issue orders as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto used to do( while working myself in the foreign office I have seen the comments of prime ZAB almost on each file).
But ZAB was a wizard as far as the foreign affairs were concerned. No one can beat him in that domain. But presently at least Pakistan can have a full time person with a title of foreign minister who is aware of the art of diplomacy and the vision to run the External Affairs with confidence, authority and foresight.