Pakistani diplomats and misplaced priorities

Published: March 30, 2012

The acting Pakistan ambassador (middle) during the briefing session. PHOTO: ZUBAIR KHAN

Every year one or two groups representing the German Journalists Centre visit Pakistan on a trip sponsored by the Pakistan Embassy. Information such as the aim of the visit, its outcome and the selection criteria is, however, kept confidential. 

Before their departure, the group is introduced to the history and culture of Pakistan, along with the ongoing developments in the country, the serious challenges they can face while there and ways to handle them.

Recently, Mr Mazhar Javed, the acting ambassador of Pakistan in Germany, accompanied by Mr Ghulam Haider, Press Counselor Pakistan Embassy Berlin, briefed a group of such journalists who are scheduled to visit Pakistan sometime during the end of March to the beginning of April 2012.

As is the norm in such formal meetings, a documentary was displayed on a beamer containing details about the area, the population and political system of Pakistan while relations with Germany, bilateral trade activities and high profile visits between both the nations were also highlighted.

It was revealed that 150,000 soldiers man the western border of Pakistan to guard us against terrorism with 900 military posts. In comparison, Nato comprising of 42 countries, mans 112 military posts. With a lot of pride, the audience was also informed that 17,742 terrorists have been either killed or arrested up till now while 6,600 Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives; 19,919 have been seriously wounded.

As the acting ambassador informed the listeners that around 3,500 bomb blasts have rocked Pakistan post 9/11 (300 of  them suicide attacks)  he was honest enough to accept that the reason behind the worsening international image of Pakistan was the presence of terrorism in the country.

As was expected, the ambassador was bombarded with several questions after the presentation, such as why the embassy doesn’t update the German press with latest efforts, why the Pakistan army and ISI are accused of supporting specific factions of Taliban, how women are treated in Pakistan, and why the human rights situation of minorities keeps worsening in the country.

A very interesting question which was raised was how much freedom the visiting journalists will have to make their own assessment of the situation, since it is a program sponsored by the Pakistani government with chances of journalists being taken to only those places that will represent Pakistani in a positive light.

The responses to this question were shaky and based on circular reasoning; in each reply the argument was given that the negative image of Pakistan is only the opinion of writers, having no bearing with the facts on ground.

Later, many journalists showed their dissatisfaction with the diplomatic chief representing Pakistan for not accepting the truth. It appeared from his briefing that either he wasn’t fully prepared for the event or lacked the latest knowledge about his country.

There is no doubt that the data comprising efforts made by Pakistan to combat terrorism was impressive, but it would have been better if the presentation contained a full analysis of the existing situation and solutions to the existing problems instead of just statistics.

Though it is a commendable effort by the Pakistan Embassy to sponsor foreign journalists to visit Pakistan and observe what’s really happening there, one cannot ignore the negative aspects which worsen the international image of the country.

Later, Mr Shamsul Haq Qudoos, a recognised journalist of Pakistani origin from the German Journalists Organisation, also the head of the South Asian desk in Germany and the main force behind this project, tried doing some damage control by playing two videos which depicted both the positive and negative aspects of the country. Efforts were also made by other Pakistani journalists namely Mr Qamar Ata, Muzaffar and Mr Irfan Khan who tried enlightening the group with more details during the dining table discussion. One has to wait for the visit now and see what the outcome will be.

The issue which needs immediate attention is the proper working of Pakistani diplomats in other countries. It appears that they were more eager to accompany the consul general of  Frankfurt rather than giving company to the journalists.  Germany is an extremely important European country and in my opinion, the diplomats should have stayed for the whole duration of the briefing event.

It is a tragic fact that these diplomats give their personal agenda priority over their job of representing Pakistan, an unfortunate phenomenon which has engulfed the whole governing machinery of Pakistan. One could easily feel the same attitude in the diplomatic officials.

This post was originally published here.


Zubair Khan

Zubair Khan

The author is currently engaged with the Educational Academy in Frankfurt, Germany and periodically writes for the Urdu and English Media.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • major-ji

    Appears to be an honest analysis. It is really like that when one sees the efforts of Pakistani Diplomatic Missions abraod. Hope ministry of Foreign Affairs can draw some lessons from it.Recommend

  • Adeel

    But you can not say it for all the diplomats. There were and are good ones also. Dr Madiha is still one living example.Recommend

  • neema

    “A very interesting question which was raised was how much freedom the visiting journalists will have to make their own assessment of the situation, since it is a program sponsored by the Pakistani government with chances of journalists being taken to only those places that will represent Pakistani in a positive light”
    From the write up appears the group is some where in Pakistan these days. ET has lot of resources, why not to find out the where abouts and get hold of the group and brief the German Journalists properly about strengths and weakness of this great country. Efforts to combat terrorism must be highlighted.Recommend

  • Waseem

    At least one thing I can also verify. The amount of activities required by Paksitani Diplomats relative to their very colse counter parts (India) is far less and in effective. Even In UK it has almost come to stand still. Indians do not spare any event and utilise all the resources to boost the image of their country. Can pakistani diplomats learn some lessons from them.Recommend

  • Zia

    To me problem lies in mind set. It is not only diplomatic corp rather in all public relation field one can see the stagnancy and lack of interest to boost the image of the nation. Attitude, behaviour and mind setting psyche of whole nation requires an overhaul. Who will do it. People have invested some hopes in IK of PTI. Whether he will be able to do it or not. One has to wait and see.Recommend

  • zubi

    Whati is new in it. We all know. LOL…………………Recommend

  • mir

    “People have invested some hopes in IK of PTI”. Who was unable to convince people not to take away rented chairs and sofas from his Sunami Jalsa will change the psyche of the Nation!. What an hope?Recommend

  • Golf

    Mazhar Javed is charge de affair in Berlin Mission. How come he is Acting Ambessador? Can mr Khan clarify………………………Recommend

  • Dr.Reddy

    Dear forget about comparing Pakistani diplomatic services with Indian Diplomatic Services. Our country has vision. It has competent leadership. We have good governannce. We do not sponsor terrorisam. Our Army is accountable to civil authority. Indian Army Chief gets order from Defence Secretary. Indian Foreign Minister is a carear diplomat and not form hotel managment side. First sort out small things and then talk about India.Recommend

  • Georg

    Do not feel so boasted about India. All is not well there also. Majority of problems inherited to Pakistan are due to policies of India. Let new election to come might be this country surpassing India in many fields. Recommend

  • Shahid

    In such sensetive positions it is important to hire very competent persons even if we have to recruit them from private sector. Competency should be the only criteria not quota system or connections but can only happen if we have a competent and patroitic leadership. It is better to live a position vaccant then hire just a warm body.Recommend

  • ZKhan

    You are right he is what you wrote. Asian Desk Head of German Journalists Centre introduced him as acting Ambessador as new designated for the Germany had not reported by that time.
    (Zubair Khan)Recommend

  • Sylwia

    To large extent I also agree to the point raised by you. While working in Poland and elsewhere some times I do write about Pakistan. When ever diplomats representing Pakistan are approached you get a cold shoulder. Can young Hina Rabbani Khar do something aobut it.Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Good article. I think the issue has multiple dimensions as you have mentioned. One is that we have so many challenges currently in Pakistan that it can be over-whelming for the best of people to defend Pakistan’s case. Secondly, the misplaced priorities and loyalties of many Pakistani diplomats are the source of the problem as well. They are more interested in pleasing and establishing lasting relationship with ‘Gora’ sahib than helping the country’s image.Recommend

  • Umer


    But you can not say it for all the
    diplomats. There were and are good
    ones also. Dr Madiha is still one
    living example.

    Dr Madiha or any otter diplomat can’t go past the general, can they?Recommend

  • Raj

    Dream on. If you really think that India is responsible for Pakistan’s plight then that very much explains what is the core problem with Pakistani populace.Recommend

  • Raj

    Friend, it’s not so rosy on our end to be very honest. We may be doing many things right, but a lot more needs to be corrected at the same time. The pace is slow and we have a mountain to climb at the moment.Recommend

  • Dr.Reddy

    “We may be doing many things right” For example!Recommend

  • Jugnu

    I would go bit further. To me 1947 geographical split was not based on solid grounds. After partition oppertunists grabed every thing. Now all over is mess and at least I have no optimism. No one knows what will happen with this country.Recommend

  • Adeel

    Area specified for generals is untouchable. I agree. No diplomat could surpass it. Even current Foreign Minister can not dare to say any thing. For routine diplomat working Dr Madiha was ok.Recommend

  • Pakistani Diplomat

    You are trying to enter grey area. Inefficiency or bad governance does not mean the split was wrong. You may not be optimistic but I am. People have started realising their mistakes and we are hopeful for the better future.Recommend

  • Leopard

    “They are more interested in pleasing and establishing lasting relationship with ‘Gora’ sahib than helping the country’s image”
    But here they were more interested to have gup shup with their buddy in Frankfurt rather than establishing relationship with Gora Sahib or Gori Sahiba.

    @Dr.Reddy and @Jugnu:

    Both of you depict more of traditional hate which you have with your neighbour. Keep in mind it is the same country which was not defeated in 1965. In 1964 it was economic symbol for Korea. Till eightees it was model country for Indian visitors. You never know in next decade or so it might emerge again as model country of Asia. Recommend

  • Sun and Moon-US

    “Secondly, the misplaced priorities and loyalties of many Pakistani diplomats are the source of the problem as well”
    Hopefully you are not pointing to recent turmoil which came to lime light by ex Pakistani Diplomatic Cheif In USA. There also misplaced priorities and loyalties were the main cause of trouble. About Sherry Rehman one can hope for the better outcome.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Your last paragraph says it all..Recommend

  • Awais Ch

    i don’t think they would have learnt enough!!!!Recommend

  • Dr. Who!

    Pakistan Foreign Office babus act surprised when the rest of the world questions “Official” Pakistani history and refuses to see Emperor’s new cloths.Recommend

  • Dr.Reddy

    “You never know in next decade or so it might emerge again as model country of Asia”
    If after 64 years this nation has not grown and matured then when. Recommend

  • Lala-Rajput

    it is not misplaced priorities only in diplomat area. Every where one can feel it. See the budget allocations with least portion for education, civic and social facilites for people. Parliament always busy in amendments and discussing issues having no relevance to the welfare of people. Political leaders draggging each other for selfish gains. It is like a laundry list which I can go on mentioning. Unfortunate part is no one is bothered to improve. Every one listens from one ear and lets it out from the othr ear.Recommend

  • Bakalarz

    Your expectations from young Hina Khar are appreciated. But after having deeply analysed the psyche and prevailing societal trends in Paksitani people I also do not see any hope. I happened to do some interaction with some officials of this country. I never found them to be proud to be Pakistani or doing some thing to brind good name to thier country.Recommend

  • Victory for Society

    the most obvious misplaced priority is on electronic media. Pakistani channels are full of political discussions programs. Always searching for loop holes to drag each other in to deep waters. Few light comedy programs are also there. All such programs are well attended and most popular amongst people of Pakistan. Harldy one sees any program purely focusing for grooming and improving the behaviour and attitude of the Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Rabia

    One can see what will happen further. Vegitable import has already started from India. Now agreement to import 5000 megwatt electricity from India clearly indicátes where this country is heading. Only wait and see.Recommend

  • neema

    Trade with neigbours should not raise any alarm. By the way what you want to predict?Recommend

  • Zubi

    Since many years India is doing trade with its even very tiny neighbours. Never ever it has attempted to occupy these countries. Why yor are fearing good relations with India. These days good relations with neighbours guarantee welfare and progress. Have possitive and optimistic approach.Recommend

  • Haroon Rashid

    I think our Diplomats are doing the best they can in a tough situation. Look, one cant hide facts!

    The author propagates that Pakistan’s image was not being portrayed correctly. Any attempt to paint a roses and honey picture is doomed to fail. The whole world knows we have problems, including terrorism, and we have to deal with those. Just trying to gloss over those, through a presentation, as the author suggests, is just whitewash!

    We need to really improve before we can start proclaiming to the world! All media manipulation can come later. Fundamentally, we need to portray reality, not make-believeRecommend

  • Victory for Society

    @Haroon Rashid:

    “I think our Diplomats are doing the best they can in a tough situation”. Which diplomats you are referring doing best. Gen Asad Durrani who remained in Germany for many years, about him recently it revelaed during court proceedings, was appointed due to likes and dislikes of some one high up. Do you think such appointment that too not from diplomat field can yield good results. Recently removed Pakistani Ambessador of USA was also a pick of persoanal likes and dislikes again not from diplomatic field. Both menioned countries are extremely important countries and if for such important countries there are misplaced priorities what else can be expected.Recommend

  • Bashir-A-UK

    Mr Haroon Rashid to that extent you are right that diplomats should not try to gloss over the factual situation. But this stand point of yours that Pakistani diplomats are doing fine job is highly questionable. Here even in UK the old man Mr Shams these days hardly doing any thing good for the Pakistan. Merely sticking to appointment does not bring any thing good. Author of the article has raised an important issue. All over the world and specially in West reputation of Pakistan very badly has been damaged and urgent damage control is required. It is the sacred duty and responsibility of Pakistani Diplomats working in these countries to make serious and honest efforts in this regard. But as some one rightly hinted if the top notch in this ministry is not the right person for the right job what you can expect from subordinate staff.
    : Recommend

  • wiseman

    @Awais Ch:
    Still you are optimistic that some times they will learn. I doubt.Recommend

  • Raheela

    Cricket and politicis are two different fields. A successful cricket captain does not neceassarily mean successful politician or statesman. People are forcasting some changes with IK but the way he is assembling tested and used team of politicians all hopes may fade down. Recommend

  • Haroon Rashid

    @ Bashir-A-UK

    Bashir bhai- You’ve made an important point about how it is our Diplomats’ sacred duty. But how much can propaganda work if the reality is different. The point of focus should be our internal affairs, and not some diplomat sitting in some outpost. We need to reform and improve internally, the foreign gloss will follow…

    @ Victory for Society

    Bhai again, who supported the appointment of the likes of Assad Durrani. Did the Parliamentary Panel or did Zia-ul-Haq’s the protege, Nawaz Sharif protest when Durrani was appointed! No., they welcomed the appointment.

    The only reason some people are protesting the appointments to Germany and the US, is because of a situation of sour grapes! How is it that we are happy with the likes of Malleha Lodhi, who manages to bag plum appointments from Benazir, Nawaz and Musharraf, but we turn a blind eye. But we’re perturbed by Haqqani’s appointment. Benchmarks should apply equally-isnt it?Recommend

  • Bashir-A-UK

    @Haroon Rashid:
    At least I could not follow your raised point. No where in the article or in my comment rosy or false propaganda is recommended. Only hue and cry is that Paksitani diplomats should professionally present the problems country is facing along with efforts to overcome such difficulties. Do you see any problem in this observation Rashid Bhai? I never referred any thing pertaining to internal matters. Here also misplaced priorities are working. How effectively Mr Malik is handling the internal affairs every one knows but since his appointment is also based on likes and dislikes as such nation has to suffer.Recommend

  • Victory for Society

    @Haroon Rashid:
    Mr Haroon first point is that I am not Bhai rather Behna as I am a female. Merely on basis of performance if some is mentioned does not mean that I have some likes and dislikes. If Dr Maliha has been termed as better option relative to Durrani or Haqqani basing on her performace what is wrong in it. Still she effectively contributing with very good ideas for the betterment of the country. In the past also many excellent foregin diplomats were there who took the name of Pakistan to top heights. So please keep in mind it is the performance which should matter more rather than favouritism or likes and dislikes. Person of your calibre and stature should be able to understand the point I am trying to make. Have a good day.Recommend

  • Neelum

    @Victory for Society:
    How sweatly said I am Behna and not Bhai. Have you considered the age factor also. Just wanted to add some thing light in this heavy topic.Recommend

  • Victory for Society

    Grateful to your sweat and kind words. No knowledge of age and to me age does not matter. Bahi or Behna are just common words so used it. Probably Mr Haroon Rashid has decided either to withdraw or to surrender. So we so truth has its own beauty can not be hidden with good oratory or effective writing. Recommend

  • neema

    @Victory for Society:
    Where you want to take the discussion sweety? It was an importnat topic but now getting bit romanitc. Little bit mixture of romance is however welcomed. What happened to the group of German Journalists? Did ET get some clue of its visit to Pakistan?Recommend

  • Looking for truth!

    From this story, kindly point out one instance as to how Pakistani diplomats are following personal agenda? And, will it be judicious to smear all Pakistani diplomats with a sweeping statement that can’t be farther from truth? I hope the writer would come up with a more objective piece next time. Recommend

  • Z.Khan

    @Looking for truth!:
    Clearly write up stated, instead giving company to German journalists, the Pakistani diplomats preferred to give company to CG of Pakistan in Frankfurt. Acting Chief of Mission and Press Secretary taxed the government to fly from Berlin to Frankfurt and back just to give briefing to the visiting German Journalists. With these journalists both spent one and half hour while program was for 5 hours. With CG Frankfurt they could spend more than 6 hours. Later on dining tables the German Journalists very explicitly felt the absence of diplomats and recorded their grievances. Still you do not perceive the misplaced priority of these diplomats is bit surprising. I have many examples of Pakistani diplomats from European and African countries which are relatively more shocking. As for your advise for any future write up is concerned is well taken and grateful for it. (Zubair Khan)Recommend

  • Kacho


    In the absence of an Ambassador in Berlin, the charge d affairs comes all the way to Franfurt, gives a briefing, shows a documentary movie on pakistan and spends nearly two hours with journalists who keenly asks so many challenging questions!!!! All this speaks volume about the dedication of Pakistani diplomats and not vice versa!!! The argument by the writer reflects he is suffering from some complexes. Frankly I would have thought that the representative of the embassy left after two hours of meeting so catch up another important event or meeting somewhere in the absence of the Ambassador, as the writer rightly pointed out germany being an important country where so much is happening on daily basis!!! Recommend

  • Z.Khan

    What complexities I have to suffer. Being part of the briefing I gave my honest analysis. Reply to challenging questions were scanty and lacked the depth. Both officials came to attend only briefing. It was scheduled for 5 hours. Normally on such meetings lot of discussion erupts on dining table and it happened so. However 2 hours before the lunch the officials had left the group of journalists. What other official committments they were to attend was just tó meet the CG. Being present on the occassion I still maintain it was half hearted effort and our diplomats must improve themselves.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Just wondering, what ”personal agenda” of Mr. Mazhar (whom he once referred as Acting Ambassdor and then Consul General in Frankfurt) did Mr. Zubair find out in that press briefing?? What else he should say?
    that Muslim are killing Hindus, Christians and Ahmadi and even their muslim brothers are not spared!!
    that they should not board on PIA plane; it can crash while landing in Islamabad !!
    that M/o Information will provide hand-fans as there is no electricity in Pakistan !!
    that the visiting female journalists should wear burqa and avoid causing sensualism !!
    that our mosques are now closed before and after prayer times !!
    that we wait everyday for fall of this government !!

    Cosmetics can affect to some extent in beautifying and that too for a short time. Recommend

  • Z.Khan

    Mr Mazhar, at the time of briefing attended the meeting as acting chief of Pakistani Mission Berlin. CG is different personality and sits in Frankfurt. Where you mixed up his personality for both the posts may be slip of your eye or my way of writing.
    The scenario which you tried to paint is the hard reality. But we loyal Pakistanis never get disappointed as Almighty is very merciful and can always shower His mercy on this country also. The chief of mission could have accepted the facts and same time could have informed the group of different efforts which GOP is doing to improve the situation.
    Any way every one knows how things are dealt with by Pakistani officials. How long it will go one has to see. At the end of the tunnel some lights can be seen though at initial stage may be a like a shivering candle light.Recommend