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Senior women officers await ambassadorial assignments

ISLAMABAD: Whether it is the outcome of a calculated effort to show to the world that Pakistan is a country of “enlightened moderates”, which has though now become a slogan of the past, or a demonstration for gender equality, our ambassadors in the influential European capitals are predominantly women.

In the political arena, Pakistan is already the first-ever Muslim country to have produced a woman prime minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, who was elected twice to rule the country as well as a woman speaker of the National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza ñ but perhaps not many know that Islamabad presently has nine women ambassadors in the influential capitals of Europe.

Sources in the Foreign Office argue that there is no other country perhaps in the world matching Pakistan as far as the number of women ambassadors to different countries in the European capitals is concerned.

In London, which is the most important capital in Europe, Pakistan’s ambassador posted there is Dr Maleeha Lodhi, who is a non-career diplomat or can also be termed a political appointee. Once a journalist, Maleeha has enjoyed such a long stint of ambassadorial assignments under President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the two most important capitals of the world ñ Washington and London ñ which no career diplomat can ever dream of.

Before the imposition of the military rule on Oct 12, 1999, Maleeha had already served one term as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. But at that time she was deputed there by the democratic government of Benazir Bhutto. During those days, she had a close association with Benazir Bhutto.

After the imposition of Martial Law in 1999, Maleeha was picked up by the then military ruler and now retired General President Pervez Musharraf as Pakistanís ambassador to the US where she served from 1999-2002 and became the longest-ever serving ambassador to the US. She was also conferred Hilal-e-Imtiaz Presidential Award for Public Service by Musharraf.

In 2003, under a fresh contract she was appointed the country’s ambassador to the UK where she is still continuing. Except Maleeha, all the other women ambassadors in Europe are career diplomats i.e. belonging to the Foreign Service of Pakistan.

These include Naghmana A Hashmi in Ireland; Fauzia Sana in Portugal; Tasnim Aslam, the first-ever Foreign Office spokeswoman, ambassador to Italy; Humaira Hasan in Spain; Asma Anisa in France; Aysha Riaz in Switzerland; Fauzia Abbas in Denmark; and Seema Illahi Baloch in Poland.

There are not many in the Foreign Office offering comment on the performance of these women ambassadors. However, the only woman political appointee, Maleeha, is believed to be the most popular. Maleeha, for being unlike the routine Foreign Office Baboos, is said to have developed extensive links with the Pakistani community living there.

While a considerable number of women ambassadors are already occupying major capitals in Europe, some senior women officers in the Foreign Ministry are waiting for their turn to head the country’s foreign missions. Fauzia Nasreen, who is a BS-22 officer of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and is presently Director General Foreign Service Academy, is one of such aspirants.

For being in BS-22, it is said, she would not be offered an ordinary capital. Raana Raheen, presently a directing staff in the National Defence College, is also to be posted abroad. Rifaat Iqbal, presently ambassador in Harare, according to a source, is also looking for a posting in Europe.
Source: The News

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