Make foreign missions answerable

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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday asked Pakistani ambassadors serving abroad to forgo colonial-era attitudes and treat overseas Pakistanis with compassion, saying the current indifferent attitude towards expatriates was ‘unforgivable’.

In his virtual address to Pakistani envoys posted in capitals around the world, the PM read out specific complaints received from overseas Pakistanis, especially those in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, asking the embassies to put their affairs in order.

There are no two opinions that a majority of our missions abroad do not treat overseas Pakistanis, whose valuable contribution is considered to be backbone of the economy, properly and an indifferent attitude towards their plight and problems leaves them at mercy of circumstances in foreign land.

Our missions abroad are supposed to safeguard foreign policy interests, promote trade and ensure welfare of the country’s Diaspora but only a few of them care about these goals.

The Prime Minister mainly focused on quality of service for overseas Pakistanis emphasising that people went to embassies to avail 17 different services, but the feedback received from expatriates pointed to ‘unnecessary delays and complications in availing routine services, non-adherence to time commitments and indifferent attitude of staff, especially in embassies of UAE and Saudi Arabia’.

In fact, there is something seriously wrong with process of appointment of diplomatic and other staff at Pakistan embassies abroad where most of the officers and staff are deputed not on basis of merit and aptitude but on other considerations like ‘sifarish’ and influence.

It is because of this practice that despite receiving bad reports and complaints, authorities concerned find it difficult to proceed against well-connected and influential incumbents.

The Prime Minister sent a strong message last week by suspending outgoing ambassador to Saudi Arabia and recalling six diplomats posted at the embassy in Riyadh on allegations of improper treatment of Pakistanis living in the kingdom.

However, the culture is unlikely to change until and unless a robust system of monitoring is evolved that leads to prompt and expeditiously accountability of all those who fail to deliver on targets relating to resolution of problems of overseas Pakistanis, staunch defence of national interests in the host country and promotion of trade and investment.