Pakistan senior diplomat Masood Khalid named envoy to China

Islamabad (Dawn/ANN) - The Pakistan Presidency has finally backed down from its controversial choice for ambassadorship in Beijing. Senior diplomat Masood Khalid has now been named as envoy to China - one of the most important overseas diplomatic postings.

The retreat by the presidency over its choice of the Chief of Protocol, Ghalib Iqbal, happened as a result of intense lobbying by some senior members of the Foreign Service, who were not pleased to see the plum posting going to a relatively junior colleague. They had argued that Iqbal lacked enough experience to be posted in Beijing.

However, succumbing to pressure from Foreign Service top brass was not a complete loss for the presidency either.

Iqbal, who was said to be President Asif Ali Zardari's pick, has instead been compensated with an equally important European posting - the Ambassador to France.

Getting 'his man' posted in Paris has long been Zardari's obsession. In 2009 he had tried to appoint Jehanzeb Khan, an officer of the district management group, as ambassador in Paris, but a strong reaction from the Foreign Service had then compelled him to withdraw the nomination. Top Foreign Service mandarins have accepted the compromise arrangement, but aren't fully happy with it.

They contend that Iqbal isn't experienced enough for an assignment in a major capital.

"Sanity prevailed in case of appointment for Beijing. But Foreign Service officers are unhappy with the Paris posting because the nominee does not have enough experience to head such an important mission," a Foreign Service officer said.

Iqbal is a former navy officer who was later inducted into the Foreign Service. During the course of Foreign Service, he has mostly served on administrative positions and has little experience of the political side of diplomacy, his colleagues argue.

Controversy over the Beijing posting had exposed the deep-rooted rivalry between the directly recruited Foreign Service officials and those inducted from armed forces. The directly recruited officers claim that those coming from the military get a head start in their careers and are given preferential treatment during selection for overseas assignments.

Khalid is a batch mate of Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani.

Khalid is currently serving as the country's High Commissioner to Malaysia. He has previously served as ambassador in Seoul. At the headquarters, his last assignment was additional secretary on the Asia-Pacific desk.

The Beijing position had fallen vacant after Ambassador Masood Khan moved to New York as the country's permanent representative at the UN.

Iqbal will replace Safkat Saeed, whose service contract has ended. Saeed was on a contract after retiring from the Foreign Service.

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