In a diplomatic embarrassment, Pakistan has cancelled the appointment of a retired military officer as its envoy to Sri Lanka, after the Pakistani Defence Minister raised objections.
In a statement issued on 30 September, the Foreign Office said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had made a number of diplomatic appointments, including that of retired Maj Gen Saad Khattak as the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. He was to replace retired Maj Gen Shahid Hashmat in Colombo, who had completed his two-year contract, Dawn news reported.
However, an objection was reportedly raised by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak over Gen Khattak's appointment as the High Commissioner at the cabinet meeting held a day after his appointment was made public.
The government then decided to cancel the appointment.
A source at the Foreign Office claimed that by the time the government changed its mind on his posting, the Sri Lankan government had already been requested for its consent, which is called 'agreement' in diplomatic lingo, for appointing Gen Khattak as the High Commissioner. In diplomatic practice, the consent of the receiving state is mandatory for ambassadorial appointments.
The request for agreement for Gen Khattak had to be withdrawn. Withdrawing nominations isn't unusual. Countries occasionally take back nominations. Similarly, at times the receiving countries reject nominations. It is for this reason that appointments are not announced by the sending state until the agreement is not received from the receiving state. That practice was followed by Pakistan as well in the past. However, it changed under the PTI government and nominations are now announced before the receipt of the agreement, Dawn said.
This diplomatic faux pas aside, Gen Khattak's episode has also brought into the spotlight the procedure for appointment of retired military officers against the 20 per cent quota of non-career ambassadors. Although not a hard and fast rule, military officers have traditionally held eight of the 16 slots for non-career ambassadors. These include envoys in Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Brunei, Bosnia, Nigeria, Mauritius, the Maldives and Jordan.
Defence Minister Khattak was contacted for his comments, but no response to the query was received from him, Dawn said.
It is alleged that rivalry between the minister and Gen Khattak was political in nature as both hail from Nowshera. Defence Minister Khattak had previously blocked his appointment as the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board.
Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal, in response to a query, said: "I cannot comment on what was discussed during the cabinet meeting, but as far as the ambassadorial postings are concerned, it may be noted that these were made following a well-established set of procedures and practices."