Pakistan’s envoy to India, Abdul Basit, is among four candidates being considered for the post of foreign secretary, which is set to become vacant when the incumbent, Aizaz Chaudhry, moves to Washington as the ambassador.
Basit is among the four candidates in contention for the post, and the others are former ambassador to France Ghalib Iqbal, high commissioner to the UK Syed Ibn-e-Abbas and permanent representative to the UN Tehmina Janjua, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Intense jockeying for the foreign secretary’s position has begun and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has begun deliberations over prospective candidates, the report said.
Sharif has not dropped any hint about his preferred candidate but the Dawn quoted multiple sources as saying that Janjua is the leading choice.
Basit was “out of favour” as differences had emerged when he hosted Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of a planned meeting of the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India in New Delhi August 2014. The move led to the cancellation of the bilateral talks.
Chaudhry will replace outgoing ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani in Washington. Jilani is expected to relinquish charge in the first week of February but Chaudhry’s departure may be delayed because he is involved in preparations for the Economic Cooperation Organisation summit to be held in early March.
The government is expected to be “extremely cautious” in picking the new foreign secretary and Sharif has not even appointed a full-time foreign minister even though more than two-thirds of his tenure has passed. Sharif runs the Foreign Office through an adviser, Sartaj Aziz, and a special assistant, Tariq Fatemi.
Basit is the most senior of the four candidates and joined the foreign service in 1982. He has served as ambassador to Germany and deputy high commissioner in the UK. He was also the Foreign Office spokesman.
Basit was also Sharif’s choice for foreign secretary in 2013 and was asked to return to headquarters from Berlin for the new assignment. But Sharif changed his mind and appointed Chaudhry in December 2013, and Basit was then sent to New Delhi as high commissioner.
Ghalib Iqbal is a former naval officer who entered the foreign service in 1983. He mostly served as director in the offices of the foreign secretary and foreign minister.
Syed Ibn-e-Abbas also joined the foreign service in 1983 and has served as deputy high commissioner in India. Tehmina Janjua joined the foreign service in 1984 and has experience in multilateral diplomacy.