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When violations of the diplomatic protocol become the norm, the problem attracts

When violations of the diplomatic protocol become the norm, the problem attracts

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the subsequent controversy over his talking points have highlighted a chronic neglect of our ruling elite: they do not follow diplomatic protocols.

Imran is not the first to breach the protocol when making the decision to call an official who does not share his status as executive head of government. In fact, such meetings are often held and the details of these interactions are kept secret from official stakeholders. Even the Foreign Office is still a foreigner, according to previous and active officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There are few countries in which the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of foreign relations are ignored as much as in Pakistan. This violation of protocol became common during the government of General Ziaul Haq, because he wore so many official hats. Zia became the chief administrator of martial law in 1977 and then was appointed president in 1978. He worked without a prime minister until 1985 and was therefore comfortable meeting with lower-ranking foreign dignitaries in the protocol, according to a former diplomat.

Compliance with the SOPs improved somewhat during the democratic governments, only to be reversed after General Pervez Musharraf took power in 1999. As a “frank and sincere” soldier, he preferred to personally hold meetings with foreign partners. In the words of Musharraf, he was playing golf when he received a call from the then Secretary of State of the United States, Colin Powell, in search of his cooperation in the war on terror. He answered with a direct “yes” without consulting any official and resumed his round of golf.

According to diplomatic SOPs, a foreign dignitary should not make a direct call. An application must be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would ask about the subject of the requested conversation and a call would be scheduled at the mutually agreed upon time. The protocol level of the caller is also taken into account.

In case the Secretary of State of the USA. UU I wish to speak with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I would normally refer him to his counterpart, the Foreign Minister. “Maintaining the level of protocol is very important, if the secretary of state can talk to the prime minister, he will prefer to maintain that link instead of interacting with his counterpart,” said a Pakistani diplomat.

The transcript of that conversation would be prepared and shared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to add it to the official registry, in accordance with the SOPs. What should be made public is decided by mutual agreement. In case a disagreement about the content arises, the conversation will remain confidential.

Hence the question arises: why did Imran decide to accept Pompeo’s call? A report from Geo’s Mona Khan revealed that the Foreign Ministry had advised him not to accept a call from a US official other than President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.

Was the transcript of your conversation shared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? No. It is also unclear who asked the Foreign Office spokesperson to tweet that the US Department of State press release. UU On the call it was inaccurate, particularly the part that claimed that Imran and Pompeo had discussed terrorists based in Pakistan.

Another false diplomatic step occurred on Friday when Prime Minister Imran Khan interacted with high-ranking journalists. It was reported that the French president, Emmanuel Macron, wanted to talk to the prime minister, but he refused twice to accept the call because he was busy with the media. He later received the call on the advice of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

If the SOPs had been followed, the foreign dignitaries would know that their request to speak with Imran should have been routed through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a call scheduled accordingly.

Another violation of SOP occurs when foreign dignitaries elude Pakistani diplomats to meet with political and military leaders. The protocol requires the presence of a note taker in the Foreign Office, who would record the minutes of the meeting and circulate them to all interested parties. Doing so is important to ensure that all state institutions are in sync. Distrust among institutions is the inevitable consequence of such protocol violations. For example: a US dignitary has separate individual meetings in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Neither party knows what has been discussed during the meetings because they were not recorded by an observer from the Foreign Office and no other diplomatic representative was allowed to attend.

The Pakistanis only learned through WikiLeaks that the then army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, in March 2009 discussed a plan with US ambassador Anne Patterson to force President Asif Ali Zardari to resign and flee into exile, to avoid Nawaz Sharif takes power in the back of the movement for the restoration of judges sacked by Musharraf. When this is the nature of such conversations, they can not be discussed in the presence of a Foreign Office note taker.

In his book “De Kargil al golpe”, the main journalist Naseem Zahra wrote that three officials helped President Bill Clinton at his meeting on July 4, 1999 in Washington with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, Nawaz preferred to exclude officials from the Pakistani embassy.

Similar scenes are evident when decision-makers in Pakistan visit Saudi Arabia, raising questions about whether the bilateral relationship is country-by-country or person-to-person in practice. When Musharraf was questioned about the sources of wealth he used to buy properties in Dubai and London, he admitted receiving millions of dollars from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and called it his “private affair,” although the money was received in his capacity as the head of state.

The routine violation of the protocol is also evident when different ministries issue brochures to announce that an ambassador has met with the minister. The Foreign Office only gets to know the meeting after the fact, and does not keep up. In addition to ambassadors, state officials happily agree to meet with diplomats at the advisory level. This practice is not limited to ministers: PM House issued a press release on a meeting between then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and the political adviser of a Western embassy.

Likewise, General Raheel Sharif would meet with visiting US officials who hold the rank of undersecretary of state, while his level of protocol is equivalent only to a director general of the Foreign Office.

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