Only 1 woman each from Balochistan, AJK in Foreign Service | Pakistan Today

Only 1 woman each from Balochistan, AJK in Foreign Service

Although the number of women joining the Foreign Service of Pakistan is on the rise, only one out of total 63 serving women officers is from the country’s largest province Balochistan, and one from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
Interestingly, the number of women from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) currently serving in the Foreign Service is greater than those from Sindh. However, Punjab takes the lead with the highest number of 45 women officers, followed by nine from KP and seven from Sindh. There are none from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas/Northern Areas (FATA/NA).
Fareeha Bugti, who made her debut in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2005, is the lone woman officer from Balochistan among a total of 63 women in the service. Ms Bugti, a grade-18 officer, was first noticed when she appeared on the scene as assistant director of the Foreign Office spokesperson in 2007. She worked briefly with the then Spokesperson, Tasnim Aslam, who praised her professionalism.
A bright officer, Bugti went for her Chinese language course to Beijing in 2010. She is now due to embark on her first diplomatic assignment abroad as the Second Secretary at Pakistan’s UN mission in Geneva. The total number of officers from Balochistan in the Foreign Service, including Bugti, is 19. Pakistani Ambassador to Iran Khalid Aziz Babar, who is a grade-22 officer, and Chief of Protocol at the Headquarters Ghalib Iqbal are among the senior most. The only woman officer from the AJK is Ms Tasnim Aslam, who joined the Foreign Service in 1984.
Currently, she is posted as ambassador to Morocco on her second ambassadorial assignment after having served as envoy to Italy. Known to be an able and upright officer, she became the first woman bureaucrat at the ministry since its inception in 1947, to be appointed to the high profile position of a spokesperson in 2005. Ambassador Aslam’s impressive career path includes postings in diplomatic missions in India, Holland and France. At the Headquarters, she served as director of the Foreign Secretary’s Office, director Americas; director-general at the UN division and the OIC. Earlier she worked in key divisions, including Europe and Disarmament. Notably for the last 27 years no woman from AJK has joined the Foreign Service, although a number of men from AJK have been inducted into the service during this period.
Currently the total number of career officers from AJK stands at 13 including Ambassador Tasnim Aslam who is among the senior most, serving in grade 20.
According to a survey conducted by this scribe of the total 63 career women officers (highest number ever), two are serving in grade-22 (additional secretary & special secretary level), five in grade-21 (additional secretary level), eight in grade-20 (director general level), nine in grade-19, and 15 in grade-18 (director/deputy director level). The maximum number of officers – 24 – are in grade-17 (assistant director level), indicating that in the last five to seven years an increasing number of women are opting for the Foreign Service.
Visibility of women is across the board and they are posted in various positions to key regional desks as well as to the administrative, protocol and policy planning divisions. At the headquarters there are two additional secretaries (Ayesha Riaz, head of Europe division and Fauzia Sana in charge of Foreign Affairs at the PM’s Secretariat), one director-general (Zehra Akbari, head of South Asia desk), and four directors including Ayesha Farooqui (India), Mumtaz Zahra Baloch (UN), and Leena Salim Moazzam (Policy Planning) and Saima Sayed (Deputy Chief of Protocol). More than 20 women work as assistant directors at the headquarters and over a dozen are posted in various missions abroad at different levels including deputy head of missions, counsellors, first, second and third secretaries.