Mumtaz Zahra Baloch appointed new FO spokesperson

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, currently serving as additional secretary Asia & Pacific, was appointed on Friday as the new spokesperson of the Foreign Office.

She has replaced Asim Iftikhar, who has been appointed as Pakistan’s ambassador to France.

Zahra has previously served as Ambassador of Pakistan to the Republic of Korea (2020-2021), Minister/Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Pakistan in Beijing (2015-2020), Counsellor for Political Affairs at the Embassy of Pakistan, Washington DC (2006-2011) and as Second Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, Geneva (1999- 2002).

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs she has served as Director (America), Director (Security Council and Human Rights) and Director (Strategic Planning) in the Office of the Foreign Secretary. During 2014-2015, she served as Director (Academic Programme) and later as Director General of the Foreign Service Academy Islamabad.

Baloch holds Master’s degree in Physics from the Punjab University, Lahore, a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, USA and a degree from the prestigious Ecole Nationale d’ Administration, France.

Also the Foreign Office for the first time appointed a deputy spokesperson. “It has been decided that Ms Saima Sayed, Director General (Strategic Communication Division) will serve as Deputy Spokesperson person of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in addition to her own duties, with immediate effect and until further orders,” read a notification.

On the other hand, Pakistan is without a full time foreign secretary for a month and half with no clarity from the government as to why there is a delay in such a key appointment.

The position of foreign secretary fell vacant after incumbent Sohail Mehmood retired in late September after reaching the age of superannuation.

Instead of appointing a full-time foreign secretary, the government gave additional charge of foreign secretary to Jauhar Saleem, a grade 22 officer of the Foreign Service and current special secretary Europe.

“Mr Jauhar Saleem, a BS-22 officer of foreign service of Pakistan, presently posted as special secretary, Europe, is assigned to look after charge of the post of secretary, foreign affairs, in addition to his own duties, with immediate effect and until further orders,” read a notification issued by the Establishment Division.

Sources said the government’s move was a stopgap arrangement as Cyrus Qazi, a grade-21 officer of the Foreign Service and outgoing ambassador to Turkey, will eventually be appointed as the new foreign secretary.

Since he is currently a grade-21 officer, he will be first promoted to the grade-22 in the promotion board meeting expected to take place in the first week of November. However, the promotion board meeting has yet to take place as there is no clarity when the full time foreign secretary will be appointed.

Sources said the stopgap arrangement is certainly affecting the working of the Foreign Office as Johar Saleem having a look after charge of foreign secretary cannot take the key policy decisions.

It was earlier reported that Asad Majid, who wrote the cypher in March as Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, would be appointed as the new foreign secretary.

But as the new audio leaks surfaced bringing once again to the spotlight the diplomatic cable, which the former prime minister Imran Khan has cited as evidence of US controversy behind his removal through a vote of no-confidence earlier in the year, the government apparently was forced to review its decision.

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