‘Foreign secretary removed for opposing UN probe into Bhutto killing’

April 27th, 2008 - 12:49 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto

Islamabad, April 27 (IANS) Riaz Mohammad Khan was unceremoniously removed as Pakistan’s foreign secretary due to his strong opposition to a UN probe into former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, a media report Sunday said. Abdul Moiz Bokhari, an acting special secretary at the foreign office, was Saturday named the acting foreign secretary.

Bokhari had served as Benazir Bhutto’s private secretary during her second term as prime minister.

Detailing the sequence of events leading to Khan’s ouster, The News said the Establishment Division Friday issued two separate notifications.

The first said Salman Bashir, currently Pakistan’s ambassador to China, had been appointed the new foreign secretary. The other directed incumbent Khan to report to the Establishment Division.

“The outgoing foreign secretary had no prior intimation of these important notifications, as had been the civilized practice in bureaucracy,” the newspaper said.

The notifications, signed by the Establishment Division’s Deputy Secretary R. A. Zia, were delivered to the foreign secretary’s office by a dispatch rider around 4.00 p.m. A director received it, as the secretary was not in his office at the time.

“Subsequently a director informed him while he was travelling in his car,” The News said.

“Curiously the notifications coincided with the important bilateral visit of the Chinese foreign minister and it caught the foreign secretary completely off guard.

“Ironically, just a few hours before receiving the notifications Mr. Khan wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi requesting him that he be relieved by May 31 after the review meetings of the fourth round of composite dialogue with India. He had cited health and personal reasons for the early exit,” The News said.

Not unexpectedly, Khan took “strong exception” to the manner in which the matter had been handled.

“Hence, it was no surprise when Mr. Khan, who has been the pillar of Pakistan-China relations, and previously served as ambassador to China, did not turn up at the dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in honour of his Chinese counterpart at the foreign office later in the evening.

“And that is precisely the reason he excused himself from the Chinese foreign minister’s meeting with the president Saturday morning,” the newspaper said.

Friday’s notifications were as much a surprise for Bashir as they were for Khan. A baffled Bashir even telephoned Khan late Friday night when he heard about the developments.

On Friday evening when the state-run PTV and other private news channels began flashing the news about the appointment of the new foreign secretary with “immediate effect” The News contacted a senior official at the PM’s secretariat to inquire about hasty move.

The official said: “I can assure you this was not the intention of the prime minister or the foreign minister. There must have been some miscommunication and I’m quite sure it will be clarified by tomorrow.”

However, no clarification was issued even Saturday and Khan went to the Foreign Office in the morning to wind up and call it a day.

Foreign Minister Qureshi personally went to Khan’s room to express his sympathy on his removal and asked him to stay on till the end of May but failed to convince him to do so.

“Mr. Khan politely conveyed to him that he had made up his mind and was on his way out,” The News said.

Thus, orders were issued late Saturday afternoon appointing Bokhari as the acting foreign secretary.

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