Dream Team At Pakistan's Foreign Office

Dream Team At Pakistan's Foreign Office
It will not be over-stating the fact that the appointment of young Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari by PM Shehbaz Sharif as the Foreign Minister, and Hina Rabbani Khar as the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has given the Foreign Office what is called a ‘Dream Team’. This happened after Bilawal met Mian Nawaz Sharif in London where they discussed the makeup of the coalition government coming into shape. It was so good to see a young leader of his own political party meeting a senior politician his father’s age, one who had formed the Charter of Democracy with his Late and Blessed mother, Benazir Bibi. Warmed the cockles of my heart!

His first picture walking confidently to his office alongside Ms. Khar, with officials hurriedly following in their wake, reminded me of his grandfather the Late Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who too was a minister at the age of 30, two years younger than Bilawal, and who had the same walk.

We must remember that Bilawal grew up in an environment in which he saw his good mother Shaheed Mohtarma Bibi Benazir Bhutto handle affairs of State from a very young age. I so recall the day when I was with Bibi Benazir in the drawing room of Sindh House as she was working on some files I had brought to her as her Press Secretary.

Bilawal must have been two or thereabouts when he toddled into the room and went towards his good mother. As he neared the files she said, ‘Bilawal, line’ pointing to an imaginary line on the carpet. The child stopped, turned around and went to play in another part of the drawing room.

This is not to say that Bibi spurned his show of affection, she was a hands-on, most affectionate mother carrying her children herself when they were small, even with help around; just that she had taught him that he could not go anywhere near official files! The first lesson to be taught to children who will enter elected, democratic public service in later life; not brought up as self-admiring spoilt brats who think they can walk over anyone or any institution they want to walk over or insult.

Indeed, he saw his father, President Asif Zardari complete a successful five-year term in the Presidency, despite pressures from all sides, specially from my former editor and even now friend, Shaheen Sehbai, who every week forecast what was going to happen to the President come Saturday: one week the President was escaping to Dubai; another Saturday, an ambulance was taking him away; and the next he was resigning!
Well, none of the above wishful thinking happened, President Zardari completed his term and then after the 2013 elections handed over power peacefully to the newly elected leader Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a first time occurrence in Pakistan. Indeed the new Prime Minister graciously hosted a luncheon for the departing President, and saw him off with respect .

It is certain that Bilawal heard political and official discussions while he was growing up during Bibi’s second term, all part of grooming a young mind, and during the time his father was President, filing away the tidbits of Statecraft. It would not be out of place to recall that President Asif Zardari is a gifted politician, again during his own life seeing his father Hakim Ali Zardari a politician about whom even the then National Awami Party (now ANP) of which he was a member, spoke highly of when he left it and joined the PPP.

One has seen Bilawal in Parliament as an intelligent young gentleman who, despite the catcalls and mimicking abuse of the then ‘PM’ himself and his government’s MNA’s, refused to be drawn out from his smiling, gentle, self. Quick-witted, he answered these infantile catcalls in well considered words leaving his opponents tongue-tied. Well, he has an MA from Oxford, not a third class BA degree, which one got with the help of dons because one was an Oxford Blue in cricket! So little wonder!

No piece on the new FO can be complete without the mention of Hina Rabbani Khar, a former successful Foreign Minister, a well-spoken and intelligent woman who will be an excellent guide for her Party’s young and elegant Chairman. What a difference these two are, from the leaden-footed Shah Mahmood Qureshi who was too busy minding his fake accents both in English and Urdu, rather than consider the words he uttered.

I mean the way Prime Minister Modi snatched away the right of the Kashmiris of Indian Held Kashmir to be exempt from the Indian Constitution, right under the Foreign Office’s noses with hardly a squeak being uttered by us. Even at the time I had suggested that our delegations should visit foreign capitals to sensitise them to this utter illegality.

Thankfully the present team will be alert to any such moves in the future and protect Pakistan’s interests fully. They indeed have the capability to repair Pakistan’s foreign relations with the rest of the World that saw such a downturn during the fascist and mindless government just voted out.

A word of warning: The Ministers must ensure that Rules are put in that will prevent back-stabbers such as Abdul Basit, former High Commissioner to Delhi and wannabe Foreign Secretary, who not only badmouthed his former colleague of a quarter century, Aitzaz Chaudhry, but also had the gall along side Tasnim Aslam to let out Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s itinerary during his visit to Delhi, and then imputed motives to his visiting certain people. I would like to see these two do the same during Martial Law, or with an Army man who is Foreign Minister! ‘Bloody Civilians’ are such easy pickings!

I have to add: The day Abdul Basit’s nasty open letter against Chaudhry, then Ambassador to the U.S., was published all over the World I was at a big diplomatic reception in Havana and was talking to the German and French and Indian ambassadors and the American Charge’. The Indian turned to me and asked in English, ‘Excellency, have you seen the letter written by your former High Commissioner to Delhi? The others nodded as if they had read it too. Would the earth have opened up and swallowed me, but the Almighty came to my rescue and the National Anthems began to be played and the company dissipated!

Let me end by wishing Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Hina Rabbani Khar all the best. Stay safe, and Live Long and Prosper!

The writer can be reached at kshafi1@gmail.com