Jun 012008

The embassy moved to International Drive in the upper reaches of Connecticut Avenue some years ago to a new building with a Shish Mahal-like entrance. The rest of the structure is invisible unless one views it from the side where stands, well, the embassy of Israel

As I walked past the other day in front of the abandoned Pakistan embassy on 2315 Massachusetts Avenue in Washington’s diplomatic row, I thought of all the ambassadors who had come and gone and how nothing of theirs now remains except fading memories of what they did or did not do for the country that had sent them here.

Husain Haqqani, who arrived here this week is the 20th of our representatives in Washington. He must also be the youngest. Anjum Niaz, who likes to stick her tongue out at anything that moves on two legs, is unhappy that a post for which civil servants recruited in the foreign service — whose self-important PFS acronym was abolished by ZA Bhutto — should have gone to an outsider, might sometime take a look at the list of the twenty men and women who have represented Pakistan in Washington.

She will discover, if she counts, that only six of them have been from the Foreign Service. While increasingly in Pakistan we rely on opinion rather than fact, there is no harm in looking up the latter from time to time, especially when writing for publication.

The first of our ambassadors, appointed by the Quaid-e Azam himself, was M A H Ispahani (incidentally the grandfather of Farah Naz, Haqqani’s winsome wife, now in the National Assembly). The Quaid was not only an astute judge of men but he always had an eye out for good property. Both the abandoned chancery and the residence on S Street, that lies five minutes away by foot, were purchased with the approval of the Quaid, initially, with Isphahani’s money, which was later reimbursed to him, but only for the chancery. The residence he generously gifted to Pakistan.

Today, the Pakistan government cannot make up its mind as to what to do with the magnificent chancery building. On one of his visits to Washington, Gen Musharraf declared that it would become the seat of a new Pakistan Centre. That promise has remained as fulfilled as that of “enlightened moderation”. Let’s see if the new steward of our fortunes in this country can do better.

The embassy moved to International Drive in the upper reaches of Connecticut Avenue some years ago to a new building with a Shish Mahal-like entrance. The rest of the structure is invisible unless one views it from the side where stands, well, the embassy of Israel.

One can be reasonably sure that every spoken word from Shish Mahal gets beamed to Tel Aviv, which may be a good thing because now Mossad is probably as confused about us as we are about ourselves. In the first floor reception chamber of the old chancery, there used to hang pictures of the ambassadors who had served here. Those pictures can now be seen in the new chancery, past the reception area. Here is a guided tour.

M A H Ispahani came to Washington on October 8, 1947, less than two months after independence, and stayed until February 8, 1952. He was followed by Muhammad Ali Bogra, who arrived on February 27, 1952, and was recalled on April 16, 1953, to be made prime minister.

They say nobody was more surprised at that happy turn of events than the affable Bogra himself. He was succeeded by the enterprising and popular Syed Amjad Ali who landed in the capital on 26 September 26, 1953, and stayed until September 17, 1955, which was an eventful period as it saw the signing of the mutual defence treaty between Pakistan and the United States.

He made way for the redoubtable Aziz Ahmed who arrived on Pakistan Day 1959, five months after the first martial law and stayed until July 1963. It is said that such a stickler for hard work and devotion to duty he was that the moment he would walk out of his S Street residence five minutes before the embassy’s opening hour, everybody would be at his desk. He was both respected and feared. He was followed by his brother G Ahmed, a senior member of the police service, who stayed from 19 July 19, 1963, to September 15, 1966.

None of these, I should add, was Foreign Service, though that was made up for by the arrival of Agha Hilaly, whose tenure lasted from October 21, 1966, to October 20, 1971. He it was who handled the delicate and highly secret arrangements of the Kissinger visit to China. A seasoned diplomat like Hilaly should have been allowed to stay on because of the civil war raging in East Pakistan, but Yahya Khan being Yahya Khan replaced him with General (retd) N A M Raza on October 22, 1971, whom Bhutto recalled on April 22, 1972. General Raza is now remembered for holding a birthday party for his daughter on December 16, 1971, the very day Dhaka fell.

His successor was the aristocratic Sultan Muhammad Khan, one of the finest diplomats in Pakistan’s service, who was a personal friend of Zhou en-Lai. He was in Washington from May 15, 1972 to December 8, 1973. He, like Maleeha Lodhi many years later, had two stints here, the second one from January 13, 1979, to December 31, 1980. He was followed by that superb soldier, diplomat and linguist, Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, who stayed from December 19, 1973 to January 3, 1979. His successor was another gentleman soldier, Lt Gen (retd) Ejaz Azim — July 7, 1981 to September 15, 1986.

Gen Azim was replaced by what by any measure is the best and most effective ambassador Pakistan has ever had: Jamshed K A Marker, who represented us here from September 17, 1986, to June 30, 1989.

His successor was another man from the services, Air Marshal (retd) Zulfiqar Ali Khan (July 12, 1989, to September 15, 1990). Najmuddin A Sheikh, a career man, came next but his innings were short, from October 14, 1990, to November 22, 1991.

His successor was the irrepressible Syeda Abida Hussain (November 26, 1991, to April 24, 1993), who was followed by another career diplomat — and one of the best — Riaz Hussain Khokhar (March 12, 1997, to September 7, 1999).

Maleeha Lodhi arrived next, serving from January 21, 1994, to June 30, 1997. Her second assignment lasted from December 17, 1999, to August 4, 2002. The sixth diplomat to serve here was Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, “the pink panther of Pishin”, who was here, though mostly there, between August 19, 2002, and August 6, 2004.

Gen (retd) Jehangir Karamat, who earned much respect for himself in the short time he was here (November 17, 2004 to June 3, 2006) made way for Maj Gen (retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani, who arrived on June 5, 2006, and departed on May 9, 2008. Two ambassadors who were sent but recalled without their having presented their credentials were Akram Zaki and Tariq Fatemi, both career men.

If this story has a moral, it is this: ambassadors come, ambassadors go, Pakistan stays.

Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is khasan2@cox.net

Source: Daily Times, 1/6/2008

 Posted by at 1:25 pm

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