PAKISTAN’S HIGH Commissioner to India Abdul Basit is likely to be replaced, with Islamabad’s envoy to Turkey Sohail Mahmood emerging as the frontrunner for the post, top sources told The Indian Express. Basit, who was a contender for the post of Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, lost out to Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Tehmina Janjua. Since Janjua has passed over about half-a-dozen diplomats, the shift in key ambassadorial posts is imminent.
Pakistan High Commission sources said Basit’s new role would become clear in a few days. Sohail Mahmood, a career diplomat, joined Pakistan’s foreign service in 1985. “Mahmood is a senior diplomat who has handled high pressure responsibilities, and can do this job well,” said a Pakistan government source privy to the developments.
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While Mahmood hasn’t served in India before, that has hardly been a criterion for selecting Pakistan’s envoy to India — neither Basit nor his predecessors, Salman Bashir and Shahid Malik, served in India before being posted as the high commissioner. Mahmood’s first posting abroad was in Ankara, where he served at the Pakistan Embassy from 1991-1994. Since then, he has served in various Pakistan missions abroad, including Washington, New York and Ankara. He was Pakistan’s Ambassador to Thailand from 2009-2013.
Before assuming his position at Ankara, Mahmood was Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad, where he earlier served as Director General (2005-2009), Director (1995-1998) and Section Officer (1986-1991). He is one of the senior most officers of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Born in 1962, Mahmood holds Masters degrees in History and International Relations.
Among other contenders for the New Delhi position are Afrasiab Mehdi Qureshi (currently High Commissioner to New Zealand), Iftikhar Aziz (Additional Foreign Secretary for Administration in headquarters), Tasnim Aslam (Additional Foreign Secretary for UN Affairs), Farrukh Amil (Ambassador to Japan) and Syed Ibrar Hussain (Ambassador to Afghanistan). Janjua’s elevation has created a situation where diplomats from a batch junior — BS-21 — will get the opportunity to serve in prominent positions. She was among the juniors in the BS-22 batch — the highest grade among Pakistan’s foreign service officers.