Afghan missions abroad serve as inns for aging diplomats
KABUL (Pajhwok): Afghanistan is though relatively small country but it has over 1,000 diplomats, with majority of them have been appointed on nepotism basis, findings by Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN) show.
The findings reveal that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has over 1,400 personnel who serve in missions abroad, Kabul and across many provinces. Afghanistan has 60 political missions across the world.
Analysts believe having 1,000 diplomats in a country with 27 million inhabitants is a huge figure compared to other countries in the region and their active diplomatic involvement in the world.
India, they point out, with 1.2 billion population--- the second highest in the world--- has only 930 diplomats. Countries like Iran and Pakistan comparatively more populous than Afghanistan has less than 1,000 diplomats.
The MoFA is overstaffed and the qualifications of a number of its employees are irrelevant to the positions they are working on.
According to human resources document of the MoFA, except contract-based employees and locally employed staff, other employees are considered Career Diplomats (CD). They need to go through proper administrative procedure, pass entrance examinations and should not be political appointees.
A diplomat should at least have a bachelor’s degree or above in a related field. Based on the document, when a political appointee term gets over and if he/she is interested to continue as a CD he/she should have the required educational qualification and not be above 60 years of age.
Based on the document, political appointees such as ambassadors, consular, directors and other officials should not be more than 20% at the MoFA.
Afghanistan’s diplomatic relations in the last 14 years:
Sources within the ministry of foreign affairs say that majority of the diplomats appointed at the ministry are relatives and cronies of top governmental officials that have been appointed against established rules and regulations.
Some of them are aged diplomats that do not have the ability to work properly or establish good diplomatic relations with the host countries.
Abdul Qader Zazai, member of the international affairs committee of the Wolesi Jirga, said the committee has gathered documents proving over 200 employees of the MoFA were appointed on nepotism basis and were not qualified for the jobs.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News that they have divided these 200 employees into four sections. The categories include those who have been appointed without keeping in view their field of studies, those who do not have higher education, those who have spent more than three years in embassies and those who are above the retirement age.
Zazai added the attaches that were sent to the embassies from other ministries were also considered as diplomats. He said there were no need for many attaches in an embassy and despite their suggestions against it some ministries send their officials as attaches.
“The government has repeatedly assured us to strictly adopt criteria people with links to high-ups continue to be appointed on top posts,” he added.
He said the current structure of the MoFA employees was in contravention to established law and the officials should work to devise new structure based on international standards.
Spec of a diplomat:
A diplomat is a government official who should protect his/her national interests in all circumstances including war, economic deals, cultural issues and other regional and global activities. He or she should have enough knowledge about justice and politics.
A diplomat has five key jobs and to serve as a representative for his home country in a host country, negotiate with the government of the host country, support home country’s interests in host state, collect legal information and promote friendly relations with the host country.
However, lack of professionalism among young ambassadors in the past 14 years is main problems being faced by the Afghan embassies abroad.
Experts believe that absence of professional and dedicated diplomats is the main obstacle to promote the country’s interests globally.
In addition, the culture of nepotism in Afghan government was yet another problem that virtually paralyzed the embassies of the country to function in a vibrant way.
Sharafuddin Sharafyar, a university lecturer and an expert of international affairs, said that Afghanistan had achieved some progress to build ties with world states but lack of professional envoys was a stumbling block for the country to build durable ties with other states.
Azizullah Karzai, uncle of former president Hamid Karzai, is an example who have 92 years of age but had served several times as Afghan ambassador to Moscow,” he said, adding other Afghan ambassadors were aged also that could not work properly.
Sayed Massoud Ahmadi, another international affairs expert, voiced same concerns by saying that there was a strong monopoly over Afghanistan embassies by some officials who used their influence to transfer their relatives from one embassy to another.
“Foreign embassies are good choices for elderly Afghan ambassadors. Time rip for the government to take decisive action against them and send them on retirement. Young envoys should be given a chance to serve the country with zeal,” he added.
According to a policy letter of the human rights department of MoFA, each diplomat after completing his job in host countries should serve as political representative for three years.
A lawmaker Ali Kazimi said that Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani was invited to Wolesi Jirga to brief the house about the issue of Afghan diplomats. He added that Rabbani assured the august house some elderly diplomats were retired and reforms would be introduced within the MoFA.
MoFA was forced to take action against all irregularities after an investigative report published by Pajhwok Afghan News that revealed that the ministry was overstaffed with the relatives of some government officials.
Following the report, the MoF last month sacked 24 officials.
Diplomats stay in host countries after their jobs end:
A number of Afghan diplomats do not come back to the country and stay in the host countries while some of them succeed to extend their tenure after retirement.
An investigation by an international commission of the Wolesi Jirga shows around 40 Afghan diplomats, with most of them have been appointed on nepotism stayed in host countries after their job period ended during the last few years.
However, Rabbani has pledged efforts are on to ameliorate things and remove obstacles in bringing reforms to the administrative affairs of MoFA.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has recently ordered to list those officials appointed on the basis of nepotism in MoFA and sack them promptly.
The outline of the foreign policy has not been approved by the parliament in the 14 years and most of the foreign policy issues have been summarized by the speeches of the president.
Based on article 64th of the constitution, defining the principles of foreign policy is the authority of the president and parliament.
Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi has recently asked the government to share the outline for principles of foreign policy to the parliament for approval.
Salahuddin Rabbani also said that the draft law would be shared with the parliament after a review.
MoFA spokesman Shekib Mostaghni said the outline of foreign policy was being worked out which would be shared with the parliament after it was completed.
Need for reforms:
In a move to further accelerate contacts with foreign states, it is of immense importance to bring reforms in employments structure of MoFA.
Analysts say Afghanistan’s diplomacy was extremely weak and lack of direly needed strategy. There is no active unit in the MoFA for policy making affairs.
Sharafuddin Sharafyar, an expert on international affairs, says the President Asjraf Ghani’s policy to prioritize his relations with foreign countries would be a great service to the country.
Ghani during his initial days as president has specified his foreign policy parameters that he believed could stabilize Afghanistan and promote its interests at world level.
In his move, Ghani prioritized Islamic countries, the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and NATO and ISAF member countries as well as Tokyo conference member countries for cementing bilateral ties. Asian countries are in the fourth circle.
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