Rehman Hyder The Prime Minister has,according to reports, recently decided against appointing political ambassadors abroad. This has again brought our Foreign Service into focus. Of the few worthwhile institutions we still have, it is our window to the world outside. The Foreign Services quota for non-career appointments needs to be formally abolished. Following Pakistans independence in 1947, several non-career ambassadors, men and women of capability and charisma, were sent abroad based on national need. This practice should have been discontinued once the pioneering PFS personnel inducted from young IFS/ICS officers opting for Pakistan became ambassadors - and later icons - themselves. Those heading the Foreign Office however, contrary to their counterparts in India, who opposed it in principle, allowed it to become a precedent. Following this initial erosion, political and military governments in the 70s, 80s and beyond have abused the august office of ambassadorship with negative overall fallout. Foreign Service officers were reduced to a pathetic minority in their parent Ministry, unfairly blamed for inadequate political reporting, inefficient interaction with Pakistanis abroad and ineffectual coordination with host counterparts. Ironic considering that until the 1970s our Foreign Service - like our national airline - was acknowledged by foreigners and Pakistanis alike, as representing our country with substance and style. This accolade incorporated PFS wives, envoys in their own right. By the 1980s, most PFS officers bereft of career advancement or promotion by merit, had little, but esprit de corps or camaraderie to inspire them; whilst the nations best and brightest youth radically changed their preferences from the Foreign/Civil Services to more rewarding service groups or stopped applying as CSS candidates altogether. The Foreign Secretaries during both invasions of the service - the lateral entry of political appointees (1970s) and the widespread induction of armed forces personnel (1980s) should have created institutional history by threatening to resign. It must be noted, however, that the Foreign Office has been responsible for projecting Pakistans regional and international position and image balancing against that of our much larger neighbour, keeping the Kashmir dispute alive and denying India - till now - its objective of a permanent Security Council seat. Also for the proposal, planning and perpetuation of several landmark policies: furthering North African independence (1950s); Mr Z. A. Bhuttos objective of nuclear deterrence (1970s); refusing repeated American demands for troops to Iraq (2002-7); coordination of all external relief assistance for the 2005 earthquake and the recent IDP and current flood crises; and negotiation of the only significant successful CBMs with India (2004-7). Whether the Foreign Office advised against General (retd) Pervez Musha-rrafs immediate and absolute acquiescence to Americas post 9/11 demand to access Pakistani soil and airspace for attacking Afghanistan, or if it was even consulted, is not known. Nor has it been to the cadres credit that nine Foreign Secretaries/Ambassadors, including five from the service, themselves became political appointees by assuming the office of Foreign Minister/Secretary General. In this sorry scenario of deconstructed ins-titutionalism, the celebrated capitals of London and Washington DC and the office of Chief of Protocol have become the particular preserve of political, military and other appointees, though a number of career officers would have performed as well or better. Mercifully, there has never been a rush of extra-service volunteers for the purely professional posts of Delhi, Moscow and Beijing The British government, on which ours is modelled, has a ceiling of 1 percent on non-service ambassadorial appointments. The Indian Foreign Office has had its 1 percent abolished. The Russians and Chinese classically have never had one. The French, Germans and Japanese likewise maintain their Foreign Service traditions. We have out of context taken the American spoils system. Economically too, this parallel system is untenable for a poor, populous country like ours. The Foreign Offices quota for all non-service appointments both abroad and in Islamabad, gradually reduced from 60 to 20 percent, must go entirely - no matter whatever effort is needed - and permanently. What is often left unmentioned is the quantum contribution of confident, capable career women officers to Pakistans Foreign Service. Since the dark days of the Zia regime, when several unmarried young women diplomats practically forced to resign, theyve come a long way. So, now we have 20 women officers of ambassadorial rank and a minimum 15 percent in the service itself - a larger share than in many developed countries. It can also be noted here that several of the priceless properties owned or rented abroad by Pakistan as ambassadorial abodes, each housing a part of our history, have been lost to us on the watch of part-time envoys. It is time we appreciated our Foreign Service for what it was and can still be, and that those in charge summoned the courage and diplomatic skill at their command backed by the service support behind them, to secure its future, as an institution and for the individuals that so proudly serve it and fly our flag abroad. The writer is energy, environmental and developmental consultant.