The Foreign Office has turned out to be clever enough in getting the support of the retired diplomats to block the appointment of a DMG officer as Pakistan's Ambassador to France. Frustration among career diplomats is not hard to fathom. They resent the decision of letting a DMG officer gatecrash into the Foreign Service and grab a prized assignment abroad, though they understand that ambassadorial postings are the government's prerogative and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs doesn't have the last word on such matters. But they considered it as an insult when the nomination papers of senior diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani, who was recommended by the Foreign Office for the ambassadorial assignment to France, were withdrawn to accommodate Punjab Livestock Secretary Jehanzeb Khan. Now that his papers have been despatched by the government to Paris for an agrment the aggrieved party's only hope is that the French government may not give a go ahead. They meanwhile have the Association of Former Ambassadors joining the rumpus over the District Management Group officers now trying to grab top diplomatic slots of the Foreign Office after having made a clear choice of their career paths at the very outset of their service. They are all up in arms. Many among this group of former diplomats have gone to the extent of accusing the PPP government of patronising loyalists and promoting nepotism rather than making appointments on the basis of merit and professional competence. One wonders why these former ambassadors, once the shining stars of our diplomacy, had never shown the spine to lift a finger when retired generals were being given key diplomatic assignments during successive military regimes. Did they have the courage to tell the likes of Zia and Musharraf that sending non-career diplomats abroad was like disrespecting the Foreign Office? It however remains difficult to recall when was the last time they had expressed pleasure over political appointments to ambassadorial slots. There is no dearth of the conspiracy theorists who blame President Zardari for having some sort of vested interest in the appointment of Jehanzeb Khan, a mid-career civil servant promoted to grade 20 just a year ago, as ambassador to Paris. Perhaps those indulging in the unsavoury criticism are reading too much into the situation without checking facts: Jehanzeb was actually the choice of the French government and the presidency had nothing to do with it. President Zardari had called him for interview only after his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy recommended Jehanzeb's name at a meeting in Paris. By the way how many among the elite of serving and retired career diplomats have ever had their names recommended by any foreign country? Jehanzeb's friendship with President Sarkozy's younger brother, that he is believed to have developed during his four-year posting as a commercial attach in our Paris Embassy, should not be seen as his demerit. Coming as it does, Pakistan can greatly benefit from this particular appointment at a time when Islamabad and Paris are in the process of negotiating a peaceful nuclear deal. Perhaps those running our Foreign Policy Establishment and obsessed with the high-sounding 'his-excellency' titles, Munir Akram and a few other widely respected diplomats being exception to the rule, perceive diplomacy merely as an art of interacting with the high and mighty while serving in missions abroad. Many among the former ambassadors now trying to pose as saviours of diplomacy do not have a very bright track record of lobbying effectively for the country or of countering the propaganda unleashed by its enemies. Jehanzeb's posting as Ambassador to Paris seems to have ruffled many feathers in the Foreign Office. There may be few among these ego-trippers who could appreciate the government's decision of giving the assignment to someone who is not only well-versed in French but also knows the art of diplomacy that could reap benefits for Pakistan. It is not because he has a friend linked by blood to the Elyse Palace but because during his previous assignment in Paris he commanded a lot of respect both among the elite and the public. One holds no brief for snooty bureaucrats. But it would be unfair to throw up the issue as an attempt by the District Management Group at trying to gatecrash in the foreign service, for it was neither a planned move to deprive the diplomats of their right nor manipulation by a mid-career civil servant to grab the prized ambassadorial post. The lesson the critics need to learn is: If you cannot play nice, don't play at all