The government has decided to decrease Pakistan’s diplomatic presence in the world, because with the economy in the state it is currently in, it can afford it no longer. Pakistan’s foreign service is one of the rare success stories of this country, with respected diplomats all over the world that strive to make the country look better than it actually is. And while Rs 3.5 billion is no small sum, and cutting costs on that level is likely to help—provided the money saved is spent on something worthwhile—one can only wonder if the state would have been better served by downsizing in some other sector. Closing down specific missions in countries that are not deemed important is also on the table. Serbia, Bosnia, Niger and Chile are some of the countries thought of as too inconsequential for the future.

The Foreign Office is hardly the biggest expense on the books and should not be downsized considering that it is instrumental in maintaining a positive image of Pakistan internationally. If it were left to international public opinion and the antics of our politicians, added to our friends in the TTP and all the other issues, it would not have taken too long for Pakistan to be compared to the bad guys of the world; more so than it already is of course. So when everything else gives us a bad name, the diplomats are there to make it seem marginally better. In addition to reduction in staff and facilities available, the proposal also contains detailed cost-cutting methods such as reducing the funding for education for the children of diplomats by 80 percent and reducing allowances for health and overseas posting.

PML-N’s newfound commitment to austerity measures would be commendable if they actually cut down on spending that takes up a big chunk of the budget such as the money spent on defence. Now that we have finally gotten this far, when the government is actively trying to reduce costs, it might as well do the real thing and make an actual dent in its accounts by giving less money to the army, and not be wasteful by getting involved in megaprojects that tend to cost more than we can afford. Instead of crippling a functional and successful sector of government, more money would be saved if the state went through with its decision of privatization of the PSM and PIA, and not let our Foreign Office become yet another botched sector of government.