ISLAMABAD - Sohail Mehmood will take over as the new Foreign Secretary today (April 17) after the ‘inspirational’ Tehmina Janjua retired Tuesday.

The outgoing top diplomat held a reception here for the journalists to bid farewell. Sources said she could get a new assignment as envoy to China in the coming days.

Her predecessor Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry was also appointed straight as ambassador to the United States when he retired in February 2017.

Earlier, Pakistan had named High Commissioner to India Sohail Mehmood, as the new foreign secretary of the country to replace Tehmina Janjua.

Sohail Mehmood had remained the top contender since the turn of the year as Janjua prepared to retire. There were other candidates too but Mehmood always was the first choice.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had made the announcement about Mehmood’s appointment in Multan during a recent media interaction. He said that the decision was taken following discussions with Prime Minister Imran Khan. Expressing his gratitude to Tehmina Janjua, Qureshi had said he had received a lot of help from her. “Tehmina Janjua handled the challenges excellently. She is brave and courageous and clear,” he said.

Janjua - called inspirational by the FM - served the country in various capacities and was the first woman to become Pakistan’s foreign secretary.

‘Inspirational’ Tehmina retires: Outgoing top diplomat meets PM

FM Qureshi also praised Mehmood. “Even now, after the Pulwama incident took place, he came to the headquarters for consultations and I benefited from his experience,” the foreign minister said. He expressed the confidence that Mehmood would fulfill his responsibilities as foreign secretary.

Speaking at her farewell meeting with the journalists, Tehmina Janjua said media had played a positive role during the recent crisis. She said Pakistan was working hard to ensure peace in the region. Janjua said Pakistan’s foreign policy was based on the principle of friendship with all the countries. Tehmina Janjua also made farewell call on Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday. The PM appreciated the meritorious services of Tehmina Janjua, a brief statement issued by the PM’s Office said.

New Foreign Secretary, Sohail Mehmood, has Master’s degrees from Quaid-e-Azam University and the Columbia University in history and international affairs. He joined the foreign services in October 1985. From 1985-1986, he received the training at the Civil Services Academy, Lahore. Then he shifted to Foreign Service Training Institute, Islamabad in 1986-1987.

In 2005 he remained at the National Institute of Public Administration, Lahore and in 2012-13, he did National Security and War Course from the National Defence University.

From 1987-1991, Mehmood served as the Desk Officer (South Asia Division) at the foreign ministry.  In 1995-1998, he became the Director (Iran and Turkey). In 2005-2008, he served as Director General (Americas). In 2009, he became the Director General (Foreign Secretary’s Office). From 2013-15, he served as Additional Secretary (Afghanistan/West Asia) Outside Pakistan, Mehmood served as Second Secretary, Embassy of Pakistan, Ankara from 1991-1994. In 1998-2000, he served as First Secretary, Embassy of Pakistan, Washington.

From 2001-2002, he was the Political Counsellor, Embassy of Pakistan, Washington. In 2003-2005, he served as Counsellor, Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to UN, New York (Political Coordinator for Pakistan’s delegation to UN Security Council).

In 2009-2013, Mehmood was the Ambassador to Thailand and Permanent Representative to UNESCAP, Bangkok. In 2015-2017, he served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Turkey, with concurrent accreditation to Macedonia and Kosovo. Officials said Sohail Mehmood was in the ‘good books’ of both Prime Minster Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi. Career diplomat Tehmina Janjua had taken over as the first woman Foreign Secretary of Pakistan in March 2017. Janjua’s appointment by then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to replace Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry had left many aspirants stunned.

Foreign secretary’s job is significant as Pakistan struggles to revive its image as a global player. In the recent months, Pakistan has improved ties with the United States.

Pakistan has played a big role to bring the Afghan Taliban on the talks table with the US. Washington has already started acknowledging Pakistan’s role.

Foreign Minister Qureshi was looking for an active foreign secretary who could work with him as a team to drag the country out of the diplomatic challenges, close aides said.