ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that has of late been a subject of controversy over delayed ambassadorial appointments to major world capitals and reversals of nominations to key posts has a ‘change of guard’ with two accomplished diplomats, now re-designated to high profile slots at the ministry.

Additional Foreign Secretary and former spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry who was promoted to Grade-22 early this week has now been formally nominated as the new foreign secretary to replace Jalil Abbas Jilani, ambassador-designate to the US. Additional Secretary Tasnim Aslam replaced Aizaz Ahmed last week as the ministry’s spokesperson and held her first press briefing on Friday. Tasnim Aslam, a two-time ambassador, has been appointed the spokesperson for the second time which is unprecedented.

Professionally, both have more than one thing in common. Ahmed and Ms Aslam have previously served as director (chef de cabinet) to the foreign secretary’s office, a position that is known to have taken officers up the career ladder. Notably, both the career officers have extensive experience in multilateral diplomacy ranging from the UN to the OIC. They have previously served as spokespersons and both were widely respected by the press corps for being accessible and professional as they engaged the media. Also, incidentally, both hold master’s degree in international relations from the prestigious Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston, but in different years.

Tasnim Aslam who until this week was additional secretary Europe will now head the UN and Disarmament Division that was led by Aizaz Ahmed prior to his promotion to the top slot at the ministry. Ms Aslam served as director-general, UN Division, in 2005-2007. Nadeem Riaz will now captain the Europe Division. Aizaz Ahmed will formally take over as the foreign secretary on December 27, a day after the incumbent Jalil Abbas Jilani relinquishes charge, according to diplomatic sources.

Aizaz Ahmed brings with him more than three decades of experience in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. He was given additional charge as the spokesperson in March this year. Initially, Ahmed had been nominated as ambassador-designate for Belgium and the EU where, reportedly, now Additional Secretary (America) Naghmana Hashmi is being sent.

Aizaz has previously served as ambassador of Pakistan to the Netherlands and represented Pakistan in The Hague-based international organisations, including OPCW. He has been active on the public diplomacy front. An important initiative by him was authoring the book: ‘Pakistan mirrored to Dutch eyes’ which was published by Sang-e-Meel publications. In 1999, he was posted as political counsellor at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. He has also been sent on diplomatic assignments to Doha and Cairo.

As director general, South Asia Division in 2007-2009, he was closely associated with the Saarc countries and the Pakistan-India peace process. As in-charge of the OIC Desk, he led Pakistan side at several meetings of the OIC and organised an OIC conference of foreign ministers in Islamabad in May 2007.

Aizaz Ahmed has also represented Pakistan at its UN Mission in New York for over six years as Pakistan’s deputy permanent representative and earlier as a counsellor. He has been engaged in inter-governmental negotiations at the UN, NAM, G-77, and other forums of relevance to Pakistan. He has also chaired UN parleys on a host of important issues, including HRM Reforms and UN Budget (2000-2006). He also served as chef de cabinet to the secretary general of ECO, based in Tehran, Iran, (1991-97) and facilitated restructuring of the organisation.

Tasnim Aslam, who joined the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1984, was the first woman officer at MOFA to be appointed spokesperson in 2005. She was known for her wit and tact in dealing with difficult situations during her two years as the spokesperson previously. On occasions, she was evasive while the press persistent with its queries. “Foreign policy is not like a one-day cricket match that requires ball-to-ball commentary,” she told a reporter once while parrying a question on the status of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations at one of her weekly news briefings. She held the key office until given her first ambassadorial assignment in Italy in 2007. Her last posting abroad was as ambassador to Morocco in 2010.

Ms Aslam has served at Pakistan’s diplomatic missions in France, Holland and India. At the headquarters she worked in important divisions, including Americas, Disarmament, Europe, OIC and the UN.