Deviating from its manifesto of merit-based appointments and good governance, the so-called business-friendly government of the PML-N is all set to appoint an unprofessional and non-technical official as Pakistan’s new ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva at a time when trade deficit is constantly widening, official sources said.

At a time when the neighbouring country India has strengthened its trade promotion offices for doing research on trade issues and give feedback to their missions in Geneva, Pakistan is going to appoint inexperienced and non-professional official as its permanent representative to WTO, as the post fell vacant after the retirement of Ambassador Shahid Bashir in August 2014.

The government has constituted a committee for the filling of this key trade-related vacancy but no official belonged to Trade and Commerce Ministry out of total eight officers chosen so far in the first phase of selection process.

Most of the officers, who are being considered for this slot, are from District Management Group (DMG), which include National Centre for Rural Development DG Zaffar Qadir, IT Ministry Additional Secretary Azmat Ali Ranjha, former personal secretary to Punjab CM Dr Tauqeer Shah, Additional Secretary Commerce Fazal Abbas Maken, Deputy Permanent Representative to WTO Tippu Mohabat Khan, Secretary Ministry of States and Frontier Regions Qasim Niaz, Rashid Kokub, S.I.M Nayer and Azmat Ali Ranjha.

Sources said that there is not even a single officer of Commerce and Trade Group in the panel, which is the only CSS officers group specializing in this field.  “Commerce and trade officers, with decades of specialized experience and training in the field of commercial diplomacy, have been ignored by authorities concerned. None is being invited even for the interview stage. “How the interest of the nation at this most important forum will be protected by a non-professional?” an official, who did not want to be named, said.

The embassies can play very active role in enhancing exports and promoting trade diplomacy all around the globe through merit-based appointments of competent officers who have extensive experience of commerce and industry. But unfortunately, the commercial sections of Pakistan embassies, in most of the countries, are represented by generally irrelevant officials, who are unable to study market trends of their respective countries, sources said.

Before coming into power, the PML-N government used to criticize the crisis of governance in Pakistan, saying performance of bureaucracy was ineffective and inefficient mainly on account of inappropriate appointments, postings and promotions. The PML-N leaguers, prior to coming into power, had vowed to eliminate corruption and encourage merit and competence. But so far, top-level appointments in government organizations, during the last one and a half years, have become scandalously and controversial as the government made key appointments in several entities including the National Bank, SECP, Port Qasim, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Trading Corporation of Pakistan, TDAP, PIA, OGRA, SBP, PSM, PTV and National Investment Trust etc, without involving the commission made by the PML-N government itself under the Supreme Court’s order, sources added.

They said that the present trade mission at the Geneva has apparently failed to lobby effectively with opposing countries to safeguard country’s interests in the recently concluded Bali Ministerial as no officer belonged to Commerce and Trade group having specialization in this field. The current trade mission at Geneva included Commercial Secretary Rizwan Tariq, Commercial Counselor Tanveer Qureshi, DPR to WTO Teepu Mahabat Khan and Economic Counsellor Aisha Humera Moriani.

After retirement of Shahid Bashir (also a non-professional) as Ambassador to WTO in August last, the commerce ministry had sent a summary to the Prime Minister Secretariat to initiate selection process for the prestigious slot.

The ministry constituted a committee headed by Federal Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan to shortlist three names for the top slot. The names of short-listed candidates would be sent to the PM for approval. Sources said that several senior officials have started contacting major players in the ruling party for posting as the selection will not be made on merit. They said that committee has already dropped several names who had experience of international trade and served Pakistan’s trade missions abroad.