Amazing things are happening in our country. The government has appointed a Grade 20 DMG officer currently serving as secretary livestock in the Punjab Government as the new ambassador to France. Irrespective of the personality involved, first and foremost, this is a demeaning gesture to France, one of the P-5s (permanent members of the UN Security Council) and our leading EU partner in political, economic and security matters which also happens to be the only major global power other than China that has always stood with us in meeting our defence needs, especially in the naval field whenever the US dumped us in a lurch. Never have we sent an officer of Grade 20 rank to a capital of this high importance and profile. It is beyond reason and imagination that our government which claims to be setting the standards of "good governance" and which is also breaking Marco Polo records with its leaders travelling overseas respitelessly in search of 'Friends of Pakistan' should be nave enough to insult an important country which genuinely is a friend of Pakistan. By sending a DMG type non-diplomat of Joint Secretary rank with no eminence at any level, you are sending a wrong signal to the government of a friendly country. No matter how well-connected or highly influential family he may be coming from, the provincial secretary livestock is not an ambassadorial material, and despite his claims to the contrary, he is no match to scores of qualified, trained, experienced and hardcore, professionally eligible Foreign Service officers who have been waiting in line for quite some time for their turn to be considered for a senior and important ambassadorial assignment. In fact, if he manages the agrment of the host government and assumes charge as ambassador in Paris, he would ironically be junior to his deputy in the mission. It is a dj vu situation with a Grade-20 officer being appointed as chairman Federal Board of Revenue. If another DMG type weight-thrower bow is determined to go out as ambassador and if the government is convinced that he is ambassadorial material, the best thing will be to send him to a country where he could contribute to promoting bilateral "livestock" relations. This is going to be joke of the highest order. But appointing an ambassador is not a joke. It is a serious matter. An ambassador is always the highest-level representative plenipotentiary of a state in another state. He is responsible not only for the promotion of bilateral relations with his host country but also for projection and advancement of the political, economic, and strategic interests of his own country. An ambassador personifies his country's foreign policy and represents the top most echelon of diplomacy as well as the first line of defence on behalf of his government. This is not a job. It is a mission as an institution which symbolises the nation-to-nation linkage between two sovereign states and the person who is appointed as ambassador is supposed to be a man of high calibre, professionally as well as intellectually, and when assuming his responsibilities, he carries with him formal letter of credentials sealed and signed by the head of state which he presents to the head of state of the receiving state at a formal "ceremony" before becoming entitled to the status of an envoy plenipotentiary to fulfil his duties. Professional diplomats are always trained to meet the challenges of their profession to the extent that they are even made to learn the basics of social and behavioural norms so that they can conduct themselves in diplomatic circles with dignity and composure inherent only in manners and etiquettes protocolier that have developed over the centuries and are now considered an indispensable hallmark of diplomacy. An ambassador is expected to be the eyes and ears of his government which requires of him to be a negotiator and a spokesman. In doing so, he tries to build bridges, remove misunderstandings, and create an atmosphere of goodwill in which mutually beneficial relations in all area of common interest can develop. It is said that diplomacy ends where war begins, and begins where war ends. This is another way of acknowledging that diplomacy is a skilled profession just like the defence forces of a country. It is also the sole means we now have in the world for adjusting relations between states without recourse to war. Only professionally trained diplomats can handle this work. There are too many descriptions of the task of representing states and negotiating on behalf of the state interests. A number of day-to-day duties and responsibilities of a diplomat are chronicled in numerous manuals, memoirs and biographies. But the post-cold war multilateral diplomacy has given rise to new standards required to cope with the new global realities, including the phenomenal expansion of the international community from 51 states in 1945 to 192 today and the proliferation of transnational and global issues on the diplomatic agenda. In our own country, the job of a diplomat requires specialised training, skills and experience, as well as a high level of motivation and commitment. Like any other central service, Pakistan Foreign Service was constituted as a specialised cadre of officials who are trained and equipped to fill posts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our missions abroad. The training and experience of members of the DMG are in an altogether different field which has little or no relevance to a diplomatic assignment. The appointment of a DMG officer to a post which belongs to Pakistan Foreign Service and for which experienced and better qualified officers of this Service are available is bound to have a demoralising effect on those officers and also on the Foreign Service cadre as a whole. It will also discourage qualified young men and women from choosing the diplomatic career in future. This will impact adversely on the country's ability to meet the increasingly demanding diplomatic challenges of today and tomorrow. This ambassadorial appointment is also a violation of the established administrative and service structure under which posts of heads of diplomatic missions abroad are reserved, with the exception of a limited number for non-career appointees, for members of the Foreign Service of Pakistan. Already our Foreign Service officers are simmering with resentment and frustration, and some of them are even thinking of knocking the doors of the judiciary to come to their rescue in this hour of supreme injustice to them. Our missions abroad have a key role in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy. It is therefore of crucial importance that only the professionally qualified civil servants of the Pakistan Foreign Service are appointed to diplomatic posts abroad and that adequate resources be made available to strengthen the Service and upgrade its professional skills. Diplomacy has been practiced since the formation of the first city-state. But today, the ability to practice diplomacy is one of the defining elements of a state, and is entrusted only to those who are trained in this profession. Any deviation is not without a price. But we have been paying a heavy price with successive political and military rulers treating diplomatic posts, especially those of heads of mission, as sinecures to be given as rewards to party loyalists, retired members of the armed forces or personal friends, with little regard to merit and professional competence. This practice has seriously affected the performance of our missions abroad while also undermining national interests. In recent times, an ill-thought appointment was made by General Musharraf when he obliged Washington by accepting its nomination of a particular person as Pakistan's ambassador to the US. He also made history by appointing a personal friend, a Sharjah based gas company salaried employee first as ambassador to the UAE, and later also as a minister in his caretaker Cabinet in clear violation of Article 31 of the Vienna Convention which prohibits a diplomatic representative from engaging in any professional or commercial activity. There are some lessons for our politician rulers to learn after having been kept out of power for almost a decade. If a DMG type can today claim the post outside his own cadre that he likes, the non-politician type officer with power that his professional office wields could also be tempted again to grab the politicians' saddle. One should never forget that unless justice is done to others it will not be done to you. And in a just society, as Plato said: "Each man does what he is best fitted to do and most able to accomplish." The writer is a former foreign secretary