Cypher controversy forces govt to appoint interim foreign secretary

The controversy surrounding the secret diplomatic cable has cast a shadow on the appointment of a new foreign secretary as the government could not take a decision to name the chief diplomat and instead made a ‘stopgap’ arrangement.

The position of foreign secretary fell vacant after incumbent Sohail Mehmood retired on Thursday after reaching the age of superannuation.

It was earlier reported that Asad Majid, who wrote the cypher in March as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington, would be appointed as the new foreign secretary.

But as the new audio leaks surfaced bringing once again to the spotlight the diplomatic cable, which the former prime minister Imran Khan has cited as evidence of US controversy behind his removal through a vote of no-confidence earlier in the year, has apparently pushed the government to review its decision.

A foreign office source confirmed to The Express Tribune that a consensus could not be reached on the name of Asad Majid and hence it was decided to give additional charge of foreign secretary to Jauhar Saleem, a grade 22 officer of the foreign service and current special secretary Europe.

Read more: Imran, party leaders purportedly discuss cypher in second audio leak

“Mr Jauhar Saleem, a BS-22 officer of foreign service of Pakistan, presently posted as special secretary, Europe, is assigned look after charge of the post of secretary, foreign affairs, in addition to his own duties, with immediate effect and until further orders,” read a notification issued by the Establishment Division.

Sources said the government’s move was a stopgap arrangement as Cyrus Qazi, a grade-21 officer of the foreign service and outgoing Ambassador to Turkey, will eventually be appointed as the new foreign secretary.

Since he is currently a grade-21 officer, he will be first promoted to the grade-22 in the promotion board meeting expected to take place in the first week of November.

After his promotion, he is likely to replace Jauhar Saleem, the insiders revealed.

Initially, the government was keen to appoint Asad Majid and he was in town for the purpose. But sources said that since he wrote a cypher and a possible inquiry into the saga may bring him in the spotlight unnecessarily.

"Those who know Asad and work with him believe that he has a brilliant record and deserved the top slot but the cypher controversy has cost him the job," they added.

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