The Foreign Service of Pakistan consists of civil servants who represent Pakistan at the international stage.
The Foreign Service of Pakistan is as old as the country itself. The ‘Foreign Office', then known as Ministry of External Affairs, started functioning on 15 August 1947 at Mohatta Palace in Karachi. The staff at the time comprised one Joint Secretary and 40 officials, with 40 under training diplomats. The first batch of Foreign Service was inducted in 1947.
In 1962, the Ministry of External Affairs was moved to the new capital, Islamabad. It was later housed at the Shehrzad Hotel and renamed as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1964.
The Civil Service Reforms of 1973 led to a change in the nomenclature of the cadre from ‘Pakistan Foreign Service' to ‘Foreign Affairs Group'. In 1983, the Group was renamed as Foreign Service of Pakistan.
Foreign Service is open to all Pakistani citizens without distinction of gender, religion or belief. An individual interested in joining the Foreign Service sits for the Central Superior Services (CSS)Examination held annually by the Federal Public Service Commission. Individual candidates are allocated the various occupational groups in the Civil Services depending on their merit and personal choices.
Once allocated, the Officers of the Foreign Service of Pakistan undergo common training program at the Civil Services Academy, Lahore and later are given specialized training at the Foreign Service Academy, Islamabad.
The new entrants into the Foreign Service receive training at the Civil Services Academy (CSA), Lahore in a combined programme for the training of all groups of the Central Superior Services. This programme is of six to nine month duration and caters to the common requirements of all service groups.
After graduation from CSA, those selected in the Foreign Service of Pakistan join the Foreign Service Academy, Islamabad for a nine-month long Specialized Diplomatic Course. The course is specifically designed for the Foreign Service and includes subjects such as Foreign Policy, Diplomatic Theory and Practice, International Politics, International Law, Pakistan's Foreign Trade and International Economics. Upon completion of this course, the trainees have to sit for the Final Passing Out Examination (FPOE) conducted by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC).
Foreign language training is an essential component of training of a Foreign Service officer. A few months after graduating the Foreign Service Academy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nominates officers for foreign language courses to study Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish at premier language institutes in the countries where these languages are spoken. The duration of language courses vary according to the level of difficulty of a language. The objective is to make the diplomats fluent in the language they specialize in.
Foreign Service officers are encouraged to pursue further studies to enhance their knowledge and expertise in foreign affairs. A large number of scholarships are offered by foreign governments exclusively for Foreign Service officers and every year several of them proceed abroad to study subjects such as international relations, international law, public policy, environmental law, WTO law, human rights, diplomacy and management at leading international universities and institutes. In addition to degree programmes, a number of short courses are offered by foreign universities and institutes including sister institutes of the Foreign Service Academy.
All Foreign Service officers are also required to qualify certain mandatory training courses at different intervals in their career. These courses are mandatory for their promotion to the next grade and include: Mid-Career Management Course (MCMC), Senior Management Course (SMC) and National Management Course (NMC).
Career in the Foreign Service
After graduation from the Foreign Service Academy, a Foreign Service officer joins the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad as Assistant Director. There are three categories of Divisions in the Ministry – Administrative, Protocol and Political Divisions. As an officer progresses in career, he/she would serve as Deputy Director, Director, Director General and Additional Secretary. The highest ranking official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the Foreign Secretary who is a career Foreign Service officer. At a foreign post, the officer starts as a Third Secretary and with successive promotions serves as Second Secretary, First Secretary, Counsellor, Minister or Ambassador.
Women in the Foreign Service
Foreign Service of Pakistan is an equal opportunity institution. Women diplomats have represented Pakistan through the years with distinction and honour. They have served in all regions of the world at all levels including Ambassadors, Consuls-General and Deputy Heads of Mission. In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they serve at positions of importance including Spokesperson, Additional Secretaries, Directors General and Directors.
Foreign Service of Pakistan provides numerous opportunities for women to excel and to have an outstanding career as diplomats. Providing an ideal work environment for women is a high priority. It includes an environment free of gender discrimination and harassment and providing equal pay and allowances as well as maternity benefits.