Islamabad, Apr.27 : The Pakistan Government has sacked Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan, reportedly over his strong opposition to the PPP-led Government's plan to approach the United Nations for an independent international investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
It what has come as a shock to the Pakistani bureaucracy, the Establishment Division of the Government issued two separate notifications dated April 25,2008 - one regarding the appointment of Salman Bashir, Pakistan's current ambassador to China, as new Foreign Secretary and the other directing Khan to report to the Establishment Division.
According to The News, Khan had no prior intimation of these notifications, as had been the practice in bureaucracy. The notifications were delivered to the Foreign Secretary's Office by a dispatch rider around 4.00 p.m. on Friday, and were received by a director. The director informed Khan while he was traveling in his car.
The sacking of Khan coincided with the important bilateral visit of the Chinese foreign minister and it caught him completely off guard.
Ironically just a few hours before receiving the notifications, Khan wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi requesting him that he be relieved by May 31 after the review meetings of the fourth round of composite dialogue with India. He had cited health and personal reasons for his early exit.
Khan has been the pillar of Pakistan-China relations. He did not turn up at the dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in honour of his Chinese counterpart at Foreign Office on Friday evening. He also excused himself from the Chinese foreign minister's meeting with the president on Saturday morning.
Ambassador Salman Bashir was also surprised by the developments and telephoned Khan to get a clarification.
When contacted about the development, a senior official at the Prime Minister's Secretariat said the "sacking" of Khan was "not the intention of the prime minister or the foreign minister."
"There must have been some miscommunication and I'm quite sure it will be clarified by tomorrow," he added.
The official insisted that it was a case of 'sheer mishandling by some baboos' in the Establishment and that Khan would relinquish charge only around June when Ambassador Salman Bashir returned from Beijing.
No clarification was issued on Saturday, and Foreign Secretary Khan went to the Foreign Office in the morning to wind up and call it a day.
Even Foreign Minister Qureshi personally went to Khan's room to express his sympathy on his indecent removal and asked him to stay on till end May, but he failed to convince him.
Khan politely conveyed to him that he had made up his mind and was on his way out.
Orders were then issued late Saturday afternoon announcing the appointment of Acting Special Secretary Abdul Moiz Bokhari as acting Foreign Secretary.
A key Zardari aide, who is seen by many as the architect behind the hasty exit of Khan from the Foreign Office, has suggested that if for some reason Ambassador Salman Bashir could not return to Pakistan by June, Bokhari would be appointed as an acting foreign secretary.