Austerity aside: The high cost of diplomacy abroad


Austerity may not be the gravest of concerns when selecting property for diplomatic missions, reveal documents submitted by the foreign ministry to the National Assembly.

Though incomplete, the documents submitted in response to a question by parliamentarian Khalida Mansoor show that Pakistan has spent billions of rupees in rent for its diplomatic missions abroad.

The country has run up a collective bill of Rs2.2 billion for 69 diplomatic missions – embassies and consulates – over the last five years. This includes Rs39 million spent on the consulate in Chicago, USA, a country where Pakistan already has four other diplomatic missions.

However, not all the details are listed as Pakistan has over 120 missions abroad. Some very important embassies, including the high commission in Ottawa, Canada, are missing altogether. In some cases, the exchange rate is either incorrect or not mentioned, making the value of payments in rupees unknown.

According to the documents, the chancery building in Baku, Azerbaijan, was purchased in 2002 for $36,872 through a loan obtained from Parep Riyadh. The loan was paid back in June 2011.

Some missions are also rented from Pakistani citizens who own property abroad. Dr Tariq Abdullah has received Rs22 million from the foreign ministry for his property in Sana’a, Yemen, during the five year period.

The mission in Geneva, Switzerland, seems to be the most expensive. The government has paid Rs116 million for its embassy to Societe Prive de Gerance since 2008.

Some Rs36.2 million has been paid in rent to Leonardo Anidjar, while Rs26.3 million to three others for the mission in Berne, Switzerland.

Up to Rs60 million has been paid to a Dr Roger in Dublin, Ireland, over five years, while Rs22.2 million has been paid to Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Zahid Iqbal and Midland Heart Limited for missions in the UK.

The government has also paid Rs14.2 million to Dr Shahnaz Mirza Abbas Baig in Bahrain, where the mission has now been shifted to a newly-constructed building owned by the government.

Reef Limited received Rs33.7 million for the mission in Wellington, New Zealand, while Rs65 million has been paid for the chancery building in Barcelona.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2012.