Mr. Haseeb bin Aziz's Profile
I joined the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 2005, after finishing undergraduate degrees in economics and law. I was, at the time, the only one among my classmates and peers to pursue a career in public service. I felt that the privilege of receiving a first-class liberal education in a poor country, came with certain obligations and responsibilities. I am grateful for a career that does not measure success in terms of ‘take homes’ and ‘year-end bonuses,’ but gives me a chance to serve my country while allowing me to combine my love of travel and interest in global politics.
I began my career as the desk officer covering the U.S. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2007-08). I was in Beijing for six years (2008-2014), where I learned Mandarin and served at the Pakistan Embassy. Last fall, I had the privilege of going to Princeton University to complete a Master’s degree at Princeton University on a Fulbright scholarship. On my return, I joined the Foreign Secretary’s Office at the Ministry as Director (Political).
The Importance of Learning (some) International Relations Theory for Diplomats
How Pakistan’s civil service recruitment process shortchanges its diplomats
I want to use my own experiences as a Pakistani diplomat (of 11 years’ standing) to make a case for why our diplomats ignore the lack – often complete absence – of any real exposure to the rigor of international relations theory in their academic backgrounds or training at their own peril. On the surface, the importance of having some grounding in the theoretical rudiments of international affairs for a diplomat should be self-evident. But alas, Pakistan’s fiercely competitive, one-size-fits-all civil service examinations make it possible for young men and women to enter the foreign service without having ever read a basic text on international relations. It is a system designed to pick ‘generalist’ diplomats (as also generalist police officers, revenue collectors and district administrators) by default; specialists by chance.
As a result, we find Pakistan’s Foreign Service littered by medical doctors and civil engineers, who have been only superficially schooled in the fundamentals of their vocation. Worse, many of them are complacent in their ignorance – as I was for a long time, until I decided to go back to school in 2015, when Fulbright made it possible for me to finally learn some ‘real’ international relations theory at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University.
Am I a better diplomat for the experience? Yes, I think I am better equipped to make sense of the increasingly complex world I have to deal with as a mid-career diplomat, who is at the verge of assuming policymaking positions. I also think I am less prone, as a result of my education, to think of the world in conspiratorial and paranoid terms – a peculiarly Pakistan trait that leads to much handwringing over vague notions of ‘national honor’ in government offices and on prime time talk shows on television, and not enough reasoned debate about ‘national interest.’
Mr. Haseeb bin Aziz
Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan, Islamabad