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MoFA asked to provide protocol to LHC judge’s son during foreign trip

An outside view of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. — Twitter/File
  • Protocol request made for Syed Muhammad Ali, son of Justice Ali Baqar Najafi.
  • Request seeks protocol during immigration process in Abu Dhabi.
  • MoFA can facilitate judges only when they are on an official visit abroad.  

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is facing a dilemma after being asked to provide protocol services for the son of a senior judge during the former’s travel outside the country. The rules of protocol don’t allow such preferential treatment, but the ministry has been instructed to do the needful, according to The News.

The protocol request has been made for Syed Muhammad Ali, the son of Justice Ali Baqar Najafi of the Lahore High Court. Muhammad Ali intends to travel to the US, and a request has been made that he be accorded protocol during the immigration process in Abu Dhabi and later upon his arrival at New York’s airport from where the embassy staff should drive him to his destination. The same is to be repeated on his return to Pakistan.

A letter sent by the senior additional registrar of the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench, which deals with matters where the federal government is involved, reads: “It is respectfully submitted that Hon’ble Mr Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, Judge, Lahore High Court desires for the provision of protocol facilities to Mr Syed Muhammad Ali son of his lordship at Abu Dhabi [airport] and John F Kennedy International [airport]”.

The letter has been sent by Muhammad Iram Ayaz, district & sessions judge, who is also working as senior additional registrar. The schedule of Muhammad Ali’s visit has also been shared. The protocol at the Pakistan end will, it appears, be handled by the police/FIA as the instructions to the MoFA are only related to Abu Dhabi and New York. The foreign secretary, Pakistan’s ambassador in the UAE and the consul general in New York have been copied as well in the letter.

“I shall be highly grateful, if necessary, protocol facilities at Abu Dhabi International Airport and John F Kennedy International Airport, New York, for fast process of immigration briefing, along with facilities of conveyance from John F Kennedy International to the address (mentioned) and other protocol facilities may please be provided to Mr Syed Muhammad Ali son of his lordship according to the above-mentioned schedule program”, the letter adds. A cell number of someone from the LHC staff has also been mentioned in the letter for contact in case the MoFA staff requires further information.

According to the rules, the MoFA can facilitate judges only when they are on an official visit abroad. There is no provision allowing them to do this when they are on private visits, let alone facilitating their family members. The rules in this regard were framed in 2014 and were approved by the federal cabinet. A letter from MoFA’s protocol division that was circulated to the high courts and governs protocol matters says: “Pakistan’s missions abroad provide all appropriate facilitation to the Honorable Judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court on their official visits to foreign countries.”

However, the letter continues, the ministry has no specific rules/guidelines relating to the provision of protocol facilities to judges going abroad in their private capacity. In this context, a reference was made to the Cabinet Division, being the custodian and initiator of such rules and regulations.

It further reads: “The Cabinet Division has noted that its policies/instructions regarding official foreign visits by dignitaries/government officials do not provide for protocol facilities to the Honorable Judges during their visits abroad undertaken in private capacity. (Copy of the Cabinet Division’s letter is enclosed for perusal.)”

Originally published in The News

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