Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry is an anomaly within the bureaucracy. While considered one of the most prestigious fields of the civil service, the powers and jurisdiction of the Foreign Service are varied and shared with other departments. While other fields of the bureaucracy have a recorded history of tradition to follow, because the Foreign Ministry is a relatively new field of bureaucracy established after partition, its extent of powers and position in the hierarchy is a matter of confusion, leading to the possibility of the Foreign Service being overshadowed by others.

This recent matter of the imposition of income tax on foreign allowance is a prime example of the above. Officers of the Foreign Office have warned of a pen-down strike against the imposition of income tax on foreign allowance to the officers posted in Pakistan’s missions abroad, as well as the denial of executive allowance to the officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The tax imposed by the Finance Ministry on foreign service officers is also applied on their entertainment allowance, education subsidy, government accommodation, medical facility, sumptuary allowance, transport and every facility available to officers during posting abroad.

Officers of the Foreign Office are already disadvantaged in that they are expected to carry out their services many times on international waters, yet get compensated mostly in the rupee. Moreover, the government had recently announced an executive allowance at 1.5 times of the basic salary to all officers from Grade 17-22 in all ministries except Foreign Office with the notion that its administration is not in the hands of the Establishment Division but in Foreign Office itself. Keeping these considerations in mind, this tax is unfair, considering that it will make a minimal difference in revenue, but have a huge impact on the balance of the bureaucracy.

The Foreign Ministry believes that DMG, now known as Pakistan Administrative Service, officers posted in the Finance Ministry are involved in depriving foreign service officers of their financial benefits through the imposition of this tax. Such complaints about the DMG have been reported in other services. The Finance Ministry must take the Foreign Office into confidence and make a case for why these adjustments are necessary and how they will be effective. Our diplomacy is suffering as it is and such measures will make matters worse.