Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, January 07, caretaker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Idrees Zaman said that they have completed a reform package under which the ministry will undergo new reforms and changes in a wide range at different levels of the ministry.
The reform package addresses all problems in the country’s
foreign policy and have proposed some solutions, Mr. Zaman stated.
Bringing reforms at the MFA was a matter of dispute between
both leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG), President Ghani and Chief
Executive Abdullah, during the tenure of Sallahuddin Rabbani, an ardent supporter
of Abdullah, as caretaker of the ministry. Resigning from the ministry on
October 24, 2019, Rabbani accused the presidential palace of creating “parallel
structure” under the pretext of administrative reform at the MFA.
After Rabbani’s resignation, the process of bringing reform
in the ministry was kicked off under leadership of the Idrees Zaman as
caretaker of the MFA, backed by President Ghani.
The newly developed reform package is aimed at improving the
ministry’s functionality at the following four areas: changes in foreign
policy, including improving performance of Afghanistan embassies and
consulates, changes in recruitment process, promotion and disciplinary rules,
fundamental changes in performance and using information technology, and
facilitating a standardized consular service.
The reform package also contains bringing amendments into
the law applied for employees of the ministry, a substantial downsize plan in
all foreign missions of Afghanistan, restructure of the ministry, developing new
principles for foreign policy, redefining working process, and reforms in
financial and administrative affairs of the ministry.
According to Mr. Zaman, as the MFA is a “specialized and
security establishment” it needs a separate law for its employees.
A summary of the package shared with the media indicates
that 100 official positions within the MFA’s missions abroad and 78 positions
within MFA’s structure inside the country would be downsized as part of the
reform plan. It further suggests that four directorates and two deputy
ministries will be also integrated.
According to estimates of the MFA, the downsizing plan would
save around 600 million afghanis from being wasted. The saved amount will be
used to implement reforms within the ministry, provide a retirement fund for
senior staff members of the MFA, and to purchase properties for Afghanistan’s
foreign missions abroad.
With Mr. Zaman taking the charge in the ministry, a number
of MPs claimed that he was implementing an ethno-centric agenda in the
ministry, firing non-Pashtun employees from the MFA.
Rejecting the claims, Mr. Zaman underlined he was not aware of who would be harmed as the result of the downsizing plan. “I assure you that there is no ethno-centric and language issues (discrimination) neither in the current leadership of the ministry, nor in our directorates.”
Economy-centric foreign policy
Afghanistan’s presidential palace had previously stressed on
developing an economy-centric foreign policy which required the MFA to be more
proactive and focused on economic initiatives. It also noted that regional
connectivity, promoting economic cooperation in the region and beyond are
Afghanistan top priorities that need to be adhered into the country’s foreign
“Developing and implementation of an economy-centric foreign
policy, preparing certain plans for bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation,
and setting certain goals and objectives in an accountable and responsible
manner would prepare all the country’s political missions and consulates for
more effective operations,” part of the reform package reads.
Deputy for Economic Cooperation at the MFA, Mirwais Naab, said that the reform package is mainly focused on how to change the existing confrontations and rivalries into cooperation, and increase cooperation between countries to ensure interests of Afghanistan and other countries.