Home Interviews An interview with Pakistan CG in Milan, Italy Dr. Manzoor Ahmed Chaudhry

An interview with Pakistan CG in Milan, Italy Dr. Manzoor Ahmed Chaudhry

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Mumtaz Hussain Khayal

Our Special Correspondent based in Milan, Italy Mumtaz Hussain Khayal has interviewed Pakistan’s Consul General in Milan during the weekend. The exerpts of this interview are given below for our valued readers.

An ambassador is a diplomatic representative that attends international meetings, banquets and parties and acts as a figurehead for their country of origin. Ambassadors are also known as diplomats, a more general term describing those who work in a foreign country while retaining citizenship in their home country.

A consulate is similar to, but not the same as a diplomatic office with focus on dealing with individual persons and businesses, as defined by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. A consulate or consulate general is generally a representative of the embassy in locales outside of the capital city. A consul is a representative of a government to another, and there can be many of these per country. An embassy is a permanent diplomatic mission led by an ambassador. The term is also often used for the physical building they occupy, but that is more correctly termed a chancery. The code of consular law is the multilateral Vienna Convention of 1963 on Consular Relations, which defines the privileges, immunities, and basic functions of career consuls, as well as the legal status of honorary consuls.

I had a privilege to attend the Pakistan Day ceremony at Pakistan Consulate General office in Milan on 23 March 2019. I was impressed by their hospitality and the services they provided to Pakistan nationals on that day. Moreover, in the following days I set an appointment with Consul General Dr. Manzoor Ahmed Chaudhry for an interview. On Friday when I reached there at 10:30 am, I met with an internee student Ms Aysha there at the reception. Moreover, I observed the staff members and their attitudes towards visitors and applicants. I followed Ms Aysha, and we met to the Secretary of Consul General. He was busy with some pre-fixed applicants. After 25 minutes, I was in the office of Consul General. He was waiting for me, he welcomed and greeted me warmhearted.

After some informal discussion, I started my formal interview, here it is:

TFD: May I have your full name please? Moreover, where you belong?

CG: My name is Dr. Manzoor Ahmed Chaudhry and I belong to district Toba Take Singh, Punjab Pakistan.

TFD: What degrees, certificates do you have earned?

CG: I am an MBBS doctor; in addition, I have a master degree in political science.

TFD: When you joined the Foreign Office services?

CG: I have joined the Foreign Office services in 1996.

TFD: Where did you serve before coming to Milan? In addition, how many countries have you served?

CG: Well, I served in Pakistan High Commission South Africa before coming to Milan. Moreover, it is my sixth country.

TFD: How to define the main factors influencing a country’s image from the standpoint of public diplomacy? How to develop a scale to assess country image?
CG: Well, Pakistan is aware of the importance of public diplomacy in Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs there is a separate Division to handle the public diplomacy issues. Moreover, we are actively working on it.

TFD: How to develop a scale to assess country’s image?
CG: Any scale cannot measure diplomacy. Diplomacy is not a scientific knowledge or tool, that we can say it is 100%, 50%, or something like that. However, obviously public diplomacy is an important domain.

TFD: With reference to your Pakistan Day speech about the telephone calls complaint, you announced to install another new telephone line to cope with this situation. Do you think that staff is receiving phone calls properly? Who is monitoring telephone services in the office? Counter questions accordingly.

CG: We have one telephone line and it is being looked after by the staff of the Consulate they are responding from 9am to 5pm. They are obviously responding to these calls. Nevertheless, since we have a huge Pakistani community comprising more than 100,000 people, it is my consideration that one line is not sufficient. So we are undertaking two changes; we are increasing another telephone line, second part is the telephone lines will be shifted to automated system. The caller will be asked to approach his/her desired section, let us say that if you want to contact Passport Section, press 1, 2, or so forth. So this is how we are going to handle this, obviously it is being installed we are still going through technical formalities, as soon as these are done, telephone lines will be installed and exchange will also be installed, accordingly.

TFD: (Counter question) How can you deal with this situation when no one attends your calls? In addition, I quote my own experience that I tried five different times to approach your Secretary, phone was kept ringing all five times, but nobody picked up my call. Moreover, I tried to call to one of the official mobiles, and then my next call was picked up at half ringing tone. In addition, if you will install 5 to 10 lines, the problem will remain the same. What do you think about this issue?

Consul General Dr Zahoor Ahmed Chaudhry in a group photo with Attache Welfare Community Dr. Rizwan Salabat, Mohsin Saeed and Anjum (Passport Department), Ms. Aysha (Pakistani internee at Consulate General office), Ms. Robetta (Secretary to CG), and Italian local internee student, and other male staff members of the Consulate General.

CG: Actually, if it has happened, it is one of your bad experiences, and as I said that, we are going to install automated telephone exchange with one additional number, when it will be installed, then every call will be answered and listened. In addition, we will see the difference; because that time the calls will be directed to that person, and he or she will himself or herself pick your calls. We are sorry what happened to you, it should not have happened.

TFD: Besides the telephone calls, what type of complaints normally people lodge?

CG: There are two aspects, the issues and problems faced by Pakistani community in any country, one is relating with the home country, in our case, that is Pakistan, and the other is relating with the host country, that is Italy. As for as problems regarding Italian authorities are concerned, you know we listen to our nationals, we try to reach them and help them by approaching the Italian authorities. There is range of issues, I have set many appointments with Italian officials regarding our community’s issues, and I met with the central authorities of Milan, police chief of Milan. I have approached to the Police Chief and Mayor of Barcia, and Venice, next week I am going to meet with Torino officials. That is a part of outreach program. Then Pakistani nationals have problems related to Pakistani institutes with central in Islamabad and in district level. They have problems relating to police and other institutes. We are here to help to the Pakistani people. As for as the Consulate related issues are concerned, I personally supervise these operations. Moreover, all issues are being addressed in real time. Alhamdolillah, most of the issues get resolved quickly. There is a community welfare section in our Consulate also; we have a prominent dedicated professional Dr. Rizwan Salabat, who is working for community.

TFD: In the Consulate web-portal, there is an online appointment-booking link, but it does not work, or inactive, do you think that it is should be active and updated?

CG: Basically, the system has been discarded now and there is no online appointment system. The appointment are now been given to first come, first serve basis, and every day we have more than 100-150 applicants. In addition, anyone who comes by 1 pm, they would be attended. We have a token system, and assistants guide them.

TFD: In what specific ways has Pakistan foreign policy embraced cultural diplomacy as a tool for projecting its image?

CG: This is a very interesting question; Cultural Diplomacy does play a significant role in highlighting the image of the country abroad, and Pakistan’s Ministry of Cultural, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Information. These are three departments, which are dealing with it, and we regularly have cultural exchanges with other countries. The Consulate may not be active on that count, but it is for the embassies. Therefore, the Ambassador, and embassies are in a country are more tuned up for this kind of activity. Our embassy and Ambassador in Rome are more active. We regularly have Pakistani music in Italy and as well as in Pakistan.

TFD: There is thin line difference between diplomacy and hypocrisy, now what do you think?

CG: Well, it is bit harsh, diplomacy is as old as humankind is, but hypocrisy is a man attitude. Hypocrisy is negative approach. Diplomacy is a standard tool that helps a lot.

TFD: What is the risk of China’s foreign reserves accumulating on the stability of the global monetary system?

CG: As a matter of policy, Pakistani diplomats would never comments on other country’s policy. China is our great friend, and that’s it.

TFD: Do you know which countries have a developed Digital Diplomacy?

CG: Digital Diplomacy is coming up nicely, and obviously, the foreign services of any country should be able to take up the tools. We are benefiting from this Digital Diplomacy tool. All countries have different tools, having different objectives and goals.

TFD: In your opinion, what is the importance of soft power? When is it used?

CG: Basically, a country has many capabilities and all these capabilities are equally important. For example, the defence of the country is very important because you have defence power, and the soft power is a great tool in the hands of the diplomat. Over the years, Pakistani diplomats have refined this technique.

TFD: Do you consider China project One Belt-One Road (OBOR) as an Economic Diplomacy?

CG: Well, China has a great initiative of OBOR, undertaken by China and it is a connectivity project, and China wants to connect with the whole world through OBOR. Few days ago, China’s President was in Italy, and Italy is the first G7 country who has become the part of One Belt-One Road. Many world nations have become the part of it. More than 80 countries of the world are part of it. In addition, I think sooner the whole world will be part of it.

TFD: What kind of sources on Science for Diplomacy do you recommend for students?
CG: Basically, in the Third World countries like Pakistan; we want our students to undertake admissions in Italian universities. We also remain in touch with students, I met many different university’s students. Students play a vital role in any country, and we do our best to bring our students in advanced countries to study there and go back to Pakistan and lead there. I personally met with many universities’ officials, and we will bring more students to these universities.

TFD: What causes foreign policy to evolve over years?
CG: Like all systems, foreign policy is also a slow moving process, and it has to take into account the changing patterns of foreign policy of any country, bi-level, multi-level. Naturally, it takes some time; it is not like a click of the button. It is not same like 60s or 70s.

TFD: What type of new services do you want to introduce in this Consulate office for overseas Pakistani and foreigners?

CG: Well, I think the Consulate is already providing standard facilities, for example, we would bring them to automation services, and there is always room for improvements. There are many actors, stakeholder working with, and further improvement would be made with the help of the stakeholders.

TFD: What types of complaints do you have in everyday Consulate life?

CG: Well, we have different types of complaints, such as land registering issues, services that are delayed in Pakistan, police issues, and other issues. I am very happy that prime minister of Pakistan has launched a citizen portal; many Pakistani people who are living in Italy being benefited from this service.

TFD: Final question, any message for overseas Pakistanis?

CG: Well, there are no great messages from me; however, I am proud to be Consular General of Pakistan in Milan. Basically, I am the part of this community, and wherever I visited in Italy, I got highly appreciation from the locals for Pakistanis. My other message is to the community members that they should unite among each other’s, they are ambassadors of their country, and they should carry the flag high of their country.
Pakistan Zindabad.

The writer is an Honorary Correspondent of TFD in Italy-Milan; He is a student of New Media and Media at IULM University, Milan. He can be reached at:
Mumtaz.hussain@me.com;
He tweets: @mumtazkhyal