Ambassador Dr. Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty (19 October 1925 to 9 November 2009), was a Career Diplomat in the Pakistan Foreign Service, as well as an educationist, a geographer and a renowned and respected analyst of global and international relations.
He was Pakistan’s foremost foreign policy expert on China to four Presidents and three Prime Ministers.
After his retirement from the Foreign Service in 1986, he also served as Principal Staff Officer to the President of Pakistan (1986 to 1988) and as Member, Federal Public Service Commission, Islamabad (1989 to 1991).
Fluency in Languages
Apart from his fluency in Urdu, English and Punjabi, Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty was proficiently fluent in French (interpretership), Spanish (interpretership), Russian and Turkish.
In his early and college education he was greatly influenced by his late father, Mohammed Shafi Bhatty, a respected figure in the local Muslim as well as Hindu community and Professor of English at the predominantly-British and elite Forman Christian College (now Forman Christian College University) in Lahore from 1933 to 1956, one of the few Muslims in a prestigious post by dint of merit.
Under the tutelage of his mother, he completed the Holy Quran at age five. He was educated in Lahore from primary school to degree level, always obtaining the first position at every stage of his education.
After obtaining a Gold Medal in his Master’s degree in Geography in 1949, he proceeded to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland on a Government Scholarship for his Ph.D in Economic Geography.
After obtaining his Ph.D, he was invited to join the Government College in Mianwali, Pakistan as a Lecturer.
While employed there, he appeared in Pakistan’s Central Superior Services Competitive Examination and, competing against the highest number of candidates from East and West Pakistan in the nation’s history, topped the examination nationally with first position.
He opted to join the Foreign Service of Pakistan, which was at the time the first-ranked civil service department in the country.
Initial Foreign Service Career
As part of his training as a Foreign Service Officer he was nominated for enrolment at the prestigious Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts to undertake his M.A. degree in Law and Diplomacy.
He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Karachi as a Section Officer in 1951 under Agha Shahi.
Due to his outstanding performance, in 1953 he was posted as Third Secretary at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C.
In 1957 he was posted as Second Secretary to the Embassy of Pakistan in Moscow, USSR.
In 1959 he was posted as Second Secretary to the Pakistan Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. As Head of Chancery he was the administrative head of the Embassy.
In 1963 he was posted as First Secretary and Head of Chancery to the Pakistan Embassy in New Delhi, India. He was recalled in 1965 just prior to the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan.
He re-joined the Pakistan Foreign Office in the newly built capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, as Director (China) as well as Official Spokesman of the Pakistan Foreign Office. In this capacity he was Pakistan’s spokesperson during the 1965 Indo-Pak War.
He penned the original draft from the Pakistan side for the Tashkent Declaration, signed between Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan in January 1966 that resolved the Indo-Pakistan Conflict of 1965.
In December 1967 he was designated as Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
In June 1968 he was posted as Minister-Counsellor and Head of Mission to the High Commission of Pakistan in London. Upon the return of High Commissioner Mahmood Haroon, he was Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom.
He returned to the Foreign Office in December 1970 as the Pakistan Information Ministry’s Director General for External Publicity. He was thus responsible for the Pakistan Government’s interaction with all domestic and international print and broadcast journalists during the Indo-Pak War of 1971.
In 1973 he was re-designated as the Pakistan Foreign Office’s Director General for the United Nations. In this capacity he travelled frequently to attend sessions of the UN General Assembly in New York.
In July 1971, he was deputed by the then President of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan, to accompany US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on his inaugural flight to China for the first official US- Communist China meeting on board a Pakistan International Airlines flight.
He was the main Organiser and Coordinator for the historic Second OIC Islamic Summit Conference held at Lahore, Pakistan in February 1974, attended by all the then leaders of the Islamic world.
He was designated in December 1974 as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines. He presented his credentials at Malacañang Palace in Manila in January 1975 to President Ferdinand Marcos.
In September 1976 he was posted as Pakistan Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. He arrived in Addis Ababa and presented his credentials to the then President Teferi Bante.
After Teferi Bante’s assassination in February 1977 Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam took over as President of Ethiopia. When General Mohammed Ziaul Haq overthrew Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in July 1977 Ambassador Bhatty was re-designated as the new government’s Ambassador to Ethiopia.
In April 1979 he was posted as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In Belgrade he presented his credentials to the President and founder of Yugoslavia, Marshal Josep Broz Tito.
In August 1980 he returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad as Additional Foreign Secretary.
In June 1982 he was designated as Pakistan’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the People’s Republic of China. He presented his credentials to Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.
He was the first foreign diplomat to travel to all 34 provincial-level administrative units of China: now comprising 23 provinces, 4 municipalities, 5 autonomous regions and 2 special administrative regions. Prior to these mergers, China had 39 provinces.
During his ambassadorial tenure the Gilgit to Xinjiang portion of the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistan to China was inaugurated and opened to the public.
More than thirty trade agreements between China and Pakistan were finalised during his tenure.
He retired in 1985 and his tenure as Ambassador to China was extended for a year.
In October 1986 he returned and became Principal Staff Officer to the President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Ziaul Haq. In August 1988 the President was killed when his plane crashed near Bahawalpur.
In 1989 Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty was appointed as Member, Federal Public Service Commission, Islamabad for a term of three years. In this capacity he was responsible for the selection and recruitment of new Civil Service officers and the promotions of existing officers. He interviewed Civil Service candidates all over the country.
After his retirement from the Federal Public Service Commission, he was also a Course Director (China and Far East Studies) at Pakistan’s Foreign Service Academy and a Member of the Commercial Censor Board of the Pakistan Television Corporation. He appeared regularly on television (and occasionally on Radio Pakistan) as a respected analyst of international relations.
Maqbool Bhatty in 2009.
He was an active member of the Boards of Governors of the Institute for Strategic Studies and the Institute for Regional Studies as well as an active contributor to their journals. He also served as Vice President of the Islamabad Council for World Affairs. He participated in international-level foreign relations seminars hosted by the University of Karachi and by the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Islamabad.
He was also invited on occasion to lecture on Pak-China and regional elations at the armed forces’ National Defence University in Islamabad. These courses were attended by the rank of Brigadier/Wing Commander/Naval Commander and above.
Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty’s grandparents were from District Narowal, near the Pak-India border. His parents moved to Lahore in 1916.
He was married in 1951 after obtaining his Doctorate from Scotland. His wife Begum Fatima Maqbool passed away in September 2002.
He is survived by four sons, five grandsons and three granddaughters.
Apart from his studies, international postings and assignments, Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty travelled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Paris, France; Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima in Japan; Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne in Australia; Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; Pyongyang, North Korea; Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando, Florida; Singapore; Rome, Venice and Trieste, Italy; and Bangkok, Thailand.
Hobbies and Interests
Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty was an avid golfer, bridge player, amateur photographer, traveller, historian, book collector and a seasoned swimmer.
Due to a respiratory infection caught during a private visit to USA in 2006, and also his challenging routine of work and daily commitments, his already frail condition gradually worsened and he passed away on 9 November 2009 in Islamabad at the age of eighty-four.
Books and Articles
Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty has authored three major works of non-fiction – Pakistan Today and Tomorrow (c.1988) outlining strategies for national reform; The Great Powers and South Asia: Post -Cold War Trends (c.1996) describing South Asia’s role vis-a-vis the Great Powers and Mohammad Hussain Dadabhoy: A Life of Courage and Dedication (c.2006), a biographical account.
Over more than two decades, from 1989 to 2009, Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty wrote numerous and extensive articles on the burning issues in foreign relations in the leading newspapers of Pakistan such as the Dawn, the Nation and the Observer, many of which were subsequently reproduced in the foreign press, and has authored research articles in leading international journals on foreign relations. His works are often quoted by foreign policy authors and other researchers.
Many of his newspaper and journal articles on international affairs can be easily accessed online.