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From Imran’s ‘Cipher’ Controversy to Pakistan’s 31st Foreign Secretary: Meet Asad Majeed Khan

Pakistan on Friday appointed career diplomat Asad Majeed Khan, whose name appeared in the ‘cipher conspiracy’, as its 31st foreign secretary, ending weeks of uncertainty over the key appointment.

Khan is presently posted as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium, European Union and Luxembourg, the Foreign Office said in a tweet. “Dr Asad Majeed Khan, presently posted as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium, the European Union and Luxembourg, has been appointed as the new Foreign Secretary,” it tweeted.

Separately, the Establishment Division issued a notification on the appointment.

The post fell vacant after the retirement of Sohail Mahmood in September. Instead of appointing a permanent foreign secretary, senior diplomat Jauhar Saleem was assigned the additional charge of the office of the foreign secretary till the position was formally filled.


It was speculated at that time that Khan was the apparent choice but could not be brought in as the cipher conspiracy was at the centre of the raging political tension in the country.

The alleged conspiracy was based on a cable sent by him from Washington, based on his meeting with senior State Department official Donald Lu about the political situation of Pakistan. The cable landed in Pakistan when a no-confidence resolution had been moved against then Prime Minister Imran Khan.

About a week before the scheduled voting in the National Assembly, Imran Khan displayed a document at a rally of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in Islamabad, that was based on the cipher and proof of a foreign conspiracy against his government. After he was toppled through the no-confidence vote, Imran Khan used the cipher as the alleged evidence of US interference to bring a regime change in Pakistan.

In the wake of the ensuing bitter political tussle, Khan’s name emerged several times, and at times negatively, casting a shadow on his role and career. So when the time came for the next foreign secretary, the government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had to delay it to let the dust settle. After the change of guard in the army and the issue of the cipher losing its steam, the government finally decided to appoint him to the key post.


Khan has been serving as the ambassador to Belgium since April this year. He was sent to Brussels from Washington after serving there as an ambassador for three years. He had also served in Washington as the deputy chief of mission for four years and spent six years in New York, including as a diplomat at Pakistan’s UN Mission.

During his diplomatic career spanning over 34 years, Khan has held several key diplomatic assignments. He has served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Japan; Additional Foreign Secretary (Americas); Director General (Americas); Director General (West Asia); Pakistan’s Charge d’ Affaires ad interim to the United States; Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Pakistan, Washington D.C.; Additional Secretary (Foreign Affairs) at the President’s Secretariat; Director General (United Nations); and Minister-Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations.

Khan holds a Doctorate in International Economic and Business Law (LL.D.) from Kyushu University, Japan and has been a resource person at a number of academic institutions.

He is married and has two children.

With PTI inputs

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