Sending out mixed signals, Pakistan on Monday indicated it might field its own candidate against India's Shashi Tharoor for the United Nations secretary general's post, but said it was keeping all its options open, including supporting a consensus candidate.
"All options are open and nothing is ruled out," Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told PTI when asked whether Pakistan would field its own candidate for the post.
To a question if Pakistan would support Tharoor as consensus candidate for Asia for the top UN job, she said the "perception is based on a wrong presumption that we will not field a candidate... Pakistan is watching developments very closely and is keeping all options open."
She said several candidates had already been announced by many Asian countries and if one were to develop a consensus candidate, others would have to quit in his favour.
"Ideally, Asia should have one candidate but we are not responsible for divisions," Aslam said.
In the wake of Tharoor's nomination by India last week, Aslam had scotched media reports that Pakistan planned to field its prime minister Shaukat Aziz as rival candidate.
The spokesperson did not comment on whether Pakistan was mulling over any other name, including that of its Permanent Representative to UN Munir Akram, who had spearheaded the campaign to oppose India's bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Pakistan is also reportedly thinking of fielding the former head of UN Population Fund Nafis Sadik, presently serving as the secretary-general's special envoy on HIV/AIDS.
Meanwhile, a media report said on Monday Pakistan had decided to keep everyone guessing on whether or not it would field a candidate for the top UN slot and put the Asian contenders on "tenterhooks".
"Indications are that for the moment Pakistan has decided to adopt a policy of ambiguity on this key question as no timeline has yet been set by the UN Security Council for countries to announce their nominees. Observers say ambiguity suits Pakistan at this point," Dawn said in a report.
It said Pakistan is also open to the idea of supporting one of the three other candidates from Asia -- Thailand Deputy PM Surakiart Sathirthai, Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon.
Of the three, Sathirthai is said to have recently visited Islamabad to seek Pakistan's support for his candidature.
The situation arising out of Tharoor's nomination has been discussed in Pakistan foreign policy circles for some time now with Additional Foreign Secretary Tariq Osman Hyder, who heads the UN Division, apparently holding in-house consultations on the subject.
The Foreign Office will soon be sending its recommendations to the Prime Minister's Secretariat and the President's Office leaving the final decision to the country's leaders, the report quoted officials as saying.
The Foreign Office could not hold its regular media briefing on Monday as journalists boycotted it in protest against the killing of Pakistani journalist Hayatullah Khan in Waziristan last week.