Jamsheed Marker, leading Pakistani diplomat, dies at 95

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Jamsheed Marker, one of Pakistan’s most distinguished diplomats and a figure in the negotiations that led to the Soviet military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the resolution of the conflict in East Timor, died June 21 at his home in Karachi. He was 95.

His daughter, Niloufer Reifler, confirmed his death.

Over a 42-year diplomatic career, Mr. Marker served as ambassador continuously in 10 posts, including in the United States from 1986 to 1989 and at the United Nations from 1990 to 1994. He earned a wide reputation as a suave and skilled envoy.


Mr. Marker had a close working relationship with the Reagan administration and brought the United States and Pakistan, which have had complicated relations, closer. US officials have acknowledged his role in the negotiations that led to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Pakistan’s neighbor, Afghanistan, in 1989, 10 years after they invaded.

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Mr. Marker, in his 2010 memoir “Quiet Diplomacy,” described contacts with official and unofficial representatives from the United States and the Soviet Union, where he had also been ambassador. Pakistan was playing a key role in the negotiations.

He also worked closely with the Pakistani military dictator General Zia ul-Haq, as the general developed the country’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

In 1999, he was appointed UN special envoy to East Timor, a former Portuguese colony that successfully fought for independence from Indonesia, achieving it in 2002 after a war in which more than 100,000 civilians were reported killed. He chronicled his experiences in his 2003 book “East Timor: A Memoir of the Negotiations for Independence.”

Mr. Marker also served as ambassador in France, the Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, West Germany, and East Germany, where he opened the Pakistani Embassy. Despite being a non-Muslim in conservative Muslim Pakistan, he was broadly respected at home and had close relationships with several leaders of the country.


Jamsheed Kekobad Ardeshir Marker was born in Hyderabad, India, on Nov. 24, 1922, into a distinguished Parsee, or Zoroastrian, family. His father was Kekobad Ardeshir Marker, who ran the family pharmaceutical business, and his mother was Meherbano (Pestonji) Marker, a homemaker.

He attended the elite Doon boarding school in Dehradun, India, and Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan.

He married Diana Dinshaw, who died in 1979. Besides his daughter, from his first marriage, he leaves his wife, Arnaz (Minwalla) Marker; and his brother, Minoo.

During World War II Mr. Marker was an officer in the Royal Indian Naval Volunteer Reserve, commanding a minesweeper.

He worked in another family business, shipping, after the war ended and during the 1950s became famous for his radio commentary on cricket, one of the country’s most popular sports. He started his diplomatic career in April 1965, when he was appointed Pakistan’s high commissioner to Ghana.


Some critics say Mr. Marker was more at ease with the military rulers of the country than its civilian leaders. In his book “Cover Point” (2016), Mr. Marker remembered General Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s first military ruler, as a leader who “did give us security, law and order, good governance, and economic prosperity.”

He had little praise for civilian prime ministers like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, whom he despised as financially corrupt, and he was scathing about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former prime minister and father of Bhutto, blaming him for most of his country’s ailments.