Pakistan's Foreign Office apparently sent an official known for his ability to read faces to receive Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on her arrival in Rawalpindi in a bid to find out what was on her mind.
When Rao flew into Pakistan on a special flight, she was received at the airport by Director General (South Asia) Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi, who is famed for his uncanny ability to read the faces of people and predict what they are thinking, diplomatic sources said.
According to protocol, Rao would have been received by a junior officer, but instead Hashmi was sent because of his reputed talent for judging a person's character from their facial features -- a questionable science known as physiognomy.
The foreign office has never officially acknowledged this use of Hashmi's talents but he was included in the Pakistani delegation that went to New Delhi in February for Foreign Secretary-level talks for his ability, sources said.
At that time, the foreign office spokesperson confirmed Hashmi's mastery of facereading but said he was unaware of its utility at the official level. Hashmi, who has served as Deputy High Commissioner at the Pakistani mission in India, is also known for his razor- sharp memory.
He can recall even minute details of events or meetings that have taken place several years ago. He is said to have had the ability to read faces since birth.
People close to Hashmi were once quoted by The News daily as saying that it "becomes very difficult to hide one's inner self in front" of him.
Hashmi also has some skill in predicting the immediate future.
According to one story, he predicted the death of former military ruler Zia-ul-Haq while serving at the United Nations in 1988. When a senior Pakistani diplomat was briefing junior colleagues about an upcoming visit by Zia to the UN General Assembly, Hashmi, who was part of the gathering, remarked: "He won't come." When he was asked why he had said so, Hashmi ran out of the room without replying and refused to speak about the issue. The next day, Zia was killed in a mysterious plane crash.