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Pakistan imposes reciprocal curbs on US diplomats

Top Story

May 12, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The reciprocal restrictions imposed by Islamabad on the movement of all US diplomats stationed in Pakistan came into effect on Friday after Washington took similar measures the same day.

Under the new diplomatic offensive, the Pakistani diplomats at the embassy in Washington and four consulates in New York, Los Angeles, Texas and Chicago, will need to stay within 25 miles of the city of their posting and they will be bound to take formal permission at least five days before moving beyond the specified limits.

The restriction on movement beyond the specified limits also apply to the families of Pakistani diplomats.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua allowed the Foreign Office to leak to the media a ministry letter sent to the US on Thursday outlining the new reciprocal ‘guidelines’.

Pakistan insists the new guidelines (for US diplomats) are in reaction to the restrictions placed on its diplomats and their families.

As the tit for tat measures continue and bilateral relations deteriorate further, it is now Washington’s turn to make a fresh move, including more pressure, for which Pakistan is ready.

Washington reacted coolly to Islamabad’s move saying this was not unusual in diplomacy and that both sides continue to deliberate on Afghanistan, emphasising that security issues was the most important area of interest.

The Foreign Office when asked on Thursday responded that talks between the two sides continue on defense matters. “The restrictions will be implemented on May 11 and these will be on reciprocal basis. However, negotiations are ongoing between the two sides on the matter. Pakistan and the US do share the common objective of peace & stability in Afghanistan,” said the spokesman.

Talking to The News, Chairman Foreign Affairs Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said: “The Foreign Office has done right to respond effectively, in accordance with the international law, to the unacceptable and offensive State Department behavior on the basis of reciprocity. Such American attitudes are counterproductive, and are divorced from ground realities in a changing global scenario where the US is no longer the ‘sole superpower’.”

The measures listed in the Foreign Office letter include travel restrictions for US embassy/consulate staff as well as treating US diplomatic cargo at the Pakistani airports and ports strictly in accordance with the provisions of Article 27 of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (which does not provide an exemption from scanning), implementing strictly the rules (already shared with the embassy on 27 April 2018) governing interaction between Pakistan government officials and foreign diplomats.

The notification states the withdrawal of seven facilities allowed to the US diplomats including the use of tinted glass on official vehicles and rented transport, use of non-diplomatic number plates on official vehicles, use of diplomatic number plates on unspecified/rented vehicles, use of biometrically unverified/unregistered cell phone SIMs, hiring or shifting of rented properties without prior NOC, installing radio communication at residences and safe houses without prior NOC, and overshooting visa validity periods and having multiple passports.

Meanwhile, the State Department on Friday acknowledged that it had received the notification sent out by the Foreign Office of Pakistan about certain limitations imposed on its officials in the country.

"We have received the official notification of new restrictions place on the US diplomats in Pakistan," a State Department spokesperson wrote back when asked about the move, but was tight-lipped about what the Trump administration's reaction could be.

However, the spokesperson just added that their officials were in "regular communication with our Pakistani counterparts."

Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told The News that over 250 individuals attached to the embassy one way or the other were bound to get effected.

The ambassador, visibly frustrated, maintained that such negative actions would not resolve any concerns that both sides had against each other.

He had proposed that the mechanism advised to address the issues should be entertained.

The Foreign Office in reaction to the US travel ban issued a notification clearly indicating that the two sides are losing common ground and reaching a point that has been unprecedented.

The ambassador had hinted at a reciprocal action, which came hours later when the Foreign Office notification declared that "Pakistan had undertaken every possible action to address the issue of alleged harassment including establishing a fast-track mechanism to address any future complaints.

Earlier, it was claimed that the issue stems from visa denials and limited visa-durations issued to American officials for Pakistan.

The ambassador also said that Pakistan was hoping to renew bilateral cooperation in various sectors including military and intelligence.