Pakistani authorities have imposed "reciprocal" restrictions on the movement of U.S. diplomats in the country after Washington took similar measures, the Associated Press reported Friday.
A letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad says the restrictions will be implemented Friday. The move comes after the U.S. required Pakistani diplomats to get permission five days in advance to travel more than 25 miles from their embassy.
The measures are likely to strain ties between the two sides, the agency said adding:
"It was unclear what prompted the moves but the developments come weeks after Pakistan barred a U.S. diplomat from leaving the country after he killed a Pakistani motorcyclist in Islamabad. U.S. military attache' Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall, was not arrested because he enjoys diplomatic immunity. Hall is accused of running a red light and killing an Islamabad resident, Ateeq Baig, on April 7.
Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua allowed the Foreign Office to leak to the media a ministry letter sent to the US outlining the new reciprocal restrictions.
The letter said the US embassy and consulates in Pakistan will no longer avail facilities of using tainted glass on official vehicles and rented transport, non-diplomatic number plates on official vehicles, diplomatic number plates on unspecified and rented vehicles; and the facility of biometrically unverified or unregistered cell phone SIMs.
It said the facilities of hiring or shifting of rented properties without prior no objection certificate and overshooting visa validity periods and having multiple passports will also not be available to the US diplomats forthwith.
The restrictions imposed on the US diplomats by Pakistan government include strict implementation of Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that allows scanning of the diplomatic cargo; and enforcement of rules governing interactions between government officials and foreign diplomats.
According to BBC, the embassy will also have to seek no objection certificates from the ministry to install radio communication at residences and safe houses.
The daily Dawn said the withdrawn facilities once again bring into focus the secretive nature of Pak-US relations. It is believed that the problem repeatedly causing dysfunction in the relations is the opaqueness in the ties. A "safe house" of a diplomatic mission is also unheard of in diplomatic practice.
Tellingly, this is the first time for Pakistani diplomats serving in America and their families to face travel regulations. In the past, US governments have practiced such codes on Russian and Chinese officials.
Speaking to media at the 27th Pakistan-American Congress (PAC) annual friendship day at the Capitol Hill in Washington DC, Ambassador Chaudhry said the move will further strain the already fraught bilateral relations. "Both countries had recently again come closer to each other and measures like these will only complicate the matters. Any grievances could have been resolved through an appropriate mechanism. This step was quite unnecessary," he maintained.
Chaudhry's views were echoed by Congressman Donald Norcross, a New Jersey Democrat. Speaking to Pakistani media, he said the important thing is to engage in dialogue. "If we are inhibiting the conversation, I do not think that is a smart thing to do," he opined.
Chairman of Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, told the News: "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'."
US diplomat Col Joseph doesn't have absolute immunity
Amid the strained ties, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled on Friday that US Defense and Air Attache' Colonel Emanual Joseph does not have absolute immunity.