WASHINGTON – As diplomatic tussle escalated following Trump administration’s travel restrictions on Pakistani diplomats, Islamabad slapped reciprocal limitations on United States diplomats in the country.
Foreign Office has formally informed United States embassy about the restrictions, stating, “In case the travel permission regime for Pakistani diplomats/officials is implemented by the State Department, Pakistan would be obliged to take reciprocal actions”.
The restrictions include introducing a similar travel permission regime for the US Embassy/Consulate staff in Pakistan, treating US diplomatic cargo at Pakistani airports and ports strictly in accordance with the provisions of Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (which does not provide for an exemption from scanning) and implementing strictly the rules (already shared with the Embassy on 27 April 2018) governing interaction between Pakistan government officials and foreign diplomats”.
Pakistan also withdrew facilities being extended to the US Embassy/Consulates, including 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.
The limitations on the movement of Pakistani diplomats and their families in the US are going to in effect from today (Friday), further escalating already deteriorated bilateral relations.
In a recent letter sent by the US State Department, the Pakistani diplomatic staff working in the embassy in Washington and four consulates in other cities would be required a permission at least five days in advance if they want to go beyond the set limit of 25 miles radius.
Earlier, the local media reported that Pakistan too planned to enforce similar restrictions on US diplomats in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. The US officials are already prohibited from risky areas in order to protect them from possible terrorist attack.
The US lawmakers have also advised the Trump administration not to take imposed such restrictions as it was not a smart thing.
Addressing a meeting of the Pakistani American Congress on Capitol Hill, a Congressman, Donald Norcros, called for dialogue to ease tension, adding, “And if (by imposing those restrictions) we are inhibiting conversation, I do not think that’s a smart thing to do.”
Pakistan’s Ambassador to US Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry sai, “We do understand the war in Afghanistan is not winding down and we also understand that President Trump has set a deadline,” adding, “Pakistan too wants peace in Afghanistan. We share the same objectives.”
Besides talking about Afghan issue, the ambassador highlighted the Kashmir issue and said: “I believe the US has emboldened India to take a heavy-handed approach in Kashmir,” he said.
Congressman Norcross said, “We are starting to work on having a much more productive relationship, Afghan-Pakistan terrorism has been a huge issue and it does not just affect our country but also your country,” he said.