Washington: In an action that would further strain US-Pakistan relations after the killing of Osama bin Laden on its soil by American special forces in May, Islamabad has denied permission to the US embassy staff to enter Peshawar.
Quoting US and international aid officials, the Washington Post on Sunday said Pakistani authorities have repeatedly denied permission to US embassy employees to enter Peshawar to attend meetings or replace workers at the US Consulate in the city over the past 10 days. Most Pakistanis view the US consulate in Peshawar as a front for CIA operations.
"The widely publicised episodes in Peshawar threaten to become another flash point in a frayed bilateral relationship that US officials had hoped was improving, after fatal shootings by a CIA contractor and the US commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden,`` the report said.
After the killing of the al Qaeda leader by US forces and the killing of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore in January, Pakistan expelled more than 100 US Army trainers. In retaliation, the Obama administration stopped USD 800 million in aid to the Pakistani military earlier this month.
The Washington Post report quoted US officials as saying that their embassy notified Pakistani police that their employees were driving from Islamabad to Peshawar and should be escorted from the highway into the city.
"On those (four) occasions, the employees were turned away at the (highway) tollbooth for lacking permits known as `No Objection Certificates,` or NOCs, which are issued by the federal Interior Ministry but can also involve approvals from the military or intelligence agencies,`` the report said.
According to US officials, their embassy staff never needed permits as they have an agreement that diplomats can travel between embassy and consular posts without permits as NOCs can take more than a week.
But Pakistani officials have been quoted as saying the requirement for permits was never waived and applies to all foreigners. The refusal four times to the US embassy employees to enter Peshawar became a sort of media spectacle.
"Each time US vehicles were turned away from tollbooths, television cameras were there,`` the report said.
Cut up with the Pakistani action, a US official has been quoted as saying that "to us, this is not a constructive way to rebuild the relationship”.`