Pak to review travel restrictions for US diplomats

The US has threatened to impose similar restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in Washington.

Islamabad: Pakistan has decided to review existing protocol for movement of diplomats after the US lodged a strong protest against it and threatened to impose similar restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in Washington.

The existing guidelines state that members of diplomatic missions are required to send to the Foreign Ministry their requests for visits outside Islamabad and provincial capitals at least five working days in advance, but the Express Tribune reports that now, Foreign Office authorities are re-examining “travel restrictions” imposed on diplomats so that the relationship between both the countries do not deteriorate any further.

The guidelines were circulated to foreign missions in January, but they were implemented only after the May 02 raid by US Navy SEALs that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Security officials said that the decision to strictly implement the guidelines was taken to seek greater scrutiny of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives, who “broke our trust by operating independently in areas where they were supposed to inform us in advance”.

The existing Foreign Office memo makes it mandatory for diplomats and non-diplomats based in Pakistan to provide details of their passport, areas to be visited, complete address of places, duration of stay, exact purpose of visit, place of stay and names of their hosts to obtain a No-Objection Certificate.

This led the Pakistani officials to bar many US diplomats from entering in places like Peshawar for not having a No Objection Certificate (NOC). In one such incident, even US Ambassador Cameron Munter was briefly stopped at the Islamabad airport.

However, Foreign Office officials have now acknowledged that the existing protocol for movement of diplomats in Pakistan is not practiced in any other country, adding that the Vienna Convention allows diplomats to move in any part of the country.

“Diplomats are our guests so we have to facilitate them,” a Foreign Ministry official familiar with the issue said.


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