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`US diplomats being increasingly harassed in Pak`

The report notes that there is a growing disconnect between US efforts to press ahead with programmes designed to assist Pakistani people.



Washington: US diplomats in Pakistan are increasingly being harassed, an official report has said urging the government to take up this issue at the highest level and make it a part of the bilateral talks with Islamabad.

"Official Pakistani obstructionism and harassment, an endemic problem in Pakistan, has increased to the point where it is significantly impairing mission operations and programme implementation," said an internal report of the US State Department Office of Inspector General yesterday.

"The issue of harassment must be made an integral part of high-level policy discussions with the Pakistani Government regarding the future of the bilateral relationship," said the 82-page report on the US embassy in Pakistan.

The report, marked "sensitive but unclassified", was released yesterday.

Portions of the report related to the harassment of US diplomats in Pakistan are blacked out.

According to the report, there is a growing disconnect between US efforts to press ahead with programmes designed to assist the Pakistani people and strengthen the Pakistani Government, at a time when obstructionism and harassment by ISI and other agents have created new obstacles to the US ability to implement and monitor those programmes.

Observing that US official entities operating in Pakistan have long been subjected to unusual, government-initiated obstructionism and harassment, the report says that harassment has reached new levels of intensity, however, after the events of 2011.

"The embassy describes the harassment as deliberate, wilful, and systematic. While other diplomatic missions have experienced similar treatment, the United States is clearly the principal target," it said.

"The harassment takes many forms: delayed visa issuances; blocked shipments for both assistance programmes and construction projects; denials of requests for in-country travel; and surveillance of and interference with mission employees and contractors," the report said.

The report also expressed concern over the security situation in Peshawar, which has made it difficult for the US diplomats stationed there to travel and move out.

In its report, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) said that events of the past year have rocked the US-Pakistani relationship and fundamentally altered the assumptions on which US engagement with Pakistan has been based since 2009.

"The shooting of two Pakistanis by a US employee in Lahore in January 2011 embarrassed the Pakistani Government by revealing the nature and extent of US activities," it said.

"The unannounced attack on Osama bin Laden`s hideout in Abbottabad in May 2011 was a double embarrassment, evidencing both Pakistani Government incompetence and its inability to detect or defend against a military intervention that many Pakistanis deemed a gross violation of the country’s sovereignty," the report said.

Confidence on both sides was further shaken by the September 13, 2011, attack on the US embassy in Kabul by extremists alleged to have ties to Pakistan`s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), it said.

"Public remarks of the then outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs regarding Pakistan`s collaboration with extremist groups; and revelations in WikiLeaks about the extent of US-Pakistani collaboration in counterterrorism efforts, as well as official US misgivings about the latter`s commitment to those efforts," it said.

The shocks culminated in the November 26, 2011, unintentional attack by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation/International Security Assistance Force forces on a Pakistani border post in Mohmand that resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers and that some Pakistanis continue to view as a deliberate attack, the report added.

Noting that the impact of these events has been felt across the full spectrum of the bilateral relationship, the OIG report said there is a general consensus at both embassy in Islamabad and in Washington that the new relationship will be different than the grand engagement strategy conceived by the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009 and reflected in the 2009 Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation and appropriation that was designed to support it.

"The expectation is that the future relationship will be less ambitious, more pragmatic, and more closely focused on those areas where both Pakistan and the United States perceive a common interest," the report said.

PTI

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