- Unregistered SIMs, installation of sensitive communication devices were allowed to American officials
ISLAMABAD: The dramatic letter written by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to the US embassy to inform them about the “reciprocal” imposition of restrictions on the US diplomats has opened up a new Pandora’s Box as the facilities being offered to the US diplomats are unprecedented in the diplomatic history of the country.
The exposé has proved that the facilities offered to the US diplomats also reflect how successive governments of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) had continued the extraordinary facilitation mechanism introduced by Musharraf government for the US diplomats, irrespective of the fact that the PPP and PML-N had been blasting Musharraf for granting special facilities for US diplomats and undercover agents working in Pakistan.
A diplomatic source requesting anonymity named told Pakistan Today that the US restrictions and the tit-for-tat response from Pakistan is a “symptom of a serious disease as the mistrust has increased and the US pressures are now very insulting”.
When asked that how many US officials were serving in Pakistan who would be affected due to the restrictions, the official said there were over 300 diplomats, including undercover agents all over the country. On a question that how many Pakistani diplomatic officials were working in the US, the official said, “Pakistan has one-twentieth their strength.”
The official communiqué written by MoFA to convey to the US embassy about restrictions imposed reveals that the US embassy officials were enjoying a free ride as a special travel permission regime had been in place for the US embassy/consulate staff in Pakistan.
Moreover, the diplomatic cargo of the US embassy was being specially treated at Pakistani air and seaports, and the cargo was not being scanned, enabling the US diplomatic officials to import anything –from prohibited weapons to sophisticated gadgets at will, in conflict with the provisions of Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which does not provide for an exemption from scanning.
Furthermore, the US diplomats were granted permission to meet Pakistani government officials in violation of the rules governing interaction between Pakistan government officials and foreign diplomats.
The letter has also revealed that the US diplomatic officials and staff members were allowed to use tinted glasses on official vehicles and rented transport, even though Pakistani officials were not allowed to carry on the practice due to the threat of terrorism. The US officials were also given special permission to use non-diplomatic number-plates on official vehicles and also use diplomatic number-plates on unspecified/rented vehicles.
Similarly, the blue-eyed US diplomatic officials were allowed to use biometrically unverified/unregistered cell-phone SIMs – a facility even not allowed for the security agencies of the country. The US diplomats were also permitted to go for hiring or shifting of rented properties without prior No Objection Certificates (NoC).
Another security breach measure exclusively allowed for the US officials was the installation of sensitive radio communication at the residences and safe houses without prior NoC. And, if any US diplomat would like to overstay, the visa beyond validated periods and having multiple passports was also being allowed.
All these facilities were being provided to the US officials despite successive intelligence reports alleging involvement of US contractors/undercover agents in having contacts with terrorist organisations.
Moreover, the recent maltreatment meted out to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at a US airport in the name of immigration measures had already invoked hue and cry in Pakistani mainstream and social media. But still, the MoFA chose not to withdraw the facilities offered to the US diplomats and other staff members until the US went for imposing restrictions on Pakistani diplomats.