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Are Pakistani diplomats in US facing restrictions as US diplomat undergoes trial in Pakistan?

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News Analysis |

The US diplomat, who reportedly rammed into a motorcycle, killing one and injuring another on Saturday, will have to face trial, either in Pakistan or his home country. This revelation comes in the wake of claims by a Pakistani journalist of new restrictions being imposed on the Pakistani diplomatic staff in the USA.

In case the US embassy confirms that the accused has diplomatic immunity against trial here, he could be tried in US courts. These assertions were made by local Pakistani Police. The diplomat has immunity regarding arrest and detention, but not against trial. The police said it was up to the US embassy to decide if the trial will be conducted by the local courts or those in his native country.

Senior police officials further stated to the media that as per the legal proceeding, the police completed the case registration and submitted it to the Pakistan Foreign Office, which will forward the same to the US embassy in Islamabad. The embassy will in turn decide where the trial will be held. A United States Defense Attaché ran down two individuals in Daman-e-Koh, north of Islamabad, ratcheting up the ongoing visa/diplomatic rift between the two countries.

In case the US embassy confirms that the accused has diplomatic immunity against trial here, he could be tried in US courts. These assertions were made by local Pakistani Police. The diplomat has immunity regarding arrest and detention, but not against trial.

Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall, Defense and Air attaché at the US Embassy was reportedly under the influence of alcohol while driving the white Land Cruiser that hit the motorcyclists at a traffic signal. One of the riders passed away due to the injuries, while the other was critically wounded, who was taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).

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The US official was not arrested owing to his diplomatic immunity; however, the police took custody of the vehicle. The US Embassy officials are following the case with the Islamabad Police. However, unlike American intelligence operative Raymond Davis, who, in 2011, was arrested in Lahore on charges of killing two Pakistani citizens, stirring up a massive diplomatic rift with Islamabad, Hall is not in police custody and is back on the embassy compound.

The incident will likely be used as leverage in the ongoing visa/diplomatic rift. Given that Hall happens to be a military attaché, odds are that it might have implications on the military relations as well. Earlier, the US State department conveyed to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC that if it does not ease the travel of the US diplomats, reciprocal restrictions will be imposed on the Pakistan diplomats in the US from May 1, including restrictions on travel beyond 50 miles of the city of posting.

The embassy will in turn decide where the trial will be held. A United States Defense Attaché ran down two individuals in Daman-e-Koh, north of Islamabad, ratcheting up the ongoing visa/diplomatic rift between the two countries.

Noted senior Pakistani journalist Nusrat Javed has claimed that the United States (US) has imposed drastic sanctions on the Pakistani diplomats posted in Washington DC, saying, seeking permission to cross the radius of 25 kilometers will be mandatory for them from May 1. “The US has made it mandatory for the Pakistani diplomats posted in Washington DC to seek permission to step outside the radius of 25 kilometers since May 1,” said Nusrat on a TV show titled ‘Bol Bol Pakistan.’

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With this move, the diplomatic relations between the US and Pakistan, are expected to sour further, which are already going through a rough patch following a series of events. “The restrictions are the ones which the US usually imposes on the countries it despises. For instance, the Russian diplomats have been expelled out of the country (over the poisoning of a former spy in Britain). However, such restrictions have not been slapped on Russia,” the senior journalist noted.

The recent tensions highlight a more independent attitude of Pakistan vis-à-vis its former patron the USA. With relations already tight due to the rise of the divisive Donald Trump as US president as well as American setbacks in neighboring Afghanistan, the trial of the diplomat and its subsequent aftereffects are likely to put farther strain on Pak-US ties.


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