Pakistan imposes restrictions on movement of United States diplomats

Lewis Collier
May 14, 2018

The authorities in Pakistan barred an American diplomat involved in a fatal traffic accident from leaving the country on Saturday and briefly detained him for questioning, according to a senior Pakistani intelligence official.

Fraying ties between once-close allies saw a few more threads snap this weekend after what appeared to be a failed American rescue mission aimed at airlifting Col Joseph Emanuel Hall, a defence attaché at the US Embassy in Islamabad.

USA military attache Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall is accused of running a red light and killing a motorcyclist on April 7 in Islamabad.

The development came a day after Islamabad High Court passed a judgement that the U.S. diplomat did not enjoy absolute immunity.

A spokesman for the USA embassy in Islamabad declined to comment on either development in the uneasy alliance with Pakistan.

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However, hardline elements in Pakistan are insisting that he be prosecuted in Pakistan.

A U.S. Air Force C130 had landed at Pakistan's Nur Khan air base to bring Hall back to the United States, but was forced to leave without him, according to local reports.

The issue has further strained the ties between Pakistan and the USA which are already at odds over the issue of providing safe havens to the Taliban and the Haqqani network terror groups in Afghanistan. The aircraft eventually returned to Bagram. Pakistan officials have demanded the USA waive his diplomatic immunity so that he can face a criminal trial, but American officials have refused. The effort seems to be to keep him in Pakistan till that time.

The relations between the two sides have been under pressure after US President Donald Trump accused Islamabad in January of lying to the United States and offering "little help in hunting terrorists".

'Since Joseph is understood to have diplomatic immunity, Pakistan's refusal to let him leave the country will be seen by Washington as a wholly unjustifiable and illegal act, ' he added. In fact it is the second time in the last couple of days that Pakistan has taken a bold and just stance on an issue with Washington. Consequently, two riders of the bike suffered injuries and one of them, 22-year-old Ateeq Baig, succumbed to his injuries.

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