Tit-for-tat restrictions

IN the face of flurry of provocative statements and coercive actions on the part of the US Administration, Pakistan often has tried to give a cautious response in order to avoid escalation in tension considering the relations between the two countries are very important for regional stability especially in the context of Afghanistan. But such a docile posture only further encouraged the superpower to exert more pressure and browbeat the country already faced with so many challenges on internal and external fronts.
However, Foreign Office’s tit for tat move on Friday in response to the US’s travel restrictions on Pakistani diplomats would have pleased all and sundry including the opposition parties in Parliament who of late was very critical of FO’s soft stance on different issues. The decision to impose reciprocal restrictions on the US diplomats indeed is in line with the aspirations of the public at large that in fact does not want deterioration of relations with any country including the US but want these relations to be built on the basis of mutual respect and interest. Whilst in the latest restrictions, the US has barred Pakistani diplomats not to go beyond 25-mile radius without permission, it was also surprising that the US diplomats were getting special treatment and getting a fast track clearance at our airports but on the other hand our diplomats even the Prime Minister used to undergo strict and often humiliating security check at the US airports. Hence, the Foreign Office has done the right thing by not only restricting the movement of the US diplomats but also withdrawing the special favours or treatment they were getting in Pakistan in so many different forms. The US diplomats should also undergo security checks at the airports like any other passenger since our diplomats are not being given any special treatment at the US airports. Having said so, it will be better if both the countries engage and sort out the issue pertaining to the movement of diplomats in accordance with the diplomatic norms that ensure mutual respect and facilities to the diplomats and their families. Whilst it is good to see that the government has filled the seat of the Foreign Minister by giving the additional charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Khurram Dastagir at this critical juncture, we expect that in the days ahead also Pakistan will continue to take decisions that reflect the aspirations of the people and enhance its prestige and honour in the comity of nations. No compromise should also be in the case of US Defence and Air Attaché Col Joseph Emanuel Hall who hit and killed a motorcyclist a few weeks back in the federal capital. Justice should be provided to the victim family in the case. Islamabad High Court has declared that the US diplomat does not enjoy absolute immunity. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 also speaks about the diplomatic immunity, not impunity. Diplomatic immunity is not intended to serve as a license for persons to flout the law and purposely avoid liability for their actions.

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