Pakistani envoy hopes US may ease reciprocal restrictions

Pakistani envoy hopes US may ease reciprocal restrictions

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s United States (US) Deputy Chief of Mission Rizwan Saeed Sheikh on Saturday said that he hopes the United States would reconsider restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in the country.

“I hope the US reconsiders movement restrictions imposed on us [Pakistani diplomats],” Sheikh said while speaking to a private TV channel.

Last month, the Trump administration communicated to the Pakistani government that its officials working in the US could face restrictions in their travel if similar limitations on American diplomats in Pakistan are not eased up.

However, Sheikh upheld that the Pakistani government had devised a system for US officials to register their complaints through the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

“We had proposed that there should be a system so the complaints of US officials could be addressed.”

Sheikh continued, “The system was put in place a month ago, however, to date no complaint has been launched by US officials which shows that they are satisfied.”

“Pakistan had to take unusual measures owing to the security situation in the country,” he said while defending Islamabad’s restrictions on US diplomats.

“The security of foreign diplomats is Pakistan’s top priority,” Sheikh upheld.

On May 11, Pakistan responded in kind to US travel restrictions on its diplomatic staff and their families.

Pakistan’s Ambassador in the US Aizaz Chaudhry had said that from May 11, Pakistani diplomatic staff and their families would need permission at least five days in advance if they need to travel outside of the imposed 25 miles radius.

Reacting to the movement ban, the Foreign Office (FO) unveiled a set of changes in the government’s dealing with US diplomats in the country through a notification.

The FO said American diplomats will also have to take prior permission to travel — something which was earlier done only in special cases —, will not be afforded the luxury of ‘fast-track’ luggage clearance at airports, will not be allowed to have more than one passport and will stay in the country strictly as per their visa date.

Moreover, the FO said the diplomats will not be allowed to use tinted glass on their vehicles, which was allowed as a protection measure, and diplomatic licence plates on unauthorised vehicles. Additionally, non-diplomatic number plates given to conceal diplomatic status for protection will also be taken back.

Similarly, all mobile phones used by US diplomats will be biometrically verified while they will have to obtain a government no-objection certificate to shift and use rented houses and to install radio communication at their residences or safehouses.

The FO clarified that the measures are a response to the US decision limiting their diplomats’ movement in America.