Mon, May 14, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Pakistan bars US attache from leaving after fatality

Reuters, ISLAMABAD

Pakistani authorities have barred a US diplomat involved in a fatal traffic accident from leaving the country, forcing a US military aircraft flown in for his departure to leave without him, local media reported on Saturday.

The move came a day after Pakistan said it would restrict the movements of all US diplomats in the country in response to Washington’s similar restrictions on Pakistani embassy diplomats.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment on the media reports, and a US Department of State spokesperson in Washington would neither confirm nor deny them.

“For the privacy and security of those involved, we cannot disclose the diplomat’s current location,” the State Department spokesperson said.

Pakistan is a crucial link to supplying US troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, but Washington has long believed it actually shelters the Taliban’s leaders, and US President Donald Trump has cut off military aid in an effort to pressure Pakistan.

The latest blow to relations came on Saturday, when Pakistani authorities banned a US military attache from leaving as planned, The Nation and Express Tribune newspapers reported.

A day earlier, an Islamabad court had ruled his diplomatic immunity might not apply in the April 7 traffic accident in which the US attache’s vehicle hit a motorcycle, killing the 22-year-old driver, the papers reported.

As a result, a US Air Force C130 flown in to Pakistan’s Nur Khan airbase outside Islamabad was forced to leave without him on Friday, Geo TV and the two newspapers reported.

Separately, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would apply travel restrictions to all US diplomatic staff similar to those applied by Washington, according to a notification sent to the US embassy on Friday and seen by reporters.

The new US rules require diplomats to obtain permission to travel more than 40km from their stations, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The State Department on Saturday confirmed the new restrictions on its employees in Pakistan, but declined further comment.

“We are in regular communication with our Pakistani counterparts. We do not discuss details of diplomatic conversations,” the spokesperson said.

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