The U.S. will place “reciprocal restrictions” on the movement of Pakistani diplomats in the country from May 1, forcing envoys to stay within 40 kilometers of the city in which they are posted, a senior U.S. State Department official said.
In an interview with the Voice of America’s Uzbek service on Tuesday, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon said the U.S. was taking the step because Islamabad had imposed similar curbs on American diplomats in Pakistan.
“Our diplomats are under travel restrictions. They can travel further but have to notify the government of Pakistan,” Shannon said.
The U.S. official said that American diplomats in Pakistan were not allowed to visit the tribal belt or Karachi.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has refused to confirm if restrictions are being placed on Pakistani diplomats in Washington.
“We are not prepared to announce anything on this matter,” an embassy spokesperson said when asked about Shannon’s comments.
However, the spokesman confirmed Pakistan’s restrictions on U.S. diplomats in response.
“Yes, there are longstanding restrictions on movement of diplomats, including Americans, in Pakistan,” the spokesperson said.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammed Faisal declined to comment on the issue.
He also refused to address the subject in his weekly briefing last week, with media reports suggesting the Foreign Office had received an official letter from the US government on the matter.
“Regarding the restrictions on Pakistani diplomats, we do not comment on media reports,” the spokesman said on April 12 following claims that the State Department had decided to take reciprocal action against Pakistani diplomats.
However, Shannon acknowledged in this interview on Tuesday that “typically, these kinds of restrictions are reciprocal in nature, so I’ll just leave it at that.”
The already tense relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. deteriorated further after President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of lying to the U.S. and offering “little help in hunting “terrorists” in neighboring Afghanistan. The U.S. later suspended $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s restrictions on diplomats began after a U.S. Embassy vehicle driven by a defense attache struck and killed a Pakistani motorcyclist in Islamabad on April 7.
Foreign affairs observers say that restrictions by both sides reflect a further deterioration in the strained relationship.
Pakistan former Ambassador Mian Sanaullah said the road accident led to flare-up between the two countries, with Pakistan taking action because of the likelihood of public protests and media criticism.
“Instead of sympathizing with Pakistan and the relatives of the deceased, and helping the family, the U.S. has gone on the defensive by invoking reciprocity in term of diplomats’ movement,” the former envoy said.
Raoof Hasan, chief executive of the Islamabad-based independent Regional Peace Institute, said the restrictions showed “mutual growing mistrust” between the two countries.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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