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ISLAMABAD: The United States has finally succeeded in getting its diplomat involved in a fatal road accident out of Pakistan after the Pakistani officials who had been preventing his exit succumbed to Pentagon’s pressure.

“We can confirm that the American diplomat who was involved in a tragic accident in Islamabad has departed Pakistan,” a US embassy spokesman told Dawn on Monday.

Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall, the defence attaché at the US embassy, left Nur Khan Airbase on board an American military aircraft that had come to pick him a couple of days after the diplomat had been refused exit by the Federal Investigation Agency from the same airbase.

Col Hall allowed to leave the country after negotiations with US officials

A diplomatic source said the issue was resolved through negotiations and the Pakistani authorities had conveyed their willingness to let him go. The diplomat was permitted to leave after his name was removed from a “black list”. Persons whose names are placed on the ‘black list’ are barred from leaving the country due to pending court cases against them or similar issues.

Col Hall had violated a traffic red light in Islamabad, killing a motorcyclist and seriously injuring a pillion rider last month.

The Foreign Office had asked the US embassy to withdraw the defence attaché’s diplomatic immunity so that he could be tried for the crime. However, the embassy refused to do so and demanded that the diplomat be allowed to leave the country.

The family of the deceased biker, Ateeq Baig, 22, had approached the Islamabad High Court to get Col Hall’s name placed on the ‘Exit Control List’. The court, however, declined to issue such directions to the interior ministry and instead asked the government last week to decide the matter keeping in view its observations that related to the immunity enjoyed by the diplomat.

The source believed that the government allowed Col Hall’s departure as conciliatory gesture after it imposed reciprocal movement restrictions on US diplomats, besides withdrawing several special concessions extended to them. The Pakistani move was in response to similar restrictions imposed on Pakistani diplomats by the US government.

The restrictions imposed by both sides symbolized a downward spiralling in an already tense relationship between the two countries. The relations have steadily deteriorated since President Donald Trump announced the South Asia and Afghanistan strategy in August 2017, heavily criticising Pakistan for not taking actions against the alleged terrorist sanctuaries on its soil.

Pakistan strongly denies the allegation and insists that it had taken indiscriminate action against terrorists of all ‘hues and shades’.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2018