WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday informed Pakistan that it has removed a 25-mile travel ban and other restrictions imposed last year on Pakistani diplomats and diplomatic staff stationed in the country.
Diplomatic observers in Washington told Dawn that Islamabad also has restored the facilities that US diplomats had enjoyed in Pakistan until last year.
The Trump administration imposed these restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in the United States on May 10, 2018 and on May 11, Islamabad imposed similar restrictions on US diplomats in Pakistan.
The two actions had further strained an already tense relationship between the two allies. But during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington late last month, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a news briefing that Islamabad has asked Washington to remove those restrictions, which prevent Pakistani diplomats from performing their duties properly.
Tensions heightened in April last year when a US diplomat ran a red light, killing a motorcyclist
Under the US restrictions, Pakistani diplomats were banned from moving further than 25 miles from the cities in which they were posted. They were also required to seek permission from the State Department five days in advance if they planned to visit another city.
The Pakistani restrictions also confined US diplomats to certain areas within the city they worked and lived in. Pakistan also withdrew special treatments given to US diplomats at Pakistani airports.
American diplomats were barred from using tinted glass on their vehicles or having diplomatic registration plates on private vehicles. Before renting property, American diplomats were required to obtain a no-objection certificate from Pakistan’s interior ministry.
Diplomatic tensions between the United States and Pakistan heightened in April 2018 when a US diplomat Joseph Emmanuel Hall ran a red light in Islamabad, killing a motorcyclist and injuring a passenger.
A court in Islamabad ruled that the American diplomat didn’t have the right to absolute immunity and ordered the government to put his name on the exit control list within two weeks. Persons on the list are prohibited from leaving Pakistan.
In January 2018, President Donald Trump used his first tweet of the year to criticise Pakistan, claiming that the US had “foolishly” given military aid to Pakistan, although the country did little to protect US interests in the region.
Relations between the two countries have improved markedly since Prime Minister Khan’s visit to Washington last month.
Since then, the Trump administration has released about $125 million for the renovation and repair of US-built F-16 fighter jets that Pakistan has purchased from Washington. President Trump has also expressed his desire to expand bilateral trade “by 20 times,” if possible.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2019