ISLAMABD, Feb 24: A recent incident in which a vehicle driven by a US embassy official hit two motorcyclists, killing one, highlights the inability of the local police to act against diplomatic personnel.
Most such cases are resolved by monetary compensation, a practice encouraged by the police and the government.
In the most recent case, the embassy officials visited the family once, but have since not responded.
On February 14, an administrative assistant at the US embassy hit two motorcyclists with his Land Cruiser near Kohsar Complex at Margalla Avenue.
As a result, one of the bike riders, Shozab Raza, was injured and the other, Muzammil Shah, a lift operator at Parliament Lodges, died.
According to Maqsood Shah, the uncle of the deceased, the embassy representatives visited the family four days later to convey their sympathy and regrets. They said they would return again for a “patch-up”.
However, Maqsood Shah said: “Almost a week has passed and they haven’t come back.”
The CDA - where his nephew was an employee - has also told him to “wait” and the police have not taken any action he could see.
ASI Shabir Ahmed, the investigation officer, said the case had been withdrawn from his control. He has since been transferred to another police station.
A senior police officer, requesting anonymity, confirmed that this was fairly common in cases involving diplomats. After a case is registered, it is generally compulsory for a challan to be submitted within 14 days.
In diplomatic cases, the police frequently delay such submissions and if an investigating officer tries to submit the challan on his own, he can simply be transferred.
The senior police officer said while this was not the first incident in which a diplomatic vehicle had hit or injured a Pakistani citizen, police could not do anything.
“In fact,” he said, “higher-ups in both the police and the ministry pressure us to arrange separate agreements between the diplomats and the bereaved families.”
Abdul Razaq, a legal expert, told Dawn that under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats are immune from arrest, detention and civil or criminal prosecution.
Only if they “indulge in any professional or commercial activity” outside their official functions, do diplomatic protections not apply. However, he said the Convention also requires diplomats to respect the laws and regulations of the host country.
“In the USA, Pakistani diplomats cannot protect themselves from punishment if they violate American laws. If we implement our laws strictly, we can begin to reduce irresponsible driving by diplomats,” he said.
According to the senior police officer, “Many diplomats speed or drive carelessly without any fear of punishment.” The past few years record several incidents of this sort, involving diplomats from the US, Afghanistan, India and Switzerland; most were resolved through compensation.
In July 2010, when a US diplomat hit and killed a young motorcyclist, Jawadur Rehman, the embassy offered Rs2 million to the family and an embassy job to Jawad’s brother.
In March 2011, when another US diplomat hit a motorcycle bearing Maqbool Ahmed, his wife and their 15-day-old baby, both Maqbool Ahmed and his wife were injured. The diplomat paid $500.