US Embassy in Pakistan lodges protest with Islamabad


LAHORE: As the Pak-US diplomatic ties touch their lowest ebb in recent times, the American Embassy in Islamabad has lodged a strong protest with Pakistan government over the maltreatment and arrest of some of its employees and the impounding of their vehicles in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar.

According to the foreign office sources in Islamabad, the protest has been lodged officially following a row between the Pakistani Ministry of Interior and the US Embassy in Islamabad over use of non-registered vehicles with different number plates in different parts of the country by the American diplomats stationed in Pakistan. The row took an ugly turn recently after the Ministry of Interior had ordered impounding of a non-registered vehicle which the American Embassy in Islamabad claimed was its property. As the Interior Ministry had turned down the US Embassy plea seeking an immediate release of the impounded car which was carrying unlicensed arms and whose driver reportedly misbehaved with the police officials, the US Embassy has lodged a strongly-worded complaint with the Pakistani Foreign Office.

The official sources in Islamabad say following the complaint, the prime minister has ordered setting up a top-level inquiry committee, headed by the interior minister, and comprising three federal secretaries as well as the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The federal secretaries in the committee are the secretary foreign affairs, the secretary defence and the secretary interior. Approached for comments, Ariel N Howard, Acting Chief Information Officer and Spokeswoman Embassy of the US in Islamabad, said: “We are always glad to work in partnership with the Pakistan government to resolve any issues and we will continue to do so in future as well.”

The foreign office Spokesman Abdul Basit, when contacted, confirmed the report and said: “Some meetings of the committee formed by the prime minister have been held to resolve the issues raised by the US Embassy but recommendations have not yet been finalised.” He said that the issue would be resolved smoothly. The US Embassy and its consulates in Lahore and Karachi started feeling the heat after a few incidents in which their employees were detained and their vehicles were impounded by law-enforcing agencies for using fake registration papers and number plates. However, American officials in Islamabad say the incident which infuriated the US Embassy is the arrest of its two employees in Gwadar, who were charged with using fake number plates on their vehicle. The officials and their vehicle are still in the custody of the Pakistani law-enforcing agencies.

However, the American Embassy, in its formal protest lodged with the Foreign Office, has claimed that the embassy, its consulate generals in Lahore and Karachi and their employees have been using vehicles with false number plates under an agreement with the Government of Pakistan in wake of the serious security threats. Three American embassy and consulate employees have already been arrested by the Pakistani authorities on charges arising out of these vehicles licensing issue.

“The actions being taken against the US Embassy staffers as well as their vehicles cause harm to the government of the United States, the embassy and consulates, and its employees and create doubts and suspicions in the minds of Pakistani citizens about US actions end intentions in Pakistan. The embassy requests that the minister for foreign affairs instruct Pakistani law-enforcement authorities to cease and desist from this practice immediately and to issue to the embassy and consulates the license plates under the agreed upon procedure in order to resolve these issues finally and completely. Finally, the United States protests the seizure of embassy and consular vehicles, and requires the assistance of the ministry in the prompt return of all vehicles which remain in the possession of the Pakistani police,” the letter written by the US embassy says.

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