A recent report on the violations of the protocol of diplomatic conduct by US Embassy indicates that the CIA officials in the cover of diplomatic immunity are taking advantage of the host country’s hospitality. Despite Pakistan’s repeated requests, neither proof of the unregistered officials from the CIA, nor identification of US diplomats, administrative and technical and service staff have been provided. In April 2012, the Foreign Office had advised the diplomats from various missions that they have to seek permission from the Pakistani government for carrying lethal weapons, all of which should be licensed, as the law requires.
According to the report, on June 4, 2012, two SUVs from the US Embassy were stopped at the M1-Exit on their return from a visit to Malakand. The vehicles were reported to be carrying four US officials and three Pakistani staff members, along with four M-4 rifles with 36 loaded magazines of 20 bullets each and four pistols with 36 loaded magazines. In 2010 also, the US diplomats and Embassy staffers were scouting around our cities loaded with guns and video-filming our sensitive areas, like Lahore Cantonment and other places, on cars bearing fake number plates. The vehicles were impounded by the law enforcement agencies for using fake registration papers and number plates. One should ask the Americans whether Pakistan’s top diplomat and other employees stationed in Washington are allowed to take such ‘liberties’, as their diplomats and staffers are indulging so freely.
The question, however, could be: as to what were their staffers doing in a sensitive area like Gwadar? They need t understand that the basic responsibility for their protection lies with the Pakistani government, and if they have to outsource their security to private agencies, it should be within its knowledge. In fact, there should not be dual responsibility because in case of any mishap, Pakistan would be held responsible. But the Americans are in the habit of blackmailing and bullying. It was after the news of renting houses in large numbers by the US Embassy that the Chinese Ambassador had expressed concern over the increased strength of American missions in Pakistan. Washington had lodged a strong protest with the Government of Pakistan on the arrest of some US Embassy employees and impounding of their vehicles in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi who had violated the Vienna Convention.
The Prime Minister had ordered setting up a top-level inquiry committee, headed by the Interior Minister, comprising three Federal Secretaries as well as the Director General of the ISI. But one does not know as to what were the findings of the committee and, perhaps, the report would be put in the cold storage. The US Embassy had claimed in its letter 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. Quoting the Vienna Convention, it was stated: “The Ministry is reminded that pursuant to Article 22(3) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Embassy property and means of transport of the mission shall be immune from such registration, attachment or execution.”
Though there are Articles in the Vienna Convention about privileges and immunities to the diplomatic missions, yet there are other Articles by which they are under obligation to respect the laws and regulations of the host country, and should not interfere in the internal affairs of the country that is evident in Article 41.
The writer is a senior journalist and freelance columnist.