LAHORE – Violations of the protocol of diplomatic conduct are being spun into an excuse to ‘support the CIA’s unilateral espionage operations’. Such are the latest allegations set to cause a new rift between US and Pakistani officials. Storm clouds gathering on the horizon indicate that claims of the US Embassy in Islamabad being host to ‘one of the largest CIA stations in the world’ are being widely circulated with charges of CIA officials in the cover of diplomatic immunity taking advantage of the host country’s hospitality. While no proof of the unregistered officials being from the CIA has been offered, this will prove a useful irritant and incitement, even if the real cause of complaint is that diplomatic protocol is not being followed strictly to the letter, in terms of paperwork.Official sources have argued that there is nothing derogatory in Pakistan demanding identification of US diplomats, administrative and technical staff and service staff. Tellingly, they also advised that diplomats are to acquire permission from the Pakistan government for carrying lethal weapons, all of which should be licensed, as the law requires. Even the ‘size, weight and number of diplomatic bags’ carried by the guest, must fall within Foreign Office restrictions.With the Raymond Davis bogey still fresh in everyone’s mind, such warnings will give rise to fresh fears of impending disaster, in a population already frustrated by lack of a visible equality between Pakistan and the US, in their relationship.Unaccredited persons, who are not held on diplomatic roster of the Foreign Office, are feared to run the risk of getting embroiled in a situation, bearing potentially calamitous consequences for the already fragile Pak-US relations.A recent example on June 4 occurred, which was reported as 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 of the Embassy, along with four M-4 rifles with 36 loaded magazines of 20 bullets each and four pistols with 36 loaded magazines. All unlicensed.On their part, the Foreign Office has been trying to enforce its own rules. The Chief of Protocol, Foreign Office, on April 18 in a meeting with the representatives of all embassies’ representatives, informed them that no diplomat or embassy staffer was authorised to carry weapons, unless specifically permitted by the Government of Pakistan, for which a licence would be issued. The meeting had emphasised upon the embassies to provide complete list by May 3 of weapons possessed by them. The instructions were followed up by a written letter, but up until the June 4 incident, no such list had been received from the US Embassy.Unauthorised weapons are but one bone of contention vitiating the Pak-US diplomatic ambience. The April 18 meeting and the May 3 letter also asked for declaration and strength of diplomats/officials and the local staff and information regarding rented accommodation and warehouses under use by foreign embassies, which the Foreign Office has explained is an obligation under the diplomatic protocol governed by Vienna Convention. Such details have still not been offered – and in this lies the danger that this may become a new wedge in already almost spider-web fragile Pak-US relations.