Pakistani authorities bar USA envoy involved in mishap from leaving country

US diplomat doesn't have'absolute immunity

Pakistani authorities have barred a U.S. diplomat involved in a fatal traffic accident from leaving the country, forcing an American military aircraft flown in for his departure to leave without him, local media reported on Saturday.

A day earlier, an Islamabad court had ruled his diplomatic immunity may not apply in the April 7 traffic accident in which the United States attache's vehicle hit a motorcycle, killing the 22-year-old driver, both papers reported.

The US embassy has also reportedly handed over passport of the diplomat to FIA immigration officials, who are awaiting orders from the top authorities for further action.

A senior Pakistani Intelligence official later told The New York Times that Hall was questioned by police in Islamabad.

A special plane, C-130, reached Noor Khan Airbase on Saturday to take along the accused diplomat, local media earlier reported, adding that the USA embassy had handed over the passport of the official to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) immigration. Consequently, two riders of the bike suffered injuries and one of them, 22-year-old Ateeq Baig, succumbed to his injuries.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Pakistan had also imposed travel restrictions on USA diplomats in the country following a similar decision by the United States administration.


In what the Times described as retaliation, Pakistan placed travel restrictions on USA diplomats based in the country in a sign of worsening relations between the two countries. But Washington has long believed it actually shelters the Taliban's leaders, and President Donald Trump has cut off military aid in an effort to pressure Pakistan.

"This is a development that could well develop into a full-blown crisis for relations if it's not resolved soon", said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

Col Hall had escaped arrest because of diplomatic immunity but a first information report (FIR) regarding the incident was registered with Kohsar Police Station.

'Since Joseph is understood to have diplomatic immunity, Pakistan's refusal to let him leave the country will be seen by Washington as a wholly unjustifiable and illegal act, ' he added.

'We are ready for agreement but on the condition of his arrest, ' he said, referring to Colonel Hall.

A letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad says the restrictions will be implemented Friday.

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