Pakistan on Friday slapped reciprocal travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats stationed in Pakistani cities, a tit-for-tat move that is likely to put further strain on already icy relations between the two former allies in the so-called war on terror, officials and local media reported.
The move came hours after the Trump administration imposed a ban on the movement of Pakistan diplomats stationed in the U.S., forcing them to stay within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the cities where they are posted. Under the new protocol, which comes into effect on Friday, Pakistani diplomats must seek permission from the State Department five days in advance if they plan to visit another city.
According to a Foreign Ministry notification, U.S. diplomats will now face similar travel restrictions in Pakistan. Also, they will no longer enjoy special treatment at the airport or in general. Apart from that, the diplomats will be unable to use tinted glass on their official vehicles or use diplomatic registration plates on their private vehicles.
All diplomatic cargo will be strictly checked at the airports, and U.S. diplomats will be unable to use biometrically unverified cellphone sim cards, according to the notification.
Moreover, U.S. diplomats will need a non-objection certificate from the Interior Ministry before renting any property, local broadcaster ARY News reported.
The U.S. Embassy has been informed about the travel restrictions, a Foreign Ministry official told Anadolu Agency.
U.S. diplomats are already prohibited from visiting high-security areas like the restive northwestern tribal belt along the Afghan border.
Diplomatic relations between the two sides have hit a low ebb since President Donald Trump took office last January, mainly due to a clash of interests in war-wracked Afghanistan.
In August 2017, Trump accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to militants fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad swiftly denied.
Also, this February Pakistan was placed on a terror financing "grey list" by a global money-laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a move supported by Washington.
Court ruling on US attaché
Separately, an Islamabad high court on Friday ruled that a U.S. diplomat who was involved in a deadly traffic accident does not have absolute immunity and ordered the government to put his name on its Exit Control List (ECL) within two weeks.
On April 7, Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall, the U.S. Embassy's air and defense attaché, jumped a red light in Islamabad, killing a motorcyclist and injuring a passenger on the cycle.
Persons on the list are prohibited from leaving Pakistan. On April 11, police had asked the Interior Ministry to put Hall on the list. He is already on a ministry blacklist, but the ECL would be a stricter measure.
The court ruling came just after the announcement of new restriction on U.S. diplomats.