U.S. says Pakistan harassing diplomats, denying visas

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by ppgj, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    U.S. says Pakistan harassing diplomats, denying visas

    Parts of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are mounting what U.S. officials in Islamabad describe as a campaign to harass American diplomats, fraying relations at a critical moment when the Obama administration is demanding more help to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida.

    By JANE PERLEZ and ERIC SCHMITT
    The New York Times


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    ISLAMABAD — Parts of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are mounting what U.S. officials in Islamabad describe as a campaign to harass American diplomats, fraying relations at a critical moment when the Obama administration is demanding more help to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida.

    The campaign includes the refusal to extend or approve visas for more than 100 U.S. officials and the frequent searches of U.S. diplomatic vehicles in major cities, said an American official.

    The problems affected military attachés, CIA officers, development experts, junior-level diplomats and others, a senior U.S. diplomat said. As a result, some U.S. aid programs to Pakistan, which President Obama has called a critical ally, are "grinding to a halt," the diplomat said.

    U.S. helicopters used by Pakistan to fight extremists can no longer be serviced because visas for 14 U.S. mechanics have not been approved, the diplomat said. Reimbursements to Pakistan of nearly $1 billion a year for its counterterrorism operations were suspended because embassy accountants had to leave the country.

    "There's an incredible disconnect between what they want of us and the fact we can't get the visas," the diplomat said.

    Pakistani officials acknowledged the situation but said the menacing atmosphere resulted from U.S. arrogance and provocations, such as taking photographs in sensitive areas, and a lack of understanding of how divided Pakistanis were about the alliance with the United States.

    U.S. and Pakistani officials declined to be identified because of their senior positions and the desire not to further inflame tensions.

    The campaign comes after months of rising anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and complaints by the military that the government of President Asif Ali Zardari has grown too dependent on a new $7.5 billion, five-year aid plan from the United States.

    It also appears to be an attempt to blunt the planned expansion of the U.S. Embassy to 800 Americans from 500 in the next 18 months, growth U.S. officials say is necessary to channel the expanded American assistance.

    "They don't want more Americans here," another U.S. diplomat said. "They're not sure what the Americans are doing. It's pretty pervasive."

    The harassment has grown so frequent that U.S. officials said they regarded it as a concerted effort by parts of the military and intelligence services that have grown resentful of U.S. demands to step up the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Pakistan's tribal areas.

    Although the United States has been sending large amounts of military aid to the Pakistani army, and helping its spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the campaign shows the ambivalence, even "hatred" toward the United States in those quarters, the U.S. official said.

    A Pakistani security official, who has kept a tally of many of the incidents, was not sympathetic, saying the Americans had brought the problems on themselves.

    "Unfortunately, the Americans are arrogant," the Pakistani security official said. "They think of themselves as omnipotent. That's how they come across."

    For instance, he said, the Pakistani police were not harassing U.S. diplomats as they drove up to checkpoints, but rather were responding to provocations by U.S. officials.

    He cited a recent report in some Pakistani newspapers that a U.S. diplomat had been taking photographs in a military area of the city of Lahore.

    The reports were false, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said. The so-called diplomat was a technical-support officer who was not carrying a camera, the spokesman said.

    At least 135 U.S. diplomats have been refused extensions on their visas, the senior American diplomat said, leaving some sections of the embassy operating at 60 percent of capacity.

    One of the most harmful consequences, the diplomat said, is the scaling back of helicopter missions by the Frontier Corps paramilitary troops fighting the Taliban in the tribal areas because of a lack of trained U.S. mechanics.

    Much of the heightened suspicions about U.S. diplomats appear linked to persistent stories in the Pakistani media about the presence of U.S. security company Blackwater, now called Xe Services, in Pakistan.

    The embassy has denied Xe operates in Pakistan. And The Associated Press reported last week that CIA Director Leon Panetta canceled a contract for Xe workers to arm drones earlier this year.

    Nation & World | U.S. says Pakistan harassing diplomats, denying visas | Seattle Times Newspaper
     
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  3. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    Haqqani denies blocking of US officials’ visas

    Friday, 18 Dec, 2009

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    ‘We have no intention of harassing anyone. And we have no intention of holding back visas,’ the Pakistan’s envoy to Washington said. —File photo by AP

    WASHINGTON: Pakistan is a sovereign country and follows its own procedures for issuing visas, Islamabad’s ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani said while rejecting allegations that Islamabad was deliberately holding back visas for American officials or harassing them in the country.

    ‘The government in Pakistan wants this to be worked out in our mutual interest. That said, we have our own procedures, we are a sovereign country. We have our own bureaucratic methods and we are trying to work them to the best advantage of both our countries,’ he told CNN’s Situation Room.

    ‘The bottom line is that the government of Pakistan and even those who are critical of the United States in Pakistan do not want a breach in the relationship,’ Haqqani added.

    Haqqani said Pakistan and the United States are allies and partners.

    ‘The government of Pakistan is trying very hard to work together with the United States for our shared objectives. ‘

    The envoy firmly denied any deliberate campaign to harass US officials working in Pakistan.

    ‘We have not harassed anyone. We have no intention of harassing anyone. And we have no intention of holding back visas.’

    ‘The only thing that has happened is that the number of Americans present in Pakistan has increased exponentially. So we re having to deal with far more visa applications than we used to in the past,’ he explained to the channel.

    In answer to a question about criticism of the government, the ambassador noted it is part of the democratic phase the country is passing through.

    ‘Pakistan has returned to democracy after ten years of dictatorship and we are now seeing what can be best described as the noise of democracy, which is definitely preferable to the silence of dictatorship that we had before.

    ‘President (Asif Ali) Zardari is the legitimately elected president of Pakistan and I hope that he will complete his term in accordance with the constitution.’ —APP

    DAWN.COM | World | Haqqani denies blocking of US officials? visas
     
  4. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    Visa delay to affect aid efforts, US cautions Pak

    By Anwar Iqbal
    Friday, 18 Dec, 2009

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    The State Department said that if this continued, Washington’s efforts to help stabilise Pakistan could be affected.File photo

    WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Thursday that if Pakistan continued to deny visas to hundreds of US officials and contractors, Washington’s efforts to help stabilise the violence-ridden country could be affected.

    At a briefing, the department’s Deputy Spokesman Robert A. Wood confirmed earlier reports that Pakistan had denied visa to hundreds of US officials and citizens.

    “Well, it is true. Hundreds of visa applications and renewals for US officials and contractors are awaiting issuance by the Pakistani government. The cause of the delays is unclear. But we are working with our Pakistani counterparts to try to resolve these issues. And we’re working very hard,” he said.

    “In terms of what kind of an impact it may have, I would suspect, if this continues, it will indeed have an impact on our ability to do the work that we want to do to help the Pakistani people, in terms of fighting terrorism; in terms of economic development, and a whole range of issues.”

    In an unusually harsh expression of public indignation from an official platform, the official said while the US administration was trying to work these issues with the government of Pakistan, “but indeed there are cases that are — that we’re concerned about”.

    Asked if it’s a deliberate campaign to harass US officials and US operations in Pakistan, Mr Wood said: “I don’t think I can call it a deliberate campaign” but “certainly, if any of our officials feel that they are being harassed, there are appropriate channels to go through in order to file complaints about that sort of thing”.

    Yet, he said, he would not “make a general comment that there’s an official harassment campaign”.

    Explaining how the US administration was trying to resolve this dispute with a country it regards as a key ally in the war against terror, Mr Wood said: “We have raised these issues with Pakistani officials at very senior levels. And we’ve expressed our concern about the delays and the impact that this could very well have on our programmes and activities.”

    The Pakistani authorities, he said, were well aware of America’s concerns. “I can’t give you any reason why they’re being delayed. But these issues are important.”

    He said that while only Pakistanis could explain why they were doing so, for the Americans it was a big concern and they had raised it at very senior levels.

    “We’re committed to trying to work with Pakistan to make sure that we can get these visas and get on with the business of what we’re trying to do in Pakistan.”

    “In terms of raising it at senior levels, how far does this go back? Did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raise it on her recent trip?” he was asked.

    “Let me just say this: We’ve raised it at very senior levels. I don’t really want to get more specific than that,” said Mr Wood.

    Asked if the delay was already having an impact on US-Pakistan relations, Mr Wood said: “It’s hard for me to characterise how — would I want to stand up here at the podium and say it’s having a real impact right now. I don’t — I can’t really say that. I just don’t know. But I think, should this continue, it indeed will have an impact.”

    DAWN.COM | Front Page | Visa delay to affect aid efforts, US cautions Pak
     

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