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Pakistan Protests EU Treatment of Pro-Taleban Legislator

  • Benjamin Sand

Pakistan has lodged a formal diplomatic protest after members of the European Parliament canceled talks in Brussels with an official Pakistani delegation because it included a pro-Taleban cleric.

The European legislators' decision not to meet with the Pakistani delegation in Brussels provoked an outraged response in Islamabad. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry summoned the EU, Dutch, and Belgian ambassadors to lodge an official protest.

The National Assembly also passed a strongly worded resolution condemning the delegation's treatment.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jalil Jilani said the European Parliament's behavior was discriminatory and insulting.

"The government of Pakistan has taken a very strong note of this incident, which was contrary to the rules of law, human rights and accepted norms of diplomatic practice," he said.

The eight-member Pakistan senate delegation was scheduled to meet Wednesday with the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee. But European officials called off the meeting when they discovered that one of the delegation's members, Senator Sami ul-Haq, is a strong supporter of Afghanistan's ousted Taleban regime.

When the delegation arrived in Brussels, Mr. Haq was reportedly detained for three hours at the airport, before he was allowed to enter the country. The rest of the group passed through without problem.

European officials say they offered to meet the group without Mr. Haq, but the other senators refused.

Neena Gill, who heads the European Parliament's South Asia committee, said Mr. Haq represents everything the body rejects.

Mr. Haq is a member of the hard-line Muslim opposition in Pakistan. He also runs the country's largest religious seminary, which helped educate many of the Taleban's leaders and supporters.

Mr. Jilani says the European ambassadors in Islamabad appeared committed to easing tensions following Mr. Haq's detention in Brussels.

"The ambassador of Netherlands agreed the incident was regrettable and he assured us that the European Union would take serious note of the demarche of the government of Pakistan," he said.

The senate delegation left Brussels without meeting the Parliament and is now in Germany.