ISLAMABAD - Pakistan says its diplomats working in the United States are facing additional restrictions on travel from the host government.
“Regarding travel restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in Washington, yes, we have received official communication regarding certain measures that the U.S. intends to implement beginning May 1, 2018. The issue is primarily of reciprocity. Both sides are in touch and we are hopeful that the matter will be resolved,” Mohammad Faisal, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in his weekly press briefing in response to a question Thursday.
“Yes, we’ve seen Pakistan’s statement. We regularly talk to Pakistan about a wide range of issues, but we are not prepared to announce anything on this matter,” the U.S. State Department said later in the day.
U.S. officials have been ambiguous on the issue since Pakistan media reports on the new restrictions surfaced this month .
Last week, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, in an interview with VOA’s Uzbek service, had hinted at the change in policy.
“Our diplomats are under travel restrictions and they can travel farther (than capital Islamabad) but they have to notify the government of Pakistan, so we've taken reciprocal steps. it's very common in diplomacy,” he said.
Previously, Pakistani diplomats in Washington could travel around the country unrestricted.
Asked specifically to comment on Shannon’s comment to VOA, a State Department spokesperson said, “Under Secretary Shannon was referring to our regular and ongoing dialogue with the government of Pakistan on many issues involving reciprocity across a range of topics. To clarify, there are no restrictions on travel for Pakistani diplomats in the United States. We have nothing further to announce at this time.”
Reports in the Pakistani media said the U.S. government had notified Pakistani authorities that diplomats at its Washington embassy and consulates will be barred from traveling more than 40 kilometers from their posts without prior permission. The reports said the restrictions could take effect as early as May 1 unless “certain issues” were resolved before that
Most foreign diplomats, including Americans, face travel restrictions in Pakistan. They have to inform the Pakistani government in advance if they plan to travel to most areas outside of the capital Islamabad.
Pakistani government cites security concerns for placing the restrictions.