The increasing sense of insecurity among the American diplomatic staff stationed in Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that most of them are carrying loaded guns and other such weapons on the pretext of self-protection while moving around in the federal capital.
This embarrassing development for Pakistan’s government came to light recently when several US diplomats in different instances were intercepted by Islamabad police while carrying guns and other weapons. But police authorities had to let them off because of the diplomatic immunity they enjoy. However, in view of the rising number of such incidents taking place in the federal capital, Islamabad police have sought a clear policy from the Ministry of Interior on how to deal with the issue.
In a recent incident, a senior US diplomat was spotted carrying a loaded pistol in front of the Serena Hotel located in the federal capital’s high security Red Zone area. In another incident on June 22 2009, three American diplomats were caught by the police with assault guns in their vehicle while returning from Peshawar. The vehicle bearing a fake license plate was stopped by the police at Khyber Checkpoint in G-9 Sector of Islamabad and arms were recovered during search of the vehicle. In yet another episode early this month, the Islamabad police got hold of two US diplomats near Super Market in the federal capital for possessing weapons.
According to diplomatic rules and regulations, diplomats stationed anywhere in Pakistan are required to get authorization from the Ministry of the Interior before moving out of Islamabad. However, in this case, the American diplomats had traveled to Peshawar without either getting permission or giving any intimation of where they were going to the Pakistani authorities. In each of these incidents the security personnel of the American embassy instantly rushed to the places where these diplomats were caught and a search was allowed in their presence. While justifying the acts of their diplomats, the US security staffers have usually maintained that they were carrying guns under instructions from their superiors in view of the worsening law-and-order situation in Pakistan, and the ever-rising number of threats coming from the jihadi mafia to target American officials stationed in Pakistan.
Some senior foreign office officials in Islamabad say the possession of arms by diplomats requires explicit approval by the host government, which is responsible for their security. However, he wasn’t sure if the US embassy had been granted such authorization or if the Americans ever requested it. However, the official said that it was certainly a case of abuse of diplomatic immunity, which did not allow them under any circumstances to carry arms. Police officials in their background discussions also insisted that it was an illegal practice, but they were helpless to stop it.