Pak govt deliberately obstructing US diplomats:US

Washington: US has said that Pakistan government is "deliberately, wilfully and systematically" harassing and obstructing American diplomats in the country, marking a new low in the already strained ties between the two nations.

The harassment and obstruction has increased dramatically and reached "new levels of intensity", said a State Department report, which has urged Washington to take the issue up at bilateral talks with Islamabad.

The department`s internal watchdog said the harassment of diplomats had heightened since the May, 2011 US raid on a compound in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden and rose further after November Nato airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, prompting Islamabad to block Nato supply lines into Afghanistan.

"Official Pakistani obstructionism and harassment, an endemic problem in Pakistan, has increased to the point where it is significantly impairing mission operations and programme implementation," said an internal report of the US State Department Office of Inspector General yesterday.

The 82-page report marked "sensitive but unclassified" described the harassment of US diplomats in Pakistan as "deliberate, wilfully and systematic" and said ending it should be a top priority in talks with Pakistan.

The report cites the cases of harassments as delays in getting visas, block shipments for aid programme and construction projects, denials of in-country travel request and surveillance and interference with mission employees and contractors. But extensive parts of the report on the harassment section are blacked out, including all details of specific instances.

The report noted that US diplomats and other government workers have long been subjected to unusual government-initiated obstruction, but recently it has gotten far worse.
While saying that other diplomatic missions were experiencing similar treatment, the report said that US appeared to be the principal target with its diplomats being singled out.

The report also expressed concern over the security situation in Peshawar, which has made it difficult for the US diplomats stationed there to travel and move out.

In its report, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) said that events of the past year have rocked the US-Pakistan relationship and fundamentally altered the assumptions on which US engagement with Pakistan has been based since 2009. "The shooting of two Pakistanis by a US employee in Lahore in January 2011 embarrassed the Pakistani Government by revealing the nature and extent of US activities," it said.

"The unannounced attack on Osama bin Laden`s hideout in Abbottabad in May 2011 was a double embarrassment, evidencing both Pakistani Government incompetence and its inability to detect or defend against a military intervention that many Pakistanis deemed a gross violation of the country`s sovereignty," it said.

Confidence on both sides was further shaken by the September 13, 2011, attack on the US embassy in Kabul by extremists alleged to have ties to Pakistan`s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

"Public remarks of the then outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regarding Pakistan`s collaboration with extremist groups; and revelations in Wikileaks about the extent of US-Pakistani collaboration in counterterrorism efforts, as well as official US misgivings about the latter`s commitment to those efforts," it said.

The shocks culminated in the November 26, 2011, unintentional attack by Nato and ISAF on a Pakistani border post in Mohmand that resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers and that some Pakistanis continue to view as a deliberate attack, it added.

Noting that the impact of these events has been felt across the full spectrum of the bilateral relationship, the OIG report said there is a general consensus at both Embassy in Islamabad and in Washington that the new relationship will be different than the grand engagement strategy conceived by the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009 and reflected in the 2009 Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation and appropriation that was designed to support it.

"The expectation is that the future relationship will be less ambitious, more pragmatic, and more closely focused on those areas where both Pakistan and the United States perceive a common interest," the report said.