Pakistan Prevents U.S. Diplomat from Leaving the Country After Fatal Car Accident

Pakistan has demanded that Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall’s diplomatic immunity be waived so that he can face a criminal trial over a fatal traffic accident, but American officials have refused.
Foreign Ministry

Authorities in Pakistan blocked a U.S. diplomat from leaving the country on Saturday after he allegedly killed a motorcyclist while driving and ignoring a red light last month.

Local media outlets reported on Saturday that authorities prevented Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall from leaving the country despite the arrival of a U.S. Air Force C130 that had come to return him to the United States. The aircraft was later forced to leave without him.

Hall, who was working as a military attaché for the U.S. Embassy, is accused of running a red light in Daman-e-Koh, north of Islamabad, and consequently killing 22-year-old Ateeq Baig, as well as injuring another individual. He was originally believed to be protected by diplomatic immunity, although a court in Islamabad has now ruled that it does not apply in this instance.

“The government can’t overlook the court orders into the matter,” a source told the Express Tribune.

The U.S. Embassy has denied claims that Hall had consumed excessive alcohol, while the victim’s father has called on him to stand trial at Islamabad High Court (IHC).

“For the privacy and security of those involved, we cannot disclose the diplomat’s current location,” a State Department spokesperson told Reuters. “We are in regular communication with our Pakistani counterparts. We do not discuss details of diplomatic conversations.”

The incident has further strained diplomatic relations with Pakistan, leading to the U.S. imposing travel restrictions on Pakistani diplomats that prevent them from traveling over 25 miles from the city they are working in.

Last week, Pakistan announced that it would impose “reciprocal” restrictions on the travel of U.S. diplomats, as well as new measures that place them under far greater scrutiny and ban them from using equipment such as tinted windows and separate passports.

Tensions between both countries first grew back in January, after the Trump administration announced that they would suspend an estimated $1 billion in security aid, after accusing the Pakistani government of failing to act against jihadists fighting American troops and their allies in Afghanistan.

Pakistan officials responded angrily to the decision, with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif claiming that the countries were no longer allies.

“We do not have any alliance,” Asif told The Wall Street Journal. “This is not how allies behave.”

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