If Pakistan has taken the step of asking a specific mission in Islamabad to reduce its members, it is supported by Article 11 of the Vienna Convention that states that in the absence of specific agreement as to the size of the mission, the receiving State may require that the size of a mission be kept within limits considered by it to be reasonable and normal, having regard to circumstances and conditions in the receiving State and to the needs of the particular mission.

By S. M. Hali

 The government of Pakistan has imposed new travel restrictions on all diplomats accredited to the country. The move comes in the backdrop of a number of diplomats abusing the hospitality of the host country. Although the diplomatic norms and practices are ancient and have been recognized by every state, they have been codified in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to remove confusion and doubt as to what diplomatic agents can or cannot do in a host country.

Pertinent to the current situation in Pakistan, Article 41 of the Vienna Convention specifies that without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State. All official business with the receiving State entrusted to the mission by the sending State shall be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving State or such other ministry as may be agreed. The premises of the mission must not be used in any manner incompatible with the functions of the mission as laid down in the present Convention or by other rules of general international law or by any special agreements in force between the sending and the receiving State.

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Unfortunately, Pakistan was being taken for granted and a number of diplomats were acting in total contravention of the spirit of Article 41 described above. Pakistan has been harmed by the undiplomatic practices of certain diplomats and it has become imperative to bridle the activities of some of these unrestrained diplomats.   

An important principle incorporated in the preamble of the Vienna Convention is the “sovereign equality of states” as enshrined in the UN Charter, which provides states to deal with their external and internal affairs without outside interference for promoting their national interests and to defend its territorial integrity of states. The term “sovereign equality of states” is not a cliché. It is the attribute of basic building blocks of international community underscored by the League of Nations and its successor, the UN.

Pakistan’s sovereignty was breached when US “diplomats” enabled the clandestine operation Geronimo conducted by US Navy SEALS to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. Raymond Davis, a CIA operative was caught red handed being engaged in anti state activities, carrying illegal weapons, conducting espionage on Pakistan’s vulnerable assets and murdering two Pakistanis in cold blood. However, the US State Department as well as the US President insisted that Raymond Davis was a “diplomat” and enjoyed diplomatic immunity. A number of foreign diplomats have been observed engaging in activities, which in any diplomatic parlance cannot be described as acceptable norms. Pakistan has suffered enough in the war against terror, where agents from various countries have been moving freely, contacting enemies of the state, including Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives. The US Operation Geronimo was also conducted with the help of local agents of the CIA, who had been recruited by the so called “diplomats”. This worsening state of affairs, which brinks on waging a covert war against the state of Pakistan left no option but to restrict the movement of the diplomats. Pakistan Foreign Ministry has specifically stated that the increased limitations on when and how diplomats can move outside the capital is not US-Specific. There are general guidelines regarding travel of Pakistan-based diplomats, designed only to ensure their safety and security, which have existed for a long time, and enforcing them now should not be construed as targeting the US or any specific country.

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If Pakistan has taken the step of asking a specific mission in Islamabad to reduce its members, it is supported by Article 11 of the Vienna Convention that states that in the absence of specific agreement as to the size of the mission, the receiving State may require that the size of a mission be kept within limits considered by it to be reasonable and normal, having regard to circumstances and conditions in the receiving State and to the needs of the particular mission. The receiving State may equally, within similar bounds and on a non-discriminatory basis, refuse to accept officials of a particular category. Hence if the sender country insists on sending members of its intelligence agencies under the cover of “diplomats”, Pakistan is well within its rights to refuse them that status. It has thus become imperative to enforce diplomatic norms in the supreme interest of the sovereignty of Pakistan.

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