The U.S. State Department's internal watchdog said in a report on Thursday that American diplomats in Pakistan were facing increasing levels of harassment by authorities there, adding that they at times adversely affect the proper functioning of the U.S. Embassy as well as Consulates in the South Asian nation.
"Official Pakistani obstructionism and harassment, an endemic problem in Pakistan, has increased to the point where it is significantly impairing mission operations and program implementation," said the report compiled by the State Department's Inspector-General.
Describing the continued harassment as "deliberate, willful and systematic," the report said they included delays in issuing visas, holding up shipments for construction projects and aid programs, and surveillance of employees.
It also noted that U.S. officials were being targeted more than other international diplomats, and recommended that the harassment issue a top priority in future high-level discussions with Pakistani authorities.
The report acknowledged previous interference by the Pakistani government with U.S. officials, but noted that harassments increased with last year's killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a raid carried out by U.S. Special Forces inside Pakistan. It added that the harassment "reached new levels of intensity" after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a NATO air strike in November.
That NATO air strike prompted Islamabad to suspend most military co-operation with the Western military alliance as well as the United States and shut down NATO supply routes passing through its territory.
Islamabad also called for an immediate end to U.S. drone strikes on militant targets in Pakistan, insisting that those attacks were counter-productive as they end up killing civilians along with the targeted militants. Currently, the U.S. and NATO are making serious attempts to persuade Pakistan to lift its blockade.
The report, based on visits to the U.S. missions in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore, said the killing of bin Laden by U.S. forces was an embarrassment to Islamabad as it reflected the Pakistani government's "incompetence and its inability to detect or defend against a military intervention."
"Events of the past year have rocked the U.S.-Pakistani relationship and fundamentally altered the assumptions on which U.S. engagement with Pakistan has been based since 2009," the report said adding that U.S. authorities should take up the issue of harassment with Pakistan at the highest levels of government.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org